Haute cuisine

Neil cooking at 6500ft

I didn’t sleep very well.  I was worried about the day’s climbing, which I calculated to be 6000ft.

You need a strategy.  I know, of course, that no battle plan survives the first contact with the enemy.  But we should have a plan anyway.

Not that the mountain should be seen as an enemy.  It’s part of the journey, and the story, and therefore a friend.  And that’s an important start.  Write a thesis on The Mountain as Friend.

As you know, I live at the bottom of Hartside, the big climb on the C2C cycle route in England, and Hartside has been my training for the Alps.

So let’s think in terms of Hartsides, and approach the mountain accordingly.  6000ft is a little over four and a half Hartsides, all in one go.  Stage 1 – one Hartside.  Stage 2 – another Hartside.  Stage 3 – ditto.  By then I’ll be tired.  So two more stages, but only 1000ft each.

Twenty-five miles of steady uphill riding.  OK, ready?

Clotilde and Christophe waved me off early, after promises to return the visit.  I do hope they come.

The first Hartside is the easy one.  A fairly gentle climb up to Beaufort, where the magnificent local cheese comes from, and where a boulangerie hails and detains me.

Not for long, though.  It’s important to keep going.  This is where the real climbing begins.  But like the best French hills, it’s mostly steady.  Don’t think like an English hill.  There is no top to see.  Just set the GPS to show the gradient, and keep to the plan.

The third Hartside, through the trees, with occasional glimpses of other possibilities.  Until we reach the magnificent lake view, and everyone stops.  I should play something for the view.  The German motorbikers all want to video it.

As I’m packing up, some serious cyclists come by.  Why, by the way, has no serious cyclist overtaken me yet?  Where are they?

How much does all this weigh, they want to know; and where am I coming from, and going to?  I’ve got a second wind, so in jest I tell them we must be close enough to race to the top.

They laugh, and let me get 100m ahead.  But only two of them catch me, before I stop after a fourth Hartside.  Well, OK, they weren’t that serious.  Not like the six in team colours who came tearing down at 50mph, closely followed by their team car.  It takes a lot of skill to go that fast down a mountain.

Now then.  Neil and Marie have made a plan.  They catch up with me twenty minutes before the top.  At the top, while I play a complete Bach Suite, Neil gets out his stove.  Marie gets the wine, sits me in the deckchair, with the Beaufort cheese in front of me, while Neil cooks pasta, and sauce, and a couple of other things, and we dine splendidly on this most haute of hautes cuisines, 6500ft above sea level.

As the French say, pourquoi pas – why not?

A couple of hours later I’m tearing down the other side.  At a fairly sedate pace, actually; I don’t feel safe at all.  There are symphonies of brown cows, all with big bells round their necks.  There are views of snow.  There are cliffs of monstrous size.  There are hairpin bends fit for a James Bond film.

And then suddenly it’s all over, and I’m in Bourg St. Maurice, with nowhere to stay.

It’s early, so I set up on a quiet street, and for only the second time put out my notice saying I need somewhere to stay, and would you like a concert in your home tonight?

There are no takers for either, but the contributions in coin are generous.  So an hour later I set off in search of a little hotel, where Marie gives me a proper cellist’s discount, and invites me to play on the restaurant terrace later.

As the French say, pourquoi pas – why not?

2 thoughts on “Haute cuisine”

  1. sandy bradbrook

    What a lovely day to read about! We went to Bourg St Maurice many years ago as part of an Inntravel walking holiday. Beautiful!

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