15th July 2018 – 18th July 2018
We have been so lucky to have experienced some wonderful countries, people and cultures since we first begun our ‘Once in a Lifetime’ adventure. But the greatest moment to date was experienced just as we came into France. As we left Italy, David was itching to drive through the Mont Blanc tunnel and although it cost an eye watering €59.80, we drove through. Not as long as we thought, all of 11.611km and the actual road was shocking, worse than some of the Italian roads and that’s saying something ! With all the toll fees we would have expected the smoothest road ever !.
Our destination was a campsite just outside Chamonix, but as we were following our ‘Snooper’ Sat Nav which knows our size and weight of the van, it brought us to a bridge under a railway line that was too tight to get through. Not all that good after all ! The roads in this part of France are very small and very windy and we decided to park for the evening in Chamonix itself, as there are dedicated areas for Motorhomes. Now Chamonix is in it’s self an eye opener. It contains the most fit people we have ever seen in our lives, not an ounce of fat on them, all kitted out in their hiking gear. God, did we feel out of place. Obviously because of where it is, it is busy all year round and the Main Street is filled with hiking shops selling all the gear you would need to climb Mont Blanc. Unfortunately they didn’t sell new bodies which David & I would need and so we just window shopped. It is very beautiful and with the back drop of Mont Blanc you can see why people flock here. It is a sight to behold. After reading up about getting the cable car to the top of Mont Blanc as we were obviously not climbing it, we decided to get the cable car early the next morning to beat the crowds. We set the alarm and arrived at the cable car station for 07.00am. No queues, still all fit climbers with their ropes and clips, snow picks and snow shoes dangling off their rucksacks and David and I wrapped up in our winter clothes as the temperature can be a lot lower at the top of Mont Blanc. We packed into the cable car and we were off. It takes over 10 minutes to reach the first stage, Aiguille Du Midi, we were climbing and climbing and I can’t tell you the excitement, until the cable car suddenly seemed to drop and then climb again. Not sure why but it’s a long way down ! My heart jumped but I tried to remain cool, trying not to embarrass myself in front of the fit crowd. We made it to the first stage and we left the cable car to get the next to the top, another 10 minutes The view from Aiguille Du Midi at 3842M was amazing but when we finally reached the summit at 12,392ft, above the seracs, the Pelerins glacier and the hanging glaciers on the north face of the Aiguille du Midi, the view took our breathe away. It is such the most wonderful sight to see, how lucky were we to be standing there looking out at our most beautiful world. Words cannot describe the beauty. If you are not afraid of heights, try and get here in your lifetime because you will remember it as long as you live. We stayed for 2 hours in all and we did notice due to the altitude that we were slightly light headed and breathless, I bet the fit people weren’t. We had our photos taken in the glass box that overhangs the edge and then descended down the two cable cars to the bottom, just as the queues were beginning to build. For the rest of the day I had the biggest smile on my face, wow what a day to remember.
Our next destination was Anncey, the largest city in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. It lies on the northern tip of Lake Annecy. It is nicknamed the ‘Pearl of the French Alps’ with it’s location between lakes and mountains and sometimes also known as ‘Venice of the Alps’ a tourist representation which comes from the three canals and the river Thiou lying through the old city. It is a tourism paradise with the turquoise lake providing boating, swimming and anything water with the wonderful city to meander in. We stayed at the South end of the lake and spent a couple of nights. However, we timed it completely wrong as the “Tour de France’ was having a rest day in Anncey and it was absolutely heaving. We cycled the hour’s ride into the city along the cycle route and I quite like to meander along at my own pace, but I felt like I was in the Tour de France with cyclists whizzing past and it felt like I was on the M25 in rush hour. Not very pleasant at all. Anncey is stunning and I can fully understand why people descend on this beautiful city and lake for their summer vacations. We have been told that it is busy all year round but it is somewhere on our list to return out of season, so that we can really appreciate the beauty and also to paraglide off the cliff ! Whilst we were staying at the Campsite we met Antoine, his wife Ruth and their daughter who were from Malta. They are such a lovely family and they holiday in the mountains each year in their motorhome, Antoine was saying that there are no mountains in Malta and so that’s why they love them. As they left we were given a packet of traditional biscuits from Malta by Antoine. I wish I had some M&S biscuits to give them in return.