Taoiseach Leo Varadkar made a rare speech to the nation this evening and as he said “it’s been a St Patrick’s Day like no other“
Since I’ve come home from Switzerland I’ve been self-isolating as much as possible. I’m not due back to work until Thursday but they have asked me to stay off longer. No timeline given and no determination on pay but I’m expecting a minimum of 14 days and social welfare emergency payment only which will be a significant reduction in pay.
When I first received the message I was still in Switzerland and despite the growing crisis I still felt annoyed and that it was an over reaction. Switzerland was green status and despite large numbers of positive cases there were very few in our region and probably less chance of contracting the virus than at home. Since returning home that has changed to amber status yesterday, the government have recommended 14 day restricted movement for all travellers returning to Ireland since yesterday and Switzerland have closed their borders and gone into partial lockdown today. With that, the mood in the country and the increasingly difficult news in the media I’m no longer annoyed!
I did go out at one stage today. We needed a few items from the shop so I went to the local Mace. The mood was as weird as it gets. Everyone eyeballing everyone else, making sure they knew where everyone was and mentally willing each other to stay back. The checkout had the crisp baskets pulled out to enforce a 2m distance between the staff and customer with the girl stepping well back and wearing protective gloves. Payment was made via card and tapped to reduce contact further. It was a horribly sad atmosphere.
We’re a country renowned for our friendliness and today is our national holiday. Instead of celebrating and enjoying ourselves we’re hunkered down in our homes, expecting the worst and hoping others stay away. Self-isolation is a key strategy to controlling the spread of the virus but it’s damaging to the fabric of society.
One minister stated yesterday that “the normal we had a few weeks ago won’t be the normal we have again“. I hope our new normal is still a good one and that we come out the other side as good people in a good society once again.
For our last day we decided to go to Finhaut for one last visit, to have a beer in Beau Soleil and say goodbye to Heléne. We walked the normal rural road on the way over but traffic is so quiet due to the outbreak we were able to come back by the main road. It was great to see the valley and villages from a completely different angle as well as have an easier, less hilly walk home. We extended the walk into Frontière for a final drink before heading back to Le Châtelard.
Tomorrow is an early start with the train to Geneva leaving at 625am and hopefully not too much of an adventure getting home with Covid-19 on the loose.
We woke up this morning to the sound of the snow plough and glorious sunshine.
The plan today was to head down the valley. We took the train to Trétein which is a beautiful village built on the side of a very steep hill. Once you step off the train you’re looking right down onto the village.
We went down through the village past the gorge and down the valley further to Les Marécottes. This village had a lot of very nice buildings with lots of newer ones as it also has a cable car terminus for the ski slopes above. Quite a few people heading up today despite it being a Wednesday and with the snow beginning to melt.
Part of the road runs under an avalanche barrier. For some reason it has lots of holes and with a rapid snow melt we were rained on quite heavily on the way through both times
After a wander around we went to the zoo(!) for a beer by the swimming pool. We sat outside in the sunshine and it really was baking hot.
Afterwards we walked back to Trétein and caught the train back as far as Finhaut. Both bars were closed so we bought bread, smoked meat and beer and had a picnic along the road where we had a great view of Mont Blanc before continuing on to Le Châtelard.
12km total walking today and the legs feeling all the hills we climbed! Hoping for more sunshine tomorrow 🤞
We only had a very basic plan for today as we wanted a reasonably restful day to recover and the weather forecast was for rain. Woke up to more snow instead of rain!
After breakfast we channelled our inner lumberjack and cut and split wood for the stove.
On my last visit 6 years ago we had a drink in this recently opened bar. Sometime after Pierre discovered it was a brothel for the construction workers at the dam! I guess the red curtains should have been a clue 😊
We caught the train into Finhaut for a wander around with a plan to then walk the 4km back to Le Châtelard.
We tried to get lunch in Finhaut but picked a bad time as Heléne in Beau Soleil was busy…….having her lunch. She advised the café next door with a great cook and very cheap 😆
We didn’t really like it in there and as the snow was getting wet and threatening to turn to rain we decided to take the train to Frontiére, have lunch there and walk back. We ended up having a huge and very tasty lunch of Quiche (spinach and goat’s cheese), horse steak and chips followed by a fruit salad. Horse was a first for me and in French/Swiss style almost rare. It was very nice but the quiche was really delicious, something I wouldn’t have tried if I was at home.
It was a slow walk back to Le Châtelard with full bellies,stopping in one of the shops to view the tourist trap displays.
On the way back I stopped at the little Church just above the village. It’s dedicated to St Theresa of the Infant Jesus and is really nicely decorated with icons and stained glass with a fantastic carved front door. For some reason there’s a small statue of a marmot just outside the front door on a raised rock.
Yesterday afternoon we started building an igloo for Jim’s birthday. We almost finished it but the cold beat us and we were running out of light. The plan was to finish it this afternoon but the rain killed that idea. This evening, after dark we decided to decorate and christen it despite its unfinished state and before it melted away on us.
Today we decided that a trip to France was in order so the plan was to walk across the border to the ski resort of Vallorcine. Overnight it had snowed quite heavily and was still snowing this morning.
All the fresh snow combined with the little use the path receives at this time of the year created a very beautiful walking environment but tough walking conditions with the snow knee deep for much of the walk. We were following in the tracks of a deer and also saw a red deer doe and stag along the way. Both much too quick for photography.
After approximately 1.5 hrs we reached the edge of Vallorcine. It was busy with cable cars heading up and down the mountain and skiirs having a break in the bars. I was surprised to see it so busy on a Monday afternoon. We had a beer to celebrate Jim’s birthday and lunch in the restaurant attached to the railway station. Lunch was well timed as the waitress turned away a couple of groups not long after we started eating.
Post lunch we headed back the way we came. Just before we left Vallorcine it started to snow again, quite heavily and stayed like that pretty much all the way back to Le Châtelard. The walking was much easier with the path broken by our journey up and also being mostly downhill again.
All in all just under 12km and definitely feeling it this evening.
Early start Saturday for my trip to Switzerland with Jim to visit Pierre’s. I was a bit nervous about travelling due to the recent Coronavirus outbreak and blanket news coverage but decided to go anyway. I wasn’t sure what to expect but apart from signage in the airports and trains and queues in the toilets to wash hands I didn’t see much different. Another passenger in Belfast International thought the airport was very quiet but I didn’t see much difference to when we went to Prague last year and my flight to Geneva seemed full.
The flight from Belfast was really good. We were flying above the clouds with very sunny conditions and breaks in the cloud gave tantalising views of the English and French countryside below. On the approach to Geneva the Alps were poking majestically above the clouds.
In an attempt to get a discounted train fare to Le Châtelard I had a 4 hour wait in Geneva. It was clear and dry but very cold and as I had a heavy bag I only walked down to the lake to see the view and then back to the train station with a stop at McDonald’s for something to eat. Even that short walk gave an indication of the sights of Geneva although I was mildly disappointed that “Le Jet D’Eau” wasn’t in operation today.
After food was the long wait in the train station followed by the train journeys to Martigny and then change to Le Châtelard. Slight stress out at Martigny as the incoming train was 4min late and I only have 9min to make the change from Platform 1 to 40. Panic subsided when I realised this was simply a matter of crossing the tracks via the subway!
Arrived in Le Châtelard at 21:55, bang on time and greeted at the train station by a barrage of snowballs! Made it 😊