We had a rendezvous to arrange … and it had to be perfect.
Our final choice was the Hotel Beau Site in Talloires. It looked beautiful on its website – more like an old, elegant home than a hotel – and, more important, it had grounds that seemed to lead down to a private beach on a pristine lake.
The bad news – it was a self-promoting hotel an easy drive from of some the most famous ski slopes in Europe. Surely a web-trap?
We needed this to be good. We had one night – one night after a journey all the way from Naples with, next day, a journey all the way back.
We needed peace and sleep and space, with the rendezvous set for breakfast the morning after arrival. We made the booking.
The eleven hour drive from Naples got steadily tidier, busier and grander. We flew the roads in an ancient Alfa Romeo and reached the foot of the Alps as the sun began to set.
We drove straight towards the mountains, the roads funnelling us on to their centre.
The light was shivery with wind-whipped snow against bleak, oppressive rock. Darkness pressed in with the memory of the tragic Germanwings flight hanging in the vapour trails above.
The eight silent, ingeniously engineered miles of the Fréjus Road Tunnel took us about ten bleak minutes, and left us with just enough light to wind up the steep, narrow road over the mountains to Annecy.
Here the sharp gradients gave way to a lake and to tight streets with steep, tiled houses and warmly-lit windows that made us long to arrive, to find our hotel, to climb out at last and stretch.
Slowly the fears began to increase. Surely our hotel would not be in amongst these tiny roads? It would back on to a major autoroute to suck in guests. There would be noise and stress and endless extras to pay for.
The Sat Nav turned steeply, took us up a back street and down between two buildings to a gravel entrance where it waved it’s little chequered flag at us.
This was it – the rendezvous.
We listened … nothing. No noise, just a few cars parked off to one side and that was it.
Inside was just as quiet. There was no tailored receptionist. No high polished counter. In fact there was no one apart from the man in the T-shirt we could see through the door.
He noticed us, welcomed us, gave us a key and pointed us to some stairs. We hesitated by a menu in a doorway that led to a glass-fronted verandah.
Of course, we could eat. Come down when ready.
All our communication efforts were in a strange mix of Italian, Spanish, and English with ‘un soupçon‘ of French.
I can’t remember much about the meal except that it was delicious and the staff excellent and very young. We learned later that they were students at a hotel school.
Then up to our room – worn in parts, but clean and comfortable. From our small balcony we could see the deep black of an expanse of water, a few lights and not much else.
Our sleep was as fresh as mountain air, and the view in the morning so clean, so ‘all ours’, that it felt much more than just a vista.
The three star Hotel Beau Site had not over-sold itself. It was the perfect rendezvous.
He came at the appointed, impossible hour. There was the scrunch of tyres on gravel, the thunk of heavy car doors opening and closing … and there was Django – our large, yellow, empire-builder of a Labrador.
He had enjoyed eight months of Danish hospitality and now, preparations complete, he was to be taken south.
Lakeside romps, breakfast and briefings followed, and then Django switched cars. Within an hour we were on our way – one vehicle headed back south to Naples and the other up the mountains to Val Thorens.
Behind us all the Hotel Beau Site, with its genius for simplicity and hospitality, enjoyed a day of perfect sun.
Tomorrow, we were told, the rain would be back.
With a massive thanks from Django (and us) to all who loved him so well in Copenhagen.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2015