To our side there’s a load of mossy rock, looking every bit like a terrarium except without the being-small-and-in-glass-indoors bit.
The castle, up top, is shut. There are a few people hanging around. Apparently it doesn’t open until 2pm, presumably once all the staff have finished eating in one of the town restaurants. We’re not that bothered to wait around, especially as we expect there to not be much we’d understand – but also because the weather is so great, we want to exploit being out in the daylight.
The views in all directions are lovely, mountains everywhere. We make our way down a different steep hill than the one we started, though our progress is almost instantly delayed by the presence of animals.
Back in town we snake through a few passages we’d yet to take, going next to the Palais d’Isle - a building with a varied history including being a prison for a while. But still, with the weather being so good we opted to go past it. Forecast is for rain on Sunday so it’s a back up plan.
The city streets and market are heaving. As we stop to buy stuff in one of the shops, I’m wondering what the sticker on an adjacent lamppost means. It has the EU circle of stars, the word FREXIT, and a big cross. Is this pro-Frexit, crossing out the EU? Or anti-Frexit, crossing out the word? Whoever they are they need better visual design.
Having failed to find anywhere that would sell me a Coke Zero, and being a bit dehydrated, Helen offers me the option instead of having some mulled wine. Go on then.
Well that was all quite good. Back by the city we walk round the grass next to the historic 1906 merry go round, which is merrily going round but not particularly photogenic. Beyond that we’re back where we started.
As expected, town is crazily busy. In the market we make a beeline for the man selling aligot, not that we are quite sure what it is yet. Turns out it’s a big stodgy mix of mashed potato, garlic, and cheese. Because of course. We share the smallest size they do, Helen can barely have a third of it. It’s not light food.
We avail ourselves of some vin chaud blanc and go sit outside the market, on a bench by the touristy boats at what counts as a “port” around here. Helen is DESPERATE that we go on a boat trip on Sunday, having seen how great the lake is.
Less pleasingly, she absolutely cannot cope with the crowds as we attempt to walk back through it so bollocks, we cross the river and walk through that bit of the old town with all the closed restaurants again. By now it’s just gone 4 o’clock, which means it’s beer o’clock, and we walk to Beer o’Clock.
It’s empty enough that we have a choice of seats, but that’s of secondary concern to figuring out how we actually drink. Upon entering, we see 12 beer taps... not behind a bar. There is a counter, next to fridges full of loads of bottles and cans, but the draft stuff is self-service, it seems. Uh, OK. The barman is super helpful, explaining to us how it all works: we buy one of those cards above, onto which we load money. Then, at each tap, you put the card in this little NFC slot and the screen shows you how much credit you’ve got left.
Then, you pour beer into your glass and as you do so the credit goes down while the cl you’ve poured goes up. The screen even displays your name; when he asks if I have a nickname I say no, just Darren, so on the screen when we get beer it says “JUST DARREN”. Ha.
Here’s me pouring the house pilsner.
I fucking love this. After the pilsner I drink them out of the porter - because there’s only 10cl left in the tap, boo - and then an IPA. Helen has a kriek then a Berliner Weiss sour, then back to the kriek. Because of how the system works, we spend precisely the €20 loaded onto the card – though had we not drank it all, any credit left on it is valid for another year (and that year resets each time you go back in).
Also, right, I use Untappd to check my beers in – and my personal rule has forever been that I can only check in a beer if I drink a quantity that can be bought in its own right. And here, I can buy tiny amounts! Woohoo!
Because we’ve been carrying a bag of stuff around all afternoon, and since the hotel is nearby, we again pop back to our room before heading out for an evening meal. We reckon we understand things now: it’s about 6.45pm when we leave and restaurants all open at 7pm. So by being early, we should be good to get a seat.
Our preferred venue is Le Freti, because I’d looked at its website a couple of weeks ago and they have 16 types of fondue on the menu. Fuck yes fondue.
There’s a few people hanging around in what could possibly be called a queue. Hmm. There are other choices nearby, so we poke our head around the corner through an alleyway at another place that caught our eye - Le Chalet. But, oh my god, that had a queue of like 30 people or so. Shit, do people really queue up for the grand 7pm opening of restaurants around here?
Back at Le Freti we decide the answer to that question is yes, because by now there’s a genuine queue of 12 people or so. We join it, and behind us it grows rapidly. At about 7.01pm a waiter starts to let people in, firing rapid questions at each group in the queue. How many people? OK. Have you booked? OK. If not booked, you have to sit outside and there will be NO RACLETTE. OK that’s fine by us.
Lo and behold, we’re seated outside next to a heater (mercifully). All the tables bar one fill up rapidly, and by 7.15pm disgruntled folk are getting turned away. Having got everyone sat down, the waiter then rushes around with ruthless efficiency, in exactly the order from the queue, handing out menus then taking drinks orders then delivering drinks then taking food orders then delivering food. It’s so damn frenetic but brilliantly done.
We get a wine, a beer, and the house fondue. Because, I repeat, fuck yes fondue.
There are options which come with weird stuff like potatoes and salad and charcuterie, but ours is just fondue and the exactly right amount of bread to eat the whole damn lot. It’s AMAZING.