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Published: July 30th 2009
After our dramatic change of plans, we spent two days driving North towards the French Alps. This trip saw us stopping at the Verdon Gorges
for a swim in the coldest water I have ever been in. It was almost glacial but felt fantastic after sitting in the van all morning. Even though it was a long drive, as soon as we left the coast behind, we also left the traffic and felt instantly more relaxed.
Our overnight stop was a lake somewhere before the start of the Alps. It appeared over the hill and was the most amazing shade of blue. We couldn’t wait to dive in but the water near the camp where we stayed was quite murky so we didn’t actually end up swimming there!
After another long day of driving, we crossed a beautiful mountain pass and started our Alpine adventures. Good old Brian just keeps going and is coping okay with the Alps so far. Keep it up Brian. You can do it!
Our destination couldn’t have been better. Using our ‘Aires of France’ book, we found an Aire (free-ish camp) in an amazing spot about 45 minutes away from Chamonix. This has
to be one of the best Aires we have seen and amazingly enough it wasn’t even half full! It is situated in a little ski village that is surrounded by hiking trails, bike paths and winter ski runs. There is also a para-gliding centre, a pony trekking centre, a toilet (useful!) and a high wire course. We had a direct view of Mont Blanc, could hike straight from the van and go and see the ponies each night. Perfect. All this for 6 euro per night!
The first night we were treated to the most intense storm imaginable. Ohmygod! Poor Brian was lashed with bursts of torrential rain, continuous lightening and the most terrifying thunder I have ever heard. We lay in the van, huddled under the blankets, praying that Brian wouldn’t be the one to be struck by lightening. I’m sure this would have been a terrifying storm had we been tucked up inside a house but being exposed in a van in on a mountain side was very, very freaky!
We decided to take advantage of day of mild weather the next day and set out on an excellent all day walk that took us up
to 2200 metres. It was uphill all the way but we made a pretty good effort of it and finished it within the recommended time. It was one of the prettiest walks we have ever done - passing by forests, lakes, alpine meadows filled with wild flowers, streams, snow capped mountains, sheep with bells and loads of butterflies. Absolutely everything a good walk should have!
After two nights in our little mountain site, we decided to head down the Chamonix Valley and rejoin the rest of the world. We wandered around the village, gaped at the ski jackets costing1860 euros (who on earth buys this stuff?) and ate ice cream. We found a campground and caught up on some much needed showering and laundry!
Up at 6:30 the next morning to be on one of the first cable cars up to see the Mont Blanc
range. This was a pricey little excursion at 80 euros but something I guess you have to do while here. The views were pretty amazing and I’m glad we got in early to enjoy it without thousands of others. The cable car is an amazing feat of engineering. We watched others set off
with their ropes across the ice and snow and felt a slight twinge of guilt at taking the cable car. Although the -3 temperature and the pain in our legs from the previous days walks made me feel secretly glad!
We also visited another gorge today that is well known for its waterfalls. It was a nice gentle hours walk and was a good way to gently stretch the muscles in our legs again! Tomorrow we are leaving waving goodbye to France for a while and heading up across the border into Switzerland. First stop being the Matterhorn and possibly the Boisson Glacier that I am sitting directly across from as I type this. It is absolutely amazing and looks close enough to touch. I wonder if it looks as impressive up close?
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