Adventure in the Alps
After a successful, but fairly exhausting Californian road trip last year, we wanted a summer holiday closer to home in 2014: a mix of relaxation and activities before we’d have to return home for A level and GCSE results.
The three males in this family are keen road and mountain bikers, so we decided that a trip to France, which would take in the Tour de France final and some alpine summer activities, would be ideal.
Paris – 3 nights
We arrived in Paris on a hot and bustling Saturday afternoon. We’d booked an apartment in our favourite area: the Marais. I lived here several years ago and still love walking through this Jewish quarter with its bakery windows piled high with bagels and the delightful smells emanating from the falafel takeaways. Today this area is filled with trendy boutiques, bars and restaurants but has still retained the charm that captivated me so many moons ago.
Our apartment, on the fifth floor with no lift, challenged even the fittest of us (I’m sure all five of us would put in a case to claim that accolade!) as we struggled to negotiate the narrow, winding staircase with heavy bags in tow. The apartment looked out onto the liveliest street in the Marais, the rue Vieille du Temple, so we really were in the ‘happening’ part of the quartier – and more so than we imagined when we looked out of the window shortly after our arrival to see what all the shouting and police sirens were about, only to reel back choking from tear gas, which the police had thrown at the anti-Israeli demonstrators in the street below. This was turning into an even more action-packed holiday than we were expecting!
The following morning, after a leisurely breakfast in our apartment, we set off to take in the atmosphere of the Tour de France final, which proved to be as exhilarating as we’d hoped it would be. We strolled along the rue de Rivoli, past the Louvre and into the Tuileries gardens where Co and her brother shared a fairground swing, which took them into the clouds and beyond. Here we watched the women’s race: ‘La Course by Le Tour’ as it has been named. There were no big screens and no running commentary that we could hear, so it was difficult to know who was in the lead. But one thing’s for sure, those women were fast – very fast! Afterwards, we enjoyed a takeaway picnic on the Tuileries grass, until a woman in uniform came and told us to get off. I won’t get started on the ‘Keep off the grass’ rule which the French are sticklers about.
Late afternoon, we wandered up the Champs Elysées where we sat on the doorstep of the smart Hugo Boss store and waited for the Tour de France to arrive. The good thing about the Champs is that it has a long and gentle incline, so we could watch the cyclists at a slightly slower than their average breathtakingly fast pace as they ascended the Champs. The descent was a completely different matter and all we could see was a blur of colour accompanying the echoing rattle of hundreds of wheels hurtling along on the cobblestones. As there were seven laps to enjoy, we tried several viewing spots, the best of which was to stand on a pavement bench just a few metres away from the action. We didn’t have time for the podium presentations as we had been invited to friends for dinner. However, we’d seen enough and were now craving a sit down and enjoy some food and drink.
Tip: the Arc de Triomphe has big screens for you to follow the final on. This is also where the live commentary takes place, so it’s a good place to stand if you don’t want to miss out on any action.
Annecy – 4 nights
We drove at a leisurely place to arrive at our hotel in Annecy just after lunch. Les Trésoms is a perfect hotel to enjoy a summer’s break with its unbeatable location overlooking the lake. Also, it has tennis courts, bike hire, an outdoor pool and a Turkish bath, sauna and steam room.
First impressions of Annecy were that it was very touristy and very busy. However, this is a town that grows on you and after three days of doing very little other than swimming, playing tennis and eating, we had all fallen in love with the place. The lake water is the perfect temperature to swim in. The children loved the Imperial Beach, which offers sunbeds, slides and diving boards. We spent two of our three full days here, paying the 11 euro family + 1 entry price, which we thought was good value.
Tip: in summer, reserve ahead for eating in Annecy as the restaurants are heavily booked. We had two excellent meals at Le Pichet and Le Bastringue.
Morzine – 7 nights
As we are a family that skis regularly every winter, it felt somewhat surreal to see the Alps in summer, covered in lush green grass, wild flowers and bell-ringing cows grazing on the mountainside.
Morzine has successfully managed to transfer seamlessly from a winter sport destination into a summertime hub, with all the ski rental shops neatly converted into bike hire stores. There is a plethora of activities on offer here and it was difficult for us to pack it all in. Best of all for us were the white-water rafting and the mountain biking. Never have I seen my 16-year-old son so happy as when he charged down the muddy slopes on his dual suspension bike, right behind our guide Tibault. In summer, the chairlifts are fitted with bike carriers, so there’s no cycling uphill to be done. Tibault showed us how to ride a mountain bike properly: bum off seat, with pedals perfectly parallel and arms straight. I did feel a bit too old for this activity, which is popular with a predominantly young male crowd, but can’t deny that I loved it and felt totally exhilarated at the end of an exhausting day.
Morzine also offers para-gliding, zip wires, a luge, high ropes in the trees, canyoning, abseiling, some fantastic walks, its own leisure centre with a 50 metre pool, ice-skating and tennis.
We stayed at the wonderful Hotel la Chaumière, booked through Simply Morzine and had a fantastic week.
On our penultimate day, we drove to Evian, famous for its bottled mineral water, which feels more Swiss than French, with its clean streets and beautifully manicured gardens. Here we visited the outdoor swimming pool, which sits on the edge of Lake Geneva. We were spoilt for choice as there was so much on offer: slides, diving boards, a 50 metre swimming pool as well as the lake to swim in. There was even waterskiing and wakeboarding.
Tip: make sure you purchase the Portes du Soleil multi-pass, which gives you free access to the chairlifts, swimming, tennis and other activities. It costs 2 euros per day and is well worth it.
This was a fantastic holiday for all of us and we returned home healthier and fitter, yet also rested and recharged – all ready to face those dreaded exam results.