Friday, May 17, 2013

Treacherous Road to a Wonderful Lunch

Auberge Vallon du Van is only about five miles away from the chalet, but when that five miles is across the face of the mountain on roads so narrow that the car’s proximity sensors are constantly raising alarm and the grades so steep you rarely get out of first gear, the short trip is nonetheless harrowing – considering the drop off is maybe 5,000 feet almost straight down (and, most of the way, no guardrails).

Even on a rainy day, the views are spectacular, and occasionally D-L had to remind me, “Watch the road, Rick. Please.”

And these are not one-way paths. The local rule is the driver coming up the hill has the right of way, so if you are going downhill you need to back up to one of the many little cutouts in the rock face that is wide enough for two vehicles to pass. Some turns are 90 degrees or more around the rock, so it’s helpful to tap the horn so someone coming in the other direction knows you are approaching. Occasionally there’s a complete 180-degree hairpin turn.

As we got near our destination, not even certain we were on the correct treacherous road, we passed through a couple of tunnels cut right through the rock, apparently with jackhammers (maybe pickaxes) because the walls were as jagged as a natural cavern.

Beyond the second tunnel, there was a magnificent mountain stream rushing to tumble over the precipice as a waterfall, and as we followed upstream to the small, isolated plateau we came to the destination restaurant.

This is one of Donna-Lane’s favorite places to dine when in the mountains, and we had a sumptuous salad of dandelion greens with tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and bacon, accompanied by a traditional two-cheese fondue. We were delighted, too, that they had some of their trademark dessert – cooked mountain blueberries on a bed of chocolate over a pastry crust. (Can never go wrong with chocolate.)

After a very leisurely lunch we crept down the mountain trail, foot constantly on the brake, to Salvan in search of a store which turned out not to be there. Instead of reversing course back to the chalet, I chose to explore the opposite road out of town which, after passing under the train tunnel, quickly turned into a steep climb. “Just what I wanted,” D-L intoned, “another mountain road.”

Lots more photos on my Facebook page:rick.adams.39589

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