We fled Chamonix a day early. Why didn’t we like it? I don’t know. It was beautiful. Alpine. Chalets. Ski shops. Mont Blanc towered. Everyone wore fleeces and hiking shorts, or biking outfits; they were all tan, fit, and friendly. The Arve river roared through the middle of the town. I went for a long hike in the woods. I would recommend the town to all my friends. But I hated it. I don’t know why it made my skin crawl. Too small. Too alpine. Too many outdoorsy people. The mountains blotted out the light. There was a big black hollow at the foot of Mont Blanc. But none of this explains my loathing, the feeling I had of wanting to get right out of there. When we drove up to Chamonix into the Alps, we were delighted by the big fat brown cows with their cowbells. But the only things to eat seemed to have to do with cows. Cheese. Cream. Cheese. There were even cow hides draped over porch railings in case you forgot where your food came from. I did not find this appealing. But still, there was absolutely no reason for me to dislike the place so strongly. Why do some places appeal to us and others don’t? This is a mysterious question. It’s enough to make one believe in past lives, although I suppose Freud would say that I have associations to alpine places and pine forests that are not happy. But I have never been to such a place before. How can I have bad associations? New Hampshire is the closest I have come to Alpine.
We rushed back to Annecy and took the train to Lyon. Now we are up high on a hill in a converted abbey looking over an old city with narrow passageways and I am much happier. I don’t like ski chalets. I don’t like mountain villages. I did keep thinking of some old Pink Panther movie where I think they are up high in the French Alps. I know that Mary and Shelley found Chamonix thrilling. But I felt out of place. Trapped. Where were the patisseries? The tables where I could sip coffee and write?