Monday, 23 July 2012

Les Alpes

A week last Saturday, I woke up to find the first rays of light peeking through the gap in my bedroom window blind and rolled over to find Understanding Frenchman similarly wide-eyed and alert beside me. The alarm wasn't due to go off for another hour, but within ten minutes we were up and dressed. The reason? We were off on holiday, and as excited about it as little children.

And so, just like when I was a little child, within an hour we had the car loaded up and were headed for the mountains.

Our destination, the Champsaur valley, which is south of Grenoble and north of Gap, was perfect. The Champsaur Valley itself is quite wide and lined with fields, farmland and forests. At its head is the sparkling Lac du Sautet and Gap was easily accesible from our end for transport and shops. Best of all, though, are the mountains that flank the valley: towering ridges to the west and, to the east, the stunningly beautiful Parc des Ecrins, a vast wilderness of lonely valleys, glaciers and dramatic peaks that include some of France's highest mountains.

Our gite, which we shared with ten friends, had a games room, a terrace, a barbecue and a large garden, all of which we made full use of. We were warned by the gite owner that our neighbours might be noisy on the first night, because the vieille fille of the village was finally getting PACSed, but if it was a problem, we were  to go round and join them for a drink. (Some of my friends did.)

We hiked most days, usually to a col with a beautiful view or to one of the more accessible summits. We failed to climb the Vieux Chaillol, mostly because we didn't realise how close it was and get up early enough in the morning to make it all the way to the top, but every day had something to make it special. The weather was warm and sunny, but never really too hot. On our rest day from hiking, we hired canoes on the Lac du Sautet and paddled to a hidden beach for lunch, before coming back, diving into the lake and having a ridiculous amount of fun on the inflatable toys.

I came home thinking how incredibly lucky I am to be living in this beautiful country with such gorgeous places only a few hours' drive away, and, above all, to have a great group of friends to share it with. Life is good.

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