Just two days after my first trip to the Parc Naturel Régional du Pilat, I found myself back in the area again, this time to hike the first twenty-six or so kilometres of the Aqueduc… More
Pérouges is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the prettiest villages I have ever visited. Perched atop a hill, this medieval walled village has rustic charm by the bucketful: winding, cobbled streets, wisteria bursting out of cracks in the walls and traditional metal shop signs that creak in the breeze. The timber-framed buildings with their pebble-dashed walls and exposed beams ooze character; aside from the occasional TripAdvisor sticker in a merchant’s window, it’s as if time has stood still.
Since we weren’t catching a train back to Lyon until mid-afternoon, we figured we had enough time to hike up a mountain – and if needs be, we’d simply catch a ski lift back down. After deliberating over Planpraz (1,999m) and La Flégère (1,894m), we decided on the former and then thought we may as well ask our Airbnb hosts roughly how long the ascent would be. “Ten minutes,” they replied confidently. Laurence and I exchanged a confused look, Our Airbnb hosts may be into trail running, but surely even they couldn’t run up this beast in ten minutes? “On foot?” we queried. “Oh,” they said, upon realising we didn’t intend to catch the ski lift up, “In that case, around three hours.”
The Téléphérique de l’Aiguille du Midi has been transporting visitors to the summit of one of the Mont Blanc massif’s highest peaks since 1955; for those with no mountaineering experience – myself included – it’s the closest you’ll get to the summit of Mont Blanc. At a dizzying height of 3,842m, the Aiguille du Midi commands stellar views of the Chamonix Valley, the Aiguilles Rouges and the Mont Blanc massif. It also serves as the gateway to the Vallée Blanche, a world-renowned off-piste ski route; the descent of almost three thousand metres over glaciers edged with seracs and riddled with crevasses is not one for the inexperienced.
Nestled between the Aiguilles Rouges and the Mont Blanc massif lies the alpine town of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, a haven for winter sport enthusiasts and hikers alike. Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, more commonly referred to as Chamonix, hosted the first Winter Olympics in 1924. Over the past century, it has become a firm favourite amongst lovers of the great outdoors, offering everything from off-piste runs and paragliding to nature trails and via ferrata. Back in February, Laurence and I spent three days exploring this alpine wonderland – and our only regret was not spending more time there.
Clinging to the northern shoreline of Lake Annecy, surrounded by snow-capped peaks, is Haute-Savoie’s largest city – though it’s a town by my standards. A warren of cobbled streets, edged by pastel-hued buildings and intersected by canals, makes up the Old Town; it’s not hard to see how the town has come to be known as the “Venice of the Alps”. (Our little jaunt to Martigues back in October had left me feeling more than a little sceptical of such nicknames, but I’m pleased to report that Annecy lives up to expectations.) Annecy lies a hundred miles or so to the east of Lyon and, given the compact nature of the town, is a perfectly viable (and highly recommendable) day trip.
April has passed in a whirlwind. The last thirty days have been absolutely jam-packed: with job applications; with stacks of papers to mark; with seemingly endless sights to see. I have exactly two months left here in Lyon – give or take a day since I’m yet to book my flight back to the UK – to finish exploring the nooks and crannies of each and every arrondissement, visiting all the municipal museums with my Carte Jeune Musées and eating my way through Lyon’s boulangeries.
Easter weekend heralded not only the end of teaching, but also the arrival of ma chère famille, who flew out to Lyon to spend a few days exploring the gastronomic capital of France and its environs. Needless to say, it was absolutely lovely to see them all and show them round the city that I’ve called home for the past eight months. After some rescheduling on Flybe’s part, their flight landed late at night, so after meeting them at the tram stop we walked over to their hotel. (Over the course of their visit we became all too familiar with the wee-drenched odour of La Part Dieu’s underpass.) Upon arrival, we whiled away an hour or so in the hotel bar, catching up and giggling over the English translations of pour les petits creux (“munchies temptations”) and pour les grandes faims (“starving solutions”) on the ibis menu. As midnight approached, Vicki and I headed over to my flat, having arranged to meet Mum and Dad early the following morning to go on a croissant hunt.