DAYS 36 and 37

I am back!

It is a question mark each day whether I will return. I failed to bring my computer with me. I am at the whim of internet stores and friendly people. One thing I know for a fact. Everyone in Italy is using old and sick machines. Each day is a task and a surprise.

I have been sleeping in Courmier the last three nights. Driving back and forth to Chamonix each day. The Alps are always before me. From the moment I rise to the time I go to bed. They are there on the drive to Chamonix and back. The mountains dominate the scene.

I would be remiss if I failed to make some additional comments regarding Mont Blanc. Remember it is 11 peaks on top of an already big mountain.

Mont Blanc defies description. I guess that is why I am back trying to tell you more about it. Words do not adequately tell you what the eyes see.

The mountain is high and tall. It stands defiantly. Speaks quietly. Says…..Don’t screw with me!

Impossible to see all 11 peaks at one time. Clouds up high. Block the view.

Trees cover the lower range of Mont Blanc. Pine. All the way up to a certain level. Then nothing but bare rock. Someone told me pines will not grow above 2,000 feet. The bare land is formidable. Then comes the peaks. Not just the very top. The top for a considerable distance downward.

When I arrived, some of the peaks had valleys of glaciers. Ice. One day later all the peaks were covered with snow. A significant dusting. Impressive.

Many waterfalls. They are streams running down the sides of the mountain. All over. Some a foot wide. Others up to 20 feet. Beautiful. They run in and out of the woods. You see it, then you do not. All of a sudden the stream reappears again.

The thinner streams were not running yesterday. They were frozen. Yesterday at this time (11 am) the temperature was 29 degrees F. At the same time 24 hours later it is 50 degrees F.

The waterfalls are attributable to two factors. The first is the melting glaciers. The other is that the mountain top is loaded with natural springs and wells. Below ground. They seep their way upward and add to the glacier spill off.

Yesterday morning, I had a unique experience. When I opened the door to the balcony starring at Mont Blanc, I saw a number of clouds. Some were below my eye level. Others at my eye level. Others above my eye level. All set against the green pines of Mont Blanc. A wow!

Last night when driving back to Courmier, I had another experience. Though one I have had before. Fog. Big time. There were occasions I could not see at all. Bad.

Moving on from Mont Blanc, let me share two food experiences I had yesterday.

The first was in Chamonix at lunch time. I went into a big restaurant at the main corners of Chamonix. Where all the world walks by. It was too cold to eat outside, however.

The menu was in total French. No English sub titles as I had become accustomed to elsewhere on this trip. I saw what appeared to be the word sausages. I have been eating many sausages this trip. All different. All good.

I ordered sausage. Pointed to it on the menu to the waitress. My mistake was not asking her to spell out exactly what I was ordering. Assuming she spoke English. I do not know. I found whereas many Greeks and Italians have at least a smarthering of English, the French seem to be above a second language.

I was served two boiled hot dogs and french fries. Not big fat hot dogs. Not long ones. Two regular sized.

I looked at them for a few minutes. And then decided, oh well! My mistake. Eat them.

I called the waitress over. Asked for ketchup and mustard. The least I could do was dress the meal up. She looked at me in shock. I knew what was coming…..We do not serve ketchup and mustard! We are French!

I quietly ate my boiled hot dogs and fries.

Dinner last night got screwed up, also. I was at what might best be described as a good neighborhood restaurant. It had been so described to me. I was told to be sure to eat polenta. It is the favored dish in this Alpian village.

There were only six entres on the menu. Each served with polenta. The only thing I recognized was chicken catecetore. I asked what polenta was. No screwing around this meal. Lunch was bad enough.

The waiter provided a polenta description. It was crushed corn. All mashed together with what I could not understand. He told me it was everyone’s favorite. Had me look at the other tables. Each had this heaping large dish of yellow stuff on their table. He further told me Christopher Columbus introduced polenta into this country. There was no corn in Europe prior to Columbus. He brought it to the old world from the new world.

I did not like the polenta. I was told to bury it in the tomato sauce. That is the way it is supposed to be eaten. I did. Better, but still not my dish.

The polenta alone cost me 12 euros. About $16 American money. Not worth it.

I am absolutely impressed with Italian roads and bridges. All appear in tip top shape. The Italians have also recently constructed a speed train from Milan to I know not where. A new road was built near the railway tracks. The road had to have 72 bridges. So the trains could pass underneath.

Italian roads and bridges are well maintained. There is a reason for it. At some point a law was passed that whoever built or constructed a road, received a contract to maintain the road for 30 years. The money for maintenance comes from tolls. The contractor charges the tolls. The contractor keeps the money and makes repairs as need.

A good deal for the contractor! Positive cash flow!

The Italians using the roads are not very happy about the 30 year thing however. The tolls are expensive. My two hour drive from Novara to Courmier had cost me 25 euros one way. The Italians are an adept society. Their way around the burdensome toll is to drive back roads. They know all the bye ways.

I think the Italian way of building and maintaining roads and bridges is worthy of investigation. Gets the job done! The job we are not and have not been doing for years. Our roadways and bridges are a disgrace. Forget maintenance. A pot hole per family. The cost is not a tax to be imposed. It is paid daily by the users of the roads and bridges.

It is probably a screw job either way. However, worth exploring.

A few words about Chamonix. Lovely! gorgeous! Exciting! People all over. Summer and winter. Great pedestrian walk ways. Terrific high scale stores. No tee shirt vendors. Very European. I sat several times having a coffee at an outdoor cafe and watched the world go by. It was the world. The whole world. Every nationality walking the streets.

I got to Chamonix through a tunnel. A nine mile tunnel. The Italians and French built it. Runs right under one of the Alp mountains. Cool!

Somewhere in the back of my mind comes a recollection of Mary Shelley and this area. I did not have the time to research it. Forgive me if I am wrong.

Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein’s Wife. A best seller at the time. She lived here in the Coumier area. Courmier was to have provided the background for the book.

Recall that her story took place in a castle. Castles all over the place here. Recall also the fog. Fog frequent here. Recall further the fog I drove through last night. The fog was thick enough not only for Frankenstein, but also Dracula and Wolfman.

Later today, I am driving to the Portofino area. The Italian Riviera. A three hour drive.

I will be staying in Camogli, a town immediately next door to Portofino.

The trip should be interesting. It is summer time and the area should be flourishing.

Enough for today. I am going to be thrown out this internet store. It closes from noon to 3 each day. In Chamonix, all the stores closed from 1 to 3. Siesta time.

Enjoy your day!

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