France Day 27: Day Trip to Italy
We drove through a tunnel that goes directly through Mont Blanc. It takes 15 minutes each way to drive through it, and there are fire hydrants and emergency pullovers very, very frequently. As soon as we crossed the border, we stopped at the public restroom because Bittykins had to pee. It had one of those potties directly in the floor. I sent Butterscotch in the next stall to figure it out. From what I could hear, he had no problem. But for us ladies, well, it was a little different. I demonstrated for her (at least, I think I did it right). Then it was her turn. She seemed a little nervous, but then again, if you had to straddle a deep hole of pee that would come up to your thigh if you slipped and was wider than shoulder width apart, and you had to pee with an audience, you might not get it right, either. Well, poor Bittykins. Despite her best little efforts, she slipped, and her entire leg went in the potty. Poor baby. Well, that was the end of those sandals. She never did pee.
We journeyed on down into the village of Courmayeur, Italy. A town with all the markings of an off-season ski village, little was open, especially on a Wednesday. I did, however, see people wearing lots of off-white linen eating pizza on the piazza, covered with white umbrellas and perfectly trimmed grass beneath their white tablecloths. As lovely as this looks, it isn't the sort of adventure I like to take 2 children on. So we continued on through and out the town before I knew it, and discovered a lovely place to stop along the road just outside of town and picnic.
Oh, I take it back. She did pee. But this time, she just used the grass. I really can't say I blame her.
The mountains, the wind, the sun, the food and drink...everything warm and sunny and summery and lovely. I wouldn't trade that day for anything.
Back into town, we stopped at a bakery for beautifully crafted pastries of all kinds, and then I let them ride the coin-operated rides to their hearts' content. Because if you can't ride the little red Lamborghini when you're 5 and in Italy, well, when can you?
Up the mountain we drove, because I'd seen a sign for what seemed like some kind of nature preserve. I'm not sure, but I think it's like a live-in temporary house for small groups of people to learn about sustainable living and farming. We met two miniature horses, and the dappled grey one was my favorite.
On our way down the mountain, we saw a helicopter delivering a pallet of goods and picking up a pile of scrap wood. I guess it's a lot more efficient than trying to truck anything in or out of these tight, winding roads. So cool to watch.
On our way out of Italy, I had to stop at the grocery store to buy some food and something for dinner. So I bought fresh Italian pasta made right there, some fresh marinara, pears, bread, and what turned out to be the most amazing chocolate Geoff and I have ever had. I really wish I had kept the wrapper so I could track it down again, but c'est la vie.
As we left the grocery store, the children noticed teeny-tiny red shopping carts, but I was already on the way out the door. I brought them with me, and once I had the groceries in the car, I said, "OK. We can go back and play with the little shopping cart, but you have to listen to my rules, OK?" They agreed. There would be just 4 minutes of play, they would help clean up any mess, and we would all leave without fussing when it was over. And that's exactly what happened. They were just precious! I so enjoyed them. I put my camera down and played cashier with them to check out their party supplies. I found an old crate turned up on its side for my cashier's desk.
On our way out, the manager tried to stop me...I tried to stop, but the children were already on the way out the door, and I had to follow them. No sooner did I have them climbing in the car, that the manager was out by my side with a big smile and two Kindereggs. He would not let me pay for them. I thanked him in French, explained that I didn't know any Italian, but "Grazie!" In French, he replied, "It's not for the children; it's for you and your beautiful smile." Then he grinned, jumped into his little blue Smart Car, and buzzed away, waving to me one more time. How can I not smile at that?
Back through the tunnel we drove, and they both devoured their chocolate eggs and fell asleep this time through the tunnel. So we had plenty of time and energy for a second outing within the same day. Out to the country club we went, where we found a bright orange cow outside the club's steakhouse. And then on the little hike. Back up behind the golf course is a walking trail and dead ends into an amazing little park.
This haven had a stream that shallowed out into a 6-inch natural pool for a bit, perfect for playing in. Playground equipment, a large sandbox, picnic tables, pony rides, and a snack shack were all tucked into this world of wonder in the woods. The children played, and I had a chance to strike up a conversation with the locals. One dad was divorced, his wife living in Australia. He made sure his girls attended school here in his native Chamonix, because he never wanted them to forget their French language or where they came from. But for much of the year, they lived with their mother. It was obvious he loved them very much. And also that he was a wandering soul with dreamer practically written on his tattered rock climber's t-shirt. Since his girls spoke English, they quickly figured out my two did as well, and they all had a great time playing.
We wandered on home at dusk, and I fed them the fresh pasta and marinara sauce. Butterscotch ate THREE FULL BOWLS! And then, of course, they were both overdue a nice, hot bath. The End.