If you're lucky enough to be in the mountains, you are lucky enough!
If you ever have a chance to get to a mountain top you absolutely MUST. If you've been... then get there again, I doubt the experience is ever the same and must be repeated. I thought I saw mountains, and wasn't so excited about them when we were in Canada. They usually represented cold weather, sliding quickly down an ice patch at higher than comfortable speeds, wearing too much clothes with doubt of my abilities rushing through my brain. But there is something to be said for mountains without snow! When we first came to France and settled on this area I was stunned at how close and large the mountains were. Having so many majestic mountains close by I really am grateful for the luxury of discovering the alps that surround us so closely. I told my daughter "A mountain has magic powers" I truly believe that if you felt absolutely horrible one day, and then the next, and maybe even the next and couldn't shake it off, a good long visit through the Alps would cure any ailment. Mountains are extraordinary even when you're not wearing skis but not for the faint at heart. You see the best climb is the twisted and narrow curvy kind, the sort of road with not much space for more than 1.5 cars, a heaping cliff to your right and snow capped peaks ahead of you.
We rented a car a few weeks ago and I mentioned wanting to explore the area that surrounds us by car. I had an interest in a place called Bonneval-Sur-Arc this little town is one of many situated in the middle of the Parc de la Vanoise. I had seen some photos on google when exploring google maps and told my husband. He wanted to get to Val d'Isere as we hope to go see our fellow Canadian Dustin Cook race this December and want to understand the layout of the hill, how to get there, where to stay etc...
So off we went to the Alps. Armed with a backpack full of snacks, too many cameras to count and a tiny little European manual driving car - we decide to hit the mountains. The Vanoise National Park is bordered by several large French ski resorts (Les Trois Vallées, Tignes, Val-d'Isère, Les Arcs, La Plagne). On the Italian side of the border, the park is continued by the Gran Paradiso National Park. Together, these two parks cover over 1250 kms making the largest alpine national park. It's truly magnificent to experience it from the bottom to the top and all the way in between! This area is named the Haute-Maurienne or Maurienne Valley of Savoie.
We made our way past the stunning Tignes Dam and it's crystal clear aqua lake water also known as the Chevril Dam, is an arch dam on the Isère River in the municipality of Tignes. Its source, a glacier known as the Sources de l'Isère, lies in the Vanoise National Park. So unassuming as you are coasting and then you come across this beautiful lake, statue and must stop!
After a number of tunnels we stumbled upon Bourg-Saint-Maurice very similar to our town actually but about 1/3 smaller, very "Savoie"with gorgeous French flags everywhere, small locally owned shops and cobbled stoned streets filled with outdoor cafés. Bourg-Saint-Maurice is part of the Paradiski ski area (425 km of slopes, 141 lifts, 239 slopes - 12 Green, 132 Blue, 66 Red, 29 Black). I'd love to live in this little town if it wasn't so far from the airport!
We continued on made it to the village of Val d’Isère and spent some time exploring even though it was a ghost town at this time of year. It has a skating rink, many parks and so many shops and restaurants, it looks like a marvelous place to spend a winter vacation. We had lunch at a lovely mountain side restaurant called La Casserole.
The drive was relatively easy until we got past Val D’Isère then the roads became tricky with cyclists bravely working their way up and down and motorcycles whizzing by us. There was plenty of "slow down"s, and some light shrieking along the way but also so many ooohhhs and aahhhhs.
Once we made our way up we found this stunning stop called Col de L'Iseran at 2,764 metres - 9,068 ft. we are the highest point of the Maurienne. Incredibly scenic this spot was THE place to be to stop, snap some pictures, and take it all in and even touch some snow leftover from last year! There is a small gift shop selling a few items but it's
all about the view and there are plenty of people taking it in, asking to take their photo next to the sign with languages I couldn't even recognize. Breathing mountain fresh air which was definitely 10 degrees cooler felt amazing. You sort of felt like you landed on the moon.
We started to make our way down the backside of the mountain and that's when we hit the stunning town of Bonneval-sur-Arc. A very quaint town so small it doesn't even have a televison antenna to remain authentic... It is also part of an association of 157 of the Prettiest villages of France. Les Plus Beaux Villages de France. The homes are constructed with narrow little windows and the oddest rock roofs we've ever seen. They have a tiny cemetery that I couldn't resist entering. Strangely I am deeply interested in cemeteries and reading the stones and how people passed. It was beautiful, we had coffee and waffle at the local café and kept on driving.
This drive was not very long about 200 kms from Aix-les-Bains, of course it took all day to get there and back as we stopped so often but it was so worth it. It was an amazing day filled with so many surprises, our daughter was shocked on every corner and really loved the scenery as much as we did. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
I thought Mother's Day biking day was my best day in France I can honestly say this was so much better!
You can find the entire album of this day as they are too many pictures and videos to post, follow us on our Facebook page, we welcome your comments and feedback!