We returned to the Alps this summer and yet again I set myself the challenge of telling our story in eight images – one for each day – using only photos captured by my iPhone.
I first did this back in 2013 when we spent a week in Tuscany. I repeated it in Evian in 2014 and again last year when we stayed in a chalet that was literally in the shadow of the one we occupied this year.
This year was slightly different insofar that before the Alps we spent a week at Disneyland Paris and in Paris itself (you can see my Disney and Paris photos here and here respectively) but the same principle applies here: eight days, eight photos, all taken with my trusty iPhone 6 and processed in-phone using the photo editing app Snapseed.
So here goes. Here is the story of our third – and I would say our favourite – summer in the Alps.
1. Picture postcard
For the second year in a row, we stayed just outside the ski resort of La Clusaz in the Haute-Savoie region. It can’t boast the giddifying altitude of some of its better known Alpine neighbours but it’s a gorgeous little picture postcard town. With a population of around 2,000 it’s big enough without being too big and it has superb views, good restaurants and plenty of summer activities: hiking, biking, mini-golf, a summer luge run and so on. It’s also more easily accessible than most Alpine centres – half an hour from Annecy and just over an hour from Geneva airport.
We don’t often return to holiday destinations a second time. We were more than happy to come back here.
2. The games children play …
We travelled again with our old university friends and their three children (and also, this time, with two of their grandparents). Their youngest is a week older than our oldest, Isaac. They only see each other two or three times a year, but the five youngest always quickly form a little gang who spend the entire week swapping between cars and doing various things in different combinations.
From eating to swimming to playing games on the PlayStation together, they looked after each other and entertained each other and made the burden of attending to six much less than dealing with our three alone. It’s a combination that just works and it means that adults and kids alike all get to relax and enjoy their holiday.
3. … And the games grown-ups play
One of our shared traditions that goes back to our university days is a love of games. Every year we bring a selection between us to while away the evenings, washed down with a glass (or five) of ice-cold limoncello. This year’s hit was a new card game we had discovered called Coup (available on Amazon here), a rapid-fire battle of strategy and deception that went down a storm.
Games evenings are a rare luxury these days. Being able to sit around the table night after night pitting our wits against friends is a big part of our summer holidays, and one which the children are being gradually indoctrinated into as they get older. Coup was a big hit with the boys this year too – an added bonus.
4. Could I *be* any more French?
Last year I developed a habit of heading down in to the village every morning to pick up fresh pastries from the local boulangerie. This year I even did it on foot a couple of times – a one-hour round trip down and then back up a steep hill (and therefore justifying an additional breakfast pastry!)
Despite my best attempts at conducting business solely in French and my regular haul of baguettes, croix Savoie (a local speciality – a custard-filled, cross-shaped pastry) and apple beignets, I’m never going to be mistaken for anything other than what I am: a tourist. But a major part of travel for me is trying to do as the locals do, so it’s a big deal for me. Although there was a major moment of uncertainty on our first morning when I phoned up a local restaurant and wasn’t entirely sure if I’d booked a table for 12 at one o’clock, a table for one at 12 o’clock or an emergency appendectomy. Thankfully I’d got it right.
5. Life’s a beach
We visited Plage d’Angon last year. It’s a peaceful little beach on the shores of Lake Annecy with fantastic views of the surrounding mountains. This year we returned twice to spend lazy days splashing about on foam rafts in the lake, sunbathing and picnicking.
The kids loved it. Kara in particular displayed impressive ninja pirate captain skills as she single-handedly defended her personal raft, repelling all boarders with an array of kicks and punches that far surpassed anything I saw in the taekwondo at the Olympics. The girl is fierce!
6. A table with a view
Our one big driving trip saw us tracing the key roads of the penultimate stage of this year’s Tour de France. The stage actually passed through La Clusaz and over the Col de la Colombiere, which we drove up last year, before ascending the fearsome Col de Joux Plane – one of the best known climbs in the Alps – and plunging down the other side into the ski town of Morzine.
From the summit there are breathtaking views of Europe’s tallest mountain, Mont Blanc. But I was rather taken with this spot barely halfway up the twisty climb (which is hard enough in a car, never mind on a bike), with its picnic table offering up a not entirely unpleasant view of the snow-capped peak. Not a bad spot to stop for lunch!
7. Painting the town red
We drove down the descent of the Joux Plane – rather less quickly than the professional cyclists do – into Morzine. In winter this is one of the Alps’ most popular ski resorts. In summer it is a frequent stopping point for the Tour de France and the locals mark the occasion not so much by painting the town red as covering it in red polka dots, representing the jersey worn by the leader of the Tour’s King of the Mountains competition. Everywhere we looked in town there were either bicycle statues or red polka dots: shops, houses, roundabouts, bridges. And zebra crossings.
I love the way French towns and villages embrace the Tour. The same stage that finished in Morzine also passed through St Jean de Sixt, the village we were staying in, early in the day. The peloton would have flashed through in a blur in barely 30 seconds but the villagers had still erected a giant statue of a cyclist to commemorate the event. When we arrived nearly a month later, it was still there.
8. The aftermath
It’s a long way home from the Alps – about 700 miles – and we split the trip back over two days. We left on Saturday morning, stopped overnight in Rouen and arrived home, 16 days after we left, at around 10pm on Sunday.
And this was the scene the following morning. Our kids said they had never enjoyed a holiday so much. But they had put everything in to it. And it showed. But it had been totally worth it.