Marie Francoise had suggested that we should be ready to leave on an excursion to Sion by 9:30 am. We started about 7:30 am to shower, breakfast and get ready and could easily have been ready by 9:00 am if necessary. When our hosts had not appeared by 9:40 am Majella began to wonder whether the arrangement might have been for us to go to them. We set off in the car but had gone no further than the first corner when they appeared so we doubled back. They had been delayed by one or other of the demands on their time common to living in the Cure, even when officially on vacation.
We distributed ourselves between two cars with consideration to who might be able to communicate. Majella and Joel rode with Michel who speaks French and German. I rode with Marie Francoise and Roland who speak French with sufficient English that we can communicate the essentials. We headed off to Sion, a short drive west along the Rhone valley. There we parked and walked into the old city.
It was beginning to rain but not so much that it caused us any problem. Roland and Michel slipped away to check on the opening times for the attractions that we might see and discovered that we might need to wait until 11:00 am so we were conducted to a restaurant where we had drinks – coffee for Majella, Roland and me, tonic water for Marie Francoise and Michel, and hot chocolate for Joel.
By the time we were ready to move on, the rain had stopped. We walked up the hill to the Chateau Valere which had been the home of the bishop and, although the museum was closed for renovation, found plenty to interest us in the expansive views of the Rhone valley and the old buildings. The organ in the basilica is the oldest in the world and is still played for special occasions.
We came down by a different route and exited into the busy centre of Sion where a street market was in progress. Roland and Michel had slipped off part way down to the centre and soon arrived with the cars to convey us to lunch at Ferme Asile, a restaurant which is operated as part of a training project in support of the unemployed. The lunch menu offered a choice of spaghetti bolognaise or paella. We all opted for paella, with sangria to drink for all but Joel who had Coke instead. The paella was good, spicy but not too strong, with mussels and prawns. We finished with coffee and dessert for those who felt the need and then spent some time viewing an exhibition of art work before going on our way. The exhibition was very ‘artistic’ and largely incomprehensible. Joel summed it up as ‘self indulgent’.
Our next stop was a lake nestled in the foothills behind Sion. The nature reserve included a walking tack around the lake around which we walked slowly, enjoying the flowers and the water fowl, and an educational display, intended primarily fo school children, housed in a building which had originally been used to store ice harvested from the lake in winter for use in cooling beer. The display had some interesting historical material about the Valais area although much of it was lost on me because of my limited ability to read French.
From there we headed back to Sierre on the high road, over the mountain via Crans-Montana, playground of the rich and famous. As we headed up the mountain we stopped for drinks at a bar just above Sion. After a couple of stops along the way for photographs over the valley, we reached Serafino about 5:00 pm. Marie Francoise advised us that they would be back at 7:00 pm to prepare and share dinner.
Dinner comprised couscous accompanied by smoked salmon, salami, potatoes, salad, olives, and bread with cheese, wine, ice cream, coffee and schnapps to follow. About the same time as we sat down to eat, the promised storm arrived with wind, thunder, lightning and rain. By the standards of Queensland storms it was relatively tame but it did bring a cool change that made us appreciate the schnapps even more than usual. Sometime after 9:00 pm our hosts departed, promising to be back at 10:00 am next day for another round of activity.