8 great photos from 8 days in the Alps

Coffee and apple beignet

We have just returned from a week’s holiday with friends in the Alps, near the skiing town of La Clusaz. As in previous years, I’ve selected eight photos to tell the story of our eight days away, all taken with nothing more sophisticated than my iPhone 6 and a little app-based photo-processing.

You can also read my photo-journals of our summer holidays to Tuscany (2013) and Evian (2014) but here is the story of our return to the Alps this year.

1. Who needs snow?

La ClusazThe notion of heading to the Alps in the summer may seem odd but hopefully this image taken from the Plateau de Beauregard cable car station looking back down on La Clusaz gives a hint as to why this area is one of our favourites. In every direction there is spectacular scenery either a short drive or a cycle ride away.

2. Five go mad in France

KidsAs we have done for the previous two summers, we went away with our old university friends, giving us six kids ranging from three to 14.

The youngest five in particular formed a close-knit unit. Isaac and our friends’ youngest daughter are only a few days apart in age and we often joke that they’re already like an old married couple. (They really are.) And although both Toby and Kara are significantly younger than their son, he has always been accommodating of their hero-worshipping attention.

From games in the pool to jumping between cars and bedrooms to huddling over iPads together, it’s one of those situations where mixing two groups of kids just works – and their ability to entertain and look after each other more with every passing year was great for us too.

3. Catching some rays

Hot tub

Having access to our own swimming pool has always been a prerequisite of our joint holidays – it becomes the hub for our children’s activities – but this year we had the added bonus of a hot tub, the perfect place to relax and enjoy the (mostly) sunny afternoons.

I love this shot. One adult and two children from each family happily intermingled, with the sun beaming down upon them. It sums up the week perfectly for me

4. What, no Heidi?

Plateau de Beauregard Alpine scene

The week was full of scenes like this: Alpine meadows, craggy rock faces, higher snow-topped peaks to the south, the distant sound of cow-bells. Or in this case not-so-distant, as our post-picnic lunch stroll was interrupted by the bovine equivalent of rush-hour.

All that’s missing from this shot is Heidi skipping through the fields and the Von Trapp family providing a musical accompaniment. Oh well.

5. Patisserie perfection

Coffee and apple beignet

A daily drive to raid the shelves of a local patisserie quickly became one of my favourite parts of the week. From croissants and pains au chocolat to beignets (pastry fritters) and chaussons aux pommes (apple turnovers), I was in foodie heaven.

And when I got back from my patisserie run, I could enjoy a pastry (or two) and a freshly brewed coffee out on the patio with a view out over the mountains. It made quite a change from my normal bleary-eyed cereal and tea before dashing off to work, although the downside is that I’m now wearing a sizeable doughnut-shaped addition around my midriff.

6. The climbs of the Tour

Col de la Colombiere

I’ve run a separate blog focussing on pro cycling for the past four years, so July for me is synonymous with the Tour de France. The Tour’s most legendary Alpine mountains lie further south but we were still within touching distance of several notable climbs I have previously only seen on TV. This is definitely cycling country, as the hordes of MAMILs (Middle-Aged Men in Lycra) we passed bravely tackling the various mountain passes will testify.

Cycling fans will be familiar with the Col de la Colombiere, which we drove to the top of and were rewarded with some spectacular views. We may only have experienced its gradients and hairpin bends in a family-sized rental car rather than on road bikes but it’s still enough to give you a sense of how steep and hard these climbs are, the effect of which is lost by the flattening effect of a TV camera lens.

7. Speed-freak adrenaline junkie (and her mum)

Kara and Mummy

Kara may be the youngest of our three children but she is also the most adventurous. Offered the chance to ride on a ‘bob-luge’ – a high-speed summer toboggan run – she accepted without hesitation.

Isaac is always slightly circumspect and Toby managed to tip our luge over on our run, leaving him a little shaken. (I ended up bleeding and missing skin on my elbow and knee for the second year running.) However, Kara emerged from her run with Heather with a smile of satisfaction but not the squeals of outright pleasure that signify the kind of high-adrenaline thrills she loves when, for instance, I take her out in my car to perform tyre-squealing starts. It obviously wasn’t fast enough for her! Speed-freak …

8. The white mountain

Mont Blanc from Col des Aravis

At 4,810 metres above sea level, Mont Blanc (literally, the ‘white mountain’) is the highest peak in Western Europe and is snow-capped throughout the year. To put that into context, it is 3½ times as high as Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain, while the highest paved pass in the Alps, the Col de l’Iseran, stands more than 2,000 metres below its summit.

Cloud cover permitting, it’s visible from a great distance. This shot was taken from outside a restaurant on the Col des Aravis – a comparative foothill at just under 1,500 metres! – nearly 40km away. Not a bad spot for lunch!

This is just a small sample of the many photos I took during the week, the vast majority (and all eight included here) captured with my humble iPhone. We had a great time and I’d have no hesitation going back again – although next time I’ve got my eye on heading a little further south and tackling Alpe d’Huez and the Col du Galibier.

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