From Barcelona we flew to Léon and drove to Grenoble – our hub for the first half of our French leg. Mark’s cousin Scott and his fiancé Lisa live in a great house in Grenoble so we felt like we were home the minute we unpacked. They could not have been more perfect guides and company for this part of our trip! Long meals, beautiful adventures and good conversation consumed us.
On our first full day in France they took us to the village of Chamonix in South-Eastern France in the Rhône-Alpes region (and the site of the first Winter Olympics in 1924).
Our first lunch in France was in one of the coolest restaurants I’ve ever been in (our table below on the left). I could not get over this place! To eat? Beer and the best fondue I’ve ever had.
From the center of Chamonix, a 20 minute ride in the Aiguille du Midi cable car takes you to the peak in the Mont Blanc massif of the French Alps at a height of 12,605 ft. This is the closest you can get to the summit of Mont Blanc without hiking or climbing. From there, you get a 360° view of all the French, Swiss and Italian Alps. At the summet terrace, you get a clear view of Mont Blanc. Let me remind you – as mentioned in my Barcelona post – that I had never seen a photo of what I was about to experience. To say it was the most beautiful view I’ve ever seen is a great understatement. Much like the Grand Canyon, a camera just does not do justice to what your eyes are seeing, the breeze tickling your ears, the crisp air on your face, the slight anxiety as you peak over the edge…
See that cable on the right? That’s our ride.
Look closer…mountain climber on the rock down below!
Step into the Void – a glass room with a glass floor – is 3396 ft straight down view where you can see Mont Blanc to the south. I love Mark’s face here as he waits for me join him on the glass – a lot harder to take that step than I anticipated. Mistake #1 – looking down as I took the stepped in.
Day 2 was filled with visiting the Chartreuse Monastery (Grande Chartreuse) followed by the Distillery! Anyone into cocktail culture knows how geeked out I was doing this. Located in the Chartreuse Mountains, north of Grenoble, the process of the glorious French liqueur starts here with the Carthusian Monks who have been making it since 1737. Manufacturing starts in the herb room with the 2 monks in charge of the distillation: Dom Benoit and Brother Jean-Jacques. They’re the only two who knows the names of the herbs and plants used to make Chartreuse. There, they mix and dose 130 herbs, which are then transported to the distillery.
We found this key sitting on a rock from this view. Leaving it behind was one of the hardest things we’ve ever done…but agreed it was the “right” thing to do.
On our way out, we passed a giant trash bin full of these ceramic shingles from the roof of the Monastery. One man’s trash is another (wo)man’s treasure, as this now sits on our bar as my favorite thing we brought home from Europe.
The Chartreuse aging cellar is the largest liqueur cellar in the world and was built in 1860. The floor where the monks divide up the batches can only be entered by them. It’s then poured into stills so the distilling can begin. They’ve perfected the control of the process and can intervene from the Monastery with a computer to make corrections if necessary. It’s then aged for several years and bottled on the floor above this one. Also, you’re not allowed to take photos in the cellar so it’s super weird that this ended up on my camera…
On our third day we hung around Grenoble with Scott. It’s a really neat city and we spent most of the day wandering around, window shopping and drinking wine for hours at one of their favorite spots.
A peak at the best cheese shop in the world (literally). Walked in, lost my mind, bought more cheese than one human should ever eat. I’m not convinced that it wasn’t a preview of Heaven.
Off to the French Riviera! But first, a fabulous detour in Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in Southeastern France. Every little shop and winery had free tastings so we tried as much as could in an afternoon.
We go to our Airbnb in the rainy Fnench Riviera at night. This was the view from our balcony of the Mediterranean Sea.
The rain brought in some flooding to our place so we had to leave just hours after waking up. The (very) positive? We ended up staying at the 5 star Intercontinental Carlton in Cannes thanks to an insane same day booking discount! A little rain could not stop the good times.
The last few days in France were spent in Cannes lusting over Maseratis, Lamborghinis, yachts and $90,000 Rolex watches in windows.
On our last night, we feasted at 2 Michelin Star restaurant La Palme d’Or (our favorite meal of the trip and one of our favorites of all time). This was a once in a lifetime experience for so many reasons, one being that while eating, a Medicane blew through the Riviera. During dinner, in a room of glass, we couldn’t stop commenting on how bad the storm was outside, having no idea what was actually happening. The power went out early into the meal so we ate most of it by candlelight, which was actually kind of wonderful. When we woke up the next morning to blue skies, we discovered that flash floods had killed 16 people and dumped 150mm of rain in two hours. Most of the buildings and restaurants were without power on the morning we left. We were really grateful have not been caught in it – which is exactly what would have happened had we stayed in our initial Airbnb and come into Cannes for dinner with no idea what was about to hit.
I’ll never forget this adventure and am so grateful to Mark who made the entire thing happen. We flew home on our 7th anniversary – a perfect way to end one more year of marriage together and begin another. I can’t wait to see where this life takes us and am always eager to do it with him by my side.