At the beginning of October, about a week after the folks left, we really put the RV through the wringer. Technically, the RV slept two adults and three children. Huntley and I slept in the only permanent bed, located above the RV’s cab.
Below us, we had a dining table that converted into a bed slightly wider than a twin, but its length was better suited for little people, legless adults, or small children. Parallel to the dining area sat a sofa that also converted into a bed. This bed slept an adult fairly well as long as said adult remained stationary throughout the night.
Undeterred, we gathered our friends for the next adventure. The same day Sandy and Chad departed Venice, James arrived in Venice. For twelve hours, James enjoyed the luxury of having the RV’s convertible sleeping arrangements to himself.
James’ comfort was short lived. The next day, we drove from Venice back to our favorite little town on Lago di Garda, Malcesine. Along the way, we picked up two more friends, Brad and Kerry. James claimed the sofa bed, and since they had no other option, Brad and Kerry claimed the midget bed.
Bedtime was an absolute riot that felt like a slumber party for adults. If one person wanted to go to bed, all five of us went to bed. When one person woke up to pee in the middle of the night, we’d all wake up to pee. Brad talked in his sleep, so the first conversation every morning centered around what Brad said the previous night. In the morning when we wanted out of bed, we had to take turns because there wasn’t enough space for us all to get up at once. Basically, we looked like a clown-car.
The clown-car remained in Malcesine for a few days. The foggy weather that plagued my and Huntley’s first visit lifted. Brad and Huntley enjoyed a couple of beautiful days paragliding over the lake. James, the newest paraglider of the bunch, opted to hang out with the girls.
After a few days in the Malcesine sun, we packed up and drove to Courmayeur, Italy. Courmayeur beckoned Brad and Huntley as it sits under Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak. By the time we left Courmayeur, Brad and Huntley bagged Mont Blanc twice with their paragliders.
From Courmayeur, the five of us drove up the Mont Blanc pass on the Italian side and down the pass on the French side. To celebrate our first night in France, we bought about five liters worth of boxed, French chardonnay. James provided the evening’s entertainment by performing a rather colorful, card trick show. It was a night of silliness I won’t soon forget.
The next morning, we rolled into one of my favorite spots of the entire trip: Annecy, France. Annecy, with its gorgeous lake and fall-colored foothills that kissed the feet of the Alps, charmed us.
Sadly, James’ stay in Annecy was brief, but the rest of us enjoyed that town for more than a week. Brad and Huntley spent their favorite afternoons exploring with their paragliders; Kerry and I spent ours exploring with our running shoes. I’d been a casual runner since my high school cross country days, and I’d always thought the runner’s high was nonsense. But in Annecy, I began to understand that high. There were wonderful surprises around every corner. One minute, my feet crunched through the fall leaves that covered the forest bed; the next, they carried me by a castle, complete with peacocks meandering the castle’s maze.
A favorite day in Annecy was the day we introduced Brad and Kerry to via ferratas. The hike started out all daisies and roses, but about a mile in, it stopped playing around. The trail forced us to strap in when we came to a canyon that could only be crossed by way of two cables suspended from one end of the canyon to the next. Since I’d already done this over a waterfall, I felt comfortable with this tiniest of bridges. And that’s the last time I recall feeling comfortable. After we crossed the canyon, we strapped ourselves into a cable that disappeared around the corner of an enormous rock face. At first, I wasn’t too concerned as I couldn’t see where the cable headed. After we rounded the corner, I didn’t much care for what I saw. We were headed up. Straight up.
Somewhere in the middle of the cliff I’d strapped myself to, I fought off a panic attack. I’d past the point of no return. It would be harder to back myself down than it would be to continue. Plus, going backwards meant looking down, and looking down was a bad idea. I had no choice but to keep climbing.
When we finally reached the top, we celebrated our feat with a picnic. And I breathed a sigh of relief when I realized the way back down required no safety equipment.
At the end of October, it was a bittersweet goodbye we gave Annecy. Kerry had to go back to work. I felt the pull of the Mediterranean. In the words of Tom Petty, it was “Time to move on, time to get going.”