Thursday, May 8, 2008

Room With A View

After our exciting week in Italy, we headed up and over the Alps, round the Matterhorn and into Switzerland. The border crossing seemed like something from an old war movie. Guards dressed in combat gear, urging us across in German, with the weather gray and drizzly. As we climbed higher towards the pass, we left the rain behind and were almost blinded by the brilliant sunshine bouncing off the snow-capped mountains. The temperature dropped dramatically and the kids had a snow ball fight when we stopped for a bathroom break. We were headed towards L'Abri, a Christian retreat center nestled in the little village of Huemoz. Jamie was booked to deliver some lectures and they were putting us up in one of their quaint chalets. I was a little stressed by the drive up the very narrow, very steep, very winding roads. In fact, upon arrival it would not be an overstatement to say that I had a bit of a meltdown at the thought of getting back into the car to get back down the mountain to find some supper. This, after the kids and I had to get out of the car so Jamie could drive up the lane way, because of how steep it was. Our stay was a bit of a disappointment. The weather was awful and prevented us from taking some of the hikes we'd been looking forward to. Okay, that Jamie had been looking forward to. (Although, I had gotten a new pair of hiking shoes, I hadn't planned on breaking them in on trails that would require yodeling upon completion) Instead, the kids holed up at the main chalet playing a few tightly contested games of Monopoly, and I did some reading and knitting in between listening to Jamie's lectures (and quite often during Jamie's lectures. How much "Science and Pentecostalism" is required of a good wife?!)

By morning the rain had passed and we headed out as planned to a village called Annecy, just over the border in France. Once there, we picked up some supplies at the market for a picnic by the lake. Eating baguette in France, along with some stinky cheese has to be at the top of my "favourite things I've ever done list". Only a bottle of red wine could have improved it. And perhaps the kids being in Canada with their grandparents!We'd planned on eating a dinner of raclette, a local specialty that we'd not tried yet, but we were foiled again by that late dinner hour. The restaurants did not open until 7:30. As it was only 3, and we'd seen the whole town, we started back towards home thinking we'd stop in Montreaux for dinner. Located on Lake Geneva, it is breathtakingly beautiful and, as we soon discovered, exorbitantly expensive. After checking around, desperate for at least something, and willing to shell out good money for it, McDonalds was the cheapest option, at $80.00 for the 6 of us. But it was not to be. They didn't take a card and we couldn't find a cash machine. I wasn't that disappointed, since we'd placed a moratorium on North American chains and the thought of spending $80 at McDonald's made me sick to my stomach before we ate the food. We hopped in the car, the kids complaining at record decibels in search of something to eat. I won't go into all the details, but it turned ugly. I'm not gonna lie. Let's just say it involved peanuts that needed shelling and tinned ravioli, and leave it at that. Tomorrow's a new day. And, it was my birthday. It was rainy and foggy and cold. More Monopoly, knitting, reading, and lectures capped off by a wonderful evening of fondue with Richard and Karen, the directors at L'Abri. They even surprised me with a birthday cake and a box of Swiss chocolate.The next morning, we headed back to Italy. It was an eerily, quiet trip back through the mountains. It was snowing. There were whiteouts. It's a miracle I didn't pass out. Kudos to Jamie. He deserved a medal for some of the white knuckle driving he did. And the kids have not been that quiet in the car since the time I gave them Dramamine on the trip home from California. Back in Italy, we stopped briefly at the shore of beautiful Lake Maggiore, once a destination point on The Grand tour of Europe. It was my idea to stop there for a quick look. By which I meant, park the car, stroll the Promenade, maybe get some gelato , you know, have a look around. But Jamie thought I meant pull over at the side of the road, roll the window down and take a picture, maybe go the the bathroom at the gas station. The rest of the drive to the airport was also eerily quiet.

We had plenty of time to kill at the airport (even before our flight was delayed) and it was a good time to reflect on the wonderful holiday we'd just had. It was a trip I'd never even thought to dream of as a kid. There is so much to drink up and see and explore. It makes you realize how big and extraordinary our world is, and that it is a gift to be taken care of. I returned to York with a full heart, grateful to have shared such an adventure with the people I love so much.