To The Mountains

Geneva generously hands its guests free travel on public transport, so next morning we cross the lake on a water taxi. In the hazy distance Mont Blanc shimmers seductively. By tram and train we ride serenely to the airport – this is most definitely not like the Piccadilly line to Heathrow - and we board Sherpa’s minibus with six others on our tour.

A pleasant drive leads us south towards ever higher mountains and into the narrowing valley of the River Arve. The snowy dome of Mont Blanc looms above us, its grey cliffs frowning on our insignificant intrusion. After seventy-five minutes we disembark 1000m above sea level at Les Houches, which amounts to a long village street with a few essential shops and short residential cul-de-sacs, crouching on the moderate slopes beneath the highest Alpine summit.

For my firefighter friends: the station at Les Houches

At dinner on the auberge lawn we sit with Adrian and Jo, north of England by birth and now the parents of three girls left home alone in a Scottish village. We glance surreptitiously at those with whom we shall share the experience of a walk round the mountains.

Dave & Anne and daughter Emily from Derbyshire, UK
Reg & Nancy from Michigan, USA
Mark & Robyn from New Jersey, USA
Colin & Margaret from New Zealand
Alan & Hilja from Chester, UK
Graham & Lesley from Cape Town, South Africa
and of course, Adrian & Jo from East Kilbride, UK

Martin confirms his enthusiasm for grain and grape, and in Alec and me he has two willing acolytes prepared to sample local products. We four are last to retire. Bill and I stroll to the east end of the village, speculating on the nature of life and the forthcoming tour. A handshake cements a shared understanding of fundamental principles and the belief that we shall have a good time.

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