Mountain High

Today we went up into the mountains, the Aravis, to get away from the sudden influx of tourists into Annecy, and in search of mountain cheese. It was clear and hot all day, really and truly hot, and although we were only 25 kilometers from Annecy, it was absolutely another world.

We’re only allowed to live where there’s a bakery right next door, so after Shel’s lovely breakfast of the crispest possible croissant and a bowl of coffee, we went in search of our car, which had been parked for the past two days.

I wanted to see the Chateau Menthon Saint-Bernard, even though I knew it was closed.  I’d imagined that we would be able to get closer than this, but I wasn’t at all disappointed, because just nearby we found

this beautiful little waterfall, and just next to it

a splendid patch of l’ail des ours (which translates as bear garlic, but I have no idea what it is in English, or if it even exists.  It’s not ramps, I think, because it’s the leaves you eat, not a bulb). Ever since Shel and I won a cooking contest with our dishes based on l’ail des ours it’s been my totem vegetable, but I’ve never seen it growing wild, since it likes damp and shady spots, and there are precious few of those around Uzès. Tonight we’ll have an omelette à l’ail des ours, and some mountain cheese. I can’t complain.

Next we visited a sabot maker. The sabotier himself wasn’t there, so we had to be content with a video about how these shoes were carved out of a solid block of wood by hand, in the old days.

Happily, today he uses power tools

although the’re still pretty rustic.

Typing this in the neighborhood bar for lack of Internet in our apartment, I’m realizing that we did more today than can realistically fit into one post.  So I’ll tell you a bit more, then continue it tomorrow.

We had an excellent lunch in Thônes, and if you’re ever there, I recommend the restaurant in the Hotel du Commerce. The price was reasonable beyond all expectation, and the food was very good.

Thônes is a pretty little town with a sprawling market on Saturdays

packed with people shopping and eating and soaking up the sun.

It’s also home to a very pretty church

decorated in extravagant detail. You may have noticed that religious imagery figures prominently in this post, and that’s because this region has an incredibly complicated history, including a local religious war. Not able to really grasp it all from tourist brochures, we went next to the local history museum, which the librarian opened up just for us, and gave us a brief introduction to local color. I’ll share all that with you as soon as I can, hopefully tomorrow.  But right now, that l’ail des ours is calling to me, it’s gotten dark out, and we’re heading for home, where our recently acquired stash of cheese awaits us.

Explore posts in the same categories: Road Trips in Europe

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6 Comments on “Mountain High”

  1. Lucy Says:

    Ail des ours is ramsons. They grow everywhere along our riverside walks in the forest, we wait until they flower before we gather them. I love to just chop them up and use them in salads, in marinades, and mixed into farm cheeses for spreading. So happy to see you are enjoying your visit to the Alps. We wish we’d known you’d be in the area, we would have loved to have visited with you. Bisous, Lucy, Loic & Ian

  2. Julie H. Says:

    So jealous of your next door bakery! What a wonderful area, thank you for sharing your visit there.

  3. Wolfgang Says:

    Ramsons exists even north the alps and at spring time the sun heating the soils it smells like a giant garlic field.

    It is a vegetable /spice experiencing a revival as an old food ingredient being parttime replaced by the large garlic bulbs but for me the taste is more refined than the pure garlic

  4. Nico Says:

    I am often reading foreign language posts (like yours in English e.g.) and finding a translation for animals or plants through a dictionary is not at all easy. The following method often gives good results:
    Look up the name in Wikipedia in the original language. If you find it, copy the scientific name you will find in the article. Switch to the other language Wikipedia. Enter the scientific name in the search field. 9 out of 10 you will find the correct translation (allthough “small” languages may cause problems…).
    By the way: from the time I walked my dog in a place where ramsons grow, I have them in my garden :-)))

  5. Abra Bennett Says:

    I have never in my life heard the word ramsons, maybe they don’t exist on the West Coast?

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