It's not too early to say that this will have been the highlight of my trip, a time I reminisce on for many years to come.
From Geneva, I took the aerobús to the largest town in Savoie called Chambery. There, Loriane, known to me as LoLo, picked me up and drove me just a few minutes to her home in La Mottes-Servolex. I've known LoLo since I was a little girl; she's one of my mom's best friends and as I've gotten older, she has become like a big sister to me. She lives with her beautiful family: her partner, Mass, and two babies, Imany and Izia, in a valley between majestic mountains with a view of The Alps. Their life is spectacular, void of materialism, television, traffic, vanity...the silly things we tend to engross ourselves with in the western world (guilty). They have a beautiful garden and a passion for wine. They frequently take trips to the mountains WITH baby in tow. Need I say more?
Imany, almost 4, doesn't speak any English and I very little French. She was completely unbothered by this seemingly large obstacle and talked to me my entire stay. We ate melon and baguettes together, played Memory and watched Finding Nemo. It was Izia's first birthday and she was the cutest baby I've ever met- smart, expressive and sassy. I instantly fell in love with them both.
In the evening we ate a delicious homemade spinach, onion quiche with a viscous, local white wine called Marestel. I admired LoLo as she effortlessly took care of everyone at once, including herself- so cool, so poised, never complaining. Adult goals. Having not slept much during my trip thus far, and feeling like I was right at home, I passed out for a solid eleven hours. (Needless to say, I'm all caught up now.)
The next day, LoLo took me to a restaurant by the lake with Izia. I ate my first frog leg which tasted like a chicken wing with more flavor. LoLo and I split a bottle of rose while Izia and I feasted on tiramisu. The weather was absolutely stunning. We walked and talked around the lake, Lac du Bourget, the biggest, deepest lake in all of France. It was a clean, crystal blue; I could see to the bottom. People were playing and laughing and walking and lying out.
We picked up Imany from school and played in the yard. Time went by peacefully but much too fast. Dinner was a homemade cake- au chèvre, aux noix et aux raisins (goat cheese, walnuts and raisins) amongst other typical French cakes LoLo had bought from the school fundraiser. It was taste bud heaven. More wine was had, this time red, and we talked about life, personalities, gardening and of course, wine. For Mass' birthday, LoLo had gifted him a case of small bottles to aid in practicing wine smells. We smelled banana and honey amongst others. I guessed all of them wrong.
Even though Mass had worked long hours all week, he offered to take me to Lac Saint-Andre in the morning for sunrise. I borrowed hiking clothes and boots and we set out for the lake at 5:45am. The drive was a light blue, The Alps in front of us the whole time. Mass told me about the mountains and the farms, the vineyards and the lakes. He said he went fishing in early mornings even as a boy. His philosophy of life is inspirational: 'It's important to leave and sleep in the mountains.' 'We want our kids to have this life, outdoors, simple, humble.' 'You must stay on the soil.' (stay down to earth). We sat on a bench by the lake, drinking hot tea, eating honey waffles, as the sun rose above the mountains; Les Belledones in front of us, Le Granier behind us. Ducks slowly emerged from their sleeping chambers while fishermen perched, waiting for a catch.
After LoLo's lovely sister and niece arrived, we went to see Imany at gymnastics. We played some more at home; drank espresso and ate saint genix (a sweet, pink, fresh bread) before LoLo dropped me at the train station, giving me two big kisses goodbye; the saddest goodbye all year.
I'm writing this post from the train now, watching the south of France pass me by, hoping Paris is worth leaving this special family of mine.