Tour de French Alps

There’s seeing France — and then there’s seeing France by car. I had the pleasure of taking a Mercedes E Class for a 10 day joy ride through the French Alps, courtesy of Sixt.com. Many travelers never get to see the hidden gems when traveling by train through Europe, so we were very fortunate to have the freedom to stop whenever and wherever we pleased. Here’s a little taste of what went down—

We first stopped in Embrun, a little village in the Hautes-Alpes region, where we stayed with some local friends. They were kind enough to take us into their home, bring us along on some incredible hikes, bear through my less-than-superb French language skills, and feed us like royalty. We ate enough bread and cheese to to feed a family of seven, thus had no choice but to get off our rears for a sunset cruise on our last night. A wild combination of sunshine and rain produced one of the most unique sunsets I’d ever seen—

After a gluttonous, wine-filled stay at our pals’ place, we darted off to Parc National de la Vanoise in search of calorie-burning hikes and epic alpine huts. With multiple steep switchbacks and windy roads, this place would be virtually impossible to get to without a vehicle, which made it extra special. We found just what we were looking for — a serene hike with vast landscapes and hardly a soul in sight. Bonus: we scored some tasty trail berries along the way!

At the refuge, we were greeted by the nicest host dog and a group of French retirees. We opted to scarf down some dinner and drinks with the last bit of light outside before heading inside to play some cards.

Next up on the alpine tour was Chamonix. There’s places that will be forever engrained in your memory — and this is one of them. This particular day started with a 4am trail-break and 3,000 feet of elevation gain in the dark, bringing us to Lac Blanc just in time for sunrise.

Lac Blanc

Naturally, we got jiggy and practiced our diving form with a green screen backdrop shortly after the sun came up.

I had seen France before, but not like this. The random pullovers at tiny boulangeries in quaint mountain villages to fuel up on hiking provisions. The dollar espressos that brew straight out of a vending machine (c’mon, how neat is that). The countless hours weaving through towering peaks on both sides of the highway. The kind souls we met.

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Still haven’t woken up from this dream. Some favorite 35mm film frames from the journey—