Monday, February 21, 2011

15Jun1879, Farewell to Aix

BRIDES-LES-BAINS, June 15th-22nd, 1879.
—Final swim, tubbings, etc., and so farewell to Aix, and the inimitable Mme. Bernascon, who has stuck nearly all the time, night and day, to a fearful green plaid gown. Train to Chamousset, whence we posted about 40 miles up the course of the Isère, baiting at Albertville. The last 20 miles beautiful, up a mountain road. So to Brides-les-Bains, which we reached in melancholy rain. Maison Laissus, a boarding-housey primitive sort of hotel, rather depressing to our feelings at first after our Aix splendours: an ingenious paucity of views, no sitting-room, and 2 torrents roaring thro' the village at first maddened me with their noise. But we got a bedroom with a squint at a noble snow-rapt mountain; and after some pushing about of furniture it wasn't amiss.

Friday, 20th.—We rode on mules, for about 3 1/2 hours, past Les Alines to a sort of table-land mountain-top called "Le plan des Danses." Here we sat down and had luncheon at the edge of a fir-wood, in presence of Mont Blanc, no less!—looking far grander than from Chamounix, being isolated and far-towering. I left F. (very tired and head-achy) resting, being anxious to get up to where the snow was still lying, and after 1/4 of an hour's gentle slope, becoming aware of a naked fine peak surging up on my right, I saw I had a chance of looking over the ridge of the mountain we were on, into the valley below. In a few more minutes, sure enough there I was, in the presence of most glorious things! A wide valley far below, with a torrent rushing at the bottom, and many tumbling into it from the opposite mountain: lovely woods, valleys, and snowy peaks, a great far-stretching middle-distance of purple hill-sides like a Claude Lorraine, the whole dominated by Mont Blanc in all his glory. To prevent the awful melancholy of mountain-scenery this perfect landscape was all enlivened with villages (I counted 20) and bright with running water—so far below, however, that I could barely hear it rushing; and the deep stillness was one intense charm. I sat on a knoll for an hour, surrounded by gentians and heartsease, and fairly cried for joy! Then could not resist fetching F., who greatly admired, in spite of horrid headache. We picked white crocuses, springing by hundreds where the snow had melted; and coming down the mountain got lilies-of-the-valley and the sweet-smelling tall white orchis.

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