A passion of mine is photography and my best friend Mark is a professional photographer and over the years I travelled with him on occasions as his assistant (not a glamorous one just an assistant). Recently we travelled for a week through Switzerland and France. The shoot was for the travel operator Contiki. Contiki specialise in coach tours across many regions of the world for 18-35 year olds. A Contiki tour is a long established right of passage especially for Antipodeans and now grown up siblings of clients who met on Contiki tours 20 odd years ago are also now doing the tours themselves.
We spent 4 days in the Beaujolais region of France which not having visited before completely wowed me. The scenery is fabulous, reminiscent of South East England but without the traffic. Instead stunning sandstone villages and castles nestle amongst wooded hills. Tidy yet tiny little vineyards meander gently down the hillsides and there are wine cellars everywhere to visit. Our best mission had to be atop the highest hill in the area at dusk, where we created a very chilled scene of holiday makers (models) relaxing by a camp fire listening to one of the Contiki reps playing his guitar. All make believe but the shots were great. Mind you at 11pm in the pitch dark scrabbling back to base down a steep and rocky path laden down with props is a sure way to get the adrenaline flowing yet we all made it down safely.
Then a day in the Rhone valley near Hermitage to do some promotional shots for a chateau hotel Contiki use for guests in the area. Here we came up against some real Gallic logic. We were a crew of 10 people there at the hotel at Contikis expense to promote the owners hotel for him, we had been on the road for hours and so to keep costs down we had stopped at a supermarket and bought ourselves a picnic. The hotel sits in acres of parkland so we thought we could find a shady spot have a bite to eat then work all day to help the owners business. Oh NO! Only paying guests were allowed to picnic in the grounds and we were told to eat elsewhere and then come back to take the photos.
The owner is very proud of his crumbling old hotel that he took 3 of the crew on a tour which included the ancient but open and stinky sewage system deep underground (why?) Then he led them to the base of a Rapunzle like tower and persuaded them all to climb in the pitch dark to the top. After a long climb they reasonably expected a pretty view from the top but instead again in Gallic style the owner told them there was no key for the door and they would have to go back down in the dark again.
Then off to Switzerland and as the Art Director (another Mark) had cleverly brought walkie-talkies both cars played each other at lots of silly games which at one point had me singing the female part to The Dirty Dancing theme song. I-Spy followed with our car getting stuck on ‘C’ with the clue being a place to live, couse, capartment, clat, were all wrong and the answer was of course chalet.
It rained the whole time in Switzerland which was a shame as we were based near Interlaken in the Alps and so only had brief glimpses of the towering snow clad mountains. The highlight was our visit to the Trummelbach water falls. The melt waters of the mighty glaciers of the Eiger, Monk and Jungfrau mountains all pass through the falls with tremendous thundering force. Each year the melt waters drag with them over 20,000 tonnes of broken rock through the falls so helping the constant sculpting of the mountain. The clever Swiss have built a perpendicular lift inside the mountain and then created walking tunnels so that the force of nature can be truly and very wetly appreciated.The falls are a UNESCO World Heritage site and well worth a visit http://www.truemmelbach.ch