A glimpse of everyday life in a tiny Alpine village, our home-away-from-home for two weeks in the French Alps!
Scott just said to me, "Can you believe we were in the French Alps, just a few days ago?" It does seem like a dream now that we're back at home in North Carolina, but it's definitely the kind of dream I wouldn't mind reliving! I've been sorting through the zillion pictures we took and thought we'd share a post, depicting our two-week home-away-from-home in a tiny French Alps (Les Alpes Françaises) village, as well as everyday life in that beautiful little corner of the world.
In early May, when things began to look like they might open up in regard to European travel, Scott and I didn't have to think twice. We started dreaming of far-away places again and sat down to review our options. It didn't take us long to decide on the French Alps, as we'd been there s a number of years ago on a ski vacation and had, ever since, imagined returning when the Alpine meadows were painted green and the chalet window boxes spilling over with blossoms in a rainbow of hues.
We also thought that the French Alps area, near Chamonix, would be a great place for culinary inspiration, since it would be an amalgamation of French, local mountain and Italian cuisines, being just a stone's throw from Italy.
Where is Argentière?
We spent some time researching the French Alps region and found a great (or at least it looked great in the pictures) Airbnb in a small Alpine village, about a 10-minute drive from Chamonix, called Argentière. We'd never heard of Argentière but it looked interesting and when I delved a little deeper and discovered this little village had 3 Boulangeries (bakeries), well, that just seemed to seal the deal!
When we travel, we love to hunker down in one place and explore everyday life, as well as the customs and cuisine (of course) of the area. So we decided to fly into Geneva, spend a few days there and then head right to Argentière, where we'd booked the Airbnb for a two-week stay.
We arrived in Argentiére about midday. It was a 90-minute drive and our mouths began to hang open about 30 minutes into the trip, as the Alps began to surround us on all sides. Even from the highway, we could see ribbons of waterfalls crashing from distant heights, cascading down the lush verdant hillsides. We drove through long tunnels and roads that seemed to be suspended in mid-air but were, in reality, attached to the sides of the steep mountains. The trip flew by quickly as we gawked at the beauty all around us and before we knew it, there was a sign saying "Welcome to Argentière". Yay!
Our Airbnb contact person, Lisa, met us at our little home-away-from-home in Argentiére. You never know when you're renting someplace, sight unseen, if it will live up to the description and pictures.
We were NOT disappointed. As Lisa showed us around we noted that the apartment was spotlessly clean and nicely decorated with a fresh contemporary theme. There were flowers and French wine waiting for us. The kitchen was well equipped, the bathrooms modern and well-appointed and the bed and bed linens super comfy.
The view out the big sliding glass doors onto a small balcony was, however, the icing on the cake (or Crème de la crème as they say in French). The apartment had been described on the Airbnb site as "A Chic Townhouse With Postcard Views of the Grands Montets" The Airbnb picture of the view looked to me like a painting and I figured it wouldn't really look like that.
Was I ever wrong! It looked
exactly like the picture even better than the picture and, standing there in person, I felt like I was suddenly in a postcard. The view was stunning and I honestly thought I might blow a gasket as my eyes drank it all in.
Here is the Airbnb picture looking out the patio doors.
And here is the real deal. See what I mean? It truly is a postcard view!
Argentière is an adorable little mountain berg that, in many ways, seems to have stood still in time. There's a crystal clear babbling brook that runs right through the center of town bedecked with overflowing flower boxes spilling over the edges of the handrails that line the bridge. I loved hearing the quaint church bells of St. Pierre's chiming out the hour, day and night and took a video to to capture the lovely charm:
As soon as we got settled into our new little home we set out to explore Argentière. Scott brought his camera and the walk took longer than we thought, as there was a photo op around every corner! I couldn't wait each morning after that, to get out and explore unique ways to traverse the village. It seemed each day brought new surprises!
A stroll through Argentière
I thought you might like to join us on a little pictorial walk through our little French Alps village. Ready?
We fell in love with the crystal clear babbling mountain stream that flows right through the center of Argentière. Local people love to walk on the path that runs along the little river/stream.
Greener than green
I'm pretty sure everyone in France has a green thumb. If it's not that, then the air or perhaps the soil is just plain old magical. Check out what I mean below:
Every nook and cranny is overflowing with rainbow-hued blossoms and vibrant green vines.
The gorgeous hues almost take your breath away!
The windowboxes are spectacular.
With each one seeming to outdo the one before!
Everything seems to flourish here!
Such amazing creativity, when it comes to flowers!
It seems that every you look, beautiful blooms are thriving.
They even spill out of the rock wall that runs alongside the river!
See what I mean about everyone having a green thumb? That's just a smattering of the lovely blossoms that adorn our little village of Argentiére.
So much in one little village!
Let's continue our walk through the village. Although the population of Argentiére is only 314 full-time residents, that doesn't stop it from being a vibrant, active little town with lots of amenities.
There's a great little grocery store (just a 30-second walk from our apartment) where you'll find just about anything you might need. It boasts a full-service meat counter and a wonderful deli with every variety of sausage, cheese and charcuterie that you can imagine.
There are also THREE fabulous bakeries, all within a 5-minute walk from the town square where our little condo is.
It makes me a little sad, now that I'm home as there are only two good bakeries I know of in the whole Asheville area and it would take me 20-25 minutes to get to either of them. Then again, maybe that's a good thing...
Yikes! Now you know why I'm eating rabbit food these days!
Something for everyone
There are also some fun specialty and gourmet shops as well as a wine store, a pharmacy, an urgent care center and several sports shops. All in this little village!
Scott and I loved that we could be at the outskirts of town within minutes where hiking trails abound. There's a super helpful Tourism office in town that will suggest beautiful hikes catering to any ability level.
We loved taking a short hike (about 20 minutes) through the beautiful pine forest that surrounds Argentiére to an adorable little restaurant called La Crémerie. The locals call it The Crémerie (Creamery) in the forest.
They specialize in cheese dishes, particularly in fondues and croûte which are open-face sandwiches with melted cheese and as many topping varieties as we offer on American pizzas. Scott and I would often hike to La Crémerie for a glass of wine before dinner in Argentiére.
Worth the whole trip!
As I mentioned above, Argentiére is a very active little village with lots going on. There's a cute little town hall with a display out front announcing all the local events. Shortly after we arrived, Scott and I spotted this poster:
Translated, Fête De La Transhumance means Festival of the Transhumance. If you're not familiar with the word transhumance (I wasn't), according to Merriam Webster, it's "the seasonal movement of livestock (such as sheep) between mountain and lowland pastures either under the care of herders or in company with the owners".
The morning of the Fête De La Transhumance didn't start out well for an outdoor event. The hourly forecast was for rain, a-l-l day. I took a picture of the gloomy gray skies and pouring rain.
I said a little prayer, acknowledging "This is a really tiny thing in the big scheme, but you're in charge of the weather, God, and it sure would be great if it could clear up for the sheep run." It was amazing! Shortly before 10 am, the rain stopped, the clouds parted and it was absolutely beautiful for the remainder of the day! Woohoo! Thank you, God!
We weren't sure exactly what to expect, but we were excited. I had my iPhone set to video and I was ready!
I have to admit, my toes got stepped on by several sheep herding dogs as I shot the amazing scene, but it was definitely worth it!
As you can imagine, by the time this whole herd had been corraled down the mountain, this guy was REALLY tired!
The sheep were led to an area near the town hall where they rested for a few hours and then were later led to new grazing pastures down the valley.
This is a big celebration day in Argentière and there was live music and dancing as well as vendors selling ice cream, beer, cheese, produce, artwork, souvenirs, etc. It was fun to see what a festive event they made of it. We wandered over to the music area when we heard this musician singing "Edelweiss"
These two were having the time of their life and reflected perfectly the festive mood of the day.
The first Sunday we were in Argentière, we were awakened to clanging and clattering out in the town square and discovered they were setting up the "Sunday market".
It was delightful and we couldn't wait to check out the vendors selling local produce, cheese, sausage, herbs, grilled herbed chickens, olives, tapenades, honey...
I had to laugh at the "olive man". He would try to give me WAY more olives than I wanted. I would say "a little less", "a little less", "a little less", signaling with two pinched fingers, but would still go home with more than I needed. Believe me, that wasn't such a bad thing!
We enjoyed olives almost every day and would never fail to declare how amazing they were. If you haven't been to France, the olives are the same, yet quite different than what we can purchase here in the States. I describe them as "so meaty" and SO flavorful. The olive man probably had 15 different varieties and flavors of olives and he was always trying to give us a new sample, knowing that would be one more selection that would end up in our market basket.
We seem to have made friends with him even though we could only speak a few words in common. The last time we visited his little stand, he threw an extra bag of tiny little Nicoise olives into my basket. SO delicious!
Well, I thought I was going to be able to share this in one post, but I've realized it would be WAY too long. So I'm going to sign off here and share the rest of the story in a Part 2 post later this week, which will include our Airbnb home-away-from-home as well as some of the amazing activities that we were able to enjoy in the area surrounding this sweet little village of Argentière.
Thought for the day:
But as for me,
the nearness of God is my good.
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all His works.
What we're listening to for inspiration: