Night Location: Courmayeur, Italy
Song of the Day: Elevation - U2
Mumisode of the Day: Emerging from the 'new-fangled', energy-efficient, automatic, self-cleaning toilet with pursed lips, stockings not on properly and announcing, "That was disgusting. It's all wet and I can't flush the toilet."
Today marked another transit day. This is a day that we had all been looking forward to as we were driving over the French Alps and into Italy where we were to stay at the base of Mont Blanc. Luckily, the day was clean and crisp, perfect for the alpine drive.
The scenery along the way was magnificent. Gemma spent most of the trip with her head out the window, trying to perfect the moving scenery photography and smelling the alpine air that David maintains is the cure for everything.
The highlight of the day by far was driving over the Col de l'Iseran. This is the highest mountain pass in France, at an altitude of 2780m and is a tiny, winding road with no guard rails and barely enough room for two cars to fit past, let alone the people mover and the oncoming Winnebagos. We got our first glimpses of snow and stopped at the top of the pass for photos. Mum, who was sitting on the cliff side of the car and clutching the handrail was very pleased to emerge unscathed. She kept saying, "My mouth has gone dry. I can hardly spit." Amber picked up some snow and managed to throw it past Mum's head and onto Dad even though he had locked her out of the car. She was very proud and clapped her mitten-clad hands.
The drive over the pass was incredible. The road wound through several ski fields and in winter the road itself becomes a ski run. The entire trip down we could spot incredible chair lifts extending up the peaks and open patches of trees where the ski runs would be. David is getting very excited about snowboarding in Wengen, this time in the Swiss Alps.
We then wound our way down toward the famous ski resort town of Chamonix where we caught glimpses of the famous Mont Blanc with the sun still shining on its snow covered peak, while the valley below was in shadow. Truly spectacular.
The drive took us on the famous Route Blanche, a bridge built high over fields and along the cliff then ultimately through the belly of the mountain. Signs warned us that the route had cost 30 million euros to build, so as not to be alarmed by the 36 euro toll one way. We should note that we saw flashing orange lights with the words 'Courmayeur' and 'Deviation' but we were unable to interpret further so we pressed on.
Turning off the freeway into the village, all was going well until we arrived at a demolition fence, closing the road entirely. The earth next to us was opened up in a big chasm, and it appeared as though there had been a large natural disaster. We were not sure if the whole village had been wiped out or just the road, but there was no getting through, and no one to ask.
We returned to the freeway, but Claude was fairly animated and kept directing us back. We could not return and so we went on hopeful that there may be another entrance to the town. There was not. Claude then announced that it was 50 kilometres to our destination. The tunnel went on forever. To Dad's disgust we had to pay a 4 euro toll to exit and then another 4 euro toll to re-enter the tunnel as we headed back from whence we came.
We eventually made it into Courmayeur after ignoring Claude's persistent pleas to head back to the demolition fence, and then we made it to the correct suburb of Le Saxe. As Claude had never heard of the street the hotel was on, we set off on foot with the aid of Dad's Blackberry to navigate. To our initial joy, then horror, there was the word 'Emile' on a building. The joy was because this was the name of the hotel. The horror was because the word was written on the side of a derelict building with no windows and some scaffolding. Gemma and Amber paused and then saw the arrow; it was a signpost. A little up the hill to the right, we found the entrance to our hotel.
It was now 21:30, but the night receptionist made us a reservation at a nearby restaurant run by the nicest Italian man. We supped and bibbed and Dad, who rarely gives tips, gave him a tip. Tomorrow, onto Bellagio.