We spent a fabulous Saturday morning and afternoon enjoying “la 43ème édition de la fête du retour des alpages” (the 43rd organized celebration of the return from the Alps). Essentially, when the cattle come back from the pastures, where they spend the summer, the return to the valleys is symbolized by this festival, which stems from the Middle Ages! The streets of Annecy were filled with traditional crafts and tradespeople, folk dancers and music, and local foods, including traditional Savoyard dishes, including the tasty tartiflette dish made with potatoes, reblochon cheese (local), bacon, and onions.
While walking through the streets of the old city, an older gentleman called G over and asked if she and her brother would be interested in folk dancing. (L, before knowing exactly what was being asked, took cover behind Mike.) As we learned more, we realized that he wasn’t talking about a quick spin in the street. He was teasing the kids, wondering if they’d be interested in joining their group and traveling around with them. He asked where we were from in the U.S. When we told him Minnesota, he went on to tell us how he lived in St. Paul for a time (on Summit Ave.) many years ago, while he was teaching at Hamline and then returned later (after living in Colorado) to teach at Macalester because he liked Minnesota so much! His wife sweetly helped the kids and I choose some hand carved needle/thimble/spool tools. (Below is a picture of he and his wife with the kids and then later walking in the parade.)
Later in the afternoon, we watched people from various villages dressed in period costumes as they played traditional music and paraded animals, including geese, cows, St. Bernards, donkeys, horses, goats, and sheep, through the streets of Annecy! The start of the parade was heralded by the beautiful sounds of the alphorn. (The kind used in commercials for Ricola cough drops. :). )
We had the pleasure of standing next to a woman whose family has lived in the Haute-Savoie region since the 1600’s! She and G had a marvelous time chatting while we waited for the parade to start and all through the whole parade. (She did mention that the region is known for being quite chatty, which resonated with me, having been described as chatty once or twice before!! 🙂 ) While I caught on to some of the conversation, the two of them had much more fun just chit chatting without worrying about translating for me. 🙂
As a side note, she let us know when a high-up official in the French parliament ended up standing right next to us that it was a big deal. 🙂 He was very pleasant and after hearing G and our new friend, Therese, speaking for a bit, turned to G and told her how well she spoke French. Listening to the kids speak and seeing how much they understand as they translate for us just never gets old. I’m not sure that I’ll ever be able to speak/understand French as well as they do, but I’m so happy that they both can confidently speak another language!
We ended the day by having dinner at Frenchy – know for their “burgers from New York made in France.” These were the first hamburgers we’ve had since leaving the U.S., and they were worth the wait! We were greeted by the manager, Raphaël, who went through the whole menu with us, which was written on a giant chalkboard. The burgers were covered with bacon, sauce, lettuce, onions, local cheese and served with homemade fries. They were just plain delicious! I actually had the chicken sandwich because it sounded too good to pass up — chicken marinated in coconut milk and baked in cornflakes, served with lettuce, sauce and homemade fries. It was magnifique!