Escape from the Alps

Back in Nice, where it’s actually less hot than in Annecy or Geneva where there was no air conditioning. I guess my plan for escaping the summer heat was a failure, though Libby and I had a nice time. One day we swam in Lake Annecy and another day we took a boat trip on it. Some great meals as well.

Of course I couldn’t rent a car without some sort of incident. Fortunately, this one involves emotional distress rather than any damage. Read on for the gory details. 

It is supposed to be a 40 minute drive from Annecy to Geneva. Libby and I left around 9 :15 am. We arrived at the airport around 11 after taking several wrong routes that took us 30-40 km out of our way. Fortunately Libby’s flight was at 1 so she had enough time.  

I managed to spend 3 hours driving back and forth cross the Swiss French border, finally returning the car around 2. I could have driven back to Nice in about the same amount of time. 

Geneva is somewhat unique in having an airport in 2 countries. I chose to rent on the French side for several reasons, one of which was a desire to avoid paying 45 Swiss francs (around $50) for s vignette that is required to drive on Swiss highways. The first time Libby and I crossed the Swiss border, I tried to turn back but found myself blocked so I bought the damn vignette. Good thing because I crossed the Swiss border at least 13 more times. 

I kept circling the airport but not finding the French side. Ultimately I decided to return the car to the Swiss side (there is a hertz on each side) but was told that I would have to pay a 300 euro surcharge. The lady told me it was simple and explained the 37 steps I had to follow to find the French side hertz. In fact, everyone I asked said it was simple, including the Swiss border police. But what no one told me was that the road I needed to find was unmarked!

In tears, I tried to get some random guy to drive his car to lead me. He refused. I was about to pay the 300€ and just return it in Switzerland but then I couldn’t find that either. I remembered Abby had once paid a Spanish cabdriver to lead her where she needed to go so when a taxi started honking because I was blocking 2 lanes I asked him to do the same. I followed him to the unmarked road, just before/after the border and gladly gave him 30€ for the help

Lake Annecy

Good question, Michael. We are in the region called Savoie, which was once controlled by the Dukes of Savoia. The predominant ingredient is cheese and we had a great lunch yesterday with duck rillettes in a cheesy risotto. The local white wine is quite nice, the red is meh. But most importantly, we are in France where pizza delivery includes wine delivery. Really. Yesterday being a Sunday, none of the stores were open and there was no wine in the house. Light bulb moment–order a pizza and a bottle of wine for delivery. 

Today we went upscale to a 2 Michelin starred restaurant in Talloire, on the lake. The view was breathtaking, the food good but not exceptionally so. I had a vegetable fricassee with langoustines followed by a saddle of lamb. Libby had a veal en croute and local pike. 


So to reveal the mystery location. I’ve become a caribou, migrating to wherever the climate is most bearable. Unfortunately, most of Europe–including Finland, apparently–has been unseasonably hot. It was 90 or so in Geneva today, but I solved that problem by taking a boat trip on Lac Leman. Very refreshing and relaxing, especially with several glasses of wine in the bar. 

I like Geneva. Libby said it reminded her of Nice, perhaps because it is on a large body of water. It is very green, with lots of open spaces, parks and squares. Buildings from the 17th through the 21st century. There is a definite advantage in being neutral–no one bombs your cities so the architecture is preserved. Lots of cheese, of course. But basically French in culture and cuisine. 

The jet d’eau

View of the Alps from the boat

The flower clock. Only the Swiss would think of doing this. Btw, it keeps accurate time.

An unexpected stopover

In answer to your question, Michael, my first stop was intended to be Sanary, where Dominique lives and I had visited for several weeks in 2013. This was occasioned be the fact that there is a man from Paris staying in my apartment in Nice. Long story but I had initially intended to drive to my final destination (no hints, it’s a mystery to be revealed) and expected to leave today. But then I decided to fly and I’m not leaving til Wednesday. But I had accepted a request from Frederic to stay in my apartment in Nice starting today. So Dominique was kind enough to offer me shelter. 

Except I didn’t make it to Sanary. A sudden violent thunderstorm erupted while Ellie and I were on the train headed to Toulon. They announced that a tree had fallen on the tracks and they didn’t know how long we would be delayed. After 2 hours without electricity (no bathroom, no light, no AC) I decided to stay where the train had put me, in St. Raphael/Frejus, between Cannes and St. Tropez. I found a beachfront hotel that accepts dogs and that’s where we are now. I’m actually not unhappy about the unexpected stopover as I had passed through the town several years ago and thought it looked charming. 

Beach view from my balcony

Allez les bleus 

For those of you who don’t follow soccer, France just won the World Cup for the first time in 20 years. Imagine an entire country going crazy happy, painting their bodies, cars, hair, dogs, blue white and red. (Go Blues for the color of the uniforms.) Samara, Ellie and I watched people watching the game at a cafe, not much caring that there was no tv as the crowds let us know each time France scored. Now the horns are blaring and everyone is out and celebrating except Ellie and me are tucked in bed. Off tomorrow for 2 weeks of travel. 


Berlin 5

Cathy arrived last night and has taken charge of getting us where we want to go, translating and generally helping us feel more at home. And Berlin is becoming more familiar to us after being here 5 days.

Today we went to Charlottenburg, site of a palace which we did not go into.

Cathy and Dominique across from Charlottenburg palace

We went to the Berggruen museum across the street, which has major holdings in Picasso, Giacometti and Matisse. Of most interest to me were 2 floors of Paul Klee, an artist underrepresented in New York museums. It was a fascinating morning.

After a pleasant lunch, we walked around Charlottenburg, an upscale residential quarter. Unfortunately Berlin is also having a heat wave today through the end of my stay Friday. We managed to cool off with iced coffee.

Berlin 2

I forgot to mention yesterday that Ellie is not with us, so the blog should be retitled “Ellie does not go to Germany.” She is having her own vacation in Villefranche-sur-mer and seems to be enjoying herself.

One odd thing I’ve noted about Berlin is the absence of dogs. We’ve seen maybe 3 in 2 days. Could the hotdogs be actually made from dogs? I hope not.

Today we visited Museum Island which consists of 5 museums. The most famous is the Pergamon which contains massive stone works taken from Babylonia and other sites by 19th century German archeologists.