Europeans and their food
I had my first meal in France in a pizzeria. The waiter comes to take the order. I ask what kind of cheese is on the anchovies pizza. Mozzarella. I ask if I can get cheddar instead, but they don’t have it. I ask if I can get goat cheese. The waiter looks at me like I’m crazy and says: “you want GOAT cheese with anchovies?” I tell him I sort of can’t have mozzarella for dietary reasons. He looks annoyed, goes in the kitchen to check. He comes back and, looking at me in a very judgmental way, says it’s ok. First meal of the trip and I get judged by the waiter. Of course. Welcome to France! The waiter was right though, goat cheese and anchovies don’t go well together.
In a hut in Switzerland, the dessert was lemon sorbet. I ask the waitress if it has milk because we tend to put milk in cheap sorbet in North America. She frowns and answers: “It’s sorbet, it obviously doesn’t have milk.” Obviously. I’m just looking out for myself, but these guys don’t seem to like it.
The customer is not always right in restaurants in Europe, and the service is not always the best. The pizza was decent, the beer that went with it was good and the sorbet was great. We tend to remember the best, so here it is.
Favorite day – Two-way tie between day 4 and day 5. Don’t miss those alternate routes!
Best col – Col de la Croix du Bonhomme. Great views all around!
Best summit – Croix de Fer in Switzerland.
Best salad – The Relais d’Arpette’s carrot salad. It was one of the only positive things about this place.
Best soup – Camping du Pontet in Le Pontet. The squash soup was the first course of this trek and it did not disappoint.
Best pasta – Rifugio Bonatti. I’d just made it into Italy, had a quick shower, settled in for dinner and got served this fantastic pasta. Was it the sauce? The pasta? The fact that we all had hiker hunger at this point and everything would taste great? Nah, I like to think it was just that good.
Best main – L’Auberge du Mont-Blanc in Trient. Rice with pork cooked with vegetables in a rich sauce. I don’t know what was in it, but I would’ve sold my soul for a lifetime supply of it. The chef also gave us plenty of tomato cheese fondue.
Best meat – Camping du Pontet in Le Pontet. The veal was out of this world.
Best dessert – Apple tart at Rifugio Bonatti, although the non lactose intolerant folks might vote for L’Auberge du Mont-Blanc’s ice cream cake.
Best bread – Rifugio Bonatti. No refills though so steal your tablemates’ share.
Best breakfast – L’Auberge des Glaciers in La Fouly had a lot of everything while other places mostly only had bread, juice and coffee. Meat, cheese, fresh fruit, some kind of banana bread, a nutty Nutella. I stuffed myself unashamedly.
Best atmosphere – Rifugio Bonatti. Cool hut in the heart of the mountains, no roads leading there.
Best sunrise – Rifugio Bonatti. Glaciers, mountains and a valley from the front porch.
Best bed – L’Auberge du Mont Blanc in Trient. Nothing special, but best sleep.
Best shower – Remember the Seinfeld episode with the showerhead? L’Auberge du Mont Blanc in Trient had that kind of shower.
Best local liquor – Génépi, the one from Tré-le-Champ. It’s homemade. The one in La Fouly is a close second.
Best decor – The dining room at L’Auberge des Glaciers in La Fouly and its use of taxidermy. Nothing like having your meal while a dead ibex stares you in the eye.
Worst overall – The Relais d’Arpette. The booze was expensive, the main course was average and the hostess was rude. Some positives: the carrot salad, the mashed potatoes, the lemon sorbet and the view. It’s not horrible, but you might consider staying in Champex.
Best WiFi – L’Auberge du Mont Blanc in Trient. We weren’t many, but then again, we weren’t many in most of the other places and it still didn’t work well. It’s a trek though, so who really needs WiFi?
Best hut overall – L’Auberge du Mont Blanc in Trient. You get to it and it looks like an old run-down building. You walk in and it feels like an old house that’s seen better days. You find the Italian host and from then on, it’s all good.
Aiguille du Midi, Parc national de la Vanoise, Parc national des Écrins
Check ‘em out, they’re all worth it. La Vanoise and Les Écrins are a nice 3h drive from Chamonix.