Here we go again I thought when Andrew emailed to say there were no narcissi at Les Pléiades for the advertised Narcissus Walk. Did we still wish to go? Of course, we did! Walks with Andrew are always more than just what it says on the tin. On the day, Di and I from France casually boarded the train at Blonay to be greeted by Andrew, Chris, Max, Cynthia, and the Valais’ terrible twins, Marina and Christine, all dressed as if ready for serious Swiss action. Valerie from Zurich would join us later once she had switched to her French tongue.
Like Caesar’ Gaul the visit was in three parts; a Walk in the Park, a Room (well, terrace) with a View followed by the cohort splitting into three groups for the descent. On leaving the train, we quickly sped to the top (1360m) to find surprise, surprise …. a field of dandelions. However, next week there will be many flowering narcissi. It was a beautiful sunny day (for now) so we gathered around the globe at the summit to admire both the view and Max doing pull-ups. As usual, we had a magnificent view of where Mont Blanc would be if the clouds were absent.
Di signalled that she was hungry. This led to a rapid trooping to the restaurant where we toasted the health of King Charles III. Valerie joined us with a cheery, Swiss “Bonjour, freunde”. Then, all indulged in a tasty, convivial, although certainly not quiet, meal on the terrace with fabulous views along the lake behind the motorway below. Most of us ordered the special rösti forestier followed by a dollop of the moral high-ground of no dessert. That disappeared when the myrtle tart was spied. Now replete, we performed the ritual of determining who had substituted which banknotes on the table to amply reward “mine host”.
It was then time for the split. Valerie and Cynthia went back up the hill to see if the narcissi had blossomed over the lunchtime. Christine and Marina swore that they would really, really have loved to walk down with us but they had to take a specific train back up the Rhone valley. With hindsight, I think that they had a better weather forecast and more knowledge of the terrain than the foolish five of us who would descent by foot.
The walk down through fields of narcissi was supposed to be the highlight of this botanic delight-fest. We set off just as the skies darkened and thunder rolled around the hills. Decision required. Do we return to the station and take the train in 1 hour’s time or do we speed down off the hill into the trees? We decided to move downhill quickly. Well, that was the idea. It was only 6.5 km downhill. Google reckoned that we could be in Blonay in 55 minutes. Who measured it? I have no idea but can only assume that she had jet-propelled wings. The path was the reverse of “Stairway to Heaven”. Think of 4km of nearly-vertical, muddy forest paths with crooked, irregular wooden steps to “help” on the steepest parts. There was not much of a view from between the trees but there were some nice, white fields of narcissi to make it all nearly worthwhile.
When we broke out from the worst stretch we were on the flat ground by the Fayaux railway station; clearly the most horizontal section of the descent. Typically that was where Di picked to throw her feet in the air and herself backwards onto the ground. Although she suffered just some aches and pains, Andrew was so concerned that she would sue him that he ensured that her shoelaces were properly tied before we moved on to the easier (i.e., slightly less vertical) stage of the walk. Chris decided that Di could no longer be trusted to carry her own rucksack. Graham’s contribution was to complain that Di had spilt the contents of his water bottle. Missing all the fun, Max Longstride had by this time sped off ahead of us to catch the next train from Blonay, probably to climb another mountain before dark. He obviously was unsure which day we, the remnants, would arrive at that station.
Apart from a shortish stretch of verticality, the rest of the journey involved mainly a brisk walk down the road although the commune had kindly closed the direct path to the station so that we could admire more of Blonay town. On arrival, we congratulated ourselves on our achievement (whatever it was), jumped into the car and sped home.
Overall, the day was another in Andrew’s “interesting” playbook; enjoyable, great scenery, a tasty meal, a pleasant day in the fresh air with good company and we did see narcissi. Success!
If anyone wishes to go up to Les Pléiades, the narcissi should now be in full bloom. Not us. We are off to Geneva Botanic Garden tomorrow. It’s flat!