Elephants?

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Having had little in the way of camping options the last night, we woke up on the side of a mountain which for once required not much more than a descent to arrive back in the river valley that we so enjoyed yesterday.  We rolled out of our campsite to the sound of the sheep’s bells clinking once again and rolled through what seemed to be a ski town busy with people shopping and setting off on hikes through the always-charming narrow streets.

We rounded the mountain to descend down a canyon into the river valley, though the sun had not quite crested the walls, so we froze our butts off.  The canyon was beautiful though – it had a clear blue river running alongside the road, and the walls were either cliff or steep embankments with really dense foliage.  To top it all off, we had a dedicated bike lane pretty much the entire way.  That is one thing I will say about France – the bike lanes are awesome.  At least in the busy or heavily touristed areas there seem to be lanes going everywhere.

After sufficiently freezing and enjoying the scenery amidst the several starts and stops of road construction, we finally emerged out of the mouth of the canyon into the beautiful sun.  It seems highly ironic how much we crave the sun in the mornings, but after an hour or two it is too hot and all we want is shade.

The rest of the ride into Chambery was uneventful, though we were glad we got an early start since the sun is HOT here.  We thought that as we headed north that we would hit cool temperatures throughout a majority of our trip.  While the air tends to be fairly cool here (high 60s and very low 70s), in the sun it is uncomfortably warm – especially given that we can’t pedal fast enough on our heavy bikes to generate enough wind to cool us down.

We arrived in Chambery with a plan to spend the day seeing the city before heading west toward Edouard and Aude’s home.  Chambery is a delightful little city.  It is very clean, with some great atmosphere in the smaller streets in the center of the city.  We first found ourselves at the Fountain of Elephants, which is pretty cool as far as a fountain goes.  Since that of course did not take much time, we then spent the day tracking down some awesome sandwiches on baguettes, catching up on comments and email at the local Quick – a fast food restaurant with WiFi- and wandering the streets on our bicycles.

Before heading toward Edouard and Aude’s, we set out in search of tarte large enough for the family of four.  It proved surprisingly difficult as we probably looked through 2 grocery stores and probably 4 bakeries before we found one that would suffice.  Citron Tarte carefully packed into my rear pannier, we set off toward the massively steep hill that Edouard warned us about to reach his home.  Bree reminded me the entire way to try not to hit any bumps that might damage the fragile tart.

When Edouard said that it would be a climb, we figured that it would be difficult.  What we found though, was a climb that verged on impossible.  It was late afternoon by the time we took the trek up the hill, and the day had turned hot with no cloud cover.  The hill started at a reasonable 5 – 8%, but that didn’t stick.  By the time it hit 15%, Breeanne thought she was going to have an aneurysm, and I was completely granny-geared and out of my seat.  After many rests, and a small amount of pushing on Breeanne’s part as her front wheel was lifting off of the ground, we made it up to the gentler roads that meandered through fields of hay bales, and finally arriving at Edouard and Aude’s home, a bit red faced and still breathing hard.

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