October 5th, 2019

 

Mont Blanc, looking like a watercolor painting

By Veronica Vale

For years, I would drive down the road to our little A-Frame on the way back from my job at Gallery MAR, humming The Sound of Music’s “Edelweiss.” My then-fiance and I lived in Midway, UT on Edelweiss Lane in a small town known for its Alp-themed everything. We dreamed of the day we could visit our beloved home’s namesake: the land of the Edelweiss flowers.

The view from our home on Edelweiss Lane in Midway, UT

For our wedding, we opted out of registering for gifts. We had no need for a toaster or a new china set. Instead, we registered for experiences: Two croissants and cappuccinos in Paris: $25; A tram ride to the top of Mont Blanc in Chamonix (we’ll even promise to shout your name from the mountaintops!): $75.

We dreamed of the day we could visit our beloved home’s namesake: the land of the Edelweiss flowers.

Almost a year after we said “I do,” we were finally in a position to say “Au revoir” as we jet set off to the French honeymoon of our dreams. Hopefully all those half-hearted Duolingo French lessons we crammed in were about to pay off. Now all that stood between us and paradise was a plane ride, hours of train rides through the French countryside, a rather important missed stop, a few incredibly helpful train workers in small-town, Evian (turns out wild gesturing, Google translate, and a smile can get you anywhere), and an unexpected late night detour.

Finally, we arrived, exhausted and grateful in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc. Stepping off that final train felt like walking out of reality and into a shimmering painting. The foggy romanticism of the clouds rolling over the mountains of faded hues was something straight out of a Bridgette Meinhold painting. Surely, those peaks are encased in layers of encaustic?

The view from our Air B&B in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, complete with an espresso and chocolate croissant

Bridgette Meinhold, “A Feeling In the Air,” encaustic, 36″ x 54″

Stepping off that final train felt like walking out of reality and into a shimmering painting.

Every scene in Chamonix felt all at once, exotic and familiar. These brilliant night lights and bustling shops, contrasting with the majestic hush of the mountain backdrop made me ache with nostalgia for those Park City nights. Or perhaps I was simply recalling a painting I’d seen before… something by Aaron Memmott or maybe Glen Hawkins.

Looking into the valley of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc from the Aiguille du Midi cable car

Glen Hawkins, “Park City Landscape,” oil, 16″ x 44″

Aaron Memmott, “Winter’s Wall,” oil, 14″ x 12″

In the morning, the abundance of bright, sunny flowers in the valley reminded us that it was summer, but the mountaintops told a different story. These mountains whispered of winter, leaving traces of ski runs etched down their sides.

The snowy French Alps, with traces of ski runs, in beautiful discord with the valley’s meadow of flowers

I love imagining the scene above of Mont Blanc, in full winter-mode like in Jonathan Julien’s painting, “Good Day Grooming,” oil, 30″ x 30.”

We rode up to the top of the Aiguille du Midi to behold Mont Blanc for ourselves (and to inhale the freshest, crispest air I ever breathed). The view that awaited us was that of a watercolor painting, with its freshly reserved whites and its delicately textured shadows. Looking back at photos, even I doubt the credulity. No place actually looks like that… clearly this is a green screen, right?

The breathtaking view from the top of Aiguille du Midi

Walking through the shops in the valley, I contemplated how many souvenirs, vintage ski posters, and paintings I could realistically bring back in my one carry-on suitcase. If only the patrons of these shops could see the work of Fred Calleri – how they would swoon!

Fred Calleri, “Foot Prints,” oil, 20″ x 10″

After several days of hiking, lift riding, pastry eating, and French drinking (the holy trinity of wine, champagne, and cappuccinos, of course), it was time for our next stop on our Voyage de Noces: the quaint town of Annecy – self-described as the “Venice of France.”

The alpine city, Annecy, at dusk

Swans and paddle boats dot the rivers of Annecy

A swan on turquoise waters, staring into my soul (or asking for bread)

Fresh flowers and crystal clear rivers add to Annecy’s charm

This storybook town had perfected the art of escapism with its crystal blue and green waters, flower boxes on every corner, castles on the mountainsides, and swans floating through every river. I was shocked we didn’t find fairies twinkling in the night sky. Lake Annecy’s water was as vibrant and clear as a textured streak from a Sarah Winkler painting (hint to our collectors: what a commission idea that would be!).

Swimming through Lake Annecy, referred to as “the cleanest lake in Europe”

Sarah Winkler, “Turquoise Lake,” Mixed Media, 20″ x 20″

After Annecy cast its fairytale spell on us, it was time to end our trip in the iconic heart of France. Only Paris can get away with being this breathtaking in the rain. We only had a weekend to act as Parisian as we could (because nothing screams “local” like my DSLR camera and incessant picture taking).

The view from our hotel in Paris

Strolling through the courtyard of the Louvre in the rain

Channeling my inner Fred Calleri painting in front of the Louvre

My style inspiration for Paris: Fred Calleri’s, “Big Dreams,” oil, 24″ x 18″

We walked to the Louvre, sipped wine along the Seine, tried our first crème brulee (a religious experience), and kissed in front of the Eiffel Tower (because you know I wasn’t about to leave my honeymoon in Paris without that picture). All in all, our honeymoon was – and please excuse my French – magique.

My husband and I kissing in front of the Eiffel Tower (thank you self-timing cameras!)