Although I’m not really a mountain person (the beach is much more suited to my lazy temperament) I’ve always had a soft spot for the French Alps. My grand-parents moved to Chamonix-Mont-Blanc when I was very little and it’s where I spent many of my childhood Christmases and holidays.
When I was 16 I also got to spend a year in a French High school in the nearby town of Annecy. It was my first time in a ‘real’ high school (as opposed to small international schools or home schooling) and I still have some pretty amazing memories from that year. I met my two french best friends during that time (as well as many other great people) and we got up to all sorts of mischief which I’d rather keep to myself for now (my mother reads this blog after all). Needless to say, school work was very far away from my mind during my time in Annecy which is why I ultimately went back to live with my parents in Asia for my last year of high school. Even though I went on to get my high school diploma without a hitch I still think my father will forever refer to Annecy as ‘The City of Small Grades’.
Chamonix Mt Blanc
Chamonix is a little ski town on the border of Italy. Each side of the city is flanked by huge mountain ranges and you can see the Mt Blanc (the highest peak in Europe) from pretty much anywhere in the city. Some people feel a little claustrophobic in these sorts of surroundings but honestly, waking up to the view of the mountains every morning is nothing short of magical. Chamonix also turns into a little bit of a party village during peak season (December to February and then July/August) so it’s definitely a good choice if you love après-ski parties. Personally, I’m happy to leave all the skiing to the keen Italian and British tourists as long as someone hands me over a mulled wine come night fall.
Annecy hasn’t changed much since I left high school which I guess is one of the reasons why I love it so much. Every time I visit I feel like a 16 year old again (at least until I see actual 16 year olds and am reminded of how old I really am) and it’s always an interesting trip down memory lane. I also love walking though the streets of the old town, especially on Market Day. So much yummy produce that I wish I could have taken home with me…(damn you, Australian biosecurity laws *@#^!)
L’Abbeye de Tamié
When I visited my friend Aude in Annecy she asked me if I’d like to visit ‘Tamié Abbey’ with her which is where she goes for a spiritual retreat every year. Tamie Abbey is an 12th century cistercian monastery located about 45 mins away from Annecy. It is well known for its liturgies and for its cheese which the trappist monks produce on site. The drive to the monastery is very scenic as it sits on a mountain side surrounded by a large forest. The church’s interior is equally beautiful; made of old stone and with gorgeous stained glass.
As I mentioned before, I’m not really religious but as I found myself listening to a group of monks singing psalms in a candle lit 12th century church I couldn’t help but think to myself that if god did exist then this wouldn’t be a bad place to spend the rest of your life with him.