Peaceful Piedmont and Marvellous Monetier

(A trip to some Your Holiday Matters properties in June 2006)

We arrived at Geneva airport late on Saturday evening, and decided to stop off at our apartment in Monêtier-les-Bains, Haute-Alpes before our visit to Casa Ciapolin in Piedmont, Italy. We were due to arrive there on Monday, and it would give us a chance to unwind first.

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On Monday morning, we set off to Casa Ciapolin, just outside Cassano Belbo in Piedmont, Italy. We had a slight detour due to road works, and a large lunch, before arriving at a beautiful farmhouse, with some of the greenest and most stunning scenery I have ever seen. The farmhouse is on a hillside, surrounded by figs, vines, hazelnuts, and more vineyards. Tiny picturesque villages peek out from the surroundings. The rooms are spacious and cool, with a terrace to admire the views.

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As it was Monday, most things were closed, but we drove to the city of Alba for an early evening drink. We stopped in a beautiful piazza. There was football mania there too, as Italy was playing Australia, and they squeezed a 1-0 victory in the last minute. The whole place went mad, and the young people drove around the square, horns blaring and flags flying.

On Tuesday, we took a trip to the wine village of Barolo, driving through more vineyards, and eventually hazelnut groves (Ferrero Rocher is nearby), before we arrive at Barolo just before lunch. We tasted wine from some of the local producers, and had a fantastic lunch of antipasti, with vitello tonatto (veal in tuna sauce), and steak tartar with truffle shavings among the delights on offer. Il Catinetta was a delight. After returning to Casa Ciapolin in the afternoon, we ate a fabulous pizza at a local pizzeria in the evening.

Alba

We spent the evening talking to our hosts Carole-Anne and Paul, and only went to bed when the thunderstorm started at around 2am, which was spectacular, and lit up all the hillside around us.

We returned to Monêtier-les-Bains in heavy rain on the Thursday morning, stopping for another fantastic Italian lunch on the way back, in the Hotel Edelweiss in Cesana. If you decide to visit, be careful if you are driving , as the bill was accompanied by two small glasses and a bottle of Grappa, which was left on the table.

By the time we arrived in Monetier, it was hot and sunny again, and we unloaded our purchases from Italy. It is strange once you own your own holiday home, that you need to become familiar with the nearest DIY store, or branch of IKEA. We bought a mirror for the bedroom, another shelf for the kitchen, and some wooden slats to repair the bed. Once the jobs were done, we went up to the Alpen bar for a drink, and had dinner at the créperie, where we tried a local speciality, Oreilles d’Ane (Donkey’s Ears), a baked dish of pancakes, cheese, and spinach.

Mountain Chapel Peyra Juana in Summer

We decided on Friday to go for a walk up the mountain. There are several tracks to be seen from the apartment, and the local map shows that we can walk up to the Peyra Juana chalet, our favourite lunch stop in winter. However, as it is only mid-June, and too early for mountain restaurants to be open, we packed a picnic of baguettes and fruit, and set off around 11 am. As we walked to the path, we were surrounded by thousands of grasshoppers. Many of them got in our shoes too. Once we ascended a bit higher, they disappeared and were replaced by some beautiful small blue butterflies, which were much less irritating. We arrived at the chapel by the Peyra Juana, and found a rock and some shade to eat our food, away from some very interested calves. We took a slightly different route on our return. It was much more comfortable in the shade of the trees. We heard some marmottes, but didn’t see any of them.

In the larch forest

Later in the afternoon we went to Briancon to find some chocolate to take home for the children. We had meant to buy it in Italy, but had managed to come back without it.

The village is much busier this evening, as there is a cycle race taking place at the weekend, which involves climbing many ,if not all, of the mountain passes in the area. The Tour de France uses some of these too.

On our final day, we decided to visit the Botanic Gardens at the top of the Col du Lauteret. Divided into sections for each mountainous area around the world, it is particularly beautiful in early July, as most of the plants are flowering.

Botanic GardensMemorial to Scott of the Antartic

The garden is at an altitude of 2100m. This gives me hope that we can plant our small garden, and that the plants will survive the cold winter. The view at the top of the Col d Lauteret is fantastic, looking across to the glacier de la Meije.

Our trip back to Geneva was broken only for a quick lunch stop in Bourg d’Oisans, although the journey was slightly longer than usual due to the cycle race.

Casa Ciapolin and Chalet Chamoissiere are both members of ‘Your Holiday Matters’ a website for holiday rentals from owners who care.

 Recommended by YourHolidayMatters

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