From Blois we had a long 8-9 hour drive almost across the country to Chamonix. Chamonix is a small ski village in the alps, only a hop, skip or jump from Switzerland.
Our drive was long and spectacular taking most of the day but giving us amazing views. With the majority of our driving on N or D roads we slipped through many iconic French villages with stone buildings and narrow streets, the type of streets that make you stop breathing in hope that nothing is coming the other way!
We also spent some time on A roads, wide and fast with two or three lanes, spectacular sweeping corners and spectacular views when you can get them travelling at 110 or 130 Km per hour, legally!
We found our hotel with only half a dozen u turns and were pleasantly surprised. We felt a little like the poor cousins in this place with our packs not matching Gucci luggage set, but oh well. Our rooms’ main feature was a large window with spectacular views of Mont Blanc.
After a quick sort out we headed out for a stroll and to grab a few essential bevvies and some grub. Within minutes we had a feeling of familiarity, this town felt much like Hanmer near Christchurch, New Zealand.
The next morning after a well deserved sleepin we explored the town. Although very touristy it had a certain charm with its wide walking streets and beautiful buildings with the backdrop of snowy alpine peaks contrasting against the blue blue sky.
At first the village felt small but once you started wandering you realised the true size of it. And just out of the city centre we found a a myriad of walking and running tracks under a canopy of trees that followed along the swift and clear I’Arve river.
As you can imagine this felt truly like a holiday spot so with three full days to relax we did so.
On our second day we woke up, and Sam proclaimed “let’s go to Switzerland.” So we did! With a little advice on where to go so not to pay the huge 45 Swiss Franc motorway fee we headed up into the mountains. The road felt like a New Zealand mountain road, or state highway one at times, following along the side of an icy river. About half way we spotted a wee shop setup in a rest stop and stopped for an espresso and a takeaway baguette for lunch.
After setting off again we continued on for about ten minutes before coming to the border. We had heard that the border to Geneva took up to an hour to get through, but we had headed north to Martigny and our border crossing was little more than slowing down and saying hello to the guard.
Once in Switzerland there was some way until we got to the town of Martigny so we took our time and stopped numerous time to take photos or explore down tracks.
Now the town itself was rather normal and a little uninspiring. It did have a steep hillside covered in vineyards, a few cool buildings and a very over the top bridge. And with no Francs in our pocket we were unable to even pay for parking, so with a couple of loops around the city we headed up to a hillside park and ate our baguettes filled with local cheese and salami and fresh tomatoes, yum!
On our return we stopped and had a wee trek up a nice hilltop track. There were spectacular views of the valley below and the small village. We were forced to turn back when a snow slip blocked our path. We could have clambered on but glad we didn’t when thirty odd French school students appeared along the track.
Once back in the car we decided to explore the village in the valley and had a good look around before heading back. Only a few hours in Switzerland but I think we might be back again to have a proper look.
Our last day was much like our first with a few treats (espresso with chocolate macaroons) and a run to burn off the extra goodness.
Chamonix is a beautiful place with a stunning backdrop, with some excellent driving roads. But tomorrow we start our 2 day Grande Alpes drive through the Alps on our way to Nice. Can’t wait!