17 Days in Europe – Day 9 France

By 19th August 2017Europe17

So today was a moving day.  Really, we just write off moving days.  By the time you pack up your stuff, leave one accommodation, travel to the next and then unpack, the vast majority of the day is gone.  You might not like that, we don’t mind it.  I actually enjoy it.  It is all part of the holiday to me.  I always make sure that we do it as relaxed as possible.

Today’s journey would take us from Lake Garda, out of Italy and just across the border into France.  We are aiming for a place called Passey.  It’s only minutes from Chamonix which was our main activity – going up Mont Blanc.  The drive was about 5 hours so would allow us to get some food shopping in when we arrived, have a little explore, eat and then chill out for the night.

But first, leaving Lake Garda.  We didn’t want to.  But there was no choice.  Shame.  All the packing and tidying up went very well.  I even managed to step on a scorpion in the garden.  I freaked out a bit, but all was well.  For me, not the poor scorpion.  It didn’t stand up very well to my walking boots.  Put up a good fight though!! 😉

As we put the last of the bags into the car, the weather turned for the worse and we actually left Lake Garda in a lightning storm.  It’s as if it didn’t want us to leave either. Ha ha

Travel was uneventful.  I like to read the signs and visualise what these other places would be like.  Milan, Bologna, Turin, Novara.  So many other places to explore.  As we travelled West the mountain range started to build.  Even with the sat nav directing us it was clear that we needed to turn right to get to the Alps – you couldn’t miss them.

As we started to leave more traditional Italy with its Cyprus trees and colourful buildings, the terrain changes, becomes more hilly, green and littered with castles and forts.  Clearly, in times gone by, civilisations had used the mountains as a natural barrier for enemies and stationed forts, walls and armouries all along them.  The towns become more French, rustic, stone built.

We drove through some amazing scenery, sorry we didn’t capture it on camera.  As we get closer and closer to the French border the traffic starts to build.  Now we find ourselves in sight of the South Face of Mont Blanc.  The biggest mountain in Europe and essentially the most western part of the Alps.  It is a beast.  With a huge glacier on it to boot.

Just ahead the road is closed so we are diverted through a small town.  But it gives us an opportunity to get out of the car, take pictures and what else – ? Handstands and headstands on the grass.  Why not?!


Back in the car and we pull up to the Mont Blanc tunnel.  Now here is where I didn’t plan.  I mean, it’s a tunnel right.  What is there to plan?  You pull up, pay the toll and drive through it.

Boring fact time –

  1.  Italy transports one-third of all of its freight through this tunnel.  That’s a lot of lorries.
  2. It is over 11km long and only a certain number of cars are allowed it in at any one time.  38 people died in a fire in the tunnel in 1999.
  3. At one point, the mountain above it is 2840 meters higher – that’s a lot of rock on top of you
  4. It costs over 40 euros each way.  Yes, 40 euros.  That’s like how much we would pay for our evening meal.

So we sat outside the tunnel for about an hour watching the glacier melt in the sun.  The only saving grace is that our accommodation was only 10 minutes out the other side so we didn’t have far to go once we got moving.  Once inside the tunnel we watched the car temperature dial go from about 28 degrees to 36 degrees.  Hot hot hot.

Within minutes we were at our accommodation.  It was the top floor of a block.  In its own grounds with a small balcony and a wonderful view.  But the owner was interesting to say the least.  This was the first place we have stayed in that I would actually describe as someones house – the actual home that they live in.  Not a holiday property or a second home.  Their house.  So it was really homely and had everything you needed.  But it was someones elses house.  I can’t stress that enough.  Weird.

And it stunk.  Eventually we narrowed it down to a combination of french cheeses, meats and a packet of mothballs.  Quite off-putting really.  Yet it was really comfortable, had loads of space and had a great selection of board games and stuff for the kids.

The owner was quirky but very pleasant and she gave us a great recommendation for a picnic area near the town.  So we set off to the supermarket, bought some supplies for the next few days and got a picnic for our evening in the park.  It was beautiful.  A small lake with grass and wooded areas around it.  A nice path, some picnic tables and BBQ points.  People were swimming, running and chilling out.  It was a bit cold for us – since we’d just come from heat wave Italy, but we happily spent the evening their overlooking Mont Blanc.  Although the clouds were swirling, it peaked out a few times to reveal its glory.


Back to the accommodation now and the kids had found an old game called Bagatelle.  It’s like an early version of a pinball machine.  A pinball machine is like and early version of an app you would get on your iPad (for all you young ones).  This brought back a lot of good memories.  I remembered that my Grandad had one of these and we used to play it together when I was little.  I think he had made his.  Quite clever really.

Basically you push ball bearings onto a wooden table and watch as they roll down in to various scored holes.  After 6 balls or so you add the total together.  Player with the most wins.  The holes are surrounded by very fine metal pins so the balls ping off them in a strangely soothing ‘ting ting ting ting ting’ and then the sound of the ball rolling down the wooden board.

We play for a long time.  Marcus goes to bed.  Charlotte pulls out another game, this time a quiz one.  She acts as quiz master and throws questions at us.  I slouch on the sofa and before I know it, Wendy is shaking me telling me to stop snoring and go to bed.

Tomorrow we are hoping for a clear day as we are heading to the top of Mont Blanc.





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