Thursday, 19 August 2010

Les Vacances De Monsieur Bus Driver - 7. Au Revoir La France

I felt I needed the contraption one Englishman had invented to give money over to the lady in the kiosk at the peage, without having to get out and walk around the car or lean across and risk damaging a muscle in the back. My wife had done that the day we arrived in France and had berated me for not driving closer to the automatic machine.

Hence this genius had simply tied a sardine tin onto the end of a golf club and majestically poked it through the window to the amusement of the peage operators. i felt I needed this now as it was raining exceedingly hard.

The peage operator saw the English numberplate coming and scowled. He must have heard the same weather forecast which blamed les Iles Britanniques for sending this unusually cold August front to their beloved neighbour.

The Loire was bad. Bourgogne far worse and by the time we reached the Swiss border near Geneve, it was diabolical. The slow queue through the border control was due mainly to see if you had a vignette on your windscreen which allows you to drive on Swiss autoroutes. Luckily I had bought one off Swiss railways office in London and they waved me through a side road, which avoided the checkpoint. Others who did not have a vignette were made to drive around to the back of the queue, park up, then have to go into an office to buy one, filling out long involved paperwork in the process.

As we left the plains around Lac Geneve and climbed into the mountains, it got worse. The rain turned colder and it was accompanied by fog. When we reached my friend's chalet in the town 1000 metres up it was 11 degrees. The discomfort was cushioned immediately with delicious local Swiss wine and raclette for dinner.

The brother of my hostess had fared even worse that evening. His school reunion dinner had ended with a specially organised trip up the cable car to the top of the mountain top. Being August they had all worn t-shirts and light jerseys which they soon regretted for halfway up, they encountered a blizzard.

A blizzard in August? This is madness. Perhaps global warning is happening. Or perhaps it is due to the Icelandic volcano. Or perhaps it is just the usual swings and roundabouts of the world weather. either way, the next morning, looking out of the chalet window through the clouds, most of the mountain tops were white and the snow came quite a long way down.

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