Days 10 and 11: Hiking the French Alps and Milan

May 24, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

 

france, alps, bourg d

Day 10 started off with this view from our window.

After I tore myself away from our serene view, we had some cereal and fresh French pastries at Mark's house.  Europe obviously gets something we don't about this pastry thing.  We totally need to work on our breakfast in America! 

france, bourg d

Detail from one of the buildings at the camp.

france, bourg d

 

france, bourg d

Clusters of this pretty yellow flower popped out of the ground all over the place.

Mark had to work on some things for the camp, so Lucas took me on a hike from the camp to a Roman arch.  Apparently, not only does Tour de France run right by the camp, but so does the Roman Road.  It's believed that the road from Paris to Rome ran right through where the camp is today. 

france, alps, bourg d

Our hike took us past some gorgeous views of the alps.

france, alps, bourg d

And also some beautiful cascades.  With the coming of spring, comes the melting of all the snow on the mountains.  That makes for BIG waterfalls.  Of course, we had to stop and take pictures along the way. 

france, alps, bourg d

The Roman Arch was soo cool to me.  This is believed to be where the Romans required a toll to use their arch to pass through the road.  There are even ruts in the ground through which they would've driven the chariots.

france, alps, bourg d

Lucas helped me out so you could see the size.

france, alps, bourg d

A waterfall on a distant mountain on our way back.

france, alps, bourg d

It was getting hot, so we changed into shorts and took off with Neddo to explore the alps.  We wanted to take a few short "20 minute" hikes in some scenic areas.  We had been walking and hiking a whole lot, so didn't want anything too incredibly intense.  The drive through the alps was so gorgeous.  The buildings here are very different from Italy.  More like little chalets.  The mountains are huge and rocky, so much bigger than anything I've seen.  Apparently this time of year is very dangerous for mounaineering because as the snow melts, there are many avalanches.  You could see where there were small avalanches all over the mountains, but even a small avalanche could crush a person.

The drive to our first hike was stopped prematurely as the road to the parking lot was closed.  No problem, we'll just walk through the little bits of snow crossing the road and take a longer hike to get there.  As we walked, those little bits of snow grew deeper and deeper.  Of course, were not to be deterred.  Soon, we couldn't actually tell how deep the snow was because we couldn't see the road.  Mark kept saying, "I thought for sure the snow would be melted by now!" 

(photo courtesy of Marc Neddo)

(photo courtesy of Marc Neddo)

We trudged along, and every few steps, one of us would fall through. When I say "fall through," I mean fall 4 feet through.  Now, we all like to think of snow as light and fluffy but let me tell you there's some very sharp ice mixed in there as well!  So, yes, I can proudly say I bled all over the alps.  And if there was a clear patch of ground, it was typically covered in thorns. It was worth it though.  And if any of you know me, you'd know that this is actually my definition of a good time.  Growing up, my youth group leader would always say, "If you didn't sweat, bleed, and get wet, you didn't hike." Let's just say today, we hiked:) 

france, alps, bourg d

Lucas and Neddo with the French Alps in the distance.

france, alps, bourg d

These are images from that first hike.  The beautiful frosted lake with the French Alps in the background. 

france, alps, bourg d

The mountain to the right is one of the highest in France, it's called La Meije

france, alps, bourg d

 

france, alps, bourg d

 

france, alps, bourg d

The three of us at the lake.

france, alps, bourg d

 

france, alps, bourg d

It was a lot of fun to trudge through the alps listening to stories about when Lucas volunteered at the camp. He and Mark would go mountaineering every chance they could.  Lucas has always told me about them getting altidude sickness, or almost losing limbs to frostbite when storms came through.  Good times:)

france, alps, bourg d

 

france, alps, bourg d

 

france, alps, bourg d

 

france, alps, bourg d

 

france, alps, bourg d

I like the one above and below because you can really see how big the mountains are.

france, alps, bourg d

Lucas and Neddo look so small!

france, alps, bourg d

france, alps, bourg d

These little purple flowers grew straight out of the ground all over the place.  No leaves or anything.

france, alps, bourg d

I like the windy, curvy road and the little town snuggled between the mountains in this one.

After our adventure to the lake, we drove a little further to see some cascades. 

france, alps, bourg d

 On the way, we had this view of the Italian Alps in the distance.

This "20 minute hike" didn't take nearly as long as the last one, but the snow was much deeper and more difficult to navigate. 

france, alps, bourg d

We didn't go nearly as far, but we had to get close enough to that waterfall!

france, alps, bourg d

 

(photo courtesy of Marc Neddo)

 

france, alps, bourg d

france, alps, bourg d

Another cool windy road.

On our way back down to the car, a man and a woman on snow shoes passed us by.  I'm pretty sure they thought we were out of our minds.  Lucas fell through the whole way down.  I thought I had pretty well mastered the art of walking lightly when I fell through 5 times in a row and scratched the exact same spot each time.  Neddo? Cruised through like it was nothing.  I'm not sure how that's even possible.

We headed back to the camp to shower and dress our wounds before dinner. 

france, bourg d

This waterfall was on the way, so of course we stopped:)

france, bourg d

This glacier runoff is right there at the camp, so I had to get a picture of it when we got back.

Mark had to coach soccer practice, so Lucas and I visited with some of the camp staff.  They asked what we had been doing all day, and as soon as I told them Mark took us for a "20 minute hike," they all busted out laughing.  Apparently, this is par for the course with Mark. Nothing is ever going to be as easy as you think, and that's all part of the fun. After visiting for an hour or so, we met back up with Mark to go to dinner.

We went to the ski resort, Les Deux-Alpes, to find a restaurant for dinner.  I'm not sure what it is about roads in Europe, but they just don't make them wide enough.  To get there, we went down this tiny windy mountain road. Tiny as in "1.5 lanes" as Mark called it. I'm convinced it was only 1 lane.  Every few feet there was a pull off just in case you met someone going the opposite direction.  I'm not quite sure what the plan is if you meet someone head on going 50mph around a blind curve. Fortunately, we didn't have to find out because we never did meet anyone.

We did take advantage of the pull off though, because the sun was setting beautifully behind the alps.

france, bourg d

 

france, bourg d

france, bourg d

We also happened to be directly above the camp. Here's Camp des Cimes from the sky!

france, bourg d

Of course, more cool glacier runoff.

We ended up at this cozy looking ski lodge of a restaurant.  I cannot find the name of the place anywhere.  We ordered cheese fondue for an appetizer and the boys ordered steaks with fries for the main course.  The cheese was my main course, and it was soo good.  I mean, this is genuine french fondue. The real thing.  This is what the Melting Pot tries to be. Unfortunately, they didn't have the chocolate fondue.

After dinner, it was dark, but we took a walk to the overlook anyhow.  You could just barely see the outline of the huge alps.  I couldn't resist, I just had to try to capture this. 

france, bourg d

And guess what? It worked!  I've never tried star photography, because I didn't think I had the right equipment for it!

Day 11: Milan

The next morning, we grabbed some pastries to go and Mark drove us back to Grenoble to the train station (Thank you!).  We only had to switch trains once, then it was a straight shot to Milan.  We grabbed lunch on the train that consisted of a ham and cheese sandwich, which was still way better than it's American counterpart.  We also finally tried Prosecco.  This is an Italian drink, and it's a white sparkling wine.  It's supposed to be cheaper than water around here.  It wasn't cheaper than water on the train, but it did give us something new to try.  Ah, it was ok.  Not a big fan of sparkling wine.  But, yes, you can most definitely buy and drink wine wherever you want to in Italy.  It's such a different culture! 

We arrived as scheduled around 3p.  Time to conquer another city!  After getting our bearings and buying a metro ticket, we were on our way to the hotel.  It was a very long walk from the metro to our Hotel, Hotel Lancaster, but we finally made it.  The kind man at the front was able to tell us a bus route the runs very close by and heads straight into downtown.  Now that's better.

We showered off the slimy traveling feeling and got dressed up for the opera.  What? Didn't mention we were going to the opera? Yes, I kinda tricked Lucas into this one.  I actually asked him before I bought the tickets if he would be willing to go.  He mistakenly replied, "You're supposed to just buy them, then I can't say no."  Hmmm...well, he still didn't say no.  Thus, we are going to the opera. Not just any opera, the opera at Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Italy.  We are going to see Macbeth by Giuseppe Verdi.  For the first time on our trip, we had to put on our dress clothes: a dress for me and khakis with a button down and suitcoat for Lucas.  I seriously never even knew Lucas owned a suitcoat!  Unfortunately, La Scala's website states they have a strict no camera policy.  So, I left the camera at home for the evening.  It was sad to leave behind, but so much lighter to walk without it!  Instead, I have included a few snapshots from Lucas's phone.  If you ever thought you could get just as good of pictures from a cell phone, maybe this'll change your mind lol.

We dressed up for our night on the town, then hopped on our bus.  We got antsy and hopped off too soon, of course, but it was very easy to find the Duomo since it towers over everything.  We had a couple hours to burn, so we wandered around downtown, took a look at the Duomo, which is absolutely stunning.  Then we stumbled upon the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.  Apparently, this place is the reason so many malls are named "Galleria."  This mall was almost prettier than many of the churches we had been to!  Of course, the stores here are a little bit more expensive than those in most American malls.  You know, like the Gucci store that has its own coffee shop.

We decided to eat in the galleria at the Ristorante Galleria, this was a nice restaurant and I wish we had more time to relax and really eat there.  But, we were in a little bit of a hurry.  Meaning, we had time for a leasurely American dinner but not a European one.  We had a caprese salad for an appetizer. This caprese salad was so good that it tied for first place in all of Italy!  Then, I had muchroom and ricotta ravioli.  This stuff puts Olive Garden's ravioli di portobello to shame.  It was sooo good.

After dinner, we headed to La Scala for the show to begin. 

(phone snapshot)

We stood outside with other patrons until they opened the doors.  Then, we found our box.  This place was absolutely stunning. There was a regular floor level in the middle, but the seats on the outskirts were boxes stacked on top of each other.  Each was covered in red and gold.  I felt glamorous to say the least.  We were on the far left side of the stage, only 2 boxes from the front.  The problem was,  the angle was too sharp to see the stage.  There was only one seat in the box that could see the stage at all, and we were assigned the 2 seats in the back of the box.  Why would they even sell seats in the back of the box? When I purchased them online, it said your view might be inhibited.  To me "inhibited" means slightly blocked, but never dreamed they'd sell seats that had no view at all of the stage!  Lucas to the rescue. 

My bubble had been popped, and Lucas was so good to me that he took our tickets and went on a search for something that could be done.  The ticket booth happened to have 2 seats available around the back of the theater - in the front of that box.  They were nice enough to trade tickets with us.  Lucas brought me to our new seats, and they were perfect. 

(phone snapshot)

(phone snapshot)

(phone snapshot)

I'm so sad I didn't bring my camera here, as many people had theirs and there was no one to check bags. 

Unfortunately, there were "technical difficulties" and they couldn't get any of their stage equipment to work.  Instead of acting out Macbeth along with the opera, they would just be singing it.  We had individual little screens that would interpret the italian for us, which helped, but it just wasn't the full experience.  The singers had incredible voices, especially the woman that played Lady Macbeth.  They go so high! And have so many crazy runs!

At intermission, they turned on the lights and dropped the curtain.  Lucas, who had been bored out of his mind, but a VERY good sport about all this, thought it was over.  Poor guy.  We went outside to catch some fresh air, since there was no AC in the theater, and decided to skip the second half.  They were going to reimburse our tickets anyhow, and it wasn't quite the full experience I wanted it to be.  We had seen the gorgeous theater and I knew the end of the story anyhow.

Instead, we stopped into a nearby gelato place.  The duomo was gorgeous at night, so we sat there, ate our gelato and people watched.  This gelato was my 2nd favorite in Italy.  I got a scoop of white chocolate that had chunks of some other kind of chocolate in it, and a scoop of dark chocolate.  Yum.

After taking a few minutes to find the correct bus stop, we hopped our bus and headed back to the hotel for the night.

Tomorrow, we see Da Vinci's Last Supper then head to Venice:)

Want to follow us on our trip? Read Days 1 and 2, Day 3, Days 4 and 5, Day 6, Day 7, Days 8 and 9, Days 10 and 11, Day 12, and Days 13-15.

Select images from our trip are available for purchase.  You can find pictures from France here and pictures from Italy here!


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