Adventures in France: Day Cinq in Le Brevent

Sunny, mountain views, skis unzipped from their carrying cases. It was Wednesday, Day 5,  and we were ready to ski the French Alps! After yesterday’s travel day, a great nights’ sleep, and some delicious fried eggs made by Kristi, the gang was ready to ski. Our house in Chamonix was perfectly located near the SUD (the Bus depot) but the Gondola that would take us to Le Brevent didn’t seem to be very far, so we decided to walk up.

Well, dang, it was a lot further than we thought, with the last 500 feet pretty steep.

But, we made it and it was a nice little warmup! And warm it was – spring was in the valley and we wondered what conditions at the top would be like.

The gondola shot us straight up, past the dirt patched trails, up and over the top and we finally saw snow!

At the top of the gondola, the views were spectacular and the massive Mont Blanc could be seen as clear as day. Breathtaking! We had been doing our snow dances prior to the trip, but I have to say I was incredibly grateful for the bluebird day, which allowed for the mountain views.

The afternoon was spent exploring the mountain, avoiding the European Jerry skiers (they seem to Cover the whole mountain when turning, going from one side ALL the way over to the other, so can be quite challenging to pass on cat tracks!) and frolicking off-piste.

We found stashes all over, all though the conditions were a bit varied, so I played it safe and skied in an aggressive, deliberate stance. It was an absolutely amazing day.

The mountains are extremely different in Europe, with limited boundaries, ski patrol or signs telling you where you shouldn’t be going. The resort Le Brevent had all kinds of skiers on the mountain as well – from beginners to extremists and most runs had a few of each on them. Except for the off-piste runs, where only a few brave souls would follow the ‘off-the-beaten path’ to ski the goods. These proved to be some of the best runs.

After several hours, we all agreed it was time to refresh ourselves with some lunch and beverages. Kieran left to go meet Kristi in town and Dusty, Mike, Holly and I headed to the coolest lunch spot I’ve ever been to at a mountain resort.

Le Panoramic had breathtaking views of Mont Blanc and we were happy to enjoy Apres with the views.

The day had been delicious and we decided to head down to the village to meet our group. Two other good friends, Zach and Tim, would be arriving in Chamonix, completing the Chamonix gang. We dropped our skis back at the chalet and headed to our second Apres of the day. But first, Mike stopped at a local boot shop, Sole, to get an assessment on his current set up, which was giving him quite a bit of discomfort. A London bloke hooked him up and told him to pick the boots up in 30 minutes. Gotta love a ski town!

Through the glorious town, we wandered to meet the new crew, and the night unfolded beautifully!

Drinks in back rooms filled with cozy sheepskin couches, fancy cocktails, and old Chamonix posters.

Dinner and fondue at La Moraine, a quaint French restaurant with warm ambiance and delicious cheese!

The night continued with sexy drinks at Le Cave, a nightclub under a beautiful restaurant with pulsating music and a groovy vibe. Chamonix did not disappoint us!

Adventures in France: Day Trois & Quatre

Our third day in France (Monday) and we were loving the countryside. The morning was sunny and gorgeous, and we enjoyed our freshly made coffee, fried eggs, delicious cheese, and gorgeous country views. Breakfast in France has got to be the best way to start the day.

Mike felt a bit under the vineyard after our wine extravaganza on Day Deux of our France adventure so stayed behind to sleep while Dusty, Holly and I headed out from the house onto a trail system within the Parc du Pilat.

The trail hooked up directly above the bed and breakfast, which was incredibly convenient.  Kieran and Kristie headed into Malleval, a thirteen hundred old French town they lived in in 2005, when working for Pierre Gaillard in his vineyard.

Our hike took us through the hills and valleys of the French countryside, into the town of Roisey where stone farm houses and windy trails carried us along. At times, the trail went pretty straight up the hills, and we definetely were able to work off some cheese and bread. We clocked 5.82 miles, a brisk but leisurely stroll where we really felt like we saw the country.

Trail markers were everywhere and only a few times did we get turned around. Not having internet while in Europe is really lovely, as you can truly shut off. Not having google maps however can get you in a pickle! Strava worked, so we used that as our guiding point.

Back at the house the gang showered and regrouped for some espresso and cake made by our hosts. Quite the afternoon pick me up. Kristy and Kieran were actually wrapping up their afternoon as well so came and scooped us up to take us to Malleval, the gorgeous town they lived in back in 2005.

The village took us all back to the 11th century, with winding, narrow cobblestone streets, gorgeous cottages with ornate wooden shutters, and a beautiful church at the top of the village.

We wandered down a grassy trail that followed a river and we all imagined out loud what it must have been like to live here. It was a glorious town!

Driving back, we stopped to buy some wine from Pierre had ‘just a taste’ then went home to cook a dinner in, as we would leave early in the morning for Chamonix!

The next morning, we awoke and all chatted about stopping in Vienne on the way out to explore. But first our last delicious breakfast in our enchanted Bed and Breakfast.  Our bags were packed, we loaded the new van and were off. First stop….chocolate croissants! OMG, the best I’ve ever had!

In Vienne, we sat and drank espresso, then wandered around teh town, hiking up to a cathedral that overlooked the whole of the town.

Below, they were doing work on the amphitheater, which apparently had large concerts. France’s own Red Rocks!

From the Cathedral, we strolled down to the Roman Ruins, through quaint side streets and picturesque cafes. Vienne was lovely, and the pizza spot we chose for lunch hit the spot. Wine & fromage!

Back in the van for tow hours, we all (except the driver!) took a nap, took a quick rest stop, then arrived in our glorious Chamonix! Our AirBnB house was down quite a narrow street, but the van nudged itself through and the location was perfect!

Unpacking, rooms selected, we were anxious to check out our new digs so headed out. The weather was beautiful and Mont Blanc could be seen clearly.

It was breathtaking in this valley, with steep mountains all around us. Absolutely stunning.

Our first beers were at an open-air bar, that looked like the hot spot for apres. We toasted to the next leg of the journey, the mountains hugging us in.

The next day we would ski Le Brevent and two more friends would join our France adventure, so we decided to shop at a local grocery to have dinner in. We ate, drank wine and glowed with the realization that we soon would be skiing the French Alps! Bon Vivant!

Adventures in France: Day Deux

After a not so great night of sleep (Mike couldn’t contain his excitement so had a bit too much to drink and snored a lot!) we awoke at eight a.m., fell back asleep till 10 a.m. and got woken by our friends who had already been awake, had a hike and had wonderful crepes. How embarrassed was I to have slept so late! Day one had been a long day though, so guess one late morning was ok!  After amazing coffee made by our host Katherine, the best fried egg I’ve ever had, and some French cheese, baguette, and homemade jam, we quickly changed and formulated a plan.

Unfortunately our vans gear shift had massive problems and was actually leaking, so it had to be towed from our bed and breakfast near Malleval so Kieran and Kristie had to take a taxi back into Lyon to get a new one. What a pain! Our hosts were kind enough to let us use their vehicle, so Dusty, Holly Mike and I headed into Pelussin to explore the market and small town.

The small town of Pelussin provided gorgeous French scenery and proved to be the quintessential European spot. Every Sunday they had a small market in the center, which we were able to catch the tail end of. Fresh flowers, produce, farm stand items were on display. It was a lovely concept to wander amongst the local goods, converse with your neighbors, be outside on a gorgeous French day. At the west end of the square was a small church we were able to peek into.

The four of us meandered around the quaint town for the whole afternoon, ducking down avenues lined with old stone buildings. We wandered into a French cemetery where the old tombstones held the names of family members dating back to the 1800’s. Raised tombs overlooking Mont Blanche was not a bad resting place. The views were breathtaking!

We followed the narrow streets down to a park, where we saw cute French pups playing in the courtyard. Dusty even threw a stick for the bigger pup. Our strolling had left us hungry, so we walked the steep streets back to the city center. The pizza place we had tried to eat in the previous night was open and the al fresco seating was delicious, with the warm French sun beating down on us. It was phenomenal!

Holly and I saved seats while the boys went inside to order. Or so we thought! They came out with beers, letting us know they had told the waitress “dealers choice” because all the pizzas looked amazing! Don’t think the translation was there, because 10 minutes later the actual chef came out to take our actual order….and dealers choice wasn’t on the menu!

After what may have been the best, cheesiest pizza ever, we headed back to the house to get ready for our wine tasting. But first, we drove to a foot bridge we saw from a distance and walked across to see how the village looked hundreds of years earlier. The view from the top was spectacular and we immediately realized we could have gotten there from walking through the town earlier. She la vie! Now, back to the house to meet the Robinsons to head to their wine makers dinner.

Kieran and Kristie had lived in the Rhone Valley in 2015 for almost a year, where Kieran interned with Pierre Gaillard learning the ins and outs of Syrah. For Kieran’s 40th, he wanted to go back and revisit the valley. And what an absolutely unforgettable night!

We pulled in to the property and parked in the vineyards production area, where they had equipment, hoses, machinery. We walked up the stairs into the tasting room, didn’t see Pierre, so walked across the street to their home, which was a converted barn. Pierre and his wife Pascal were in the quaint kitchen, which had a back patio that overlooked the vineyards. Kisses on both cheeks were given, as the wine maker and apprentice reunited after over thirteen years.

Pierre then led the group into the vineyards, where he pointed out each variatle. The steep hills undulated and we walked deeper into the vineyard.

As we walked, Pierre answered our many questions. He explained the history of his start. One of the first wine makers in the region after the First World War, due to the rough, hilly, landscape, he planted himself in the Rhone Valley in the beginning of the 80s and some of his vines were more than 50 years old.

When Piere first got here, he had to excavate the wild growth of the Appalachia, one of the first tasks was to create paths to take the grapes into the village, carving ways up and out of the hill. When asked about the steepness, he explained you can’t plant vines steeper than a 70 pitch and they plant on the side of the hill to protect the grapes from the north wind.

He went on, passionately describing that Syrah was born here, the parents of two grapes born at the beginning of the 17th centuRy. They trim at the end of July and the strong winds are why they tie the vines together. When we asked about the water setup, he told us there’s a rule that if you have a vineyard in Appalachia’s you’re not allowed to have irrigation, you must rely on the weather.

The tour took us down a steep hillside, where views of Malleval took our breath away. The small vineyard below Piere belong to Gerard DePardue, a famous actor apparently.

Slowly, as the sun sank a bit lower, we walked up to the house where there were 100 year old vines once plowed by horse. Pierre’s vineyard produces 500,000 bottles a year, such an impressive operation. And to get a private tour from the owner himself was unforgettable.

The vineyard tour was over, so we headed into the tasting room, where a four hour wine tasting commenced. The first several bottles were of the white variety, the very first being a Chardonnay, made in the Roman style (grape stomping, no suffer, just pure fruit) followed by a roussane made in neutral oak (meaning it’s a used barrel) followed by several viogniers.

The fifth taste was a dessert wine made from the same grape, just a later harvest. So interesting how such a variety of tastes can come from the same fruit!

When asked what was his favorite, he smiled and said, “I like them all. I started making these not because my parents or grandparents but because I have a passion for them. I love them.” What a role model for us all; do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.

The wine flowed upstairs until it was time to desend into the barrel room, where Pierre siphoned wine into our glasses. Barrel after barrel, we tasted the mans delicious wine, the most elaborate tasting I had ever been to by far.

Some of his distributors joined halfway through, a French lot who knew the business. We tasted and spit into the drains in the floor, tasted and spit, and often swallowed because it was delicious!

Finally, after four hours, we finished our tasting and headed into the house portion for a homemade dinner made by Pascal. More wine was open, we helped set the table, and the eleven of us sat to dine. Gorgeous salads with grapefruit and avocado was served, followed by a dinner of baked truffle mashed potatoes and roast. While I skipped on the meat, the bread, potatoes, salad, and atmosphere was phenomenal.

The experience was one I’ll never forget…Generosity and passion were lessons I took away from the day. Share what you love with the people around you and you will have a good life!

Bon Vivon!