When you move to France, you have to have a medical exam from the French immigration office, known as OFII. The OFII office nearest to us is in Annecy (pronounced Aahn-see and not Ann-eh-see, because as usual, the French have given up on some letters in the word). Annecy is about 90 minutes from Le Tour. That distance and the timing necessitated a road trip.
Emily and I have not had the occasion or desire to do any big road trips since we moved here and do not look forward to doing them often. At least not yet. This is mainly due to the fact that we are still uncomfortable driving around in France. There is no real reason for this discomfort other than the fact that we are scared. We are scared because we are uncomfortable and vice versa.
The main thoroughfares in France are some of the best roads we have ever driven on. If there is a bump on the highway we haven’t found it yet. It is true that the roads through little villages are a bit on the narrow side, slightly wider than a US bike path is normal. Our journey to Annecy was all on big highways though so there was no need to worry about narrow roads. There were tolls however and those made us nervous. As it turned out though, the toll stations were easy to navigate and round trip cost us a little less than 20 Euros.
Annecy is mainly known for it’s lake, aptly named Lac Annecy. It is a medium sized lake surrounded by large hills and it is quite beautiful.
The lake draws a lot of tourists and there are many boats for rent or for hire, including sail boats.
There are also quite a few statues and other pieces of art to view around town.
I think the main part of Annecy reminded me of the Pearl Street area of Boulder as it had lots of restaurants and shops and was for the most part a pedestrian only area.
Our appointment with the doctor went fine and was just a series of questions along with height and weight and an eye test. The appointment took about an hour and we were on our way back to the car which was parked in a parking garage that had classical music playing. Of course there were some distractions between us and our car. Namely shops selling all manner of bread and sweets. As shown below with Emily having found a small beignet.
While I was waiting for Emily, I too found some nourishment.
Technically the sign on the door says, “Without Gluten Free” but I got their meaning and had to go in and buy some sweets for myself.
We also saw what appeared to be an imminent game of unintentional dominoes.
Our trip was very successful and we are looking forward to visiting Annecy again in the future. It is a possible drier winter running area that offers many trails around the lake.
This week is UTMB week which means there are lots of spandex clad runners hanging about the Cham valley. If you are unfamiliar with UTMB, www.irunfar.com has a nice preview of the various races. Americans have a fair chance in several of the different races this year so hopefully they can perform on the biggest trail running stage in the world.
Emily and I meanwhile, will be trying our best to avoid the madhouse that is Chamonix during this week. The main street through town is literally shoulder to shoulder with people and the buses are packed like sardines in a can. Thankfully Le Tour is fairly removed from all the hustle and bustle.
Gotcha! There are no pictures of naked (or if you are from the south, “nekkid”) French people.
When we arrived at our new place in Le Tour, there was a bed waiting for us in the, “master bedroom”. Those words are in quotes because it is really just another bedroom. The bed that awaited us was not what anyone would call the most comfortable of beds. Some people like firm beds and some like soft beds. Some people probably like the Goldilocks combo where everything is, “juuussst right”. The bed here was none of those things, and all of those things, except just right. It was firm in some spots and soft in others. You could always count on ending up in the middle of the thing by the end of the night, so at least it had that going for it. Best of all, it was lying directly on the floor, like the one in your first college off-campus apartment.
There is also a closet in the “master” waiting for us to fill it with our stuff. Or at least six or seven small items of clothing as that is about all that would fit. Of course we had to take the accordion doors off the closet first so we would have room to walk around the bed, since when open, the doors took up too much space.
What all of this means is that Emily and I needed new bedroom furniture and a new bed. There is a lovely store in Chamonix that sells all manner of housewares. We managed to find a bed with lots of storage underneath and a chest-of-drawers. Or if you are from the south, a, “Chester Drawz”. When I was growing up I always wondered who Chester was and why we were talking about his underwear.
Much to our surprise, furniture in Chamonix and France in general is very cheap compared to furniture in the US! “How can this be?”, you might ask, since lots of other things are more expensive. It turns out there is a very good reason furniture is cheaper here. It is delivered to you unassembled.
Some of you out there will be familiar with the fact that M and I, to put it kindly, are not mechanically inclined. The last home project we tried was replacing the microwave at our place in Frisco. After three hours we gave up…, on getting it out of the wall. We had to call our friend Landon to come and finish the job for us.
To say that putting together a bed with storage shelves and a chest-of-drawers was going to be a challenge for us would be one of the greatest understatements in the history of understatements. Right up there with, “we really need an electric screwdriver!” Our current list of tools consists of the following: Allen wrench, bunch of screwdrivers of various types (except electric!), and Leatherman. We had to borrow a hammer from our neighbor Michelle. I think in the back of our minds we were hoping for something along the lines of, “Some assembly required”. Wishful thinking is what that was. Speaking of wishful thinking the, “ALL ASSEMBLY REQUIRED,” instructions stated that our bed could be put together in 1 hour by a team of two people. It must have been referring to a team other than M and I. I am happy to report that M and I are both still alive, we have a bed, and it only took us 6 hours! We reserved the assembly of Chester for the next day. He only took about 4 hours.
Part of the reason for our rush in getting our furniture put together was that sister-in-law Sarah was coming to visit. The guest room was taken up with lots of our stuff and we needed somewhere to put it so Sarah would have a place to sleep. We finished just in time!
Sarah likes to hike when she visits us over here so we planned a couple nights at the Loriaz hut in order for her to get further afield than what one can normally do just from our house. For those of you who may be unfamiliar, the hut system in Europe allows one to go across and around all of Europe by hiking from hut to hut. Some of the huts are as nice as regular hotels. Others are what one would call rustic. As in, there is no running water and a hole in the ground for a bathroom. Loriaz is more towards the rustic side of things although some of the bunk houses did have nice wood paneling and comfy beds.
The hike to Loriaz from our house is about 7 miles and does not have a lot of vertical gain. It is a good hike for people who are unaccustomed to hiking around here as there are no real technical sections.
The hike from Loriaz over the Col de Terrasse (I pronounce it, “Tear ass”) then over to Emossons Dam, which we did the next day, is not for people unaccustomed to hiking over here. It begins with a climb straight up to a ridge with about 1,800 feet of vertical gain in less than two miles. The climb also has some easy scrambling over large boulders at the top. Did I mention there is no real trail and only sometimes a random path through the scree on the way up?
Once at the top, you cross into Switzerland which is immediately known due to the fancy trail signs that appear right when you cross the border from France. The trail signs in France are nice also, but the Swiss signs are a level above. The trail from the top is basically picking your way over and through large slabs of rock and trying not to trip because you are looking at the stunning views. After about 5 hours we made it back to Loriaz and took it easy for the rest of the day.
While staying at Loriaz, your choice for getting some of the sweat and dirt off, is to use water from the creek next to the encampment. M, Sarah, and I would generally dip our wash clothes in the creek and wipe ourselves down. The water was freezing cold so it felt good on the hot days.
The freezing cold water did not stop the French group, also staying at the hut, from getting completely naked and taking a bath! Needless to say this was a bit of a shock for M, Sarah, and I. The creek also has a pipe coming out of the ground so you can get water. The first day we were there, I came around the corner to get some water and there was an older naked guy bathing in the creek. As the kids say, “Awkward!” I got my water and made my way onward as quickly as possible. The next day, I went over to get water and came around the corner to see 3 naked ladies taking a bath. That was a bit too awkward for me so I went back later to get my water. Fortunately for all of us, there are no pictures, but Sarah and M can vouch for the facts, as they too had these experiences.
The next day we were ready for a real shower and took the easy route again back to our place in Le Tour. M and Sarah greatly appreciated having an actual toilet where there was very little risk of getting urine or other stuff on your feet.
M and I had one more big adventure following our Loriaz trip – the annual homeowner’s association meeting. In France, it is called a syndic, which is basically syndicate, without some letters. The meetings are exactly like the HOA meetings back in the States, only held in French. M and I got to meet a couple more of our neighbors including Monsieur Lanson and Monsieur Rob. The meeting ended with some champagne for all except M and I (to the befuddlement of our neighbors). The cool part was that the champagne was Lanson champagne. It turns out that 6 generations of the Lanson family have been in the champagne business, since 1760.