Bussang France-Geneva Swizerland-Le Rousses France

Leaving Luxembourg, the next part of the journey was on the motorway and I was surprised when we reached Nancy, France because the city was filled with smog. At this point, we left the highway (called motorway in Europe) traveling through the back roads of France through the Alsace mountainous regions. Here and there we stopped at the adorable shops scattered along the way. One shop in particular was filled with Mother Goose pottery and Baba Yaga type witches throughout. I tried to ask the shop owner the stories behind the witches, but she didn’t know. She wrapped the gifts I purchased in brightly decorated green flower paper and gay paper ribbons then deposited them in gay neon green bags with a lady bug affixed to them. She pointed out she had included a special thank you gift for y purchases, Later when I opened the package I found several of the stick on lady bugs inside.

Just a few blocks away, I noticed nestled at the base of a mountain a lovely yellow hotel surrounded by snow. IT was so picturesque, I suggested to Arjo that we turn around. We enquired about pricing and was told such a reasonable rate that included breakfast and dinner, we immediately decided to stay the night. It was a match made in heaven. We turned out to be the only guests in the hotel for the night and the attention our hosts lavished on us was over and above what we paid for. Dinner would be served at 7pm so we dressed warmly and went exploring the snow covered mountains for the next couple of hours. My warm woolen underclothes served me well and with the exception of a cold nose I did exceptionally well braving cold mountains. Every now and then we’d notice pebbles rolling down the mountain slope. When we asked about it later, we were told it was usually caused by the wild mountain goats combing the area. Our hosts Mark and Ilsa were from Holland too and served sauerkraut, thick slabs of ham, and two different kinds of sausages, crusty bread, a vegetable soup popular in the region and apple custard pie and hearty cups of coffee.

Mark played music from New Orleans while we waited for dinner to be served and for the first time, I felt a little homesick. I had to laugh at myself because there is nothing back home yet. I spoke to people from New Orleans and they told me about the two tornadoes that damaged many homes that escaped Katrina‘s wrath. The rest of the evening was spent telling stories and drinking complimentary wine. Mark and Ilsa explained how we were lucky to drive up when we did because they had only come to check the property and hadn’t planned on staying. If ever you’re in Bussang, France, be sure to stay at the Moto-Hotel, you won’t find a better deal or nicer people!

February 2, 2006
The next morning, we began the trek to Switzerland. The drive took us high into the mountains of France and I squealed with delight as the sun shone on the frozen snow seeming to playfully invite us along. We passed by hordes of children learning to ski and fun ski lodges all beckoning us to stop and play a while. I am certain if I wasn’t scheduled to perform the next morning we would have taken the bait. We reached a point of 1187 meters and the snow was piled thick and high on either side all along the road. Traveling was slow going for awhile as we traveled cautiously over the icy slick switchbacks. I was having so much fun looking at the picture perfect mountains scenes. We’d stop and take more pictures of the breathtaking views and just on the other side of the mountains we stopped at a hotel-restaurant for lunch. We planned to take and hour break, but this lunch lasted close to three hours! First neither of us spoke fluent French and we had to painstakingly decipher the menu to place the order. The rowdy bunch at the next table stayed nearly the same time we did but had different selections from us. Our servings were very fancy and served with a flourish. It was nearly three hours later before we were back on the road to Switzerland. We were stopped at Switzerland’s border four hours later so the authorities could check our passports. We did not have to pay the motorway’s toll because we were using other road ways to reach our destination to Geneva.

The road was slow going for nearly an hour due to the heavy fog that canvassed the region and I was a cautious driver having been accustomed to driving through such swatches of perilous fog in Louisiana. In the patches where the fog lifted I could see we appeared to be on almost level ground. I was thankful there were no perilous mountain curves of drops in the distance and nothing to be afraid of. Subway trains passed on either side periodically as we drove along. An earache that had been bothering me for a few days off and on came back with a vengeance and we made our way to one of the green crosses indicating a pharmacy. The one we stopped at was similar to shopping strips in the states with other stores situated in the mall area. We asked the clerk in the pharmacy for something for the earache and was surprised when she handed me a bottle obviously of prescription strength without needing a prescription.

Arjo explained some medicines did not require a doctor’s prescription. (Gee that is smart!) We went through the supermarket called COOP in big orange letters and picked out water and other items including a great smelling hand wash I noticed in many of the public areas we’d stopped at. It was here we discovered we would need Suisse franks and not Euros to pay for our items. Apparently the Swiss were one of a few countries in Europe that did not change over to Euros ten years ago. I thought it was pretty smart of them to keep their own money intact. We resumed our journey and an hour later found ourselves on the outskirts of Geneva. Though dark, Geneva was bustling and every bit the polished cosmopolitan city with people leisurely out strolling or sitting in restaurants. The corporate lights blazoned across the tall buildings on either shores of the lake situated in the middle of Geneva . Traffic and people dominated both shores. The night life was alive and well and people of all nationalities and colors were out and about.

I marveled at how our world is truly a melting pot for all people. Everywhere I’d visited in the last few weeks, always there were people of all shapes, sizes, colors and cultures. No where was there a predominance of any one type of people. In Holland, I discovered the country was made up of 7.5 million natives while nearly 18 million Dutch people made their homes all over the world. Fully 50% of the people living in Holland were made up of other nationalities. In the schools I’d performed for I made a point during the introductions of asking students to raise their hands as I called out their continent to show where they were from! The continent lacking in attendance was Antarctica and I always stressed that my son majoring in Physics was participating in a summer internship that would take him to Antarctica. Usually the majority of students were from Europe. Yes, we truly do live in a world inhabited by many people. Still, the dominant media depictions are mostly of one culture. We drove through the city looking for our hotel and the International school. Having located both we thankfully settled in for the night.

February 3, 2006
Morning came quickly and though the hotel was only a five minute drive away, I felt the need to get to my destination early. I was fast learning breakfast at most Best Western hotels though included in the room’s price was pretty standard and not a healthy, choice for me. The foods were limited to boxed cereal, canned fruits like cocktail or pineapple, cheese, yogurt, canned juices, breads, prepackaged jellies and limited fresh fruits. I opted for a banana and waited while Arjo downed his standard favorite breakfast of cheese, bread and butter and tea.

At the school the librarian met us in the office and led us to the middle school where the performances would take place. She explained there were six campuses total in Geneva! The show was held in a dank theater with limited views because of columns blocking the way. The first show was limited to only two stories because of the time elements, but the second performance included all the stories. After the performances the students asked for autographs and showered me with gifts that included pens, the school’s mascot-- a teddy bear, and a handmade ceramic lizard specially made by one art class! Then the librarian led us to a cafeteria in another building. Students have a choice of carbonated of non carbonated water, a choice of several prepared salads similar to eating at Piccadilly’s or other upscale cafeteria style dining and a choice of two entrees and dessert. All for the equivalent of about $8 American dollars each day! I noticed another long line to the side of the cafeteria and was told students could order pizza. Later, I saw a thick slab of pizza covering the student’s plate. I returned to the hotel to check out and made my way back to the school and was greeted by more students and the librarian gave me a huge bag filled with different kinds of Swiss chocolates!

We began our journey back to Holland through the mountains of France. We’d driven only 150 km when we were captivated by the snow covered mountains and ski lodges beckoning us to stop. So we did. Unfortunately they were all booked. I had a strong feeling we would find the perfect hotel. The next place we stopped was a bed and breakfast, but I told Arjo this was not the place for us. There were workman building an addition to the hotel behind the B & B. We saw several other places, but I urged Arjo to drive on. We rounded a bend in the road and a huge high rise hotel greeted us. I motioned to Arjo to keep going. The next town over in La Rousse a hotel offered breakfast and dinner plus a room for the night just off the road next to a ski path. I suggested we stop. There just happened to be a cancellation and the room was ours for the night! The hotel was decorated so nicely with dried flowers and sweet touches all around. Dinner was an extravagant affair with four courses and dessert. The bed was comfortable as the room was luxurious and sleep came quickly.

February 4, 2006
The next morning we were up with the chickens. After breakfast we went down to the ski lodge and rented skis, snow boots and ski sticks and hired a ski instructor because it was my first time skiing. We also paid 2 Euros for insurance while skiing, which I considered a good buy considering all the broken leg/arm stories I’d heard about failed skiing adventures. I didn’t know ski boots were so heavy! Arjo had only been skiing once before ten years ago and after a few lessons was skiing like a pro. I on the other hand was remanded to the kiddy slopes where I fell more than twice. My ankles were so sore from the pressure of the ski boots afterwards. My teacher, Andros, was very nice and quite patient with me though I am sure I taxed his patience severely. By the time the hour long instruction was up, I had learned how to snow plow to stop and I could at least parallel walk. I did not feel confident going up even the kiddy slope without the teacher, so I called it a day and left Arjo on the slopes and went back to my room to pack.

I was pinching myself thinking about skiing in France no less! I couldn’t wait to call home and tell everyone about playing in the snow while I played at skiing. I left out the part about being on the kiddy slope and falling down a few times! The next four hours were spent meandering through small towns traveling. The scenery as usual was exquisite. I found a small shop selling curtains, cheaper than I’d seen them everywhere else. So I bought the cutest curtains in France for my apartment in Texas at a great discount. Just as we stopped for dinner at a roadside diner, storyteller, John Row, called from England to tell me he had arranged the workshop to be held in the prison where he works! We finalized plans to fly into England on Thursday the 9th and drove the last hour to Troyes, France where we found a nice hotel on the motorway with breakfast included in the price! I hit the sack worn out after my skiing adventure!

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