Slip into the passenger seat, roll down your window, stare unabashedly or better still flip out your camera with a fantastic lens and wait for some jaw dropping moments. Well I wish all road trips were like the one I took with my friends a month ago. And 10 days is all we had. Sigh! It’s so true. Destinations are made even more delightful by the road you take to get there. And the sights, sounds, flavors and sometimes even smells, en route to Chamonix (France), Tuscany (Italy) and Lucerne (Switzerland) got me to create a photo journey of all that I loved.
This post is mostly about the eyeful we got. Pictures of course can still not capture the rush of blood, every time the lushness of summer got me gaping. Often I’ve visited cities and villages in these lands and they’ve surprised me tons. But nature in her bounty at just any time of the year, can be immensely overwhelming. I think a lot has to do with how ecology & living with nature is so integral to her people here. I of course was in love with the idea of seeing a new avatar of nature, as we crossed borders.
TAKE ME ON THE ROAD TO CHAMONIX, TUSCANY & LUCERNE ONCE AGAIN
You could say I am starved for landscape that’s unadulterated. My city upbringing, chrome and steel workplace and classy tech support system, makes me feel like a super queen. But once I am enveloped by nature, invariably every time, I feel like an atom. Basically a tiny speck and I love it. Besides I feel just very alive and grateful for every bit of earth that is still in its pristine form. So when the road trip was being planned, we often took the longer but more panoramic route. This journey covered 3 countries and gave me a few days in the very French Annecy, the charming Italian Tuscan villages & finally the Swiss city of Lucerne.
A DRIVE TO THE WHITE MOUNTAIN (MONT BLANC)
That morning in Annecy was special, as the destination for the day was scribbled in multi colors on my ‘Places to visit before my lungs give up’ list. Joking! Mont Blanc, well who hasn’t heard of it. Known for its ‘as far as you can see’ snow caps and glaciers, it is also the highest mountain in the Alps. And is a favorite of mountain climbers. But my pictures start earlier, pretty much from when we started our drive of almost 100 km to reach Chamonix.
The unending countryside welcomed this city girl and how. I haven’t been to the South Eastern region of France and at the cost of hearing protests I must confess, as we were driving through my oldest memories were playing back the Swiss mountains. But then France has an unmistakable stylish finish to everything. The drive, a lunch stop over at the Alpine village of Flumet, walking in the ski resort of Chamonix and taking the cable car to the highest point (the Aiguille du Midi at 3842m) brought it to life for me. Aah! One more eventful tryst was with a climber who’d just finished and didn’t even huff and puff or take a few breaths, before he started to tackle my quizzing on his earlier Mt. Everest climb. I simply stared in awe at this ginormous tale of grit & made a tiny wish to scale up a few myself.
(Err….look, a chimney cloud!!!)
(Spellbound by the Mont Blanc. Bordered by 3 nations the summit viewing box gives you a dazzling white panoramic capture of the Swiss, French and Italian Alps)
(For all its beauty the Mont Blanc also holds some grisly tales of avalanches and even a crash of an Air India flight way back in the 1960s. Apparently a climber just a few years ago, found sunk in the glacier a case packed with emeralds & sapphires. Another reason for me to get fitter and climb every mountain)
(Can you spot the guys who’d rather not take the cable car?)
(On my way down, the greens start to reveal themselves and give a glimpse of a fairytale house & a Swiss flag!!)
Here is an ode to complete the Mont Blanc experience. Before you get there, take some time out and soak in the poem, Mont Blanc: Lines written in the Vale of Chamouni by the 19th century romantic poet PB Shelley. It’s about the yin & yang of the natural world. Grisly & Gorgeous too.
RUSTIC & BROWN IN TUSCANY
The brown bit is also the tan that I just couldn’t escape. I was told I’d miss the abundance of green, green yellow and other shades, as spring was long gone. But the Tuscan fields had rows of vineyards creating a pattern that was impossible to miss. All you had to do was get there, just breathe in all the love and fresh air. Just like that. Italians love whipping up a good meal for their guests and some of the pictures were also taken en route to the beautiful home of Alessandro Griccioli who is the inheritor and owns the Montechiaro Estates and Wineries. Totally relished the hospitality which included a delicious multi-course vegetarian lunch, a crash course in Tuscan wines and a very heady afternoon.
Between gorging on the mouth watering ribollita, pici, bruschetta and the rolling plains of Tuscany, 4 sunny days came by and disappeared. Here are a few more pictures that play back my summer tale. I so miss the earthiness, undulating almost meditative stretches of nature, vineyards with harvest time around August-September and the quaintness that surprises you time and again. I will for sure make colorful spring an excuse to visit many more Tuscan villages next year.
TINKLING SOUNDS ON THE SWISS ALPS
Welcome to Switzerland. It’s true. You hear the sounds before the absolutely stunning lakes and mountains imprint their nature kissed abundance into a zip-locked memory. It’s just like the moos & bell sounds you hear in the Airport train that takes you from one Terminal to the other at Zurich. After 10 years of my 1st visit to this land I totally enjoyed the greeting. The cows were a bit away when we were driving en route to the Gotthard Pass. But the songs of the bells seemed to be frantically searching for their admirers. I clearly was one of them. I wondered at the number of times I’ve just stood staring, listening to these tinkling sounds, but really never tire of them. The truth is, Switzerland makes it’s presence totally felt. Pretty much melodiously loud and crystal clear.
HINT: If you find yourself enveloped by mountains, clouds, pretty log cabins, lush moisture rich greens and a play of light that creates a surreal world, you are in the land of milk and cheese.
En route to Lucerne as we drove past the picture perfect countryside, I knew that I had to make many more trips here before I was satiated.
This was just the beginning. I still have to sort the pictures taken at every village, town and city that showed tons of heart. Will share many more wows soon. The best thing about driving in Europe is you can experience a changing topography, culture and cuisine within just a few days of hitting the road. I’ve heard that about India too, though the distances are much more there.
Am sure you’ve done many road trips in lands that I haven’t been to. Do tell me about your favorite moments & stopovers. Would love to hear where I should head, on my next drive.
Making travel my only constant has been the biggest gift of my life. And I totally love landscapes like am sure you do too. You can browse tons more of these captures @Pebblewalks on Instagram. I promise you a riot of colors.