Four go wild in the mountains.

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Getting out and about with our dog Meg had become a little difficult over the last couple of years, she is now 13 and her legs don’t work as well as they used to. Since we now have an addition to the doggy family in the form of the happy wanderer, 4 year old Lola, we were keen that she wasn’t left out.

Stopover hotels were booked, always with a bit of a theme in the summer months. We had Champagne in Epernay for our first night, a beautiful house on the Avenue de Champagne. Only the steep stairs proved too much for Meg and she needed carrying up and down, although she enjoyed her walk to dinner in the town. On arrival, we were shown to a beautiful terrace with a garden below where the dogs were free to roam while we enjoyed a glass of their house Champagne. After a good night’s sleep, a leisurely and delicious breakfast followed a walk up the Avenue de Champagne and a romp in the park behind Mercier for Lola. She is loving the holidays so far, although sharing the car seat with Meg, instead of being in the boot is a new experience.

Next a short drive south to the wine region of Burgundy. We take our usual break for lunch in Nuit-St-Georges then head to our stopover hotel, Maison Olivier Leflaive in Puligny-Montrachet. The weather was beautiful,and the wine fabulous. A four course dinner accompanied the wine tasting. So peaceful here, with only the church bell interrupting the silence. We took an afternoon stroll around the vineyards with both hounds; Meg seeming to come to life the further we got from home. I swear she could smell the mountain air.

Another delicious breakfast, and we were on our way south to the mountains, to our favourite place in Le Monetier-les-Bains. We ski here in winter and walk here in summer. Lola is keen and eager to go out this morning, but Meg is a little more reluctant and takes some persuasion to get to the lake at Le Casset. A few minutes later, both dogs are wet and hubby is wading in to find a lost ball. The lost ball theme continued for the rest of the holiday, being abandoned in rivers, lakes and the village streets, before being reunited with Lola.

We relaxed, cycled and ate well. That is what holidays are for. Eau de Petit Pont in Villeneuve had to be the favourite of this trip at least with the mountain ‘salad’ at Chez Finette running a close second.

After an initial cool spell, and a day of rain, the weather was beautiful, and it was almost a shame to go south to Barolo for a couple of nights. I say almost.
A friendly agriturismo, Il Gia d’Oca, just outside the village, with friendly owners, wine tasting on the doorstep and amazing food and wine were only exceeded by the unbelievable views from every hillside, with the Alps towering on the far horizon. We ate and drank like kings, Il Cantinetta in Barolo serving us a beautiful raviolo with a duck egg inside it. Beautiful wild boar ragu, wonderful plates of antipasti, and the desserts were to die for. Local agnolotti al plin and risotto funghi were also available.

We headed back to Monetier in glorious hot sunshine via Ikea to collect some essential items for Chamoissiere. More relaxation and eating were accompanied by some of our purchases from Barolo, but mainly we stuck to the local Haute-Alpes wines which are very good, and only found in the area. There were more walks for Meg and Lola, trips to the village, and splashing in the streams and lakes.

We mended things, cycled a little and enjoyed the warm pleasant sunshine on the terrace, although the autumn chill was starting to appear in the mornings.

Finally, we headed home, stopping overnight at Auberge de Moissons, near Chalons-en-Champagne. One of our most visited hotels en route, as it is so close to the autoroute, but very rural and a great place to walk the dogs. Meg was extremely eager to get out for her evening walk, and would not let us leave without her.

We stocked up the car with more wine in Calais, then our final lunch in France at Au Calice, before our Eurotunnel crossing and our journey home.

Such a wonderful trip, and so good to see Meg so lively.

Edit . Sadly only 6 weeks after our trip, Meg passed over the rainbow bridge after a very short illness. We’ll have some great memories of her final holiday

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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.

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