Living the dream

Five months living in Chamonix, it had to be just that. Getting up, eating fresh croissants from the boulangerie, then all day spent riding some of the best terrain in Europe. Every Saturday, I shopped for fresh organic fruit and vegetables in place Mont Blanc, bought kilos of Tomme de Savoie cheese and found one euro “vin chaud” . Being a member of the public library (mediatheque) was a massive plus. I could borrow not only books, but CD’s and DVD’s and it had free WiFi. At night I would get to know the locals over a glass of beer, occasionally attending their parties.


The flat below me was home to a twenty something baker who worked nights, below that was a Chemist’s Shop. On his days off he’d share drinks with friends and play music. But the apartments were lacking efficient sound deadening. Most weeks between the hours of 2 am and 4 am, I would be wakened by the strangest beats on the planet. I’d drag myself out of bed get semi dressed and make my way to my neighbour’s apartment and practice my French for, “Would you mind turning down the volume?” Sometimes polite, sometimes angry and sometimes adding “I will call the police”, depending on how upset I was. Next day, I’d be too tired to catch the first lifts.

I’d like to say more, positive and negative. What I will say is; “It was living the dream”.

This post has been entered into the Grantourismo HomeAway Holiday-Rentals travel blogging competition.

Bílý who? Bílý Potok! Czech Republic

Bílý Potok means white brook in Czech. It is a town in the Liberec District, North of Prague, close to the Polish border. We saw the rocks of Frýdlantské cimbuří  (Frýdlantské battlements) from the town and decided it would be great to hike up there.


This is the other stream. Guess what? This is called Černého  Potoka or Black Brook.Still climbing up through the trees.



Granite outcrop on the way up. There was a metal ladder leading to a view point on top.


Still climbing.


Frýdlantské cimbuří  (Frýdlantské battlements). Apparently first climbed in 1912. (900m)


Again. You can see the metal access ladder installed in 1978.


Trees damaged by pollution.


I love interesting rock formations.


Oh yes, I pretty partial to these as well.


We stayed at a camping site in the town, the chalets for rent were booked up, so we stayed in a large frame tent belonging to the owner. No time wasted erecting and dismantling our tent and it was much more spacious. The town itself was not what most would consider to be pretty. A lot of industrial decay in evidence. It does have its own railway connection though,


Not shaken, but stirred – a weekend in Martigny

We were there for the 50th birthday party of George, a friend of Joelle, from her time in Prague. Following on the theme of the last post, although this is not a Gran Tourismo competition entry, we stayed with locals and celebrated with them. We stayed at the top floor apartment of George’s sister with views from her kitchen looking North at the imposing château de la Bâtiaz. The balcony and windows on the other side were equally as impressive with the “V” of South to the Col de Forclaz carving its way between the high Alps, towards Chamonix. It was mid October the grapes had been harvested and there was already snow on the tops of the surrounding mountains. It pleased me to see even more snow falling over the course of the weekend.

For the celebration of George’s 50th we dined at a Table d’Hote. Located at a house in the next village on the road towards Verbier and the Grand St Bernard Pass. The food was to a very high standard and locally sourced. One of George’s friend’s joked that the Foie Gras was from local geese, that had been anaesthetised to ensure not suffer as they were force fed. The courses were accompanied by wines from the Valais, Switzerland which are amongst my favourite in the world, certainly a very underrated wine region.


Château de la Bâtiaz, HDR


Château de la Bâtiaz


Château de la Bâtiaz


The only car carrying wooden bridge in the Valais (HDR)




One of the many works of art adorning the roundabouts. This one is by Hans Erni.


More artwork in a roundabout

With only a weekend and lots of folks to catch up with, we didn’t have time for much tourist activity, but we managed a walk around the town. We did a little shopping and sat down in a café for a hot chocolate.

The later photos are from earlier visits to the Foundation Gianadda. It is built on the foundations of a Celtic temple found when the area was being developed in the 1970’s. It now houses an art museum with a world class Sculpture Park and regular exhibitions by artists including Picasso, Hans Erni, Rodin. In fact they have a major exhibition every six months or so. The building also houses a motor museum which is included with the admission price.


Foundation Gianadda


Foundation Gianadda


Roman Amphitheatre


There are substantial Roman remains in the town. The amphitheatre being the most rewarding to see. My imagination is always fired by images of fighting gladiators and the less lucky fighting wild animals. I suppose it’s more likely that it was used mainly for the Roman Army to carry out endless drill practice. Either way it is either haunted by the dead gladiators or foot soldiers who were bored to death.

However in the case of the Martigny there is still an event that gets the spectators’ blood racing.  A cow fighting competition is held there early October. Unfortunately I have never witnessed it but this YouTube video gives an idea of the event:

The sound of the cow bells ringing as the cows lock horns gives it a very Alpine feel. NB. No cows were harmed in the making of the video, as their horns are filed down if they are too sharp and a vet is on hand at all times.