France: Les Alpes (July 25 to 31, 2018)

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Taking a “step into the void” Whoa.

A few months after motorcycling around Corsica (see previous post), it was time for another road trip. This time, Mathieu and I decided to escape the summer heat in the Drôme Valley and explore the Alps!! – the highest and most extensive mountain range in Europe, stretching approximately 750 mi (1,200 km) across eight countries: France, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, and Slovenia [1]. 

Click HERE to go directly to the full photo album or click “Continue reading” to find out more about our 7-day adventure!

During our 7-day road trip, we visited our friends Serge and Maryse in the lakeside town of Aiguebelette and Mathieu’s friend Jeremy and his son Luca in the alpine town of Annecy. And of course, we visited magnificent mountains, including the famed Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest mountain.

In super touristy, but charming Chamonix, we took a 20-minute ride on le téléphérique (cable car) up the steep mountain face to get closer to the “white mountain”. From the highest terrace at 12,602 ft (3,842 m), we had amazing views of 15,781-ft (4,810-m) Mont Blanc and the surrounding mountains of the French, Swiss and Italian Alps. As we admired the views, we watched numerous groups of intrepid mountain climbers, roped together for safety, slowly climb up the snow-covered slopes toward the high peak. We also took a “step into the void” to experience the views from a small glass cage extending out over a 3,281-ft (1000-m) precipice. Wow!   

As we traveled along the small mountain roads to the city of Bourg-Saint Maurice by way of the quaint villages of Queige and Beaufort, we inadvertently retraced portions of the 2018 Tour de France route. It had only been about a week since the “Tour” went through the area and the decorations in the towns were still up. Our route also took us over two mountain passes frequently on the Tour:  the 7,743-ft (2,360 m) Col d’Izoard and the 8,678-ft (2,645-m) Col du Galibier. We shared the steep, curvy mountain roads with tons of dedicated cyclists, seemingly oblivious to the cold, the scattered rain, and the often gusty winds. Who knows, maybe we drove past the future winner of the Tour!  

We also visited 9,003-ft (2,744-m) Col d’Agnel straddling the French/Italian border. While not part of the Tour route, it’s the highest international pass in the Alps [2]. Despite this fun fact, the Col is somewhat unknown and not heavily used. Unfortunately the likely amazing views from the Col were obstructed by dense clouds, but it was fun to jump across the imaginary line for a brief visit into Italy.  

Along with touring through the mountains via cable car and car, we hiked, of course! On one cold and windy day, we hiked the “summer” trails in Tignes, a high-altitude ski resort, walking through the beautiful rocky landscape underneath empty chair-lifts and past grazing sheep. On another thankfully sunny day, we hiked through a wide, green valley to glacier de Rhême Golette, a large glacier in the beautiful Réserve naturelle de la Grande Sassière. And on another sunny day, we hiked up a wide, rocky valley to the Col du Lautaret‎ (6,752 ft; 2,058 m) in the Parc national des Écrins where we overlooked La Meije, the dramatic 13,071-ft (3,984-m) mountain we’d seen from our tent the night before.

Except for the two nights we stayed with friends, we wild camped. We found out-of-the-way spots off the road where we could park the car and set up our tiny, 2-person tent. One night we camped in a small roadside pull-out next to a small waterfall, another night we camped in a city park outside Chamonix (likely not allowed), another night we camped at a roadside picnic area where a herd of cows grazed on the hillside just above us, and another night we camped in a large, grassy field near Erik, a seasonal herder and his four dogs who were charged with moving a herd of sheep between pastures in the area. It was great to share a beer with him and hear about his interesting life, and to hang out with his great dogs.     

On the way home, we stopped at le Lac de Serre-Poncon for a refreshing (aka cleansing) swim. We swam, ate lunch, recounted our trip and watched the kite boarders zip by. We also watched what appeared to be a small rubber boat (like a Zodiac) attached to a motorized, hang-gliding rig fly overhead. Hmmm…a flying boat.

I love road trips! It’s always an adventure.

Here are a few pictures and a cool video. Click the link to see the full album of pictures and videos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/3oAuxQak3RQ3mPFW9

Enjoy!                  

[Next post:  My life in France. Stay tuned]

 

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