I must admit that I love to eat so it’s fortunate that I’m heading for Paris this weekend where food is taken very, very seriously. I’m hoping to taste my way through the best that the city can offer as well as enjoy the Paris lights and Christmas spirit. We’re flying Air France from my local airport of Bristol and in just a short hop we’ll be arriving at the Hotel Pullman in Montparnasse, which I gather has great views of the Eiffel Tower. To help me get the best from our long weekend I’ve been asking blogging friends and Paris locals for their food recommendations. Here are some ideas for markets, cool cafes and grand restaurants as well as fun food experiences that I’m hoping to try when I’m in Paris;
Easy and affordable eating
1. Le Puits de Légumes vegetarian restaurant recommended by Barbara Weibel at Hole in the Donut
Vegetarian food is catching on in Paris, but the selections are still few and far between. One of the best is Le Puits de Légumes, a cozy cafe with seating for 30, located between Cardinal Lemoine and the Quais de Seine in the 5th Arrondissement. The smiling owner doubles as waitress and cook and pulls out all the stops to make sure customers are happy and well-fed. The portions were huge and I loved the tray of condiments and spices that allowed everyone to season their food individually. Best of all, the price is very affordable, with a three course meal that included coffee and dessert for less than 20 Euros
2. Le Relais Gascon in Montmartre recommended by Michael Schuermann from Easyhiker
In Montmartre (where we lived for 20 years), we generally took friends and visitors to Le Relais Gascon on Rue des Abbesses (50m away from Metro Abesses): young, student-ish, a little bohemian perhaps. Order one of their full-meal-sized salads.
3. Opium Oyster bar recommended by Doni Belau from Girls’ Guide to Paris
There is a fairly new place on rue de Seine that offers just oysters (and a few other shellfish) and has only four tables, called Opium. It’s reminiscent of a small oyster cabin that you might find in Cap Ferrat on the Atlantic coast of France. The owner is extremely friendly and the oysters are to die for, perfect for a holiday celebration. After filling up on oysters you can go down the street for a Spanish Jamon sampling at da rosa. A roaming tapas style evening and a fun way to eat.
4. Rue du Faubourg St Denis recommended by Michael Schuermann from Easyhiker
Best place for a “food journey around the world”: Rue du Faubourg St Denis in the 10th. Start at the Gare de l’Est end, with a sandwich from the Mauritian fast food stall, continue with a Kurdish pizza (or something from the new-ish Syrian restaurant at the very end) and finish with some baclava from one of the North African patissiers.
5.Parisian Crepes recommended by Chantal Dewolf from The Wolf Will Travel
For authentic Parisian crepes, head over to the Montparnasse district to La Creperie de Josselin (67 Rue du Montparnasse, 75014 Paris). It’s a little (literally), family-run business – hence no website- but the crepes are to die for! On weekends, the lines for the creperie are spilling out onto the street, but the wait is totally worth it. Large sarrasin crepes (savory) are served with pichets of cider, and for dessert why not try a flaming sweet crepe?
6. Grillades Au Feu Du Bois recommended by Michael Schuermann from Easyhiker
For Couscous, we loved to go to a place on 92 Rue du Faubourg du Temple in the 11th, simply called Grillades Au Feu Du Bois – very Algerian, with men in kaftans on benches, serving huge portions (best as take away: one portion of the Couscous Royale feeds 2). In general, we always feel that Couscous is best when it is treated as every day working man’s food, not as some chi-chi novelty food waiting to be “fused” with the chef’s latest whim.
7. Le Bal Café is recommended by Ludovic Yken from Paris Offbeat
If you want to try an amazing brunch on sunday morning, just go the Bal Café where you will find the best English food in Paris. And in the same time, you can visit the exhibition of Le Bal, a very small museum of Photographers (it’s the place of Magnum agency)
8. L’orillon Bar is recommended by Ludovic Yken from Paris Offbeat
L’orillon Bar is the new bar in town ! and a secret : Top quality products at the bar and in the kitchen. There are classic beers as well as monthly featured brew. Plus a selection of excellent wine ! And you can order a cheese or charcuterie broad , really good with an excellent quality/ price ratio. Check out this review from Le Fooding
9. Raclette at Chalet Savoyard recommended by Chantal Dewolf from The Wolf Will Travel
For fondue/raclette, ideal for a winter visit, I’d recommend a restaurant in the 11th arrondisement called the Chalet Savoyard . What makes this place stand out is the fact that the raclette is served with a hulking 1/2 wheel of cheese, placed on a raclette grilling aparatus right on your table. A huge part of the experience is watching the cheese grill, scraping it off, and serving yourself. Be prepared to leave STUFFED! (Booking essential)
10. Le galopin is recommended by Ludovic Yken from Paris Offbeat
Le Galopin is a little restaurant set in the pretty Saint-Marthe square, the menu changes according to the mood of the chef ( Romain Tischenko) and the fresh products available on the markets. The chef is a real magician and his fusion cuisine is a delight!
Dining in grand surroundings
11. Le Restaurant at Musée d’Orsay recommended by Mark Heers at Travel Wonders of the World
When visual exhaustion finally sets in after gazing over one too many Monets, van Goghs, Cezannes, Gaughins or Renoirs in the grand ex-railway station which is now the Impressionist Mecca, Musée d’Orsay, make your way to le premier étage for an aristocratic afternoon tea in Le Restaurant. With vibrant ceiling frescoes lined with gold leaf, glittering chandeliers and elegant service, take your time savouring every mouthful of decadently tangy and velvety lemon and meringue tart as your eyes soak in a visual feast of original artworks and a panoramic vista along the Seine.
12. Le Train Bleu is recommended by Vera Marie Badertscher from A Traveler’s Library
Big Ben Bar, at Le Train Bleu in the Gare de Lyon was as close as we came to a splurge on our visit to Paris. I wanted to eat at Le Train Bleu, or at least to see the gilded age glory of this train station restaurant from the late 1800′s. We inadvertently did it right. Because we did not have reservations and were there an hour before they opened for dinner (at 7:00 p.m.) we were served dinner in the bar–really just an extension of the dining room. So we got the great view of the decor, ate fabulous food, and paid much less. Read Vera Marie’s other Paris eating suggestions
13. Restaurant at top of Tour Montparnasse – recommended by Abigail King of Inside the Travel Lab
Forget the Eiffel Tower. The best place to have dinner in Paris if you’re looking for iconic views is at the restaurant in Tour Montparnasse – where you can see the Eiffel Tower. Arrive early to grab one of the coveted window seats and time your trip with the seasons to make sure you’re in position as the sun sets. Food is fresh, French and earns its high price tag but as you might expect from a position like this, it doesn’t attract a local crowd.
14. Cafe Marly at the Louvre recommended by Ana Silva O’Reilly from Mrs O around the world
For dinner and a glass of champagne, we booked a table at the Louvre, no less. I loved the intimite ambiance of Cafe Marly, with views of the Louvre pyramid. The food was delicious and I couldn’t help noticing the waitresses, clad in Lancel handbags and Christian Louboutin heels. So French and so chic! (and not very touristy)
Sweet and delicious in Paris
15. L’Eclair de Génie recommended by Lyndsey Tramuta from Lost in Cheeseland
Eclairs aren’t just indulgent, they are the quintessential French pastry and often the first the French bite into as children. It’s easy to eat on the go, celestially creamy and eminently giftable. Now, it’s also fashionable – at L’Eclair de Génie, renowned pastry chef (and éclair authority) Christophe Adam crafts some 30 flavors as original as the designs themselves. I’d take a lemon Yuzu or Vanilla-Maple-Pecan éclair over a staid chocolate one any day. Pick up a small box to-go and I guarantee you’ll be back for more. Read about the new wave of eclairs in Paris
16. Mariage Freres is recommended by Vera Marie Badertscher from A Traveler’s Library
At Mariage Freres, tea can count as a meal if it is high tea and if you are not extremely hungry. At our landlord’s suggestion, we visited this tea room near our apartment. Turns out that in this country where not very many people drink tea, Mariage Freres produces the absolute best. The brothers Mariage started trading back in the 17th century, and are still at it. The building is quaint, the service impeccable and the varieties of tea astounding. Price for two pots of tea and one complete plate of snacks: €20.00. This was absolutely one of the high points of Paris for me.
Wonderful food markets to wander
17. Rue Montorgeuil is recommended by Jenny Freedman of A Taste of Travel
Rue Montorgeuil is one of the oldest market streets in central Paris. Fabulous food shops line both sides of this pedestrian street near to where the Les Halles market once stood. Don’t miss being tempted by the fabulous pastries at Stohrer or the incredible selection of cheeses at La Fermette. Fish shops surprise, the fruit shop is called a palace and here the butcher will cook dinner for you! Of course stopping at one of the local cafes is a must! Read about Jenny’s visit to Rue Montorgeuil
18. Marche d’Aligre Food tour with My Genie in Paris recommended by Ana Silva O’Reilly from Mrs O around the world
I really enjoyed my morning with My Genie in Paris on its Bastille market and food tour in and around Marche d’Aligre. I love markets as they tell a lot about the city; the smells, the different foods and flavours, and of course the people. The places we went to were pretty unique, with some wine, charcuterie and an incredible cheese selection. I will never forget the Baron Rouge wine bar where we ended with oysters and a glass of Sancerre at 11.30 in the morning. Read more about Mrs O’s weekend in Paris
PS I’m also going to be enjoying a food tour of Marche d’Aligre with Viator – look out for my reports on that later
19. Rue Montorgeuil is also recommended by Kathryn Burrington from Travel with Kat
We took a guided tour of the delightful food shops on rue Montorgueil, moving from shop to shop along this lovely cobbled, pedestrian-only street, delighting our eyes and our taste buds. I particularly enjoyed visiting the oldest pâtisserie in Paris, Maison Stohrer, which had the most tempting of sweet treats you can imagine. The fromagerie, La Fermette, had a wonderful range to choose from and the service was as good as the cheeses – superb! Read more about Kat’s food tour on Rue Montorgueil
20. Rue Mouffetard recommended by Chantal Dewolf from The Wolf Will Travel
There are several food markets in Paris, but for me, the best market can be found on Rue Mouffetard. Not a traditional food market, as the street itself is home to several restaurants and boutiques, but there are open-air fresh produce stalls tempting you with juicy strawberries and grapes, amongst others. There is a wonderful flowershop, a fromagerie, a poissoniere, a charcuteriere and of course several boulangeries. The street is packed on a Sunday. Very often, live music fills the air and its not uncommon to see shoppers join the dancers on the street. Be sure to try the obligatory rose shaped ice cream concoctions from Gelati d’Alberto.
Un verre de vin?
21. O Chateau for wine tasting is recommended by Linda Bibb from As We Saw It
No visit to Paris is complete without enjoying a bit of French wine. Sure, you can order a glass of the house red at dinner, but why not go one step further and enjoy quality wines at a real wine tasting? We splurged on a 1½-hour wine tasting at O Château. The sommelier who led our class took all the mystery out of tasting and enjoying wine. He explained the differences between French wines and how to evaluate them. We learned so much and had so much fun!
For those with limited time or cash there’s a wine bar with 40 varieties available by the glass. Or if you prefer, you can enjoy a gourmet dinner in their restaurant afterward. You can pop in to the wine bar whenever you want, but they recommend that you book meals and wine tastings ahead of time on their website.
22. Un verre de vin chaud recommended by Anne Ditmeyer of Prêt à Voyager
If you’re visiting in winter, a vin chaud or mulled wine is the perfect beverage. It’s nice to have an adult friendly warm drink on cold days. It’s something you should be able to find at any of the Christmas markets around the city, however those have lost a lot of their charm over the years in my option – at least the ones along the Champs Elysées and near the Eiffel Tower. But you can still get a cup to go as you stroll around the neighborhoods. I’d recommend Abbesses – the holiday lights around Montmarte are particularly charming. You should also be able to order a vin chaud at most French cafes – try Cafe des Deux Moulins (from Amèlie) at 15 rue Lepic in the 18th. Check out Anne’s design tours of Paris through Vayable.
Cooking and dining with locals
23. La Cuisine Paris cookery school recommended by Lyndsey Tramuta from Lost in Cheeseland
A view of the Seine, a state of the art kitchen and French chefs ready and willing to show you how to make the best croissant or most flavorful coq au vin. At La Cuisine Paris, a cooking school a mere few blocks from the city hall (Hôtel de Ville), you’re guaranteed all three and heaps more. I’ve taken cooking and pastry classes at this school numerous times and have found the experience immensely enjoyable. If pastry or cooking isn’t your thing, consider their cheese class which covers everything from the history and production to the differences between types of cheeses, with copious tastings throughout the class.
24. Dining with locals at Voulez Vous Diner recommended by Doni Belau from Girls’ Guide to Paris
The best way that I know of for a visitor to meet and have dinner with a local (and the safest) is to check out Voulez Vous Diner. For a set fee, one can look up the various hosts available on the appropriate night that works for you and you can also check out the hosts interests and then book a table to meet and eat with a vrai Parisian. My husband and I did this one night, and truly enjoyed meeting our host who happened to be the gentleman who started a well known program of philosophy discussion nights around Paris. Needless to say our host and his son were both fascinating and the food wasn’t bad either. Read A Girls’ Guide to Paris review of Voulez Vous Diner
25. Dining with locals at Cookening recommended by Cedric Georgi from Cookening.com
I met Cedric recently at a travel blogger’s conference and he kindly offered me the opportunity to try out a night eating with a local Parisian through Cookening, the organisation that Cedric helped found. Guy and I are really looking to our evening sampling some Cordon Bleu French Creole cuisine with Adelia who lives not far from Hotel Pullman where we are staying in Montparnasse. The examples of dishes on the website such as crab salad with lime and panfried tuna with lemon and capers look delicious, so we are looking forward to seeing what’s on the menu and I’ll be giving a full report when I get back.
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The breathtaking mountain landscapes of the Alps have drawn travellers, walkers and climbers since Monsieur Saussaure arrived in Chamonix in 1760 to make a botanical study of the area and offered a reward for the first man to scale Mont Blanc. I’ve been lucky enough to experience these mountain peaks and even get close to the top of them during my walks on the Tour de Mont Blanc, so I’m taking advantage of the Nature Photographer of the Year competition, being run by Sanctuary Retreats to share some of my photos with you from these trips.
Below is the photo of Lac Blanc I chose to enter into the competition – if you’re feeling kind you might like to go and vote for my entry here . But because one photo is never enough to tell the story of my walk through the Alps, I’ve included a few more for your enjoyment, together with the story behind each photo.
Lac Blanc is a milky blue glacial lake that sits high above the Chamonix Valley and while we reached it on our Tour de Mont Blanc Walk, it also makes an ideal day walk up from the valley. Most walkers miss out the hard work on the lower slopes and take the cable car up to Flegere, from where a couple of hours walking will bring you up to Lac Blanc, passing small pools on the way to reach this large, milky blue glacial lake that’s backed by mountains. Surprisingly for a place so remote, there’s a very nice mountain refuge there where you can stay the night, although we just had a coffee on the terrace with a slice of Tarte aux Mytilles that still remains in my memory. Read more about our walk to Lac Blanc.
The very first day on the first year that we walked part of the Tour de Mont Blanc we ended up at Refuge Bellechat sitting on the crest above the Chamonix Valley. Looking back, the walk up from Les Houches seems pretty tame but at the time it seemed like the longest uphill walk in the world. Waking up the next morning, we took our cafe au lait out onto the terrace and took in the glorious views of Mont Blanc – we were hooked!
Chamonix is a town that we got to know pretty well, as it was often the start or end of our walk. On our first year we took the small mountain railway ‘Chemin de fer du Montenvers’ up to the Mer de Glace which was my first experience of getting close up to a glacier. Part of me was slightly disappointed that the glacier looked so grubby and grey with all the morraine that it carries along with it as it grinds through the valley. Every year they carve an ice cave into the glacier which you can walk into and admire the coloured lights and ice sculptures – pretty cool.
Champex Lac was where we ended one year and started again the next and this high altitude lakeside village makes a great base if you’d like to do some day walks around the area. There’s a path that runs right around the lake which only takes about 30 minutes to walk and if you do, you’ll get this same view of the lake reflecting like a mirror the wooded slopes and peaks in the distance.
One of the nicest mountain refuges we stayed at on our Tour de Mont Blanc circuit was Rifugio Bonatti, on the Italian side, named for the famous Italian climber Walter Bonatti. After dinner we went outside on the terrace to watch as the setting sun bathed the peak of Mont Blanc in the distance, turning it white and gold, until the sun slipped behind the mountain and it was if someone had suddenly switched off the light.
In the Alps, when the sun’s shining and the sky is blue, it’s the mountain peaks that are the showstoppers in the landscape. However as you walk hour after hour (with more and more frequent stops if you’re me) your eye becomes tuned in to the more subtle beauty of the alpine flowers beside the path. In September there weren’t so many of them, so when I spotted a spot of colour I would take the time to capture it in a photo. Growing on the meagre soil of the Alps there is nothing showy about these plants, they take their chance and snatch their time in the sun ….
… I don’t know what these plants were called but they made a soft, fluffy cotton ball in the meadow. There must have been something that suited them in the soil as there were whole swathes of them across the hillside …
… and here are the pretty purple flowers that we saw growing everywhere in the autumn. In this case they frame the view back towards Courmayeur down in the valley from where we climbed up at the start of this year’s walk.
What is a beautiful landscape if you have no time to sit and enjoy it? This was one of the reasons that my friend Julia and I decided to take the Tour de Mont Blanc in stages, walking for 3 or 4 days each year, rather than trying to complete it in one exhausting circuit of 12 days. We also planned the distances carefully for each day so that we didn’t have to walk for more than about 6 hours, leaving us time to have a leisurely lunch, take lots of photos (in my case) or just stop to admire the view. The picture below is one of my favourite from the whole trip, taken at the top of the high pass of Grand Col Ferret that forms the border between Switzerland and Italy. While I was busy taking photos, Julia was just soaking up the sun and mountain scenery, storing it away as a memory to bring out on dull days back in Bristol.
The counterpart of Grand Col Ferret is the high pass of Col de la Seigne which at over 2500m takes you from Italy into France and gives another fantastic viewpoint down the valley. The rock cairn marks the perfect point to sit and admire the view back from the route that we’d just climbed up from Rifugio Elizabetta. I learned later that this area had been the scene of fighting between the Alpiniste troops on the Italian and French sides during the Second World War, while now we can walk from one country to the next with not even a border post.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my tour of the mountain landscapes on the Tour de Mont Blanc. If you have some wonderful landscape or wildlife photos to share, you may like to enter the Nature Photographer of the Year Facebook Competition and you could win a Go-Pro Hero3 White edition camera - you can enter here . If you’re keen on wildlife, do take a look at the Sanctuary Retreats Galapagos Page for inspiration – a destination that I’d love to visit.
Once again I thank you for your vote .
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The second half of my walk on the Tour de Mont Blanc earlier this September took me and my friend Julia over high mountain passes, with panoramic views of the peaks and valleys surrounding us, as well as the emotional highs we felt on finally completing this demanding high mountain trail which we have walked in stages over the last four years. Read about the highs and lows of the the final three days of this year’s trek as we walked from Chapieux to our journey’s end at Les Houches in the Chamonix valley. (You may like to also read about Day 1 and 2 of this year’s trek )
Day 3 – Chapieux to Refuge de Balme
Having passed a pleasant evening in the Vallee des Glaciers at Auberge de la Nova in Chapieux, we climbed up behind the refuge on a grassy path, over the bridge by a small hydro-electric station and up the mountain side. The path wound steadily upwards, getting more rocky towards the top, with occasional glimpses of Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme on the crest, an hour before we actually reached it. Finally, after 3 hours of steady walking we reached the refuge, which was set on an intersection of many different paths. The large refuge was built of wood and glass but there was no sign of them selling refreshments, so we rested a while before walking up the to Col de la Croix du Bonhomme and took the detour up to Tete Nord de Fours for the most amazing panoramic views.
I hope you enjoy the Qwiki video below about our Tour de Mont Blanc walk from Chapieux to Les Houches
The walk now took as back down to Col de la Croix du Bonhomme and then wound along a grassy hillside to Col du Bonhomme, where we started to get views down the Val Montjoie towards Contamines. The descent to Refuge de la Balme took us down over a bed of glacial morraine with views of Lac Jovet hanging above the valley, then through a marshy meadow where cows were grazing and finally down a difficult shale path to Refuge de la Balme at the head of the valley.
Highlights of Day 3
- We really enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine and our dinner at Auberge de la Nova, which included a home-made vegetable soup (in the refuges it is often packet soup), a tender beef stew and a custard tart with berries.
- Tete Nord de Fours at over 2750M had been recommended to us by a French couple in Chapieux and although I was all for pressing on, I’m so glad that Julia insisted we take the 1 hr detour to climb up there, first to the saddle of Col de Fours and then to the viewing point of Tete Nord de Fours. The final part of the path followed a line of cairns over an outcrop of red rock, walking over patches of snow in places and up the ridge to the viewing point where there was a table with names of all the surrounding peaks. Before us was Mont Blanc itself and on both sides, we could look right down to the valleys as well as to the route we’d climbed up. This was where we stopped for a late picnic lunch, feeling on top of the world, at one with the mountains.
I hope you enjoy the panorama video of Tete Nord de Fours below
- The view from Col du Bonhomme was also stunning as we were now at the head of the Val Montjoie, looking down towards Contamines in the distance, with views of the glacial Lac Jouet. There was a viewing table, a small shelter and this was a flat area where many walkers stopped for a rest. It was great to know that from here it would be all downhill.
Lowlights of Day 3
- As we got closer to Refuge Col de Balme, the path turned into hard shale that was steep and slippery, making it difficult to keep your footing. While we had thought of retracing our steps back up to see Lac Jovet the next day, after this path we decided not to bother as we couldn’t face the hour’s hard climb.
- At Plan de Dames, in the meadow above Refuge de la Balme we passed a large rock cairn, which the guidebook said was where an Englishwoman had perished in a storm. I felt a bit sad, wondering who this lady was and how she had come to be lost in the storm.
Day 4 Refuge de la Balme to Contamines
We enjoyed our stay at the Refuge de la Balme, a collection of old converted dairy buildings, which was run by a group of exceptionally friendly and efficient young men. They were working hard to keep the place spick and span and had almost finished their chores by the time we left around 9am with the sun creeping over the mountain peak behind us while the Refuge was still in shadow. It was an easy walk down the valley, with the odd chalet now appearing in the meadows and forest on either side of the path. After 40 minutes we reached the pretty Refuge Nant Borrant where we stopped for morning coffee, before continuing our leisurely stroll down to the chapel at Notre Dame de la Gorge, where we stopped for a while to look around. By now we were getting close to Contamines and passing day walkers who had come up to see the chapel as well as the nearby boating lake with pedalos and a cafe. The surroundings were becoming more suburban with holiday apartments and proper roads and by early afternoon we reached the village of Contamines itself, with plenty of bars and restaurants. After checking into Hotel le Christiana we sat on the terrace of one of the cafes in the sunshine for a late lunch of Salade Nicoise for me (in honour of my recent girl’s weekend in Nice) and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing.
Highlights of Day 4
- We enjoyed our relaxing morning coffee in the sunny garden of Refuge Nant Borrant, which was covered with colourful window boxes with an array of orange, yellow and green deckchairs, just inviting us to take the weight off our feet. We felt pretty smug as we watched the walkers heading up the hill, in the opposite direction, knowing that they would certainly have a gruelling 6 hour climb before they reached the top and arrive exhausted at Refuge Croix de Bonhomme.
- The chapel at Notre Dame de la Gorge is a place of pilgrimage, built on the site of 13th century hermitage and was beautiful inside with plenty of colour and charming carved wooden statues at the side altars. We also enjoyed looking at the boards from the photo exhibition within the grounds of the chapel, with stunning mountain photography.
- It was good to be back in the relative luxury of a proper hotel at Hotel le Christiania, after the bunk rooms and outside shower blocks of the mountain refuges, and we enjoyed our traditional Savoyard meal of Tartiflette, with plenty of cream and cheese that evening.
Lowlights of Day 4
- We were a little sad to be leaving the grandeur of the high mountain passes, especially as we reached the suburbs of Contamines. The pedalos on the boating lake and slides of the leisure park felt a little fake after the wild beauty of the mountains and we felt rather superior to the day walkers, who were taking a much easier trek than the one we had just done.
Day 5 Contamines to Les Houches
Our final day took us mainly through meadows and attractive alpine hamlets with pretty gardens and window boxes, then climbing through forest higher and higher, occasionally dipping down to cross a fast rushing glacial stream. There are two routes to Contamines and we had decided to take the low road, while the high route would have taken us steeply up under the Bionnassay Glacier, which we had in sight for much of the walk. At the village of Bionnassay we stopped for lunch at the Auberge de Bionnassay, before continuing up through forest to Col de Voza, a high point from which we could look down on the Chamonix Valley. This is a stop for the Tramway that comes up from St Gervais-les-bains, bringing many mountain-bikers, who were gathering for their cycle back down to the valley. After a stop in the cafe we made the final descent for a couple of hours on the winding piste track, under the cable cars to Les Houches where we had started our trek 3 years before. We’d finally finished the Tour de Mont Blanc!
Highlights of Day 5
- We had a very pleasant lunch, sitting on the grassy outdoor terrace of Auberge de Bionnassay, with a view of the Bionnassay glacier hanging on the opposite side of the valley. We were surrounded by tables of locals and shared the Plat de Jour followed by the traditional Tarte aux mytilles. We really enjoyed the atmosphere of the Auberge with an enclosure of rabbits hopping around under the shade of a tree laden with yellow plums.
- By afternoon we were sitting in the cafe garden at Col de Voza watching a large group of mountainbikers who were gathering for their cycle down the mountain back to Chamonix. There was a train stop for the mountain tramway that comes up from St Gervais-les-bains with a fascinating exhibition of old photos and information about the history of the railway.
- Despite the fact that the final couple of days had been less demanding, we felt elated and gave each other a big hug, when we finally reached Hotel Slalom in Les Houches, the place that we had left from 3 years earlier. It was a great sense of achievement, knowing that we had completed the Tour de Mont Blanc. We collared a couple of passing walkers to take a final “End of Walk” photo to complete the series.
Lowlights of Day 5
- As we walked up to Col de Voza our tranquility was disturbed by the buzz of chainsaws in the forest and our path was blocked by a big lorry hoisting tree trunks into the back of the truck. They showed no signs of stopping, so we had to clamber up a grassy bank to get past – no respect for intrepid walkers like us!
- The path down to Les Houches was along a gravel road of the ski piste which was slippery and very difficult to walk on, and occasionally we were nearly run over by mountain bikers whizzing past, although luckily they mainly kept to their own path. It was not the most attractive descent to end our walk.
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Resources for walking the Tour de Mont Blanc
On this part of the Tour de Mont Blanc we stopped at the following hotels and mountain refuges;
In Chapieux we stayed at Auberge de la Nova, a friendly inn at the end of the Vallee des Glaciers at 1550m with private and dorm rooms and a large restaurant and garden. We paid €43 per person per night for half board (dinner and breakfast) in a 12 person dorm. You can book by e-mail email@example.com or Telephone +33 479 89 07 15 or via the TMB website.
Our next night was at Refuge de la Balme, a friendly refuge made up of several different buildings of an old dairy farm, with the dorms, bathroom block and dining room all being in separate adjoining buildings. We shared a private room with bunk beds and paid €45 per person for half board (dinner and breakfast). You can book by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or Telephone +33 04 50 47 03 54 or via the TMB website.
In Contamines we stayed at Hotel le Christiania, a family run hotel with an outdoor swimming pool where we stayed in an en suite twin room and paid €69 per person half board (dinner and breakfast). There are many different bars and restaurants in Contamines, but we did not see any other hotels. The dinner was enjoyable but there are other eating out options in the village if you want to keep costs down. I tried to book the hotel directly though their website contact form but got no response so I had to book by telephone.
In Les Houches we stayed at Hotel Slalom, a very pleasant boutique hotel that is right at the bottom of the TMB path, and ideal for walkers who want a bit more comfort and style. We paid €89 per en suite room plus €10 per person for breakfast. The hotel has a bar, but no restaurant although there are some good restaurant options within a few minutes walk. Read my review of Hotel Slalom.
My waterproof North Face jacket and walking trousers and Leki Micro Vario walking poles were provided by outdoor clothing specialist, Ellis Brigham who have a wide range of mountain clothing and walking gear you might need for a trek in the mountains, which are available both through their website and UK stores. Connect with them on Twitter @ellis_brigham, on their Facebook page and YouTube Channel
My Berghaus Explorer Light Gore-Tex walking boots were provided by Blacks, with online and high street stores in the UK, specialising in Outdoor Clothing for walking, hiking and trail-running as well as camping and travel gear. Connect with them on Twitter @blacks_online, and on their Facebook page, Google+ and YouTube channel
We used the Cicerone Tour of Mont Blanc guide by Kev Reynolds - we found it to be an excellent guide for both the clockwise and anti-clockwise route with detailed route guide, maps, accommodation information and points of interest along the route.
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