White peaks appeared out the train window a few hours south of Paris, by the third hour plus, we were in the mountains proper and ready to de-bark. Staying near Mount Revard, for the next week we explored the Rhone Alps of the Savoy up to Montreux, Switzerland. We hiked above Vevey, Switzerland, with its high green meadowland dotted with cows, the blue waters of Lake Geneva below, white-peaked Alps surrounding the lake, a bright blue sky on that day. Intensely beautiful.
We hiked around snowy Semnoz and its cosy ski towns, had lunch while viewing Mont Blanc (Mont Blanc is the highest peak in the French Alps – 4,810m or 15,780ft. high) until more snow blew in while we finished our buttery wild mushroom omlettes with bitter salad greens. The girls each tried the local dish, the tartine de reblochon de Savoie and read their books while Andrew and I finished off our meals with the traditional…coffee.
We hiked the meadows between the beautiful alpine villages of Cusy and Gruffy, which gave us innumerable laughs to consider what the villagers there might be called, Gruffards, Gruffys, Gruffonians…
Everywhere we went there were cyclists in bright bike suits climbing the steep passes and flying down the mountains, practicing, Andrew said, for the Tour de France, which traversed this area.
Our chalet house had a balcony opening up to the far peaks of the Savoy Alps, the rooftops of the small village below, and the quietness in the moonlight. Paris, a world away.
Poets are notorious for their carving in words, distillations of moments we’ve all experienced. When the Romantic poet Percy Shelley wrote “Mont Blanc” he was here and this is what he had to say:
The last stanza of Shelley’s poem:
“Mont Blanc yet gleams on high:—the power is there,
The still and solemn power of many sights,
And many sounds, and much of life and death.
In the calm darkness of the moonless nights,
In the lone glare of day, the snows descend
Upon that Mountain; none beholds them there,
Nor when the flakes burn in the sinking sun,
Or the star-beams dart through them. Winds contend
Silently there, and heap the snow with breath
Rapid and strong, but silently! Its home
The voiceless lightning in these solitudes
Keeps innocently, and like vapour broods
Over the snow. The secret Strength of things
Which governs thought, and to the infinite dome
Of Heaven is as a law, inhabits thee!
And what were thou, and earth, and stars, and sea,
If to the human mind’s imaginings
Silence and solitude were vacancy?”