Hiking around Mt Blanc with a newborn on your back

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It was never a question in our minds. As soon as our son was born, we were headed to the Alps. Perhaps it is the optimism of a new parent, but we didn’t consider whether we would have the energy, the practical knowhow, or even the willingness to carry a newborn baby to the top of mountain peaks. I remember looking up how much a baby would weigh at ten weeks, and being satisfied that it was only around 5 kilos, and that would be a breeze!

Our little River cub came along at a huge ten and a half pounds. It slightly threw the projected weight off, but C-section or not…we were headed to the Mount Blanc Massif. This time we chose the Italian side, hoping to learn a little more about how the Italians interact with the Alps. Our friends generously allowed us to stay in their apartment in La Thuille, a ski resort by winter, and perfectly situated for some hiking adventures at 1500m. Continue reading “Hiking around Mt Blanc with a newborn on your back”

Trekking Compostella – The Arles Way pt 1 France

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Our foray in to the Pyrenees was long anticipated. I had held dreams of walking the GR10 (long-distance trail traversing the Pyrenees from coast to coast) or completing the pilgrimage along the Santiago de Compostella for some time. Alas dreams sometimes have to marry reality and therefore we settled on a plan to cross the Pyrenees from the French side and down into Spain. Continue reading “Trekking Compostella – The Arles Way pt 1 France”

Chamonix

Lunch stop on the slopes

It was a French white Christmas, well, in 2011 that was. Yeah, we’re definitely playing catch-ups on the blog. Catch-ups or not, Chamonix is worth writing about.

We left an elephant-grey London behind and started our pursuit of ‘powder’. Now, both Lauren and I were wishing for ‘fresh powder’, but really, we had no idea what this actually was! It was just the thing to say when going skiing. Little did we know that our hopes of a ‘powder pursuit’ would very much come true.

On arrival, we jumped on a transfer bus and after gawking at the mountains for an hour or so, we arrived at our home for the next week; Chamonix (to save anyone the embarrassment now, it is a silent ‘x’, so now you can at least say it correctly in your head). We quickly dumped our bags in the most amazing chalet (I will come back to that later) and went exploring in the town as the sun began to set. What a privilege it was to stay right in the midst of the action in a ski-town. It was buzzing with the click-clack sound of hundreds of ski-boots as people were coming down from the last runs of the day. There were more headbands that you could poke a stick at, fresh baguettes under most peoples arms and the excitement was definitely building for Lauren and I to hit the slopes the next day.

Day One at Brévent/Flégère was Continue reading “Chamonix”

Nice & Monaco

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Up until I moved to Europe I literally thought this vibrant seaside city was called ‘Nice’ (as in ‘that’s a nice blouse’). For anybody still in that camp, be warned, do not say that out loud, at least not when you are in France! You can use it to describe the capital of the Cote d’Azur i.e. Nice was nice – but stop there 🙂

I had low expectations of Nice, in fact it featured in the itinerary mainly as a base to fly back to London. I didn’t even bother myself trying to find accommodation and delegated that to Joel (who aced it by the way). I anticipated the beach to be rammed, the water to be murky and the city to be gritty. I need to apologise to Nice – you are none of those things. In fact, you are distinctly cosmopolitan, yet retain that beachside charm. You are full of sights which delight the senses and smells which thrill the appetite. The only thing I did not like about you was trying to navigate the maze of streets in order to drop off the rental car, something even a local might struggle with! Continue reading “Nice & Monaco”

The Côte d’Azur

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Often known as the French Riviera, you may associate this area with ritzy yachts, glamour, Cannes film festival, celebrities in Saint Tropez…. and you would be right. However the Cote d’Azur (or Azure Coast) has more to offer than it’s rather pretentious reputation would at first glance reveal.

Determined to avoid at all costs the unimaginable wealth and on the other hand tacky tourist packages, I had a fight on my hands. Firstly no holiday accommodation will entertain the thought of renting to you for any less than a week in August, and the undeniable popularity of the Cote d’Azure has meant that the prices charged are almost offensive for the quality of lodgings offered. If you are looking for something that screams ‘French’, look again.

Or look at Bormes-les-Mimosas. Continue reading “The Côte d’Azur”

Provence – Avignon, Mt Ventoux & Canyon du Verdon

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The problem with Provence is that it would take months to adequately take in the key sights. So you can imagine with only six days available to you, you are grinding your knuckles as casualties are sacrificed off your list. One such sacrifice we were not prepared to make was a daytrip to Avignon and the mighty Pont du Gard.

I did not realise that Avignon was a walled city and being a lover of walled cities, hence I was delighted as we navigated our car through one of the many city gates. The city was surprisingly compact and a treat for the senses with an abundance of leafy trees lining the sidewalks, cafes spilling out with people enjoying a midday wine and a soaring Cathedral reminiscent of something that should be perched in the mountains (maybe Hogwarts?!). We meandered around taking in the expansive squares, and gazed out at the remains of the Saint-Bénezet bridge, also known as Pont d’Avignon. It was only the heat that drove us to our next destination as I could easily pass the time in one of the many cafes hidden amongst the sprawling cobblestone streets. Continue reading “Provence – Avignon, Mt Ventoux & Canyon du Verdon”

Paris

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We figured that we’d better make the trip across the canal to the ‘City of Love’ at some point. After all, it is only two hours on the Eurostar and we didn’t want to be called ‘lackadaisical’… So after work one friday we found ourselves on the platform, being whisked away for the weekend to another of Europe’s treasures.

I had not taken the chance to brush up on the key french phrases, so I felt unarmed and vulnerable in a city which I had heard did not take kindly to ignorant tourists. My fall back plan was to just start sprouting ‘g’day’ if all else failed so the citizens of France would take pity on this poor flailing Aussie who was clearly out of her depth! However, I needn’t have worried as we had planned to meet the delightful Emma Froggatt the next day who was studying at the Sorbonne in Paris. She acted as tour guide and interpreter extraordinaire – move over Frommers, make way for Froggatts!

Night one in Paris was characterised by crepes, berets, a lovely Brasserie called ‘La Bullion Chartier’, a thousand and one cafes spilling on to the sidewalk, and grand sweeping boulevards. I enjoyed the sophistication of the French language and commiserated that I was such a bogan with no class or style. Paris is broken up in to 20 arrondissements (areas), of which I could find no rhyme or reason, and was later informed by Miss Froggatt that they spiral outwards like an escargot (see what I did there?!). Anyway, I had little idea where I was at any given time so this knowledge unfortunately went to waste.

Continue reading “Paris”