An adorable, sweet-faced gentleman with a big, flowing, white beard, almost hiding his smiling face, was directing two beefy, muscled fellows like he was the wise boss. Yet, there under the ancient lime tree with its spreading branches he was Heidi’s grandfather down for a visit in the village from high in the Alps. I wondered what he thought of me. Maybe he didn’t approve of women wearing pants and tall boots waving a camera around. Moving away from Heidi’s grandfather, who tugged at my heart more than the handsome men with broad shoulders and beefy legs, I forced my eyes away. Something was underway, and these men were part of the plans. I noticed a few chalet-like tiny houses on the perimeter of the square. With hopeful anticipation, I told husband Jim that the men could be planning a crafts fair. He dashed my idea with his reply: “No, they are marking on the pavement like it could be a sporting event, or a motorcycle show.” I shook my head in total disbelief and voiced as much: “No, not the charming grandfather! He tends goats and lives in an alpine chalet with waterfalls and flowers in the meadow, a nice peaceful life.” Jim ruined my image, “Nah, he’s the last hold-out from the hills of the local chapter of Hell’s Angels.”
Days later this conversation was forgotten. Actually, I tried to forget it within minutes of its utterance. Yet, on a rainy Saturday we found the small parking lot on our side of Samoëns packed with cars which prompted thoughts of discussion about the planning committee in the square. We opened our umbrellas and rushed in the rain to the boulangerie for our daily baguette and croissants for breakfast. The back seat of a small car at the edge of the parking lot was crammed full of pink, purple and blue balloons, ready to be shaped into animals for the youngsters. The balloons would deflate along with dreams of a fun Saturday if the rain kept falling. Once we reached the square, we saw a line of cows tethered to a chain and sheep in a pen on display. A young lady was filling a bucket with water for the animals, like everyday life in days of the past. Picnic tables were set up and food preparation was underway. I stopped for a photo of the cows, like I wouldn’t see more possibly even around the corner. Then, I urged Jim to hurry, hurry so we could finish breakfast and not miss anything.
The rain faded away, but the clouds hung around for the festive occasion. Once we had packed away our buttery croissants and hot coffee, we were fueled for the local fun. My first stop was for a photo of the clown.
He saw me escaping after a few clicks of the camera and let Jim know that he must buy a balloon for his wife, the cute photographer. Or, maybe we were paying a price for the photo. Suddenly, I was the proud owner of a pink and blue balloon creation which didn’t match my ensemble, or my camera action. A tiny munchkin with a bright orange jacket caught my eye. Permission was granted by his handsome dad, and the balloon was in the hands of a happy owner.
Craft work was on display, but not the type I would find at home. Beautiful cow bells with wide leather straps worked into intricate designs were on display.
Carved woodwork was displayed and the master worker was there working on new pieces. A well-used pencil and tools were on the work table. My daddy, a skilled carpenter who had his own business, always had a pencil handy for marking his measurements on the wood and ready for the notebook in his shirt pocket.
Jim found a pretty lady, wearing a bonnet and delicate pink shawl, none of this blue jeans and hoodie stuff like his wife’s casual gear.
All of this was wonderful in itself, but then we were rewarded with an extraordinary show by Les Carlines Des Portes Du Soleil, a group of Franco-Swiss bell-ringers. The group was created in 1999, bringing together Savoyards, from the Val d’Abondance (we will travel there later in another blog story) and the Valaisans from the Val d’Illiez who perpetuate the climbs and descents in alpine pastures. The steel tufts and bronze bells weigh from 9 to 12 kilos (20 to 27 pounds). Look for the photo where they hold the bells aloft above their heads! Notice the kind fellow with the neatly trimmed beard, a real Heidi’s grandfather type in my eyes. I wish I could add the sound and precision of the show for you in the blog story. I’m so very thankful that we had this wonderful experience and I hope they continue to entertain people with their talent. I hope you will travel to Samoens to find the alpine beauty and such treasures as this in the future. Start with Alps Accommodations for your rental.
Thank you very much for your encouraging comments! What is your favorite type of festival? Have you ever seen a bell-ringer show like this? It was a first for me. Do you have unusual fairs in your area?
Time for a commercial for my book “A French Opportunity” – Just CLICK for the link if you would like to check it out. Ya’ll come again and thank you!