Saturday, September 16, 2006

August 24th, 2006 Champex to Mom's birthday
We had the drapes open facing east so we saw the rays of the sun come over the mountain before the actual sun. Breath taking. Shawn, my favorite husband, went downstairs and got hot chocolate and coffee so we could sit on the balcony and enjoy it. Genius. The countryside from Hotel Belvedere was weepingly beautiful and I contemplated moving to Switzerland, specifically Champex!

Today was suppose to be an easy day, "a stiff morning walk" says Kev, so we left the hotel at our leisure. Completely stuffed ourselves at breakfast. Croissants and cereal. So far we have always had the option of a granola type cereal which I love and cocoa krispies. Hotel Belvedere had what looked like cocoa fritos, they were so big. We said goodbye to our favorite hotel and headed out.

There was a steep decline through woods - the trail was very close to our hotel. All the way to La Garde (a village on our way) was blissful walking. We were walking alongside a valley and we could see the other side with all its small clusters of houses. The air was moist. Eventually we knew it would rain out right but it was such a green, healthful feeling, we didn't think we would mind when it did. We walked through the tiny village of Sous La Le (perfect name, by the way) and it was so quiet we picked up our hiking poles so we wouldn't make any unnecessary sound. We still said bonjour to the man working his garden, of course. The Swiss are a very 'bonjour' kind of people we've learned. Every town has a trough fountain in their town square (Sous La Le's is pictured above). I imagine they used it back a couple of centuries.

After Sous La Le we had a short walk to La Garde. There we saw the smallest cutest chapel. (Every town apparently has a chapel as well.) In Kev's directions he uncharacteristically gets vague. 'All roads lead to Sembrancher' - a town we hoped to get lunch in. But, he continues, the most direct route is via St. Jean's chapel. Hmmm. Again I mention that Swiss signs are numerous and extremely helpful. But as soon as we stepped out of La Garde both Kev and the Swiss had failed us. Where is St. Jean? We went down the path of the general direction of St. Jean on our map but wouldn't you know it, dead end. So we trudged it up the hillside in our first off-trail adventure to get to the next trail. We took this one up where it separated. There used to be signs here but they were broken off. Only part of one remained and all it said was "re". We deduced (and I'm so proud of us) that it wasn't our direction that way because Sembrancher ends with an "er". We went the opposite way. Ok, it's no CSI but I thought we were brilliant because we did find the chapel of St. Jean.

St Jean chapel is all by its lonesome on the top of a high hill. The window was open so I said a little thanks to God. Nice echo (or was that God talking back?). Shawn took pictures, of course, and we headed downhill. At this point we were a little hungry so we were looking forward to getting to Sembrancher for lunch. Surely they have a bakery, right? Sigh. Funny thing about the Swiss, or maybe Europeans - they shut down for lunch. I guess I knew this and I really respect the practice but it certainly isn't convenient for the hiker. When we got to Sembrancher it was 12:35pm. The grocery store and bakery were closed from 12:30pm to 3:30pm! Zut alors! We wandered around Sembrancher to find anything, ANYTHING, but alas. It was a quaint town and Shawn took a lot of lovely pictures but I don't include them on this blog because I can only think of how hungry I was (mostly realizing how I had to wait until 3:30pm).

We got off our Kev town directions with the wandering. Our next stop was Le Chable. Shawn's map reading skills were right on though so it didn't take us long to get back on the main hiking track. I was a little confused, I have to admit, but thankfully I didn't hinder his instincts with my "are you sure, because aren't we here by the river?" silly questions.

LOST MEMORY: Yesterday on the trail on the way to the Fenetre d'Arpette Shawn picked a daisy and gave it to me. It was really sweet but what made it also funny was coincidentally at the same time two older Swiss guys appeared on the trail and witnessed the action. "Awww" they said--with a French accent, mind you. Shawn grinned.

Ok, back to Sembrancher. We got back on the trail and soon were passing a milk farm and a whole lota cows. There are cows in the mountains they we have passed but I actually felt sympathy for these poor folks. Flies everywhere. When I see the next moutain cow, I'm gonna tell 'em how good they have it.

And then we were on our way, putting our rain tarps on because it was starting to rain in earnest. Before it had just been really windy with the occasional thunder clap in the distance (always fun for the Californian, I think, because it's rare). Now we were concerned enough for our packs --but not for ourselves. No rain jackets yet.

At La Chable we searched for a grocery store or bakery. It was 3pm by then. Apparently those stores were open earlier. Not as leisure-loving as the citizens of Sembrancher apparently. We bought some chocolate and brioche sucre-not as good-for the Gondola ride to Verbier. In general we have decided if there is a gondola ride option to take it. Gondola's are awesome! At the gondola entrance we met up with David and Gisele again. They were going to Cabane de Mont Fort for the night. But I thought it was 6 hours to Cabane de Mont Fort (according to Kev)? We said goodbye and good luck on their mountain hiking.

Anyway, we ascended to Verbier and asked the gondola worker were Hotel Bristol was. Essentially he pointed us to the main street but admitted he didn't really know. I mention him only because he was so nice and seemed kind of excited to be talking English. I think it's off season for the ski-town of Verbier. Even so, Shawn spotted the hotel just as I was about to ask someone. When we walked into the lobby the gentleman at the desk says "Vonessa?" VIP service, I guess. Wow. Turns out Olivier is Bill Russel's contact in Switzerland. He also confirmed all of our reservations at the Cabannes for us. Lovely guy. He seemed flattered when he told me his name and I said, "like Lawrence Olivier?". I like a man who knows his great actors. He spoke English better then I did and was enthusiastic about our journey. Told us he and his wife even took a holiday in Gruben (a town we will visit later on our journey) since he discovered it making luggage trips for Bill Russel (FYI: some people, not Shawn and I, have their luggage transferred from place to play while they hike.)

We check in. Our room is nice but small. Hard to get around the beds (yes, two twins). The balcony has a nice view of the valley below and the main street of Verbier. We decide to find a grocery store. Instead of asking where one is like adults we wander down the rainy street and luck into one. COOP (chain grocery store apparently). It's strange, actually, at the sameness and the little differences. There is definitely an emphasis on cheese and bakery items but in general it could have been a smaller Albertson's (or Jewel for those Mid-westerners reading this). We bought four chocolate bars. Our joke is we actually are fatter after this trip then when we started. We bought laundry soap for babies-only because the bottle was the perfect size. And I convinced Shawn I would be happier with hair conditioner. All of the hotels have provided shampoo but no conditioner (and I didn't pack any because I thought I'd buy it in Switzerland). Shawn put his foot down at allowing me to buy a comb though. Please keep this in mind when you see some of the pictures.

We went back to the room and washed all of our dirty clothes. I went to dinner in Shawn's long underwear, shorts and a fleece. I looked pretty silly and I don't blame the waitress giving me the up-down. Dinner was steak and french fries. Seriously. It was good but kind of disappointing Swiss fare. The salad was great. Afterward we had more chocolate mousse for dessert. The waitress didn't speak English and I was amazed at my translation abilities. Is my French getting better? Shawn and I discussed our plan for the next day. Apparently Kev's whole La Chable to Cabanne de Mont Fort is strictly to avoid the tourist town of Verbier. But it's actually closer to leave from Verbier. But we are not going to just Cabanne de Mont Fort but farther to Cabanne de Louvie. We know there is a gondola (yeah, gondola!) going to Les Ruinettes and on our map it looks like there is a trail from there to Cabanne de Louvie but it isn't as clear as the normal trails we have taken. We decide to risk it (and of course, we don't ask anyone). Hopefully taking some time off of our hike and getting a sweet gondola ride as well. After dinner we walk up to see when the gondola place opens. We want to get an early start because it will be a long trek, gondola ride or no. Then we rush back to the hotel to use the internet in the lobby so I can email my mom on her birthday. The lobby desk woman is closing up but she tell us to lock up after we are done and leave. Wow, how trusting. I write an email to my mom and try to make her laugh but I realize I am past my haute trip bedtime and I might not be working with my whole funny. We stay up to watch The Simpsons in German (still funny) and then I fall asleep to Shawn watching a rerun of the BBC's OFFICE.


At 8:26 PM, Blogger Valerie said...

I'm all caught up with your entries and eagerly await the posting of the rest of your trip! As always, I really enjoy your writing style!

At 8:45 PM, Blogger Valerie said...

I'm back again and there are still no updates! You can't blame jetlag! :)


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