We took the fast train TGV from Paris to Annecy, rented a car there, and drove to the Alps.
What a pain TGVs can be if you're a first-timer! First and foremost, you've got to make sure that you have scanned and validated your tickets at these little ticket meters (I only found out later that this is not necessary if you have reserved seats). And because the ticket was in French, we did not realize that in conjunction with seat number, a carriage number was also assigned on the ticket.
Between the two of us, we have 2 large suitcases - one big suitcase containing our clothes, and the other mega large one with V's bike. To give you a perspective of its size, the bag could fit two of me easily.
So we lugged the bags to the train station, asked a passing staff where we can stow our oversized baggage (even got a nice French-Chinese lady who translated for me) but this useless staff said "Non". But no what? We just want to know if there is a specific carriage to put these large bags in! Then I tried asking what about bicycle storage and he determinedly said "Non" again. What the actual fuck, uncle? This is what pisses me off about some of the French; their refusal to help if you're not someone they know or if you don't speak their language.
Don't care lah, we anyhow just dragged our things up to a carriage ...only to realize we were on the wrong carriage! Poor Vinnie who was doing all the carrying but we eventually got our things onboard, and found our seats. Phew!
Gorgeous view from our seats
It's been a while since I've travelled by train over long distances. Train travel is probably one of the more comfortable mode of transport. Ships make you sea sick, cramped bus seats are claustrophobis - not to mention lack of toilets or anything of the sort to relief yourself, and flights, long check-ins, stressful security checks ... well, you get the idea!
Took us 2 hours to drive from Annecy to St Jean de Maurienne... our first pit stop in the Alps. And what a beautiful drive it is! Snow-capped mountains, flowing fields dotted with cattle and quaint villages.....
A small, pretty town, mostly deriving tourists who come to ride its challenging mountain passes . I rented a bike there and did my first Col! (Scroll towards the end for photos from phone on the rides!)
Just our luck it was Bastille Day - an Independence day for France - when we were there. It was a real challenge to find an open restaurant! We settled for kebabs instead, which I am happy with. At this point I was starting to get sick of sandwiches!
Skiing at a standstill.
We stayed at the SJdM for 4 days, and moved to the Bourg D'Oisans for more riding. Bought a baguette, some salami, soft cheese, mixed salad and a cup of coffee with milk to start the day before our drive out of town -
Found just the perfect spot to pull over and stuff our faces!
Nothing beats freshly baked baguette ... and a cup of steaming hot coffee.
Lake is so clear!
We used the GPS to navigate to Le Bourg D'oisans - Instead of the "fastest way" option, we chose the "shortest route" on the GPS - which brought us over some cool mountain passes and also the legendary Col du Glandon... breathtaking views, indeed.
The cyclists who made it up - impressive. I tried but I failed.... but not because I couldn't but cos I got lost :/ . I thought I was headed in the right direction towards Col du Glandon, but after an hour and still no obvious sign, I realized I must have missed the turn and ended in a town called Grenoble, some 30km from where I started! V teased me endlessly about it and said that might have been a blessing in disguise - the climbs were tough and never seems to end.
Le Bourg D'oisans
Small little town at the base of the Alpe d'Huez, another well-known climb in the Tour de France.
Gorging on my favourite foie gras -
And also my very first steak tartare -
Diced raw beef, mixed with capers, worcesteshire sauce, olive oil, vinegar, ketchup, salt and pepper, Tabasco sauce..... and a raw egg. I know it sounds horribly wrong, but it was delicious! I love sashimi, and in terms of texture, this comes pretty close. Although the whole time I was constantly thinking about the parasites squealing happily as they slide down to my stomach...
43 Avenue de La Republique
Le Bourg Dóisans
And photos from phone:
On my first mountain pass ride - Holy moly, took 2 hours 15mins to get to the top; including multiple rests in between. There is a gradual climb and my legs protest with every revolution.
The irony is I bought a sports bottle from the bicycle shop and as I prepared for the ride and went to fill it with water, only to realize there is a hole at the base! The other bottle I had was a 500ml plastic bottle size and I was using it conservatively throughout the climb - until I spotted a little stream. Topped up my bottle and was initally a little paranoid, but hey, people pay big bucks for spring water from the Alps! Tastes really good too!
Punctuated by fuel for the rides...
And the Alpe d'Huez climb - took me an hour and 50 minutes! The record is 30 minutes or something mad.
Lucky us, we rode the hill on a Friday, and it was also a market day. Rows of stalls selling food items, clothes, jewelleries fill the road.
This is from a poster at the hotel:
And we basically rode from the bottom village to the top of the hill! The Alpe d'Huez is also known as 21 Bends - if you can count them all!
This is for Mom who wanted to see more flowers than mountain shots: