Tour du Mont Blanc #2: Les Contamines-Montjoie to Refuge des Mottets

Ordinarily, I’m not a morning person: give me an early alarm and I’ll find a way to wake up later and get ready faster. On the trails, it’s a different story. We rose at half six, packed up and joined the queue for grub on the dot of seven. Breakfast was, shall we say, unsubstantial: three slices of baguette, with jam, Nutella and butter on the side doesn’t quite cut it when you have ten or so kilometres and a sizeable peak standing between you and lunch.

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Tour du Mont Blanc #1: Les Houches to Les Contamines-Montjoie

Claps of thunder roused us during the night; lightning danced across the inky sky. By first light, the storm had passed and only a few grey clouds lingered. The Tour du Mont Blanc was calling – but first, breakfast (or, more accurately, breakfeast; our Airbnb host put out a seriously good spread).

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Warming Up for the Tour du Mont Blanc

Before setting off on the Tour du Mont Blanc, we had a couple of days in Geneva and Les Houches to relax, stock up on supplies (long time no see, BN Biscuits!) and squeeze in a short hike up Col de la Forclaz.

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The Tour du Mont Blanc in 9 Photos

Traversing France, Italy and Switzerland, the Tour du Mont Blanc (or TMB, for short) is an iconic hike, and one which had sat on my wish list for nigh-on six years. The TMB is 170km (or thereabouts, depending on any variants taken) of snow-capped cols, alpine pastures (minus the cast of The Sound of Music) and lush valleys; an adventure like no other. / Traversant la France, l’Italie et la Suisse, le Tour du Mont Blanc (ou TMB, en abrégé) est une randonnée iconique, qui est sur ma liste de merveilles depuis presque six ans. Le TMB, c’est 170km (à peu près, dépendant des variantes) de cols toujours enneigés, d’alpages (sans la distribution de La Mélodie du Bonheur) et des vallées verdoyante; une aventure sans pareil.

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Brutalist Beauty: Barbican Conservatory

From afar, the Barbican Estate looks like a concrete jungle: a bleak mass of grey blocks, columns and towers. Cast aside your opinion of brutalist architecture for a moment, and venture inside. Greenery spills over the balconies; water features create an oasis of calm. But the best is yet to come.

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Pedal Power: Cycling from Cambridge to St. Ives

Rewind to last summer: searing heat, endless sunny days (a stark contrast to the grey days and downpours this year). Sun’s out, bikes out. Destination: St. Ives. Cripes, that’s a long way, I hear you say. Fear not: I’m talking about St. Ives, Cambridgeshire, here, which is only 20-odd kilometres away from Cambridge on the world’s longest guided busway. (Yes, that is St. Ives’ claim to fame.)

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Deepest, Darkest Devon: Postbridge to Bovey Tracey

Postbridge lies on the fringe of Bellever Forest, right in the heart of Dartmoor National Park, and is best known for its medieval clapper bridge. We’d crossed it the previous evening, but as we hadn’t had time to admire it properly a detour first thing in the morning was in order. After eating our fill of cereals, we set off into Postbridge, opting for the dirt tracks instead of the main road.

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