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Alpine Adventures

by - Sunday, January 27, 2019

As you've likely seen on Instagram, my lovely hubby surprised me with a mini break in the French Alps for my Christmas present. We set off on the 2nd January for 3 nights to a little town called Le Grand Bornand, just south of Geneva and not far from Chamonix.

On the Road...

After waking at the ungodly time of 2.30am, we began our 11 hour drive and arrived off the ferry in France shortly after sunrise, with the smooth, open road ahead of us!

It's safe to say there were a fair few refuelling stops on route, and a French-speaking American in Starbucks who didn't quite get my English name!

As we approached the mountains, there were times where we were reminded a little bit of America, and fell in love with road trips all over again...

And finally, after a long drive that finished with snaking up the narrow sides of mountains in the dark of night, we arrived at our gorgeous Air Bnb that sat overlooking the valley that housed Le Grand Bornand.

Not that we knew just what that meant - all our view consisted of was the town's lights and the odd set of car headlights soaring through the sky, which indicated just how surrounded by mountains we really were. As we stood looking out over the valley, breathing in the icy air, it felt so precious to be back in the mountains once again.

We stepped inside and didn't hang about with getting the fire roaring and the red wine flowing. I donned my gorgeous new Pjs and we lit our 'ski lodge' candle - all items that Paul gave me on Christmas day as clues to the holiday.

Fromage & Fire...

The next morning, we realised just how beautiful this place was. We awoke to light streaming in through the huge picture windows as the sun rose over the Aravis mountains opposite. Nothing had quite prepared me for that first glance of those snow-capped peaks towering over the little town set deep in the valley.

And once again, my mountain heartbeat beat loud and clear inside my chest.

After a few quick snaps out on the balcony, and a taste of just how cold -9°C feels when in your pyjamas(!), we put our warmest winter outfits together and stepped outside to explore our new surroundings.

I opted for the beautiful teal accessories that had made up some of my clues from Paul - and paired them with this oh-so-soft cashmere rollneck and THE best invention from Primark - faux fur lined leggings. They honestly were my saviour with the freezing temperatures and mountaintop winds.

Cashmere Rollneck - Old Season from John Lewis & Partners Similar Linked Here | Long Sleeved Vest & Faux-fur Lined Leggings - Primark | Scarf & Hat - Mountain Warehouse | Cabin Socks - Fat Face | Replica Perfume Discovery Set - Maison Margiela at John Lewis & Partners

After the obligatory Instagram snaps outside, we headed down the winding mountain road into town, parked up, and headed straight back up another mountain, only in a rather different mode of transport...

Once at the top, we decided to brave the cold so we could soak up all the wonderful views, and ordered hot chocolates and lunch outside on the cafe's balcony. 

Note to self: bring sunglasses tomorrow.

Eating fromage & frites in the crisp mountain air with the winter sun on our faces was divine - but so was slipping inside to pay the bill and allow the log burner's roaring fire to bring some feeling back to our cheeks!

We ordered another hot chocolate each (cause you know, holiday and all) and soaked up the views one last time before heading back down the mountainside.

By the time we'd got back down and walked into the centre ville, the cold had got through all our many layers and was starting to sting our skin... so we headed to the local grocers and picked up some bread, cheese and wine to take home and enjoy by the fire.

We arrived back to gourmet hot chocolate, new doggo friends and that wonderful feeling of not having to be anywhere or do anything.

We spent all afternoon and all evening sitting in front of the fire, other than a quick break to make cheese fondue before collapsing back into the chairs, and topping up the carafe with plenty more vin rouge.

The sun set over the Aravis behind us while the fire crackled and flickered in the grate beside us, and we whiled away the evening drinking wine and chatting the night away.

Sunrise & Slopes...

The next morning, I set my alarm early so that I could be up before the sun. I left Paul in bed and threw on my layers, and slipped outside into the cold mountain air with my camera.

Thus began the dance from bed to balcony for the next 40 minutes - after capturing the beautiful fruit-salad sky and jumping back into bed to warm up, the sky had changed again to something just as stunning that I couldn't resist photographing.

It was totally worth it, of course.

Eventually I called it a day, lit the fire in the grate and jumped back into bed.
[Translation: I got fed up with keep putting all my layers on, banged about trying to light a fire which woke Paul up, then climbed back into bed with a cuppa while he got up and tried to fix my awful attempt at a fire!]

Nonetheless, once the fire was roaring and I could feel my toes again, it was one of those glorious mornings where you're in no hurry to start the day - so you roll over in bed and drift in and out of sleep for a while, listening to the crackle of the flames.

Grey Ribbed Rollneck - Tu ClothingLong Sleeved Rollneck & Faux-fur Lined Leggings - Primark | Cabin Socks - YakTrax at Cotswold Outdoor | Replica Perfume Discovery Set - Maison Margiela at John Lewis & Partners | Hat - Vintage

Of course before I layered up again I had to get a snap of mountains on mountains! Posing for this shot in -7 was certainly exhilarating... I think!?

Once we were dressed and out of the cosy confines of our Air BnB, we made our way to the next town over - La Clusaz.

After testing out my French to buy the tickets, we hopped into another cable car to take us high up into the Aravis.

And the views were just perfect.

The temperate dropped drastically once we got to the 6,500 ft high peak, and given we'd found ourselves at the starting point for a plethora of ski slopes, there wasn't anywhere to grab a hot chocolate and a warm bite to eat - so we didn't hang around there for long!

Once we got back down, we warmed up with hot drinks in the little ski lodge restaurant, where the walls were covered in black and white photographs of local skiing history.

We then drove down into the town centre, and wandered around the little shops, admiring their displays of sheepskin rugs, local produce and retro ski posters before deciding to head back to Le Grand Bornand to have one last wander around the town and grab a bite to eat.

Unfortunately the only open restaurant was a pizzeria - but my guilt at not eating French cuisine quickly subsided as I sipped my vin chaud with fresh orange slices and ordered a goat's cheese & honey pizza -  which was trés trés bonne!

We then returned back to our little apartment at sundown and quickly whizzed through our packing, to give us enough time to soak up the last evening of our alpine retreat.

This saw me performing yet another dance of in-out-in-out in my PJs with the camera as I captured the night sky - keeping my vin rouge close to hand to keep warm, obviously!

Home again, Home again...

We enjoyed one more morning of waking up to that view and had our last breakfast of croissants and juice whilst watching the sun rise over those magnificent mountains.

It was just magnificent. The most perfect way to end the most perfect few days hiding away in our snowy retreat.

My last day's outfit was sadly less insulated and a bit more travel friendly... putting it together, I felt a little pang of disappointment as I realised I didn't need to be fully kitted out with fur-lined leggings and thermal layers. I still threw my Mumma's sheepskin hat in there for good measure though!

Teal Deer Jumper - Vintage from Collectif Clothing | Grey Ribbed Rollneck - old range from Dorothy Perkins, similar linked here | Charcoal Boot Socks - The White Company | Jeans - Dorothy Perkins | Hat - Vintage

A few last shots in our little winter paradise and it was back on the road once more... for what became the very long slog back to Britain.

One missed ferry, two traffic jams and many, many exhausting hours later, we finally arrived back home and fell into our familiar bed, our hearts full of priceless memories from the last few days.

For anyone interested, our wonderful Air BnB can be found here - underfloor heating, stunning woodburner and a very well equipped kitchen are just some of the great features it holds - not to forget that breathtaking view of the magnificent Aravis mountain range.

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