Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Thursday 19th May 2011 – Monday 23rd May 2011

Time is running out, so if we are to spend some time in Annecy, we need to leave Switzerland and head back towards France.

We never really make detailed plans for our Campervan trips, we have what I like to call a “pencil plan”, which is a rough idea of what we intend to do, but which may be changed if we want to.

So, when we come to look at the map (remembering we are still on kat-nav), we realise we have painted ourselves into a bit of a corner. Our next “planned” destination is the French side of Lac Leman (or Lake Geneva as we know it). There is no “good” road, from where we are, to Thonon-les-Bains, Lake Leman.

We have the choice or retracing our steps, to join a motorway going in the right direction, or, taking the mountain route. I never like going back, so, we take the mountain route.

The route first takes us along the southern shore of Thunnersee (ie the opposite side to where we cycled yesterday), about half way along the lake to Spiez, this is child’s play, even dual carriageway in places.

At Spiez we turn west, and join the much smaller road 11 (like the Germans, the Swiss seem just to give their roads numbers, no letter), heading for Zweisermmen.

No dual carriageway now. (sorry about the sideways photographs, still have not figured out how to turn them around in blog!)

We are following a river along a valley through the mountains, but it is certainly not flat.

I must admit, I have no problem with the ups and the downs, or the twists and turns. I am confident the van will go up the hills, and that the brakes are up to slowing us down on the downs, and that I can get around the tightest hairpin.

What concerns me, is the width of the road, and that coming in the opposite direction are 32 tonne wagons, some towing trailers!

Meeting one of them filling the whole opposite side of the road when you have crept even near the white line to ease a tight corner is a bit scary!

These lorry drivers deserve respect for negotiating these roads everyday.

The things that concern Kathleen are, because we are driving on the “wrong” side of the road, these lorries are coming at her on “her” side of the van and some of the corners have drops of several hundred feet, with only a flimsy fence to stop you going over if you (well I), misjudge it.

A plus point is, there is not much traffic, as you can see from the photographs.
So, bearing in mind, it is Kathleen taking these photographs, you are only seeing shots of the less scary bits.

For the “real” bits of excitement she is holding onto the grab handle over the cab door with one hand and the seat with the other hand, leaving no hands to hold the camera.

At Zweisermmen, amazingly, we find a Lidl.

We stop and shop, spending the remainder of our Swiss Francs on beer, and food.

Then head on past GStaad and towards Chateaux-d’Oex.

Here we have a choice to make, do we take the longer route via the slightly wider Road 12, towards Bulle, or do we continue on the 11, to Aigle via the 1445 metre high Col des Moses.

Naturally, we choose road 11 via Col des Moses towards Aigle.

I even manage to make it seem to be Kathleen's idea, by simply suggesting she may not be upto it, no McCaffery can resist that challenge.

There are no photographs of this stretch, since there were no hands available to hold the camera!

At Aigle, we stop for lunch, and then across the River Rhone, and back into France at St Gingolph.

Thonon-Les-Bains, Saint Disdille, (ASCI2011-1473)

This is a large site, but at this time of year, not very busy. So it is suitably quiet. Facilities are upto scratch. There is a nature reserve next to the site, and 200 yards from the entrance to the site, you are in a parkland area, on the shore of the Lake.

For once, the Dutch are not in the majority, mostly French and Swiss, with a few Germans and Dutch. Initially, we are the only Brits, but over the course of the next few days three more turn up.

We need to explore over the next few days and see if there is enough to keep us amused. For now, we have only the afternoon and evening. It is hair washing day, so that is the rest of the afternoon accounted for.

Kathleen spends the rest of the afternoon in hair care activities, a brief panic, Kathleen is running short on one of her hair care products, will be able to buy a replacement in France?

Friday and we need to do some “chores” ie washing. I think Kathleen has been having too much sun when she begins being very enthusiastic about the merits of Vanish Soap in removing ground in dirt. OK so the stuff works, that is what it is supposed to do isn’t it?

With our washing hung out to dry, we cycle into Thonon-Les-Bains.

It is a very pleasant place.

When we were in Switzerland, the campsite offered discount on several “extreme” activities, for example white water rafting, paragliding and travelling on a funicular railway. We decided that having lived to be 60+ we were not going to risk death hurtling down a river in a rubber dinghy, or jumping off a cliff with a kite tied to our back. We thought we might try the funicular railway, but when we saw the height of it, we decided riding our bikes thought unlit tunnels was probably safer.

On one day, we did see some paragliders landing in a field, and I almost had Kathleen talked round to trying it, on the basis it would mean being strapped to a fit young man. But the prospect of jumping off a cliff dulled her enthusiasm. I was not keen to start with, since there were no female instructors.

But, here in Thonon-Les-Bains, they have a funicular railway from the port up to the main town, and we decided this was probably adventurous for two OAP’s like us.

Although the views look impressive, it was not too high, and only took about five minutes to make the ascent.

It was lunch time.

The French take lunch time very seriously, so everything except bars and cafes was closed.

Personally I do not see that as a problem, and we soon sat in a nice little bar in the square sipping a half litre pitcher of cool rose wine.

Next task was to find the church, job done, Kathleen is all set for Sunday, 9:00am.

Kathleen is worrying the she is eating and drinking too much, so Saturday we have a mammoth cycle along the shore of Lake Geneva.

We first pass this chateaux on the way out from Thonon.

It is a working vineyard, it is called “Chateaux de Ripaille”, cannot say I have heard of it, it is a white wine I think.

The route is very pretty, although not always flat.

We pause for a refreshing beer in Port Sciez.

This photograph is very rare, and is especially for Bryan Crick, if you look very carefully, you can see Kathleen with her purse open.

We turn back at the thirteen mile mark, and head back towards Thonon, stopping for our picnic on the way.

At Thonon, Kathleen suggests we stop for ice cream, and again pays, there is something amiss!

On the lake, there is a yacht race in progress, it all looks very interesting, but having watched yacht racing several times before, I have to admit, to me, it is impossible to tell who is winning, or even where the course is, since boats seem to be going in just about every direction.

So todays little outing is 24 miles, we must have come back by a slightly shorter route than we went, I think that justifies a glass of two of wine tonight, and some crisps etc.

Sunday, we are up bright and early, because Kathleen is going to Church at 9:00 in Vongy (a small village on the edge of Thonon.

After church, the plan was to take a stroll in the Nature Reserve, but instead Kathleen is washing clothes again. I think the UK Government needs to classify Vanish Soap as a Class A drug, because it is clearly highly addictive.

When all of the clothes are hung on the line, we have a coffee, and then walk into Thenon to have our lunch at one of the many cafe/bars by the lake.

After lunch, we walk back via the lakeshore. We come upon a sign, which I translate as “Nudist Beach ahead, if you want to avoid it, follow the path to the right”. Kathleen refuses to believe my translation, so we end up walking through the nudist beach. I would just point out, Kathleen’s French is better than mine, so I leave it to you to decide if this was a deliberate ploy on her part. There were, by the way, more nude men than nude women (aren’t there always?).

When we get back to the site, there are two new British arrivals. A campervan and a caravan.

Then, this turns up.

At first it looks like a Volkswagen Passat, with a rather large roof box. They park, and fifteen minutes later they have the tent folded out, on the roof, complete with ladders to climb into it, and a neat little porch area to sit in.

I have seen this kind of set-up before on the roof of a Land Rover, but never on an ordinary family car.

Monday, we take our walk in the Nature Reserve next to the site.

We take the gate from the campsite, and follow the path, soon, we come to a very organised “hide” which overlooks a lake, (the nature reserve is the delta of the river Dranse and is heavily forested, with water waters running through it).

The information board says there are various kinds of animals and birds to be seen here. Over 800 species in fact, including beaver.

Other than several types of bird and a couple of cyclists, we don’t see a living thing. This reminds me, that, to see animals in the wild, you need two things, which are in short supply in present company, ie patience and quietness.

Presumably, I muse, if we had emigrated to North America in the 1700’s, and had to rely on our hunting skills to survive, we would have either starved to death or been killed by Indians who would have been able to hear us coming at a distance of several miles.

We eventually emerge from the forested area, onto the shoreline of the lake, at least here we have scenery to admire, and some rather magnificent swans.

A short distance along the coast, we come to this rather exclusive marina development, where many of the houses have their own mooring for a boat at the bottom of the garden.

After lunch we decide to cycle in the opposite direction (to which we went on Saturday) along the lake towards Evian, of bottled water fame.

This is a good choice, there is a good track, with easy cycling, leading to an area called “City de l’eau”, at Evian.

This is an area of parkland, by the lake, where people are lying on the grass, sun bathing.

Many of them are topless, young women.

Sorry chaps, no photographs.

I get the usual talk from Kathleen, that all of the goodies on display must be “boob jobs”, since no natural woman’s boobs stand up and point to the sky, when she is lying down. I am told, if they are small to medium size, they go flat, if the are big ones the flop under your arms.

Some plastic surgeon must have made himself very rich from this lot, is all I have to say.

We stop to refresh ourselves with a glass or two of cool, Rose.

As the sun sets over Lake Geneva, on our last night at Thonon-les-Bains.

An informal mass football game is going on in the park, mams, dads and kids all joining in. It is impossible to tell who is which side, or even where the goals are!

Well, this is a mammoth post!, we have had no internet for several days, sorry!

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