Today (Tuesday 12th of June 2018!) I woke up at 2000m and it seems about time I got another post up here to mark the event, it’s been a long time coming.
I arrived up here yesterday having had a lovely send off from J & S in St. Pancras before boarding the chunnel train for Paris. That went OK though I realised that I had really loaded myself up. Things started to go a bit off piste with the transition from Paris Gare de Nord to Paris Gare de Lyon. Getting off the train was slow owning to the sheer pressure of people and all our luggage and although the connection only involves one intermediate stop, the train took for ever to come and I missed my booked departure by about five minutes. SNCF were relentless despite it having been frankly impossible to have made the transition any quicker and hence, in my view, their booking error: it had to be a new ticket (ouch) and a three hour delay for the next train and a bus instead of a train for the last stage from Chambery to Aime. Their Email says that was down to meteorology and certainly neighbouring parts of France were having horrific storms with sufficient rain falling in an hour or so to cause severe flooding. For amusement, here’s are some ‘photos which hardly convey the beauty of the Lac de Bourget that we shot past shortly before Chambery.
And here is quintessentially French railway architecture of the station in Aime.
I opted to stay the night in Aime which is the main village/town of the commune and over a 1000m below my destination. The next morning I decided to stay two nights when I discovered that Decathlon, which I wanted to visit to get a pushbike for my stay here, is closed on Sundays. So I stayed two nights in the lovely Hotel Palanbo. J and I stayed there for a few nights back in summer 2003 when we made a flying (actually, driving) visit here and put the offer on the appartment I’m in now. Lovely little hotel with wonderfully friendly and relaxed staff, great simple breakfast and excellent wifi/internet! Sunday was greyish with the sun mostly struggling to get through low cloud but, as well as trying to get as much done with the internet while I had it, I had time to find Decathlon but more aesthetically, to revisit the wonderful basilica church and the Tour Montmayeur: a 15th C defensive tower.
That’s the Tour Montmayeur poking up above the surrounding houses and now, a rather grey skip around the lovely basilica.
That’s approach to the west end also showing how much snow there is still on the high slopes. That view shows that the priorities for the basilica were that it be defensible as well as a place of worship: not a lot of window or door as a proportion of the wall area.
Moving to my left, here’s the north face of the nave. It’s called a basilica but I think the structure is a hybrid between simple basilica form and the cruciform standard that was largely to replace that. Does the name here refer to the architectural form or something else, something about the status of the church within the Catholic hierarchy of the area? I’d do some sleuthing but I am now on 3/4G internet only and need to ration myself very strictly until I can get a landline in and broadband.
I’m pretty sure that those have always been blind arcades, not windows at ground level. There was a black redstart clearly nesting in a niche in the tower. I’ve always had an affection from them as I seem to remember a childhood book, whose name I’m not sure of now, started with the child at it’s centre, falling and I think breaking his arm climbing in bombed ruins in London shortly after WWII trying to get closer to a black redstart. I’d never heard of them when I read the book but resonated with the risk taking, or really with the ambition that drove it.
Here’s the beautiful (to my mind) East end with its apse and two little chapels.
I’m a sucker for this sort of simple architecture. My guts say the apse was added at least a hundred years after the nave and tower. My fingers are itching to go sleuthing but I must resist!
Detail high on the tower.
Simple but still so effective with the light recessing of both the whole window and the arches.
Sunday evening I found the Restaurant l’Atelier (hm, Google has it as “L’atelier”, I’m sure the French would capitalise it differently, again, must resist more sleuthing!) Wonderful small restaurant, two friendly blokes have been running it for four years now and, though I like the usual Savoie/Tarentaise food with its typical peasant stress on calories and on locally available protein (here beef and cheese), this was different.
Up here yesterday and today I’m in a very different world. It’s stunning to me how much snow simply hasn’t melted from the end of the ski season at Easter. This was the most they’ve had here for 30 years. If I were mad enough I think I could get my skis and ski boots out from the cave (storage cupboard in the basement) and walk up about another 800m and I think I could have hundreds of metres of one of the high red runs to myself. I suspect that the surface of the snow is horrible and I’m not tempted but when I’ve got the bike I will cycle up there to look at it. From here it looks as if pretty much everything up on the highest point in the domaine would be skiable.
When the sun’s out it’s lovely, when it’s not, it’s pretty cold still and this internet rationing is a challenge but I’m here and the hermitic life adaptation had started. More on that in the next day or two, then back to more about Malta if I can find the Mbytes that’ll need!