Viva la France! Road-trip Foolishness Pt. 6: Chamonix

The crowning jewel of our trip to France was Chamonix.

Chamonix, located near where the borders of France, Switzerland, and Italy meet, is a resort-town. We drove in mid-afternoon and spent the evening wandering around finding dinner before heading to bed for an early night.

In the morning I woke up, made some coffee, and bundled up to go sit on the balcony and enjoy the view of Mont-Blanc, the highest summit in France. Once everyone was up, a few of us walked over to the cable-car that would take us up the mountain. The cable car was cheaper than was listed on the website, and ended up costing us only 15 euros round trip.

If you’re making the hike up to Lac Blanc, I highly suggest taking the cable car to cut time off of your trip up the mountain. The hike up (sans cable car,) is barren, boring, difficult, and quite frankly, a waste of time. You would have to wake up hella hella early to even make it to the Lac Blanc refuge at the end of the hike, and even then you may get there after dark. So, be smart, and take the cable car.

Our early-morning hike was pretty interesting, as it was extremely cloudy. I didn’t mind, and neither did my companions, as the higher we went, the thinner the clouds became and leT ME TELL YOU, there are fewer things as sublime as hiking the side of a mountain and looking over your shoulder to see a break in the clouds and THERE THEY ARE, THE MIGHTY AND MAJESTIC ALPS. It was like peek-a-boo, only epic instead of weird.

The hike up to Lac Blanc Refuge wasn’t too difficult, the hardest part being the incline at the beginning. Now, I’m not the most active person, as I’m just mostly on my feet all day and I run some mornings (I’m not a marathon runner–hell, I’m not even a mile runner,) so when I say it is do-able, I really mean it. There is a part of the hike where you have to rock scramble up, but as long as you have the proper shoes the worst that will happen is you get a nice leg workout.

When we reached the refuge, the cloud cover pretty much cleared up, and we were able to take in panoramic views with our own eyes and cameras.

We hung out at the refuge for a while, ate some granola bars and apples, and took lots and lots of selfies. Eventually we knew we had to hike back down to the cable car, as it stops running at a certain time and we did not want to be stranded in the French Alps. The hike down took a while, as we had to be careful coming back down the rocks, and that incline from the start of our hike became the craziest decline– I definitely slipped on my ass a few times, and I wasn’t alone.

We ended up having to wait in line for about 45 minutes to catch the cable car down, mais c’est la vie. My group and I kept taking turns to hold our place in line to take pictures, and when you’re in the company of friends, 45 minutes waiting for a cable car in one of the most beautiful places in the world isn’t bad at all.

When we got back down to the bottom of the mountain, we walked back to town to meet up with the rest of our group. As we debated our dinner choices, we stopped and saw an aerial performance mother-daughter duo, who were using bungees to do stunts in the spaces between buildings. It was a little thing that made an already special day that much more excellent.

We all stayed up talking before we went to bed that evening, and the next morning we woke up to explore the town some more and do some last minute souvenir shopping. We came across an older gentleman who was selling dog key chains, except they were made out of pipe-cleaners and the man made them himself. I practiced my French a little because I wanted to get his photograph, and I opened the conversation with “Hello, how are you today?” and he just responded with “No, don’t ask me that!” I laughed and he let me take his picture when I asked. Not the best quality image, but still one of my favorites from the trip.

After our shopping trip we had to leave this gorgeous place and make the drive to Lyon. We were genuinely sad to leave and most of us shared that we would definitely make an effort to return and spend more time in the area.  So, if you’re ever in the east of France, check out Chamonix. There are hikes for everyone, skiing, and a charming town with an old guy making awesome key chains.

Safe Travels, and Happy Shooting!

Viva la France! Road-trip Foolishness Pt. 4: Tours, Cher River, & Auvergne

If you are ever crazy enough to take a road-trip through France, a good place to stop is Tours. It’s known for the Loire River Valley, which a lot of people stop through to see all kinds of fantastic castles. For us, Tours was a stop between traveling from Mont Saint Michel to Marseilles.

We got in to Tours from MSM at about 7PM, where we found our AirBnB and crashed for the night. The next day we decided to go exploring, walking around and getting lost. We stopped in some small mall to look for a swimsuit and some tennis shoes, and we found the Cathedrale Saint-Gatien, which was one of the most beautiful churches I have been in.

My group and I wanted to see some sort of castle, but we weren’t too keen on doing a castle tour. I looked into our options and I found the perfect thing– kayaking around Chateau de Chenonceau. We booked in advance with Canoe Company. Now, they don’t really have online booking, but if you are traveling internationally and email in advance, they will reserve a spot for you and you can pay on arrival.

We really had a magical kayaking trip down the Cher River. We arrived at around 4PM and the four of us were split into two canoes. The trip towards the chateau was really funny, as we were shit-talking each other and kinda racing. I say kinda because we were actually a hot-mess, trying to coordinate our paddling to move forward. One of the highlights was when we got up to the chateau and were able to kayak underneath it and back. IT WAS SO BALLER.

On our way back, we noticed a field of sunflowers on the shore. We dragged our canoes up the bank and spent a good amount of time frolicking, taking lots of pictures and avoiding bumble bees. The sun was beginning to set so the light was perfect. To top it all off, hot-air balloons were inflating in the distance. It was one of those afternoons where things just got better and better, where everything felt like a dream and my non-stop smile made my face ache in a pleasant way.

Once we docked, we headed back to our AirBnB where pasta was made, laundry was finished, and sleeping commenced. We woke up very early the next morning for our 9-hour drive to the south coast of France and to the gorgeous city of Marseilles– but before we get there, I have to tell you all about a little place off of the beaten path in Auvergne.

Our half-way marker was at the Jonas Caves in Saint-Pierre-Colamine. The caves, also known as Grottes de Jonas, were an ancient troglodyte village back in the 14th century. It was a bit of a drive up the mountains to get to it, but it was so neat to get out of the car, stretch our legs, and explore caves that people used to sleep, eat, bake their bread, and die of the plague in. There were stairs and doorways and windows and lots of picture opportunities. Additionally, there were faux animals along the mountainside, so if you’re into kitsch, 10/10 highly recommend.

If you decide to visit, know that there is a chance no one will speak English. When my group and I went, the lady at the tour office spoke only French, and the signs on the pathway were also in French. It was fine for my group, since 3/4 of us spoke the language. However, it’s very easy to mime wanting a ticket (which was like 3 euros.) Even though you may not be able to understand the signs, it is still a really cool experience and if you’re like me and crazy about photo ops, there are plenty to be had.

So that is the half-way point of our road trip across France. Keep an eye out for our adventures in Marseilles, Chamonix, and finally Lyon.

Safe Travels and Happy Shooting!