We’re in the queue for breakfast at seven sharp, already eyeing up the bowls laden with yogurt, granola and cereals, plates of fresh bread (a wonderful sight after endless slices of stale loaves at Rifugio Elena two mornings prior) and selection of hot and cold drinks. Over breakfast, the two Canadians we’re sat with tell us how they shimmied along a snowy ridge to make it to Refuge Robert Blanc a few nights ago; we’re rather relieved we decided against venturing up there.
Today’s leg of the Tour du Mont Blanc had several seasons rolled into one: a damp, drizzly start (on went the waterproof trousers and jackets, only to be removed a quarter of an hour later when the rain cleared) followed by blazing sunshine and, later, scattered showers. Having made the most of the breakfast spread – think freshly-baked bread, cold cuts of meat, fruit, orange juice and steaming mugs of hot chocolate – we set off for Champex-Lac.
Earlier this summer, one of my colleagues had the inspired idea of setting up an informal book club. Three Doodle polls later and we’ve read Normal People (did the economical verging on unimaginative prose grate on anyone else?) Educated (which I loved; more below) and are soon to discuss My Year of Rest and Relaxation (which I wasn’t overly keen on, but am still weighing up). I’ve not enjoyed every book, but I have enjoyed reading outside my crime and memoir comfort zone. If anyone has any book club recommendations, I’m all ears!
There was no need for an alarm clock at Rifugio Elena: noisy snores from a neighbouring bunk woke us from our slumber, and a rather inconsiderate person from the far side of the dorm came over and drew the curtains next to our bed. Farewell Land of Nod, hello breakfast: bacon (or was it warm ham?), sausage, a dollop of yogurt mixed with plum jam, (more) stale bread, and a slice of a jammy shortbread tart.
When I last penned an update, I wasn’t sure how the past few months would pan out. As it turns out, they’ve been chock-full with local goings-on and adventures further afield. We spent Easter exploring Dartmoor National Park, and getting somewhat scorched in the process (slight understatement – I returned to work looking like a tomato). Six weeks later, we were up in the Yorkshire Dales, soaked to the skin in a downpour. (Needless to say, a treacle tart from Booths lifted our spirits immeasurably!) We’ve ticked a few more things off our East Anglia to-visit list over the past few months, with a day trip to Saffron Walden (a quaint little town full of colourful half-timbered buildings), an afternoon picking strawberries at Bury Lane Farm Shop, and a cycle ride to Hot Numbers’ new(ish) roastery, near Shepreth.
Fuelled up on multiple croissants (our hotel had not one, not two, but five different types to choose from), yogurt, apricot tart, fruit, bread and juice, we hit the trail. Yesterday, Courmayeur’s piazzas and winding streets bustled with gelato aficionados, window shoppers and holidaymakers. This morning they’re empty, save for a few walkers trickling out of the city towards Rifugio Bertone.
Nestled at the foot of Col de la Seigne, Refuge des Mottets lies in shadow. On with the flip flops and, for good measure, the micro fleece; breakfast calls. We cross the yard to the breakfast room, find our places at one of the breakfast tables. Here, there’s lots of orange juice to go round, pots of coffee and tea, jugs of hot milk, jars of muesli and honey puffs and a choice of bread, complete with butter and jam; it’s infinitely better than Gîte le Pontet’s meagre offering.