Adventures in France: Planes, Trains & Vans

Several months ago, our friends Kieran and Kristie threw out an invite to celebrate Kieran turning 40 in France. Being able to ski the French Alps and drink wine? Yes please! So, we invited our good Colorado friends, Dusty and Holly to join and the trip was planned.

The day finally came and after getting Dusty’s partner to drive us to the airport, we paid an arm and a leg for our baggage ($287 for our skis!) flew through security, had a bite and a beer to wish ourselves a Bon voyage and we were off!

This would be Dusty’s first international adventure & longest flight….needless to say I was excited for him!

Lufthansa is an amazing airline (minus the oversized baggage fees) so we settled into our seats, watched some movies, slept a bit, had some pasta….and woke in Munich. The nine hour flight left us a bit groggy, but strolling through customs, back through security and then to our gate got us in the European spirit. Our second flight to Geneva was only 45 minutes, although it got delayed a bit, so a quick cat nap and we landed!

Crossing our fingers for the bags and skis arriving safely, we navigated our way to baggage claim. THEY MADE IT!!!!

All bags in tow, we grabbed our free train fare into the city center (I had researched this prior to the trip and it was pretty nice that they provided free tickets!) had a nice Frenchmen tell us where to catch the train, and hopped on.

The public transportation in France is tres magnifice – clean and quiet! Arriving in town center after only 6 minutes, we grabbed our extremely heavy baggage and unloaded to catch our next train. We had about 40 minutes, so instead of lugging our baggage up and down stairs, Dusty and Mike went down into the station to see about tickets for Lyon. The track area was lovely, a bit chilly, but surprisingly clean. A drunken French bum came by as Holly and I sat waiting, explaining he had a sick baby at home while concealing a beer behind his back. We didn’t give him any Euros.

Fifteen minutes later, the boys came back to fetch us and we headed to track seven, where we’d go to Bellegaurd, then transfer to Lyon. The boys had taken so long picking out six beers at one of the train shops, a variety of Belgian and pilsners, even a double IPA! Having bought first class tickets (they didn’t have any other seats left!) we felt extremely fancy drinking our European beers on a beautiful train bound for France. The transfer was smooth enough, although the train was delayed about 30 minutes. So, I laid down on our ski bag and took a rest. The station was very French, with quaint buildings lining the tracks and old steel beams. When the train finally came, we climbed on eagerly and settled in for a two and a half hour ride.

We chatted and had snacks (Wisconsin cheese and rice crackers Holly brought) and sipped on delicious beer while watching the French countryside whiz by. Marveling at how quiet and efficient the train was, we all wished for a train as such to whisk us to our Colorado mountains!

When we finally arrived, we gathered our belongings and went searching for Kieran and Kristie. They had arrived an hour or so prior and rented a van. Mike had to use the toilet, so went searching for one in the busy train station, only to find one that he had to give a Euro for. I had brought a bag of what I thought to be Euro…only to discover they were actually Turkish Lira. Whoops! Mike wasn’t happy about it, so grabbed his wallet, where he had actual Euros (he had picked them up at the train station back in Geneva). A European public restroom experience!

Dusty had gotten an international plan and we were able to let Kier & Kristie know we had landed and they let us know where they had parked the van. We headed away from the main entrance and found them, shoved our stuff into the van and were off to Malleval, where a gorgeous bed and breakfast awaited. Kieran and Kristie had gotten the recommendation from Pierre Gaillard, the vintner Kieran had interned for in 2005. After about an hour of driving in the dark, we arrived at the gorgeous house, Le Grand Noe.

The owners weren’t there, but we were welcomed in by another guest so came in and picked our bedrooms. The three rooms were in different areas of the house, Mike and I choose the basement room, which was rather chilly, but lovelywith it’s very own bathroom. After dropping our bags, we decided to head into Pelussin to grab a bite to eat before the restaurants closed, as they do in small towns. Oh, too late!

The pizza shop had served its last customers of the evening, so we headed to the market across the street, in the small town center, to grab some wine, frozen pizzas, baguettes, cheese, and chocolate. Back at the house, we fixed a very French spread, with decadent cheeses and enjoyed our first night in France.

Travel Happy: Minimalist Packing for Chamonix, France

The countdown to our French winter adventure has begun! A good friend is turning 40 and him and his wife wanted to celebrate in style…in France! Did I mention this good friend makes delicious wine, lived and studied in the Rhone Valley and has a mentor that will be throwing us a decadent wine dinner? Yeah, sign me up for that!

So the question of what to pack has arose. This is a trip where we will combine wine tasting in the Northern Rhone region of France, near Malleval, and skiing Mont Blanc in Chamonix. Two very different vibes – both equally amazing!

Having checked the luggage policy for Lufthansa, I found out we were allowed one carry on and one checked bag (we are flying economy class – got almost free tickets using our WellsFargo business CC points!). Because we will have our skis (putting them in one bag so it’s considered one checked!) Mike and I will have to share a bag. This is really not a problem, as I’m used to packing minimalistically for long trips. I didn’t even check a bag for our ten day trip to Portugal!  The weather will be a bit on the warmer side in Malleval (50’s) where we will spend the first 4 days,  and colder in Chamonix (20’s-40’s) where we’ll spend 5 days, with snow in the forecast, yay! But, dang, what to pack! Plus, it’s France, so I have to be presentable…..

With all of that considered, I put together a simple, classic, yet practical wardrobe that checks all the boxes. The first thing to consider: outerwear. I’m hoping we’ll do some hiking/walking in both Malleval & Chamoix, so needed warm, yet functional footwear. On the opposite end, we’ll be walking around historical sites, tasting wine, being very French, so need an easy (but cute) walking shoe. And with the chance of snow, have to bring the cute hats! I choose the below, and planned my color scheme around these colors: tan, navy blue, black, grey.

I’m bringing three hats – one beret, one ski cap, one furry flap hat – and mittens that will match it all. The sporty, yet cute Cole Haan boot will be worn on the trails and the slip ons pack beautifully – and are comfy!

I then thought about our time in Malleval, France…..touring the quaint villages, dining in French cafes, sipping French wine, hiking in Pilat National Park, getting wined and dined with Pierre Gaillard. And the weather would be mild – so I opted for skirts and dresses, all having layering options.

Next, I picked pants – one pair of jeans and two yoga pants – that I could dress up or down and all could be worn with interchangeable tops. And layering with a shawl or poncho – of which I was bringing three  (a grey, creme and a olive green one) – would keep me warm.

And the rest was easy – ski clothes (that I’d wear multiple days, sorry crew!) a bathing suite (hoping to hit some hot springs!) and toiletries, undergarments and pjs.

I’m beyond excited to explore the Rhone Valley, French Alps, and everywhere in between. And I’ll have packed for any and all adventures we encounter!

Bon Voyage!