“Bell-Ringers” – by Debbie Ambrous

IMG_5760An 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.IMG_5781 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. IMG_5766

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.IMG_5774  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.

We wandered through the happy crowd of old and young folks with frisky dogs. IMG_5763

 

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.

IMG_5782Yes, cows wear bells in the fields, perhaps not this pretty, but one of the happiest sounds in the mountains is the ringing of the bells.IMG_5846

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.

Nothing compares to hand-made by a tradesman with love for his work. IMG_5864

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.

Jim’s smile lit up the cloudy day and the delicate lady matched his exuberance with a heart-warming smile in return.IMG_5863

 

 

 

She directed us around to the food where cakes and pies awaited, genuine French baked goods at their best, fresh from the ovens of local cooks.IMG_5777

 

 

 

 

 

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.  IMG_5814The 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)IMG_5798Look 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.

I’m glad you could join us.  We still have more to come: Lake Geneva, a short jaunt to the Burgundy region, more surrounding villages and shopping!! IMG_5851

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!

“Taking the Cures” – by Debbie Ambrous

IMG_5574Sitting at the breakfast table across from husband Jim in Alabama with biscuits on the table instead of beignets, croissants and baguettes, Jim asked me, “How were your cures yesterday?”  He likes to poke fun at my manicure and pedicure at the salon, calling my retreat the taking of the cures.  Sipping on my coffee, I thought about the nice lady in the salon who painted my toenails a pretty mocha color and then massaged my feet until I was in a state of bliss.   Maybe taking the cures was the right expression.  I always read the glossy magazines with the latest pictures and stories on beauty and style, not that it does me much good, but I like to read anyway.  With a sly grin I told Jim, “I learned something new from one of the beauty magazines at the salon.  Yep, I learned a helpful beauty tip.  I can just shave my feet when I don’t have time to go for the cures.”  That got a quick reaction.  Jim said, “Whoa!! You better not be using my razor to shave your feet!  Besides, I didn’t know you had hairy feet.”  Before he lost it, I said, “Don’t get your blood pressure up.  I didn’t use your razor and I most definitely do NOT have hairy feet!”  The lady in the magazine was saying you could use a razor to shave away dry skin in the shower after the skin softens.  She recommended a sensitive skin razor and going slowly so you don’t shave off a chunk of skin.  I could see that I was over-sharing at the breakfast table when Jim’s face developed a pained expression.IMG_5603Leaving our Alabama breakfast behind and zipping over to France for a blog story cure, I would like to show you some of the beauty we enjoyed at Lake Montriond and the village of Montriond this past October, 2016.   The lake is situated north of Morzine, France at an altitude of 1049m/3442 ft, the third largest lake in Haute-Savoie, surrounded by steep pine-covered escarpments.  A shady path leads all around the lake.  People, young and old, were walking and enjoying the views when we were there.  Believe me, it was cold!IMG_5597For the lake visit, I have a picture story.  (Just click on the images in the gallery below for a larger picture.)  IMG_6573

On the way we met the red polka-dot cow and then the store named Gitem which sounds like the worst of our Alabama slang: “goin’ to the store to “git’em” somthin’ to fix for supper.”  We never have any problem finding distractions wherever we go.

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In the town of Montriond, look for the dragon fountain carved from wood with an edelweiss blossom on its head.  With such an adorable head-ornament the dragon spouts fresh water, not sulfur and fire.

Watch for the beautiful white horse and its young rider.  When I watched the graceful creature clip-clopping uphill, suddenly a huge cement truck approached and blotted my view.  After the loud obstruction cleared the road, I half-expected to see a sad equestrian lump on the asphalt, but nothing was there.  The beautiful horse and rider were gone!  The rider could have stepped into the store, but not the horse!  I still don’t know the answer to the puzzle.   Be amazed at the cute little boy wearing the magenta coat who pedaled his little bicycle all the way around the huge lake. .  Don’t miss Jim being extra careful this time when he meets the group of ladies on the lake pathway.  He didn’t launch into a Foggy Mountain breakdown like the one performed in Morillon.

I say that was unfortunate for the three ladies that Jim didn’t offer to dance by the cold lake since Jim can offer a cure like no other!IMG_5611At this moment, I’m wearing an ankle brace and hoping I will be in fine shape very soon!  No, I haven’t climbed up any waterfalls recently, but I hope there are more lakes and waterfalls in my future.  Thank ya’ll and please come again.