It was an impressive drive from Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval to Allevard les Bains. We descended past the foot of Mont Blanc, then climbed back up through the ski resort of Megeve, skirting the Bauges Regional Natural Park.
Being a complete child, however, my favourite landmark was Bastard Automobiles in Sallanches. Sadly, much like when I saw a bus in Zimbabwe with ‘Wankie Express’ emblazoned down its side, I was just not quick enough with the camera to catch it!
Unfortunately, Zimbabwe has rendered unremarkable the Safari Park, the associated buses and all things Wankie (even the Wankie Colliery Company Ltd!) by renaming it all ‘Hwange.’ Spoilsports! But if you want to get your car serviced by a real Bastard, click here…
The other impressive thing about the drive was the wrong turn in Albertville. The SatNav was a little slow updating itself on a junction. This rapidly necessitated an impressive 2 point turn on a narrow, mountain road with Mark using a kind person’s parking spot and me directing traffic while ensuring that Big Blue didn’t plummet over a precipice with Kismet in tow. Once again, I am in awe of Mr L’s pin-point accurate reversing skills!
Camping Clair Matin in Allevard is one of the loveliest, friendliest campsites at which we have ever stayed! Christophe welcomed us like long-lost family, then showed us around the beautifully kept, landscaped and terraced site on a little electric golf buggy, recommending the nicest pitches as he went. He even offered to bring us a table and chairs so that we could eat outside!
I discovered that the electric fused every time that I used the microwave. At reception, I accidentally interrupted Pascale during his dinner, but despite my protests, he came straight away to re-connect us. “Can I use the microwave on this hookup?” I asked him. With a sideways look that said “Experience would suggest not” he answered “Non!” His shrug and wry grin possibly indicating an inner monologue along the lines of “What a stupid question!”
As he walked jauntily towards the caravan, Pascale grabbed my arm and started humming ‘Here comes the Bride’, delightedly telling fellow campers “Je vais pour un Soirée sans électricité!” “I am going for a Soirée without electricity…!”
Sunday – it’s not even 10am and I have already had to call him a word connected with an Automobile Deaership in Sallanches! He mocked me for failing to find the Carrefour supermarket! Admittedly, it is not tricky. The route to the Carrefour consists of only 3 turns: right out of the campsite; left at the bottom; then first right into the Carrefour.
As I approached the third right turn, I panicked. I was beckoned by a sign yelling ‘Casino – Parking’. Now, Casino is another French supermarket chain. And it begins with C. So being beckoned by it was an easy mishtayke that ANYONE could make! I only realised that it was parking for an actual betting Casino once I was inextricably embroiled in the One Way System! I rationalised that it was nice to see a bit of the town as I drove around the whole of Allevard to get back to the Carrefour right next door to the campsite…
It turned out to be a bad day. I owe a long-standing gambling debt of £1m to Mark. (That’s how SURE I was that Jack Nicholson starred in ‘Silence of the Lambs’ – well, he plays mad people and is a bit like Anthony Hopkins… No?!) An irresistible chance presented itself for me to equalise my debt. During our walk, I had bet him £1m that the Scottish Munroes are mountains over 4000ft. I was so cocky and confident of my craggy credentials that I mocked him; “I grew up climbing. You shouldn’t take ME on over mountain matters…” Surrounded by lofty peaks, I was forgetting 1. how puny British mountains are, even though The Ben (Ben Nevis) is over 4000ft and 2. how hopeless I am with numbers. Munroes over 3000ft? Pah! So I owe him £2m.
Then I stood on a dead bird when (and I quote) “There are acres of clear pavement around. You’re like ‘Unlucky Alf’ on the Fast Show!”
“Can’t you just be satisfied?!” I spluttered indignantly. “You have mocked me, won £1m from me when I WAS SO SURE and now you’re comparing me to Unlucky Alf!”
The £1Million Mistake. I should have stayed Silent as the Lambs!
From Sixt to Allevard, we had descended to just over 500m but the temperatures were still in the Mid 30Cs but now with 40% humidity to add to the misery! It was too hot to do anything – Rosie nearly keeled over with heat exhaustion. Luckily, we were walking around the nearby lake at the time and could dunk her in the water to cool her off.
The bad news was that Mark tweaked his back and my shoulder came out in sympathy. The good news was that we were in a spa town awash with healing waters and replete with osteopaths! However, neither of us was too keen on braving thermal waters in the 30C heat…
Fortunately, on Monday it cooled down to 26C with a slight breeze. What a relief! We did manage to do a walk – even though it seems difficult to find walks around here! The route that we followed boasted all sorts of signs exalting about the joys of being in nature. There were even lines of string for people to hang handwritten messages, describing their feelings about being surrounded by the glories of creation. The walk was spectacular; it granted us unrivalled views of a retail estate, including a large pharmacy and a Lidl (we couldn’t quite make out the neon sign announcing the petrol prices, which was a bit annoying as we needed to fill up) – and ended abruptly at the town’s iron works!
Last night, we had tried to follow some of the yellow signs which waymark the walks. None of them seem to go anywhere – the paths just peter out! We stumbled into one of those dark and spooky forests that appear in horror films, causing you to ask yourself “Why on EARTH would ANYONE IN THEIR RIGHT MINDS venture into THERE?!”
A lady had told us that the route led to a village, but there was no sign of anything and you would have needed some serious 4×4 machinery to get up that road your house! On the way back, we did stop briefly in Allevard les Bains and had a little wander around the town. It is very pretty and there were some more walk signs from the centre, but I am sure that they lead nowhere…
They say that trouble comes in 3s. On our previous walk around the lake, Rosie had overheated and nearly keeled over. On our final night’s lakeside wander, we lost Ruby. “She’s down there on the shore.” Mark said, unconcerned but when I went down the steep, shale bank in my trusty flip flops, there was no sign of her.
Never one to over-react, I flew straight into a panic. “What if she has been swallowed by a giant pike? Or sucked out of the reservoir by the pump for the hydro-electric scheme?” As it happened, she had simply lost track of how far she had run along the shore and some people on the far side whistled to us to let us know that she had come up the bank next to them.
Then we found a place with easier access to the lake for our water-loving dogs. We went down through the trees but the mud on the shoreline was like glass. Mark, after telling me to be careful, went a pearler. Bearing in mind his bad back, I was distraught. Luckily, it didn’t seem to affect his back too badly, but it was rather ironic that we haven’t worn clothes for days because it has been so hot and his clean T-shirt and shorts were now covered in revolting, sticky mud!
And that, dear reader, is why we christened it Unlucky Al-levard!
See if our luck changes as we both take a Trip Down Memory Lane in Marsanne and Mirmande.
A Good Read
Wankie – The Story of a Great Game Reserve by Ted Davey