After three weeks in France I realized that it’s not an easy task to write about the days spent with family and friends in places you were familiar with. Most of the time was spent on family things – eating, drinking, talking, playing games, entertaining children. As enjoyable as these activities were, they were either too private or too commonplace to publish onto a public blog.
The week we just spent in Hauteluce, a village in the heart of French Alpes, was different though. It’s a new place for me, and it’s a magical place to be.
Imagine a wooden chalet perched high up on a hill, surrounded by the mighty French Alpes, with a view directly onto Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe, from your living room. On top of it, it just snowed at night, so everything was white in the morning, including the pine trees that dominated the mountains, and the roofs of the other chalets that dotted around the valley. Now the sun was shinning, and the summit of Mont Blanc sat high above the clearing clouds.
It was hard to find another place on this planet that had a much better view than this.
Even if it meant that you would have to clear the snow around the house in order to get out. Even the noise from the machine that cleared the snow sounded musical, when you were standing on the balcony looking out trying to capture the beauty of every inch around you while sipping the tea.
Our hosts J.C. and fondly named CriCri – Nicolas’ family friends who watched him grew up and brought him to the summit of Mont Blanc at young age – opened their charming chalet and arms to welcome Nicolas’ own family. They were also the chef, photographer, baby-sitter, pastry master, ski guide, entertainers during the week, on top of being high mountain trekkers and travellers themselves. I listened to their incredible trekking experiences in South America, Asia and Northern Europe, and almost felt our round-the-world trip was too mundane.
Nina encountered snow just a few days before we came to Hauteluce while doing luge at Semnoz near Annecy, However it was here that she played with snow intimately. Snow was just everywhere around the house. She walked in the snow, played more with luge, made snowman, launched a snowball to her mother, trekked up the hill in snow. And she put ski on for the first time (although asked to get off the ski just one bunny slop). Not too bad for someone two weeks away from her two-year birthday! I was just happy to ski down the blue slopes (there were four levels of slopes here, in order of ascending difficulty: green, blue, red, black), marvelled time after time by the beauty of the snowy mountains.
No Alpes experience would be complete without Fondue and Vin Chaud though. Fondue was basically small bits of bread dipped into cheese (or a mixture of 4 kinds of cheese as Nicolas made for us) mixed with white wine. It’s almost like cheese hotpot – a concept that’s familiar for Chinese. Vin Chaud is literally hot wine – wine (red, or white as I just learnt) boiled with some spices (I didn’t made the spice mix – it was purchased from an epicerie in the old city of Annecy).
After a few hours of ski, I sat down next to the log fire in the chalet, with a mug of vin chaud in hand, looking out onto the sunset over Mont Blanc and the valley, and expecting the fondue prepared for the dinner. I felt I could almost stayed here forever.