Monday, August 24, 2009

Megève and beyond (June 2005)

Looking again at the above photographs, I'm reminded of the beauty of Megève. We were blessed with a seven-night stay in this gorgeous venue. However, as you can readily see, during the late spring and summer months it's not the most populated site in France. One can imagine the hustle and bustle of the resort when covered in fresh powdery snow and crammed with skiers.

The village rests in the shade of Mont Blanc and dates back to medieval times and boasts some 276 ski lifts. We learned that it is indeed a very popular ski location and that its seven hotels are generally sold out in advance of the ski season. Many of the boutiques carry expensive designer clothing, leaving us with the impression that this resort is attractive to people of wealth.

We spent the day driving around the area, walking through the village and looking at maps of the surrounding area to see what else might be exciting in the region. Our joie de vie as travelers is to meet and converse with people so that we might pick up information about local culture. Not an easy task in a virtually empty village. Our hotel manager spoke little English and she was absent most of the time during this low season and we saw only one other family (French) in our apartment complex. You'll find out later how I found out these people were French and it's quite amusing! Think "french laundry."

After a full day of exploring, we walked into the village hoping to find a restaurant open for dinner. We found a typical small boutique hotel in the middle of the village with a nice dining area and huge terrace on the lobby level and directly in front on the main drag where we could dine under the stars. It was a very nice balmy evening and we chose the terrace. Surprisingly the restaurant was quite full, mostly of people drinking cocktails and enjoying small bowls of nuts and olives (we wondered where these people hung out during daylight hours). It wasn't until later during our travels that we realized that the aperitif hour is a time when drinking and conversation is the way to unwind the day before enjoying a lovely meal and that the people we saw were mostly people who lived in the area throughout the year. There was no doubt that we were the only Americans around, we opined that perhaps the others were in Provence or Paris which are both popular with Americans. We decided to stay, it looked intriguing.

Our waiter was most congenial and also spoke excellent English, much to our novice-related pleasure (although Doug would have loved a German speaking waiter). We told him that we were not so familiar with French cuisine and this pleased him and opened the door for him to indoctrinate us (he was also probably missing human contact during the off-season). He talked us into a dish famous in the region: tartiflette. This dish is not for the faint of heart when it comes of overindulgence and high calorie content. Each bite was paradise and despite the calories, we gobbled it up along with a nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc from the Sancerre region of the eastern Loire Valley, which cut through the richness nicely. If you would like to know more about this wine region, which is part of the French Appellationd'origine contrôlée (AOC), which means your wine has passed a high standard imposed upon the wine maker. After the rich tartiflette, we were too sated to enjoy a dessert, but that was driven more from the fact that we still had wonderful pastry in our apartment as well as some delicious Swiss chocolate we'd picked up before leaving the Zurich airport. I should also say that the airport had a fully stocked grocery store where you can buy anything you'd find at a regular grocer. We bought water and Swiss delicacies for our trip to the Alps. Very convenient indeed.

We took our time walking home, chatting about our first dining experience. We were wowed by the concept that the table we were seated at was ours for as long as we wanted it. Not once did we feel rushed. In Hawaii they would have delivered our tab with our food as if to say "eat up and get out of Dodge, we've got people waiting!" Dining, we learned, as well as the apéro, are very important times for family and friends and to rush is not acceptable behavior. What a novel idea--giving your food time to digest while enjoying conversation. We liked these cultural nuances and were thirsty for more, so we thought it best to explore a bit beyond our Megève border to broaden our horizons and see what else we could learn.

As we prepared to squish onto our one-and-a-half person futon, our hearts were full of a taste of France. Our "honeymoon" had been in the Umbria region of Italy the year before, but we hadn't been as smitten as we were with France. She was capturing our hearts, day by day.

You'll see what we mean, if you enjoy the photographs below.

Wild Flowers Abound (A residence in Megève)

A Residential Area of Megève

The Huge Megève Airport

Next post: Out of Megève.

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