A couple of years ago, we decided to drive down to France with our bikes to explore the Alps - this was the summer that got us totally hooked on climbing mountains. The snowy peaks and turquoise lakes blew us away, and the empowering feeling of attacking some of the Tour de France iconic climbs is still some of our favourite cycling memories.
Here is a little write-up of our trip ahead of our Moloko Escape coming this August.
Day 1: Val-Cenis
After a long drive and a short night, we open the blinds of the chalet to discover the most incredible view on the valley. We are instantly reminded of why we love being in the mountains so much. We quickly gulf some fresh pastries from the local bakery, prepare our Canyons, and gear up for the day ahead.
Today we're doing a 15km climb (with 800m elevation) to Col du Mont-Cenis. It’s just a warm up ride, however, within minutes we’re hyped up by the epic landscapes.
Once we reach the top, there are herds of cows grazing in the meadows and we discover the stunning Lac du Mont-Cenis half hidden in the dark clouds. We take the opportunity to buy some local produce and find a spot on the lake’s shore line to enjoy bread, sausage and local cheese.
As expected, the descent is an absolute dream made of switchbacks, fields of pines and panoramic mountain views. We make it back to our chalet just in time before the storm and spend the rest of the afternoon chilling with some cocktails in the village.
Day 2: Col de la Madeleine
Today we are tackling the legendary Col de la Madeleine, an iconic climb often featured in the Tour de France so will definitely test our legs!
We decide to drive to the starting point: a village called La Chambre ("the bedroom" in French) in order to attack the climb with fresh legs. We order 2 espressos at the local cafe and off we go!
Shortly into the climb we start to pass waterfalls, stone bridges and alpine woodlands which really gives us the feeling like we’re on an adventure.
At the summit, we reward ourselves with a slice of my favourite treat, a traditional "tarte aux myrtilles", paired with a well needed cup of coffee: the perfect indulgence before descending back to La Chambre.
The sugar from the myrtilles starts to kick in, so we use the energy we have left to check out the famous Lacets de Montvernier. This stunning route unfolds with a mesmerizing series of hairpin bends skillfully carved into the mountainside, offering breathtaking panoramas of the valley below.
We chill at the top for a bit, feeling very lucky to be here and using many hyperboles to talk about the day we've just had.
Day 3: Col de l'Iseran
Today challenge with Col de l'Iseran, the highest paved mountain pass in the Alps. The climb starts in the beautiful alpine village of Bonneval-sur-Arc, which neither of us can wait to visit after our lunch!
Steady pace it is for this one, allowing us to fully immerse ourselves in the scenery and sweet-sounds of wildlife. We mark our progress by checking off each trail marker on the side of the road, and before we know it we're at the summit!
We pause at the top to absorb the beauty of the surrounding peaks, glaciers, and alpine meadows: this was probably our favourite climb so far! We loved how different and golden the landscapes were, until we git surrounded by the snow peaks.
The snow, as pretty as it is, means that it's a bit chilly up there so we we hop back on the bikes and make our way back down the valley and Bonneval-sur-Arc.
At the cafe, we both order a tartiflette (when in the mountains...) and devour it basking in the warm sunshine. We then go for a wander around the village. All the boutique shops are so cute, so we buy a few souvenirs (all edible) to bring back home.
Day 4: To the next valley via Lake Annecy
Today we're driving to the Chamonix Valley, where we're renting a cute chalet for our last days in France. We love turning any drive day into an exploring one so stop in Annecy for lunch and then head to the lake shore.
Picture this: a laid-back spot with the sun beaming down, the lake reflecting the stunning surroundings, and the mountains standing tall in the background. We end up spending the whole afternoon there, reading our books and indulging in homemade ice cream. It's exactly what we needed after all the climbing of the past few days.
Day 5: Lac d'Emosson
Whilst browsing Pinterest last night, I discovered that Lac d'Emosson is just around the corner, in Switzerland. Plans are made to be changed, so to the lake we go.
What a climb! The Mont Blanc dominates the scene here, every other hairpin bend offering insane views of this icon of a mountain. We're feeling strong after our rest day by Lake Annecy, so each second of this ride is just pure joy.
The best climbs though are those with a little reward at the top aren't they? Well, this one did not disappoint! At the top sits a stunning turquoise-blue lake, surrounded by snowy peaks and controlled by a huge dam that makes the whole scene simply surreal - a true alpine postcard.
Don't get fooled, however: the climbing doesn't stop here. 2 km along there is a second lake which no one tells you about. It's a very (VERY) steep climb, but we have to check it out. We stop quite a few times since the legs can't take the whole segment, and find out at the end that to actually see the second lake you need to hike in rocks for the last 300m. After a short hesitation, we opt to walk it in our socks rather than destroying our cleats. And wow, this extra effort is so wort it:
The best part is probably that back at the main lake, we find a little cafe that serves chips with a view (and after all this climbing they taste like heaven).
The descent back down is then pure magic. We stop at a couple of viewpoints to soak it all in and already know that we will be back one day, maybe for a Moloko Escape.
Day 6: Chamonix Hike
This is our final day and a heatwave has started so we opt for a hike. In Chamonix we take the Brevent cable car and stop for a coffee and a croissant on the terrace that faces the Mount Blanc glacier.
We then get on the second cable car that takes us to Le Brévent at 2525m, and start hiking our way down. We enjoy discovering the Alps differently (and so do our legs). Alone on the trails and travelling at a much slower pace, we really feel how majestic those mountains are.
We finish the hike with another "tarte aux myrtilles" and a hot chocolate on the panoramic terrasse whilst watching paragliders having the time of their life. What a holiday we had!