Our week-long trek through the peaks and valleys of the French Alps took place in the beautiful eastern Rhône-Alpes region of France known as Savoie (pronounced “saw-vwa”).
Savoie, along with neighboring Haute-Savoie, has a long, fascinating history as a prosperous kingdom known as Savoy that was annexed by France in 1860. Savoy existed as an autonomous country for almost a thousand years and its traditional boundaries have not changed since the annexation (placed at the crossroads of the Alps in the eastern part of France, west of Italy and south of Switzerland. See map below).
Savoie prospered shortly after the glaciers melted away leaving behind a glorious, fertile mountainous land that encouraged the arrival of farmers and shepherds, beginning a long heritage of agropastoralism in the region. Over time, these hearty souls adapted to their harsh environment and developed some of the most world-renowned cheeses, wines, and saucissions (sausages) of France. Through bartering and trade with the outside world as well as an important salt trade moving through the mountains, the people of Savoy flourished and built beautiful stone, wood and slate dwellings across the region forming hamlets and villages which continue to exist today.
Most people come to Savoie to experience its beautiful alpine scenery that is arguably some of the most spectacular mountain landscape in the world. Others come to Savoie to partake in its immense array of outdoor activities such as trekking, skiing, paragliding and rock climbing. Finally, some come to Savoie simply to enjoy its delicious, famous gastronomie which in my opinion warrants a visit to the region in its own right.
My dad and I chose to visit Savoie simply for our love of trekking. We wanted to experience the French Alps in the most purist way: By walking. We hired a guide, an energetic, extremely experienced Brit named Mark who runs a french-based company called Simply Savoie to do a six-day trek called La Tour de la Vanoise. We couldn’t have made a better choice.
La Tour de la Vanoise is located in the beautiful Vanoise National Park, France’s first national park created in 1963. It is a magical land awash in wildflowers, dramatic alpine views of valleys, peaks and glaciers, and of course fantastic wildlife.
We had heard about this trek from a pair of French hikers we had met while trekking in Nepal back in 2010. My dad and I, both avid hikers, wanted to do a trek in France and asked the men which hike was best. We first wanted to do La Tour de Mont Blanc which circles Mont Blanc and dips down into three different countries (France, Italy and Switzerland). Yet our French friends said that we must do La Tour de la Vanoise. It is the best in France, they said.
After a short bit of research, we found Simply Savoie over the internet, signed up and there we were on August 11th ready to start our adventure. And an adventure it was!!!!
Stay tuned…day one coming up soon!