“Last Day” – by Debbie Ambrous

November, 2016 – The last day of vacation comes too fast with thoughts of the work and problems waiting at home creeping into the last day’s fun activities.  Much too soon the packed suitcases are out the door and on their way without the excitement when they left home with fresh, clean clothing inside.  Dirty socks are mixed with souvenirs, and the pretty scarves are tangled with hairbrushes.  The washing machine begs for mercy after its vacation when load after load is shoved inside.  The days’ of unopened mail is a joy to behold with bills for the restful, fun vacation reaching the mailbox for a welcome to the real world.   But isn’t it always great to be home?

I have been dragging my heels on the blog stories recently, possibly because I knew that I had to write the last day story of our French Alps adventure.  If our original schedule had worked then Jim and I would have returned to France in 2017 for another autumn adventure with more stories filed away somewhere in my brain for a new series of blog stories.  However, that didn’t happen since Jim was experiencing pain with his back, not an acceptable traveling companion.  He is better and at least he says it is manageable.  We are looking ahead, planning for a future trip tentatively in May.

Now I am forcing myself to face that last day in France since I have hopes of warm days ahead once again in the beautiful villages, so I will get on with it and write about our last day.  We had a plan in place so we wouldn’t waste this last precious time.  A leisurely breakfast at the table was first with the wood burner heating the room since we had a heavy frost that morning.  Parting with the glowing embers in the comfortable house was difficult, but the enticement of new adventures pried us from the breakfast table.  Bundled into our coats and scarves, we traveled to Sixt-fer-a-Cheval to walk in the chilly air and view in total awe the circle of mountains at the end of the road.  Icy-etched leaves were like jeweled ornaments on the ground at the forest’s edge below the towering mountains.

Waterfalls plummeted from high above, and the spray froze on the rock face.  Jet trails crisscrossed the sky as a reminder that we would soon travel and leave our own vapor trails.  After we had soaked-up as much of the beauty as possible to hold in memory until another time, we drove along the road past the homes with gingerbread trim, the barns with chickens in pens and sheep in the fields.  Frost was melting and dripping crystal-like droplets.  Children squealed and raced their bikes, and played ball in the narrow lanes.  Snow was forecast in a couple of days, so a couple gathered the last of the vegetables at one of the houses.  Gathering these snippets of life in the gardens and on the porches, I enjoyed dreaming what it would be like if I lived here in a mountain chalet.  Flowers were still blooming in places, but many of the pots were emptied, or brought inside until warm days returned.  Winter was knocking at the door, sounding a reminder of the last days of autumn.

A picnic near the magnificent waterfall, Cascade du Rouget, was next on our last day agenda.  A baguette, sausage, potato chips and a pastry were packed and waiting until we found the perfect spot, a Sound of Music field on the hillside fit for a Julie Andrews musical rendition.  We found our version of Ms. Andrews’ field, complete with cow patties, not too far past the waterfall along the winding road.  We considered a picnic spread upon a blanket on the ground, but the cold and damp wasn’t as inviting as the leather seats in the car, so we settled in for an American version of an alpine picnic without ants, frostbite, or the aroma of fresh manure.

Did you notice the potato chips in the menu lineup?  Yes, we found junk food with French labeling in the grocery store.  We felt compelled to try it, purely for investigative reporting, not that we missed Ruffles with ridges or Cheetos from home.  It was surely our duty to inspect and give an account of our findings.  Being honest, ever truthful, I must say that you will be happy that you were not standing nearby for an on-the-spot report after we consumed the Bacon Fumé chips.  Altoids may have met their match with the aftertaste, but the bacon-flavored, dreadful breath is nothing compared to the goat cheese potato chips.  We indulged in these flavorful munchies one memorable evening while watching French television.  A word of caution, just don’t do it!  Say, NO!  Reflux of goat cheese at midnight is not a romantic event for you and your significant other. 

We wandered around the village of Sixt for one last time, enjoying the architecture of the ancient houses with the gurgle of the fountain in the center of the square, this time without an umbrella required.  I heard the chime of the bells ringing the hour and knew it was late, time to return to our rental house for the last night.  When we reached the house Jim rushed inside to get his wallet which he had forgotten when we left earlier in the morning.  We were going to the grocery store for a few items, NOT potato chips!

While I was sitting in the car in the dark with the car’s headlights on the wall of wood from an old barn, I felt happy and grateful for meeting new people and finding special places each day of our journey.  Starting with La Ruche, which means bee hive, we had a home which nourished us with comfort each day and the people who made it possible were like an extended family.  The happiness we had experienced, the kindness of the people we had met and the sadness of leaving the wonderful place we had lived for a short time weighed heavily on my emotions when I sat silently in the darkness.

Jim took longer than I expected.   I evidently had time for my imagination to wander.  The lights of the car illuminated the dark knots in the wood and I gradually spotted the outline of animals on the wall in a random almost connect-the-dots sort of way.  I excitedly pointed them out to Jim when he returned, “Look there’s a fox and that’s a sheep on the right.”  He glanced at my animal menagerie, and then he looked in the opposite direction for traffic as he backed the car away from the house.  I couldn’t see his face, but I know an eye-roll when it happens – even in the dark!

I took this opportunity to get some evening photos in Samoëns while Jim was at the small grocery store.

What do you do on the last day of holidays, or vacation? What are your plans for the coming year? I’m always happy to hear from you.

Well, here we are with the last day in France over and long gone.  The last day of this year is only hours away. I still don’t like last days very much, but I do intend to make the best of them!

Thanks ever so much for traveling with us!!  COLD weather is here in many areas, so be very careful!  Ya’ll come back in 2018!!  A festival in Alabama is coming up next on the blog page.  I still have more of France coming as well.