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France

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France

French FlagIn September 2012, we took a three-week vacation to visit parts of France. We spent our time in the Alps, Haute Alps, Provence, and the Pyrenees. I don't think we could have asked for a more perfect time to visit.

Savines-le-Lac

We spent four brilliant days around Savines-le-Lac at the Hotel des Chaumettes. Our view of the lake was perfect pretty much everyday we were there. I went rock climbing one morning, and the two of us explored the cities, an abbey, and the hills nearby.

Climbing. I spent a morning with Charles, a french guide who lives near Mont-Dauphin.  We went up to a spot of the D638 on the west side of the Durance River. We had four hours out in the monring before packing it in. None of the climbs were terribly long. I just top roped them all. The common piece of advice that Charles gave me for each climb: "trust your feet." I've heard that many a time ... I've got commitment issues.   

Hiking. We went for a hike not far from St. Apollinaire.  The sky was gorgeous blue and there was a lake at the end of the road. Marjie hung out at the lake while I climbed up the mountain. I didn't make it to Pic de Chabrieres, but I did see it off in the distance. It was great to be out hiking and the view was stunning. In the distance, I could see snow capped peaks. So many mountains, so little time.

Gap City. To go climbing, I needed shoes. Though I own a pair, they were in Vietnam and let's face it, vacation is an excuse to shop for things. My justification is that the pair I have is about 7 years old and has seen at least two salty deep water solo-ing trips to Cat Ba Island. Buying a new pair of shoes for a climbing trip seems justified.

I hit up the outdoor store Vertige Montagne in Gap while Marjie feasted at McDonalds. We also bought a whole bunch of roadtrip gear at the equivalent of Target. There were cute little glasses, a cheap cooler, silverware, a map, and probably one or two other items.  Though Savines-le-Lac may be small, there is a big-enough city about one hour drive down the road.

Chamonix

We spent about 3 days in Chamonix at the beginning of September. For anyone who doesn't know, Chamonix is near Mont Blanc, which stands about 4810m (or ~15,800 ft) and is the highest peak in the Alps.  Think of the region as an alpine playground designed for mountaineers and hikers in the summer and skiers in the winter.  There are tons of shops, hotels, and restaurants to part you, the tourist, from your money.

Though we were jet lagged and had promised to keep the first day easy, we had to take advantage of the crystal clear blue skies. We raced up to Aiguilles du Midi on the cable car, then wandered around the viewing platform taking in the brilliant views of Mont Blanc and the surrounding peaks. We wandered from the middle cable car station to the Mer de Glace, taking the Montenvers cog train back down to Chamonix.

The second day, we took a lift on the other side of the valley (Flegere and Index) to take a two-hour walk to Lac Blanc where we had stunning afternoon views, an omlette, and a pizza. The Europeans certainly know how to enjoy the mountains!

On our last morning in Chamonix, we headed up to the Bossons Glacier for a coffee and a view of the glacier not too far from the place we stayed - Ice and Orange. The glacier was depressing because they have photos that document it's regression over the past thirty years or so. If you need evidence of global climate disruption, then just come see this easily accessible spot in the Alps.

Ice and Orange was an awesome spot to stay. Because we had a car, it was easy to get into and out of town. The breakfast was continental - bread, jam, butter, meat, cheese - and solid, though not low-carb friendly. The owners were super friendly and helpful. I can't recommend the place enough. Here's a link to their TripAdvisor reviews.