We spent the first night of our holiday in Chambéry – the train wouldn't have got us to Moutiers or Bourg St Maurice in time for the Club to meet us. Nevertheless, we give the thumbs-up to taking the train. We'll do it again.

Chambéry has a famous fountain "The Elephants", with a mysterious Latin inscription about how le Comte de Boigne did great military deeds among the Mahrattas. Here is what we found about from using Google:

BOIGNE, BENOIT DE, COUNT (1751—1830), the first of the French military adventurers in India, was born at Chambéry ‘in Savoy on the 8th of March 1751, being the son of a fur merchant. He joined the Irish Brigade in France in 1768, and subsequently he entered the Russian service and was captured by the Turks. Hearing of the wealth of India, he made his way to that country, and after serving for a short time in the East India Company, he resigned and joined Mahadji Sindhia in 1784 for the purpose of training his troops in the European methods of war. In the battles of Lalsot and Chaksana Boigne and his two battalions proved their worth by holding the field when the rest of the Mahratta army was defeated by the Rajputs. In the battle of Agra (1788) he restored the Mahratta fortunes, and made Mahadji Sindhia undisputed master of Hindostan. This success led to his being given the command of a brigade of ten battalions of infantry, with which he won the victories of Patan and Merta in 1790. In consequence Boigne was allowed to raise two further brigades of disciplined infantry, and made commander-in-chief of Sindhia’s army. In the battle of Lakhairi (1793) he defeated Holkar’s army. On the death of Mahadji Sindhia in 1794, Boigne could have made himself master of Hindostan had he wished it, but he remained loyal to Daulat Rao Sindhia. In 1795 his health began to fail, and he resigned his command, and in the following year returned to Europe with a fortune of £400,000. He lived in retirement during the lifetime of Napoleon, but was greatly honoured by Louis XVIII. He died on the 21st of June 1830

And here is the fountain:

Chambéry was the capital of Savoy until the mid 16th Century, and it has all the trappings. A cathedral

Decorated with traditional trompe-l'oeuil 'reliefs'.

Actually, these are in the castle chapel, where rather more light was available. No self respecting duke could do without a castle:

The castle wasn"t really that much to write home about. The chapel has reasonable stained glass (thank God for Photoshop's perspective correction!):

But perhaps the most charming thing about Chambéry is the colour and texture of its old streets.

Le Refuge du Saut

I had done this walk before, on the last day in 2001, but MC had been sick. It seemed like a good idea to start the walks where I had left off two years before, too.

Of course, we weren"t as fit at the beginning of the week as we had been at the end of the previous holiday. And almost as white as the water:

The Fruit was as majestic as ever

Especially when we got up to the Refuge. We ate our picnic about 200m further up towards the Col du Soufre. Here is the ridge that separates Meribel from Courchevel:

And the refuge with the Fruit in the background:

Our guide kindly pointed out this Schwarzia, which we would probably have been too tired to notice:

And a Pannonia. Well, that's what the guide called them, and both are unusual enough to have been left out of the (pocket) handbooks I had taken with me.

No prizes for camera control here.Well, it was the first day"s walk, and we were tired.

La Crête du Mont Charvet

The club grades walks like ski slopes; natural enough since Meribel owes so much more to skiing than to summer tourism. The second all-day walk was a "red" one, with an advertised climb of 700 metres. We did 550 of them in one hour, going up. In some ways, this made the walk harder than the "black" one on Thursday, where the climb was about 1350m.

Mont Charvet is in the same valley as Courchevel, roughly speaking; it's the far side of the Lac des Rosiéres, but its rock could easily be the reason for Courchevel's name. At least, that's what the guide told is.Courchevel is supposedly a corrupted form of 'ecorche vel', with vel being an archaic accusative of 'veau'. The rock is very rough and gritty, and weathers into a lunar landscape.

My first shot shows the view as we crested the ridge.

I think the glacier is the Vanoise. We walked along the ridge for perhaps a half kilometre, until we found a water-drilled hollow in which to sit and eat our picnics.

The atmosphere was doing odd things to the camera, too. Charvet has a long ridge of a summit, and I hoped to get some good panoramic shots, to prove to Denis that I'd actually been up there. But it was a hazy day, and the distant mountains just won't come out as clearly defined as we could see them.

The foreground is about right, as you can judge by comparing this picture with the one before. But the mountains in the background – La Grande Casse on the left – are resolutely hazy. In the next shot you can see the other mountain that dominates Courchevel.

Lastly, this shot shows the view across the valley towards La Plagne.

And here is the Lac des Rosiéres.

With a view of Le Fruit from the Courchevel side, and the highest of the Courchevel resorts: 1850?

La Jairaz

I had hurt my knee walking down from Le Lac des Rosiéres (and lost my Japanese sniper sun hat). So the next morning, MC and I went down to Meribel to see whether we could find a knee support, and a new hat.

In the afternoon, I went on the Green walk to La Jairaz. Here is the stream that seems to run down from Le Lac des Rosiéres.

It rained a little (quite a lot in Meribel). La Jairaz is an old farming hamlet. I think I gathered that the orginal owners" heirs were now only interested in the houses as chalets.Traditional building materials such as corrugated iron are much in evidence:

When you look closer, the traditional stuff is actually the barn …

I imagine that is a comfort for any intending ski-trippers. The church keeps up local traditions, too. Shut.

That evening the rain had cleared up, and we ate on the terrace again, with a beautiful sunset that came on us so fast I hardly had time to go and fetch the camera.

And here is a shot taken by a kindly GM in the bar:

La Pointe des Chardes

La Pointe des Chardes is around 2900 metres. We weren´t going to go right to the top, which in retrospect is a relief. Instead, we were going over a pass beside the summit, at 2700 metres. Well, this was the black walk. First stop was an alpine creamery.

Traditional construction and animal feeding methods again. Actually, the farmers here deserve our admiration. The only way for them to get their cheese down into the valley at the end of the summer season is on a sledge. Now we´d just zigged and zagged our way up the side of the mountain. The idea of going down in a straight line was scary. You can´t see how steep it was from here.

Actually, you can get an idea from this picture of a Gentiana Pannonica (I think, anyway,a gentian of some sort).The path along the bottom of the valley, in the top right hand corner, is a level of a sort.

We were glad to find a stony – but flattish – place to lunch with a little shelter from the wind.

Here we all are, except me. From left to right, Eric the barman, Isabelle the reception manager, Cecile the guide, Frederic, Marie-France, and Rémy. I couldn"t get any further back, the walk would have killed me. Here is the Grande Casse hiding in the clouds.

Towards the end of lunch, the clouds began to blow off the mountains opposite us, but I didn"t have time to wait for them to clear completely.

As we approached the pass, we saw our first ibex. They are quite tame – at least the males. They just sat there and chewed the cud.

On the other hand, we didn´t try to get very close to them.

These photos have odd dimensions because I had to rotate and crop them to restore the horizontal. As we came over the pass, we had a beautiful panorama of the next valley.

At this stage, we didn"t realise (at least, I didn"t), that we were going to have to walk down the scree.

And across the névé at the bottom.

By now it was a beautiful day.

I had rather lost contact with Cecile, so my identification of this flower as Joubarbe is, well, tentative:

On the other hand, I am quite sure these gentians are the protected Bavarian sort, as long as the colours in my pocket guides are accurate.

An hour or so later, we stopped at a refuge (Plaisance, I think). Good view of la Grande Casse and the Vanoise glacier.

The two ravines might be the same ones between which I had posed MC in:

Now we walked down along the stream, until we found the waterfall I had seen two years ago, on the walk to the Refuge des Glieres.

We were all very tired by now. Luckily, we were nearly back at the cars.

Meribel Valley

Marie-France and Rémy were up for the red walk the next day. Not me, and certainly not MC. With the promise that she would come for both the morning and the afternoon green walks, we set off on an exploration of the mills in the valley.

Traditional construction here, too. Although the walk"s name was "The Mills of Meribel", there was an awful lot of timber. Some of it drying under shelter for firewood:

Some of it in the open, apparently being seasoned for furniture. Cecile explained that the tree cover in the valley was a relatively new phenomenon. Before Meribel became a ski resort, the local farmers had farmed as much of the slopes as possible, either for arable or pasture. She thought her ancestors were probably turning in their graves at the way trees were coming back everywhere beside the pistes.

The mills were now mostly abandoned. The minerals in the stream could be collected down in the valley:

On the way down to this stream, we had passed along the most perfect "plantation" of wild raspberries. Whether this, or lack of backbone, were the reason, MC was too tired to walk in the afternoon. So we finished our books, and prepared our cases for the trip home

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