We took advantage of the short break
between Christmas and New Year to have a few days away and see what it
is like in the Alps during Winter. As neither of us ski we set out to
see what we could do on foot.
Using Grenoble as a base we thought
that we would be able to use local transport and visit one or two other
towns in the Alps and get a feel of what it would be like to go out onto
the snow when we go back to Chamonix next year, although on arrival at
the airport we weren't that sure we would be going anywhere, the plane
landed on a snow covered runway and with all the roads similarly
snowbound the coach transfer was slow and slithery - if it had been
London our journey would have ground to a halt.
The shuttle bus did make it to the
Town centre and with the snow still falling we quickly found our hotel
which was handily placed just behind the rail/coach station and checked
in before going into the centre for the obligatory shopping.
On the way back from the shops we
found a nice restaurant specialising in Fondue and Tartiflette, a potato
and cheese based dish, Les 2 Savoies was to become our home for the next 3 evening meals.
Unfortunately the Tartiflette wasn't vegetarian but we still had plenty
of choice with the Fondues and Potato Gratin dishes. As usual for France the request for a meat free salad raised eyebrows even the chef had
to come out and have a look at what sort of monsters these vegetarians
were, mind you the salad he then prepared was amazing! Unfortunately
when we had one of the special 'cheap' set meals the desert didn't quite match
up to the other courses, although we should have realised when the owner
came up and said with a slightly concerned look on his face "desert is white cheese and cream is that OK?"
cheesecake sort of thing then we thought as the waitress put a big bowl of
sugar on the table - "to sweeten!". What then turned up was a very milky
round white cheese with cream, just like it said on the packet! A
little like hard slightly rancid yoghourt, we soon discovered why we had
the sugar bowl!
Before leaving England we had thought
about going from Grenoble to 2 or 3 places for day trips, Briancon, Alpe d'huez and
Les 2 Alpes. Briancon was a four and a half hour train journey away so
for the first day we settled on Alpe d'Huez. Despite the coach being
delayed for over half an hour we were looking forward to the trip and
excitement increased as the bus started to twist up the 21 hairpin bends
towards the resort. We have seen the road on TV before as it is used by
the Tour de France, now we know how much of a climb it actually is!
The bus reached the top of the village
which was bathed in brilliant sunshine,
snow and mountains all around along with hundreds of snowboarders and
skiers, we seemed out of place in our hiking gear. Still we could get a
lift pass and go up to the top station on the Pic Blanc. First the view
then the cold and then the altitude hit us. Amazing views all around but
even walking up the stairs at this altitude was difficult funny how you
forget the effect of going from ground level to 3000 metres.
We headed back down to the mid station
point and sat in the sun watching snowboarders falling onto their
backsides, some time later we realised that this might be intentional
and the way they stop!
Two people walking along the pistes
didn't seem to mix well with the downhill skiers but we discovered that
there were quite a few snow trails around and having been captivated by
the scenery decided to go back the next day and try out a bit of
Next morning the weather was
completely different, cloud had moved in and by the time we reached Alpe
d'Huez the sky was very grey. We set off uphill past rescue snowmobiles
returning with fallen ski victims on the back and struggled slowly along
the packed snow trails on foot. It
wasn't as easy as we thought and the time and weather caught up with us
so we opted for a short trek out into the hills and soon discovered that
it is essential to keep to the marked trails as I sank up to my knees in
As we were making our way back we
passed a number of people snow trekking with snow shoes and cross
country skiers, something that looked like it could be quite a lot of
fun without all of the drama of downhill skiing. Unfortunately our short
break was coming to an end so that is something we will have to look
into when we are at home and maybe plan for next year.