Route Des Alpes, France

We didn’t realise it at the time, but the route we had chosen to get through to Nice was called the Route Does Alpes, a 700km drive that took us right through the heart of the Alps. The first couple of hours were nothing particularly special as we left Chamonix back towards Sallanches, before turning towards the mountains. But the rest of the days’ drive was utterly breathtaking. We passed through impossibly gorgeous villages, gorges, up countless switchbacks on roads barely wide enough for a single car, and even up and beyond the snow line of the gigantic mountains. We stopped countless times on the way, admiring the view at every possible location.

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The first day wasn’t entirely without drama however. Ever the short term organiser, Will had booked a cheap hotel roughly half way along the route at Mont Dauphin. However, we did not realise the mountain pass, Col De Galibier, which we needed to go through to reach our destination, was closed. There were road signs saying this, but as we were using electronic road maps basically to keep us on the right roads we had no idea what the Col De Galibier was. Until we were at the base of the mountain. And after studying the maps further, we realised that there were no other roads. Only this one. So, rather downbeat and wondering what to do next, we decided to drive up and at least see what the views were like. And they were spectacular. At times there were 2-3 metres of snow and ice walls either side of the car which had only recently been cut out of the road. Once at the top, the view of the snow covered peaks all around us was fantastic. And it was rather cold at an altitude of 2,645m!

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We found that the quickest route to our overnight stop was driving an extra 200km through Italy. So, we descended the mountain and retraced our steps until we reached a sign to Italy. After venturing through a 40km tunnel, and getting a few tips from the locals, we wound up a different mountain and through some majestic forests and plains until we reached the other side of the pass.

The next day was much of the same, with a couple more high altitude passes (all open this time!), multiple tunnels, and with most of the day spent with a sheer drop on one side of the narrow road.

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After reaching our destination, we just sat on the balcony watching the sunset over Nice and the Mediterranean and marvelled at the past 2 days. I remember watching a Top Gear episode where they tried tho find Europe’s best driving road. And while it wasn’t a drivers road per se, it would be nearly impossible to find a better scenic road. In the world.

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