Join us as we share two unforgettable weeks in the French Alps, our "chic townhouse with postcard views" and some delightful adventures in the surrounding area.
Last week, we shared the first post in this series titled A Slice of Heaven, Two Weeks in the French Alps. The post took our readers on a walk around Argentière, the quaint, adorable village where we had the opportunity to stay. Today, we're summing up our two unforgettable weeks in the French Alps by sharing our delightful little home-away-from-home and some super fun opportunities for adventure in the area.
Home sweet home for two weeks
As I mentioned in last week's post, we rented an Airbnb in Argentière for a full two weeks. When we travel, we really enjoy submerging ourselves in the local culture, lifestyle and cuisine rather than just hitting the highlights of a variety of destinations.
Although the village of Argentière is tiny (only 314 full-time residents in the last census), for us it was a mini taste of urban life since our home in North Carolina is on a quiet mountain road with nothing (besides lots of nature) within walking distance. Our French Alps condo overlooked the small, but bustling village square (below) of this vibrant little mountain berg. We really enjoyed being able to stroll to great restaurants (we found four that we loved and more to visit in the future), bakeries (3 great ones!), grocery store, gourmet market, etc.
While straight out our living room was the stunning view of the mighty Mont Blanc (above), if you stepped out onto the balcony the evergreen mountainsides surrounded us. I counted 5 cascading waterfalls visible from our balcony. If you look closely, you'll spot two of them in the pic below.
Although vacation is supposed to be a time to sleep in and get a little extra rest, I found myself waking early every morning in anticipation of throwing open the curtain to observe the every changing, always stunning views.
A French Alps Breakfast
Each morning we would pick up yogurt, fruit, croissants and/or baguettes and prepare breakfast right at the condo as the kitchen was modern and well equipped.
Although I didn't do a ton of cooking on the trip (we wanted to experience the local cuisine and great restaurants nearby) I did get to start working on a stovetop pumpkin seed granola recipe that was inspired by Emma Lawrenson, a local chef we had the opportunity to cook and dine with during our stay in France. Be on the lookout for this quick and easy small batch granola recipe sometime this fall!
Want to take a stroll through the rest of the condo? Let's start with the stylish but comfortable living area with those amazing views. When we arrived, there were fresh flowers to welcome us.
As I mentioned above, the kitchen is well stocked with everything you would need to cook and serve a meal. There's a a great gas stove, microwave, blender, toaster and even a wine cooler.
We loved the awesome expresso machine (with a full supply of coffee beans) that made us feel quite European (and very spoiled).
The bed was comfy and the down comforter perfect for the cool alpine nights. You can only see a corner of it, but there's actually a gas fireplace in the bedroom.
This is a two-bedroom condo although the second one is a loft bedroom. It would be perfect for kids, as there's not a ton of privacy. We used it to store our suitcases so our bedroom didn't feel like we were in transit.
Once again we felt spoiled as we each had our own lovely bathroom with a great shower and lots of storage space.
So that's a mini-tour of our sweet little French Alps home away from home. You can check out more pictures and info on this "chic townhouse with postcard views" over on Airbnb.
Would we go back? YES, we're already planning a return trip to Argentière! One thing to note, if you're looking for a super quiet, secluded place to stay, this might not be your best bet. As I mentioned, the apartment looks out onto the village square which always seems to be busy. There's a bar/café below the condo and though there are concrete, fairly soundproof floors, some of the music does make its way up. We enjoyed the vibrancy and unique difference from our normal life, but that might not be for everyone.
Thank you, Chris (owner) and Lisa (our super helpful contact person)!
What to do in Argentière?
Before we bid farewell to this series, I wanted to also share some of the fun activities that are available near Argentière. I mentioned in the last post that there are tons of hiking trails that start right on the outskirts of Argentière. There's a great tourism office right off of the village square that can suggest walks of various lengths and difficulty.
And you will almost always come across a crystal clear babbling brook or cascading waterfall along the way.
Something for everyone
Scott injured his foot (not bad but enough to slow us down a bit) during the first week of our stay. It made steep hikes difficult for him, but we discovered (through the Argentière tourism office) that you can take chairlifts and/or cable cars up to the flatter mountain meadows where you can enjoy hiking, then, either head down on foot or keep things easy and ride the chairlift back down. Here are a few pics from our mountain meadow hikes.
The wildflowers are amazing! There are whole hillsides covered with wild azaleas!
The hills are alive...
I wasn't sure if I felt more like Heidi or Maria on this amazing trip, but the hills certainly are "alive with the sound of music!". If you listen closely to the video below, you'll hear the sound of cowbells from herds grazing in mountain meadows.
Although we would often pack our own picnic (a fresh baguette, local cheese and sausage, fruit, and, of course, chocolate) there's are little cafés along the way for respite and refreshment. I'm not sure how they get the supplies up to these out-of-the-way spots, but the food is wonderful (or maybe it's just the mountain air that makes everything taste so good). Either way, it makes hiking so fun knowing there's a reward along the way.
So many options
Argentière is just a 15-minute drive to the Swiss border. One day we drove up, up, up to what seemed to be the top of the world and visited a beautiful mountain lake created by a huge dam that provides electric for the surrounding area. The views were absolutely stunning. We packed a picnic including a bottle of French wine, but didn't want to take the nice wine glasses from the condo so we washed out our morning yogurt jars and used them for glasses. Necessity is the mother of invention!
Italy is also within an hour's drive with a 5-mile tunnel taking you from France to Italy under the massive Mont Blanc. You can read about our one-day adventure and cooking class in Italy in this post.
Probably the most popular activity in this area is taking the cable car (actually two) from Chamonix to the Aiguille du Midi. The Aiguille du Midi is a needle-shaped mountain near Mont Blanc and the cable car ride to the top holds the world record for the highest vertical ascent (9209 feet!). We spotted these climbers on our way up making their way towards the summit of the Aiguille du Midi.
The picture below taken from the balcony of our Airbnb at sunrise shows the Aiguille du Midi in the distance on the far left (the tiny needle-like peak).
Yes, there's a large building up there with beautiful terraces, two restaurants, a gift shop and more!
Imagine the effort it took to build this structure and cable car system! As you can imagine, the panoramic views from the terraces are beyond stunning.
I would be remiss when talking about hiking in this area, not to mention the Tour du Mont Blanc which is a super popular long-distance hike that circles the Mont Blanc group of mountains and passes through parts of Switzerland, Italy and France. You can hike the whole thing (taking 8-11 days), staying in hostels and lodgings along the way or break it into easier day hikes.
This area is also a mountain biker's dream come true. You can definitely climb up the steep slopes if that's your thing but another option is to hook your bike onto one of the chairlifts and get the thrill of your life bombing down the long mountain trails.
YIKES, I'm realizing now that I could have made this a 5-part series as there's SO much to do in this beautiful little corner of God's creation. Here are a few of other options:
We rented electric bikes one day and rode along a beautiful clear stream into Chamonix for lunch. There are endless miles of bike trails in this area with lots of different difficulty levels (we fall into the "puppy" level).
We discovered so many wonderful restaurants, none of them super fancy, but all serving such delicious, fresh, local food!
There are other really fun little mountain villages to visit. One day, we drove to Samoëns, the adorable village where we stayed several years ago on ski vacations. Each village has a market one day a week and that's a great day to visit, as there's lots of local activity.
Another day, we stopped in a tiny Swiss village for ice cream. While we were enjoying our treat, we heard a beautiful chiming, almost like someone had lifted the lid of a music box. It was the bells ringing out from the church pictured below. We didn't learn the significance of the charming tolling bells, but were delighted to be there at that moment in time.
As I said, I could go on and on, but I'm going to sign off here. Hope I've given you a fun glimpse of Argentière and our Two Unforgettable Weeks in the French Alps. Au Revoir!
Thought for the day:
“Do not weep!
See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah,
the Root of David,
He is able to open the scroll
and its seven seals.”.
What we're listening to for inspiration: