I miss the mountains. Apart from a brief trip to Lebanon, I haven’t seen them for ten years. Being close enough however to Annecy and the gateway to the Mont Blanc massif was too good to miss. The wild woman herself was more than worth the trip. Standing 4810m, the highest peak in Europe, gave me tantalising glimpses as she shrouded herself in cloud, the summit only partially visible for most of the day. Had I been thinking on my feet, I might have managed a morning’s skiing on La Vallée Blanche but the cable car ride takes an hour and I didn’t have equipment.
Instead, lunch at a restaurant recommended by a friend at the top of the Col de la Croix-Fry – no Parisian ‘nouvelle’ here, with chic little diddles of balsamic – the ham slice on offer would have been sorely missed by its parent animal and sausages the size of cucumbers – then down into Chamonix – inevitably full of grimy unshaven climbers, some of whom, quelle surprise – were English. I spent the afternoon on a glacier, as one does hereabouts. The cable car takes you to its base, and the snowline, blue-black in parts, finishes about 300m higher, torrents of meltwater finding least path distance to the valley below. I must be getting old, the climb – probably no more than half a dozen flights of stairs, at 1450m left me breathless. Dinner in St Gervais, pleasanter and cheaper than the tourist overkill in Chamonix. Elderly persons go there, you know. For their health.