Hike to Lac Blanc in Chamonix

A Taste of the Tour de Mont Blanc

Known as one of the greatest multi-day treks in the world, the Tour de Mont Blanc (TMB) is a circular tour of 105 miles/170 kilometers around the mighty Mont Blanc massif traversing three countries – Italy, Switzerland and France, over the course of 10-12 days. Passing through some of the most divine high alpine scenery on earth, the TMB is one of the most stunning multi-day treks of all and is a dream for many avid trekkers.

Ever since my dad and I did the lesser-known Tour de Vanoise back in 2012 (located in Savoie, the eastern Rhône-Alpes region of France), I had dreamed of doing the popular TMB.  My father too had wanted to complete some of the TMB after scaling Mount Blanc in 1998. Thankfully, the opportunity finally arrived this summer and better yet, it would be not with two generations of trekkers but three.

On July 4th, my father, 14-year-old son and I left for a ten-day intergenerational hiking trip to Mont Blanc, devising our own Tour de Mont Blanc to fit our needs. Armed with maps, internet resources, and guide books, we set off and had a magnificent time. I learned a lot along the way about what works and what can be improved with planning your own Tour de Mont Blanc. Here is what I discovered and my thoughts on planning your own Taste of Mont Blanc.

Tour de Mont Blanc

My dad, me and my son on our own Tour de Mont Blanc.

Why Go

At 15,771 feet (4807 m), the mighty snow-capped Mount Blanc soars 12,000 feet (3700 m) over Chamonix, dominating the region and controlling the weather in all the surrounding valleys. As the masterpiece of the Mont Blanc massif, an area measuring 29 miles (46 km) long graced with numerous peaks and aiguilles, jaw-dropping sheer rock walls, ridges and tumbling glaciers, the TMB is known as one of the most stunning multi-day treks in the world.

What makes Mont Blanc even more unique is her incredible location at the crossroads of three European countries – France, Italy and Switzerland – giving the trekker a unique cultural experience as well as extraordinary views. Three distinct towns converge below Mont Blanc: Courmayeur (Italy), Saint-Gervais-les-Bains (Switzerland) and Chamonix (France). Given its high elevation, with 11 summits measuring over 13,123 (4000 m), most of the surrounding area is snow and ice-covered with glaciers pouring down the steep mountain-sides creating a magical, breathtaking scenery that delights the eyes and fills the soul.

If you have one long-distance trek to do on your bucket list, then the TMB is the one for you.

Tour de Mont Blanc Val Veny, Italy

With stunning views like this on the hike through Val Veny in Italy, the TMB will never disappoint.

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Hiking in Aosta Valley, Italy

The Power of Intergenerational Travel: Me, My Dad and Son Hike Around Mont Blanc

It was yet another beautiful day hiking in the Alps. The sky was a robin’s egg blue dotted with powderpuff clouds. A gentle breeze kissed my face and the stunning scenery of the Alps made me continually want to pinch myself to make sure it wasn’t all just a dream. It was our third day of hiking during a ten day intergenerational hiking trip around Mont Blanc. So far our trip could not have been more surreal.

As my dad and son climbed up the steep path leading us higher and higher above the dazzling aquamarine Moulin Dam far below, all I could think about was the reward for our efforts. A view of the legendary Lac Mort, a high alpine ice-covered lake at 2843 meters (9327 feet) above the Aosta Valley on her perch in the Italian Alps. But then, after two hours of hiking and only twenty minutes to go to our destination, the wind began to change. We could see a series of rain-laden clouds off in the distance over the Aosta Valley. I checked the radar and knew we would be fine however my dad grew nervous. He had been caught in a ravaging thunderstorm atop a mountain before and swore he’d never do it again. He wanted to turn back.

Hike in Aosta Valley to Lac Long

My son and dad on the long hike up from the glorious Moulin Dam to Lac Long

We had just reached the first of two alpine lakes, Lac Long, and it was stunning. It would only take another twenty minutes to reach Lac Mort but my dad said we couldn’t go. An argument brewed because I hate to not complete a hike especially when I knew we could make it before the rain. But I had to respect my dad’s decision despite my displeasure and disappointment. Upset, we turned around and headed back without ever seeing the prize.

Me and my son Max at Lac Long in Aosta, Italy

We were painfully close to the prize destination

I didn’t talk for the next hour of the hike down to the car and purposely held back on my pace letting my dad and son go ahead. Yet it was at that moment when I fully realized the true beauty and power of intergenerational travel.

From a distance, I observed and listened to my dad and teenage son talk about life, the world, their hopes and dreams. Slowly my disappointment and anger eased and instead a deep sense of gratitude grew. For this is what it is all about and why it is so incredibly meaningful to travel as family. This unburdened time together in the middle of nowhere. Sharing our common love of nature and mountains, creating bonds that somehow are often harder to create at home. It is magical and priceless.

 

My Dad and son talking away

Me and Max

The trip ended up being all I had hoped for and more. It gave me precious time to reconnect with my teenage son, spend more time with my dad and realize what an incredible gift all of these priceless memories are. I look forward to sharing my stories in the upcoming months and reliving the beauty of not only the Alps but of spending sacred time with family. Stay tuned.

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Notre Dame Cathedral Paris

Looking Up at Paris from a Boat Cruise Along the Seine

I will always love Paris and the City of Light (as she is lovingly called) will never cease to amaze and surprise me. What I love the most about Paris is that no matter how many times I visit, I always see something new. I had the luxury of living in Paris years ago in my early twenties as an exchange student at the University of Paris -Sorbonne, and ever since it has been my dream to bring my own daughter Sophia to Paris and show her my most favorite city on earth. Thankfully, I was able to bring her to Paris this past summer on a mother-daughter trip along with my own mother, sister and niece. It was a whirlwind trip exploring London, Lille and Paris all within a little over a week but I accomplished my goal. Sophia fell in love with Paris just like I did the moment I laid eyes on its beauty.

Sophia on top of the Eiffel Tower

Priceless. Sophia on top of the Eiffel Tower daydreaming about Paris below.

We only had three full days in Paris and given the large amount of amazing things to do and see, I had to carefully craft a plan of action of what I felt should be the highlights for Sophia and my niece Hanna. Since all of us grownups have been to Paris many times, we wanted to ensure that the trip was focused exclusively on the girls meaning it was important to not spend too much time walking around museums or at fancy places to eat. I wanted to give the girls an overview of the best of Paris, all that we could squeeze into three very long, full days.

The list was long and I had to cut it down based on how large and how spread out everything is in Paris. I needed to also ensure that we had enough time to get to each destination without killing our legs from all the walking. The metro helped us get around, yet I soon remembered how much walking there is even inside the metro and how many stairs! Our legs ached and throbbed by the end of our three days but we sure gave the girls a taste of Paris, hitting these must-see destinations along the way:

  • The Louvre
  • The Notre Dame Cathedral
  • The Eiffel Tower
  • Montmartre and the Sacré-Cœur
  • Champs-Élysées
  • The Arc de Triomphe
  • Jardin du Luxembourg and the Latin Quarter
  • As many outdoor cafes as we could possibly find for a coffee or a glass of wine for the adults and a kiddie cocktail for the girls.

I would have loved to show Sophia where I lived at the Cité internationale universitaire de Paris way out in the 14th arrondissement but alas we ran out of time. I also would have loved to go to more museums but even the Louvre didn’t last long with two tween girls. I decided to save the rest for the next time.

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Sophia on top of the Eiffel Tower

Highlights of Our Three-Week Family Trip to Europe

I will never forget the one-page article I read decades ago in Newsweek by a prominent female journalist about the importance of transgenerational travel and how it changed her life. I was in my late 20s at the time, living and working in Chicago and had just returned from skiing in the French Alps with my parents. I was soon to be married and start a family of my own yet I could not let go of the love and joy I felt traveling with my parents as an adult. The article talked about how the writer had traveled the world with her mother well into her mother’s 80s and how that time together journeying around the world were some of their most sacred, special times ever together as mother and child. It struck a chord with my soul for I too had always traveled with my parents and they were the ones who introduced me to travel at a young age and gave me my wanderlust soul.

Decades and trips later, I have continued to travel with my parents to such far-reaching places as the Himalayas of Nepal, the Andes of South America, the perched villages of Provence and the European cities of Prague, Paris and London adding my sister into the mix. These times together have been some of the most sacred memories of my life and without question our shared love of travel meant that at some point we would have to introduce our own children to exploring the world.

The idea of a transgenerational trip to Europe launched a few years back when my mom, sister and I did a trip to London, Paris and the south of France. We knew that we wanted to do a girl’s trip once again with my mom yet include our daughters. We just needed to wait until they reached the age where they could handle all the walking and traveling. With my daughter Sophia at the age of 11 and my niece Hanna turning 13, this summer was the prefect time to do a three-generational trip to Europe and it was planned.

As the time for our departure approached, there was a last minute change of plans. My husband had planned on flying over to Europe with our son Max to meet up with us at the end of the girl’s trip yet he injured his back and couldn’t go. Since the trip was already planned and mostly paid for, we changed plans and had my father fly over to Europe with Max and take my husband’s place. We would be doing another transgenerational trip, this time with my dad, my son and daughter, throughout Germany and Austria. Despite the disappointment that Paul couldn’t go on the trip, there was a silver lining. My dad was able to come and get to spend 13 days with his grandkids exploring the Austrian Alps.

All in all, it was an absolutely amazing trip with lots of silly travel mishaps, magnificent moments and fun stories along the way. It will take me quite some time to put the entire journey into words but I’m excited to start sharing our trip with this first post on some of the main highlights. I hope you enjoy!

Our route: First a flight from Minneapolis to JFK then London. Four days in London with a day trip to Warwick. Next the Eurostar to Lille, the TGV to Paris and then a flight to Munich where we met my dad and Max and picked up our car. The rest a driving tour through Germany and Austria.

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An abstract take on the perched village of Bonnieux

A few years ago, I set off on a fabulous girls trip to Paris and the South of France with my mother and sister. It was the first time in that we had ever traveled together without other family members and we had a wonderful, memorable time. It was also quite nostalgic for me to return to two incredible cities, Paris and Marseille, where my true passion for travel and adventure bloomed. I spent a semester studying abroad in Paris and the following summer living in Marseille. Although I have been back to Paris many times, it was my first visit back to Marseille in almost 20 years. So much had changed yet so much also had remained the same.

One of the highlights of our time in France together was a day trip to visit the spectacular perched villages of Luberon. Each village we visited was more beautiful than the last and one of my favorites by far is Bonnieux. Perched high above the lush valley of Luberon affording a spectacular panoramic view of vineyards, orchards and medieval villages, sits the village of Bonnieux.  Dating back to before Roman times, this picturesque Provencal town is a wonderful place to explore for its simple beauty, tranquility and quintessential Frenchness.

Perhaps what I loved most about Bonnieux is its charming architecture. The terra-cotta tiled rooftops, the colorful painted windows and the playful charm of Bonnieux made me smile. In light of today’s photo challenge, and my latest desire to explore new techniques to photography, I have reworked a series of my photos from this lovely town using the Painterly feature on PhotoMatrix.

Bonnieux, France

P1010849_Painterly 2

Bonnieux, France

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Vanoise National Park, France

Dinner in the Alps

A few years ago, my father and I did a seven day hike in the French Alps of Savoie at Vanoise National Park. Each day, we rose to the fresh, pure air of the mountains and hiked through breathtaking alpine scenery. As much as I love hiking, the best part of the day was when we arrived at our refuge for the night and sipped glass after glass of earthy Vin de Savoie as the sun set over the Alps and indulged in a delicious meal of local french cheese, meats, baguette and homemade root vegetable soup. Chicken or fish with savory rice or potatoes and pasta was next, followed by homemade dessert every night. There is nothing better than being rewarded with an enormous meal after a day hiking.

Vanoise National Park, France

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Streets of Paris, France

The Angular Streets of Paris

In my opinion, there is no city on earth as architecturally spectacular and beautiful as Paris. Her beloved monuments, buildings, and angular streets are a living work of art that never ceases to inspire the imagination. Much of Paris’ amazing beauty can be credited to the genius work of Georges-Eugène Haussmann, Paris’ city planner who was hand selected by Napoleon III to carry out a massive renovation of Paris between between 1853 and 1870. Haussmann’s renovation of Paris as it was commonly called transformed the city with its grand boulevards, elaborate parks and magnificent public works.

Although other European cities tried to imitate Haussmann’s work, no other city compares especially in regards to Haussmann’s grand boulevards that cut across the city in perfect lines and angles.

Here are some of my favorite angles of Parisian streets.

Streets of Paris, France

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Le Vieux Port, Marseille France

A Room of one’s own in Marseille’s Vieux Port

Marseille. The oldest city in all of France renown for le Vieux Port and its fisherman has recently become the culture capital of Europe and it shows. Restaurants and cafes dot the Vieux Port affording gorgeous views of the Notre Dame de la Garde that overlooks the city.

Our hotel, the Residence du Vieux Port was the perfect place to base ourselves for our stay in Marseille. Strategically located along the Vieux Port, we were walking distance to restaurants, nightlife and shopping along La Canebière, the historic street in the old quarter of Marseille leading to the Vieux Port. But the best part of all about our hotel was the view off the balcony.

Try a room with a view like ours located along the boardwalk of the Vieux Port for watching the sun set and morning strolls to admire the fisherman selling the daily catch. A gem of a city that has obviously found its place in European culture.

The view from our room was beautiful at any time of day…

Le Vieux Port, Marseille France

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The Gargoyles on top On top The Notre Dame Cathedral Paris

The Best Monuments in Paris

Paris is my favorite city in the world. I love the sensational architecture, stunning monuments, fabulous culture and endless restaurants and outdoor cafes. I spent six months living in The City of Light in my early twenties as a university student studying abroad and have been to Paris several times ever since. Somehow, her grandeur never fades nor her ability to completely blow me away like no place else.

The history of Paris utterly intrigues me and can be found everywhere along her streets.  Each turn around a corner reminds you of Paris’ magnificent past and each monument marks a particular moment in time that made Paris who she is today: A vibrant, beautiful city that never seems to sleep.

Last April, I was back in Paris on a trip with my mother and sister, and I had the opportunity to capture many updated photos of this phenomenal place. Here are some of my favorite monuments that will always remind me of Paris.

The Notre Dame Cathedral Paris

The Notre Dame Cathedral Paris

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Parisian cafe

Breakfast in Paris

My favorite time of the day is morning and there is no better way to start your day at one of the many outdoor cafés in lovely Paris. Cafe culture has been an essential part of Parisian life for centuries and I can see why. What could be better than sitting outside sipping a dark, strong cafe au lait, munching a buttery, hot fresh croissant and watching the world go by? Not much in my book.

During a late April trip to France, I enjoyed my breakfast in Paris even if the weather was a tad bit cold. It brought me back to over twenty years before when I lived in Paris as a student at the Sorbonne and embraced the cafe culture with all my heart. Now, I’m lucky if I get a real french coffee and normally just enjoy my regular cup of joe.

Ahc’était ça la vie!

Parisian cafe

A votre service!

Parisian cafe

Parisian cafe

Parisian cafe

Parisian cafe

Parisian cafe

Parisian cafe

Parisian cafe

Parisian cafe

No I didn’t have this for breakfast but they were making fresh tiramisu that morning! I was very tempted to eat it for breakfast!

This post was inspired by the weekly photo challenge: Good Morning! To see more entries, click here.

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Roussillon France

The Perched Villages of Luberon: Roussillon

Perhaps my favorite perched village in Luberon is the gorgeous, red-hued Roussillon. Known mostly for her abundant natural ochre that covers the steep hillside and paints the town red, Roussillon is quite a spectacular place. Medieval serpentine streets lined with red-hued buildings and terracotta roofs, meander all the way up to the top. A leisurely afternoon in Roussillon is bound to capture your imagination and soul.

Roussillon France

As you approach Roussillon, you are struck by the dramatic scarlet red color of the rock and buildings which are perched high above the vast green plains of Provence.

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