Into the Heart of the Alps

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Bonne Anniversaire! June 19, 2013

Bob picked the most perfect place to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary!  The Chateau de Picomtal is in the Hautes-Alpes, close to where we stopped hiking in 2011.  So you know the views are incredible.

Chateau de Picomtal

Our room is in the original tower of the chateau, built in 1080 by the Knights of Embrun, who had been exiled by the Archbishop.  The knights purchased land outside the town of Embrun, put up a wooden watchtower and created an alternate power base by building their own town.  The tower, rebuilt out of stone in the 13th century, became the cornerstone of the first chateau in the 14th century, which was then expanded around 1505.  The chateau has had multiple owners since and had fallen into disrepair.  The current chatelains (Sharon and Jacques) purchased the chateau around 2000 and have totally renovated the building and the grounds.  The town of Crots, just below the chateau, remains inhabited with several artisan purveyors (bread, sausages, pottery) and a restaurant.

Sharon and Jacques have been taking great care of us.  Espresso whenever you want it, afternoon sweet treats, a drink to cool off in the hot sun, maps of the area, hiking suggestions, romantic dinner reservations -- we are totally pampered.  We cannot recommend Chateau de Picomtal enough for your next romantic rendezvous!

12th century abbey

Visited a 12th century abbey today that was a most amazing place.  Everything (chapel, monastery, cloister) was built from stone by hand (stone was quarried by hand, brought done from the mountains to the building site by hand, hewn into different sized bricks by hand, etc.).  The design of all parts of the abbey was simple, yet intentional to bring light into interior spaces.  I think my favorite space was a small chapel devoted to "silence and peace."  All buildings surrounded a garden and water fountain, the only source of running water for abbey inhabitants to this day.  Since 1972, a resident religious community has been renovating the abbey and leading activities for overnight guests.

Finished off a most wonderful day with dinner at L'Auberge du Moulin, a farm restaurant serving only local foods without a menu. All guests ate the same five-course meal (with aperitif and wine) -- terrine on peasant bread, mushroom bake with tomato coulis, roast duck and vegetables, ricotta-type cheese with fruit purees, choice of dessert. Good thing we've been walking plenty every day since we got here ...
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