Nestled at the foot of Col de la Seigne, Refuge des Mottets lies in shadow. On with the flip flops and, for good measure, the micro fleece; breakfast calls. We cross the yard to the breakfast room, find our places at one of the breakfast tables. Here, there’s lots of orange juice to go round, pots of coffee and tea, jugs of hot milk, jars of muesli and honey puffs and a choice of bread, complete with butter and jam; it’s infinitely better than Gîte le Pontet’s meagre offering.
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.
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).
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.
When I was living in Lyon, Sundays were synonymous with trips to the Parc de la Tête d’Or, the city’s largest park and the centrepiece of the sixième. I witnessed the changing of the seasons in all its glory: the leaves turning from green to shades of russet, amber and garnet; delicate layers of frost clinging to the plants in the weak winter sun; the swathes of daffodils on the verges heralding the start of spring; and the return of picnickers and pedalos to the park in early summer.
Overlooking Geneva is the majestic Mont Salève. It’s not actually in Switzerland at all; it’s firmly in France, just across the Franco-Swiss border. Its limestone cliffs are the backdrop to an already picture-perfect Swiss city, and the views from the top are breath-taking. I’d seen them before, but was only too happy to see them again.
Shortly after my hike in the Chartreuse, Olivier suggested a ‘randonnée cerises’ in the nearby Monts du Lyonnais. It’s fairly self-explanatory what this hike entailed, but I fancied sharing a few photos from it as I had a jolly good time. (Let’s face it, a hike that combines rolling hills and end-of-season fruit is pretty much the dream for me.)
Before I left Lyon, I was intent on returning to the Parc Naturel Régional de Chartreuse. Put simply, my visit to the southern edge of the park back in February had whetted my appetite for more and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see another tiny corner of this majestic mountain range. I also had my eye on a little trip over to Chambéry, and it just so happens that this quaint little town provides easy access to the natural park. (A win-win scenario, if you ask me.) The map was purchased, the packed lunch packed (no items left in the fridge this time!) and the alarm set. On y va!
Lyon is like an onion: peel back the outer skin of iconic landmarks such as Fourvière, Place des Terreaux and Cathédrale St. John, and you’ll discover there’s far more to the city than you first thought. Take the time to explore the quirks of its diverse neighbourhoods, glimpse some of the city’s famous fresques and zigzag across the city using its network of traboules, and you’ll be richly rewarded. If it takes your fancy, you can even play at being Mary from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s timeless classic, The Secret Garden. It’s one of the city’s best-kept secrets, and is rarely mentioned in guidebooks – at least, it wasn’t in either of mine!
If you’ve ever wandered the narrow streets of Vieux Lyon or meandered up the Pentes de la Croix-Rousse, chances are you’ll have seen the odd person peel away from the crowds and disappear behind a heavy, oak door. Some of these people will have been doing just what you assumed: entering their home. Others, usually with a map in hand, will have been touring Lyon’s vast network of traboules.