Chamonix: The Most Beautiful Town at the Heart of Mont Blanc

It was perhaps a bit serendipitous that we chose to spend the last four days of our Tour de Mont Blanc in the glorious mountain town of Chamonix in France. For it was here, back in the summer of 1966 that my dad made that fateful call to my mother, resulting in their marriage a few weeks later in Switzerland. My dad had been backpacking through Europe with a fraternity brother and was only a month or so into the trip when he arrived in Chamonix, saw the stunning beauty of Mont Blanc and realized that he couldn’t be there without his favorite girl. My mother flew to Europe with all the money she had which wasn’t much, met my dad and they were married at the town hall in St. Gallen, Switzerland.

That story had been told to me over and over again throughout the years, and I finally got to see Chamonix and Mont Blanc for myself when I was thirteen years old on our first family trip to Europe. I don’t remember much about Chamonix however I do remember riding the train up to see the Mer de Glace and being absolutely taken away by its beauty and scale.

I returned to Chamonix again in my late 20s on a ski trip with my family and a few years later brought with my husband to show him this special place. My father even scaled Mont Blanc when he was about my age which after seeing it in person is quite an impressive feat. Fondue dinners, stunning vistas of glaciers and of course Mont Blanc are always the nostalgic memories that come to mind when dreaming about Chamonix. So you can imagine the utter joy I felt at ending our Tour de Mont Blanc in this glorious place and for introducing my son to Mont Blanc. I could hardly wait to see if he would be as smitten by its beauty and mystique as the rest of my family.

The Alps in flight

Flying over the Alps on our flight to Geneva

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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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Paris, France

Nighttime in France

Nighttime is the day’s way of saying goodbye. Reminding us that yet another day of our lives has passed and it is time to rest before a new day begins. I love watching the color of the clouds and sky as night begins to fall over the mountains. It is my favorite time of day and brings me so much peace and reflection.

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky”. –Rabindranath Tagore

Vanoise National Park, FRANCE

Nightfall in Vanoise National Park, Savoie France.

Vanoise National Park, FRANCE

“The sky grew darker, painted blue on blue, one stroke at a time, into deeper and deeper shades of night.” ― Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance

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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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Gordes France

The Perched Villages of Luberon: Gordes

“Stuff your eyes with wonder; live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” – Ray Bradbury

Out of all four perched villages of Luberon that we visited during our day trip through Provence, the most spectacular and majestic one of all was Gordes. Built high atop the rocky slopes of the Monts de Vaucluse, the village of Gordes is the crown jewel of Luberon and is a magnificent site to see.

Gordes France

First sight of the perched village of Gordes.

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Bonnieux France

The Perched Villages of Luberon: Bonnieux

“Not all those who wander are lost.”  –  J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

After visiting lovely Lourmarin, our next stop on our tour of the perched villages of Luberon was beautiful 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.

Bonnieux France

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