Showing posts with label Chamonix. Show all posts

Top 5 Destinations from 2014 + Top 5 for 2015

2014 was an incredible travel year for us which makes it difficult to narrow down our top destinations for the year! I swear we leave every new destination claiming it to be our favorite. But after discussing what our favorite trips were, we came up with a shortlist. 

Top Travels in 2014

5. Tie: Amsterdam and Paris

After a short trip to Amsterdam with my Dad, we have decided that this city is one that we could definitely return to and actually need to return to. We loved the architecture and the city but we missed out on a lot of the museums. And not to mention, we would love to go back just for the food! 


Amsterdam Posts:

And Paris. We visited Paris while I was sick with a tummy bug and we missed out on a lot. There was sooo much to do in Paris but we still got a good feel for the city and wouldn't mind returning for some food and shopping!


Paris Posts (coming soon)
Thoughts on Paris | Notre Dame | The Louvre
Our Wonderful Apartment | Cedric's CV Night Tour | Montmarte/Sacre Couer

4. Santorini

Santorini is on many a bucket list. And for good reason. The sunsets from the island's cliff side cannot be beat! Plus the beaches, the food, the shopping....it's all amazing. We so enjoyed our time cruising the island on the ATV and eating the glorious Greek food. And after seeing our first sunset, I was sure I had died and had passed on into some sort of travel heaven. I had permanent chills!


Santorini Posts:

3. Chamonix

As avid snowsports enthusiasts, skiing and boarding the Alps was high on our bucket list while living in England. Our first taste came at Chamonix in France. It was absolutely incredible. We will now be forever spoiled by the Alps, especially now that we have booked 2 more Alps getaways this winter!! But Chamonix will always be our first love when it comes to the Alps.


Chamonix Posts:

2. Germany

We finally got to visit Germany in December. We immediately felt comfortable in this country and I think that it has to do with the similarities to the conveniences of the US. But add in some amazing castles and Christmas Markets and its a perfect country to getaway to. Luckily, we have another trip planned back to our new favorite country in a few days!


Germany Posts (more coming soon)

1. Prague

Germany may be our favorite country but Prague is by far our favorite city and for many many reasons including; the people, the food, the beer, the history, the architecture, the prices, the hotels, everything!! We were so sad when we had to leave Prague after a 3 night stay. We had a perfect trip to Prague and hopefully will get to return before we leave England. 


Prague Posts:

*Honorable Mention: not a destination, but flying first class from the US to the UK was a dream. I got lucky and was able to score a seat and it was just incredible. Oh to lead that lifestyle!

Top 5 for 2015

Ok, here is where reality hits. We will be moving this year and we don't have much time left for adventures in Europe. This hurts my heart just a little bit. Ok, a lot bit. The thought of not being able to hop on a plane to visit a new country every month just sucks. And the crazy person in me wants to spend every last penny we have and travel every weekend until we have to leave. But its just not possible. I have a serious itinerary planned for our remaining months but I'm also trying to be realistic and not go overboard......oh the struggles!

So here is my Top 5 list for 2015:

1. Austria
I am a massive Sound of Music fan and I have wanted to visit the "hills" before we ever knew we would be moving to England. So this WILL be happening! Hopefully, we will get to take a little sidetrip to Hallstatt as well as it looks to be incredibly gorgeous. 

2. Poland
Ever since I read Number the Stars and learned of the Holocaust in school, I have had such a desire to visit Auschwitz and pay my respects to those who were brutally murdered there. I know there are several other sites and if it is possible, I would like to visit those as well. But Poland has been on my list for awhile because of this reason. 

3. Croatia
We are hoping to fit in a beach trip this summer to the waters of Croatia and we are trying to talk some family members (ahem, Dad) into coming with us! Since we visited beaches in Greece and Spain last year, this will be our beach 'fix' trip for 2015!

 4. Italy
After visiting Rome last year, we know we need to get back to Italy. I'm hoping to put together a trip including Cinque Terre, Venice and Florence. Any tips are appreciated on this little adventure!

5. Budapest
From what we hear, Budapest rivals our most favorite Prague. So this little trip is almost completely planned. It looks fantastic!

Of course there are a million honorable mentions. And I am hoping to fit some of those in. But with the nature of Van's job, we never really know exactly when we are moving so this is about all I can plan for at this moment. Oh and in addition to these Top 5, we are headed back to Germany next week and Switzerland in February!!

So there you have it...my favorites from last year and my penciled in travels for 2015!

What travels are you looking forward to this year?


Treasure Tromp

Planning an Alps Ski Holiday | Part Deux


Well, it's that time again! Time to start planning our yearly winter adventure! And what better place to be planning the adventure than in dreamy Europe. Yes, I know I'm getting a little romantic with the "dreamy" adjective but seriously, it's the Alps. Come on! Van and I both love snow sports. I have been skiing since I was in 5th grade. Since we usually had Mardi Gras holidays and Easter/Spring Break, my family would take a vacation to the slopes on one of those weeks. And Van, well he only started snowbaroding a few years ago but you would think he has lived on a slope all of his life, he really is a pro. I love that we can enjoy this sport together!


So anyway, back to the Alps. The Alps are huge and by huge I mean they span over 750 miles and across 8 countries (including the small countries of Monaco and Liechtenstein). Crazy right? So it can be a daunting task to decide where to go on your winter adventure across this massive expanse of terrain. But, there are a few deciding factors that can help you figure out just where to go!

1. Flights: 
Major winter airports include Geneva, Zurich, Innsbruck, Munich and Salzburg. Some resorts can be reached from more than one airport which can be very helpful in finding the lowest costing flights. My favorite flight finding tool is Skyscanner.com. Of course, living near London also gives us a variety of airports to travel from and this website checks all of them at once to find the lowest price. Most ski airports have shuttles to and from your chosen resorts and I would wholeheartedly suggest this over renting a vehicle. AlpyBus in particular! In most ski towns you won't need a car as European resorts have great bus service to and from the slopes.

2. Ski Level
If you are a first time skier, I personally wouldn't suggest going to a place that is really expensive. I would choose a smaller mountain with shorter, flatter slopes. Skiing can be downright scary. And this is coming from a 10+ time skier!! If you are beyond beginner, I think you would be safe with any large resort in Europe and your budget will largely define where you go. Ski slope signage in Europe differs from slopes in the US so be ready for this. I wrote a little bit about this on Planning an Alps Trip part 1 if you want to take a look!


3. Budget
Ok, there is no way around it.....ski holidays are EXPENSIVE. In a world of cheap European travel, it basically goes against everything you are accustomed to with travelling Europe. However, with that being said, it is still comparable to a vacation to a Colorado ski resort in the States. Flights can still be relatively cheap, but you will most definitely be checking luggage for your gear, so prepare for the extra expenses. And if your husband is obsessed with his board, be prepared to shell out the extra $100-150 to ship that puppy. Yuck.

Lodging can vary depending on where you ski. While staying in Chamonix, we were able to find a really inexpensive apartment which was in an incredible location. And we also were able to stay for only 4 nights. But I am finding that in Switzerland and Austria, it is rare to find lodging that doesn't require you to stay Saturday to Saturday. Try and weigh your options....how close do you want to be to the slopes? Is there a ski bus that can pick you up at your location? Do you have breakfast included? Most towns have great bus transportation to and from the lifts. Take advantage of this and you could possibly find lower rate lodging further out.


Food. Ski towns are expensive. This is why I love renting an apartment. You can cook meals at home and save a little money by doing so! Be prepared to shell out some money for food, especially on the slopes. Our most expensive 'deli' meals were on the slopes in Chamonix! If you can't find a self-catering apartment, try and find lodging with breakfast included. 

Ski Expenses: Obviously you will need to purchase ski lift tickets to be able to access the slopes. These can range from $40-75 per day. Purchase multiple day passes to save a few extra bucks. Also, shop around for ski rental deals and you may could save a little money here as well. 

Unplanned expenses. Be prepared for this! Unplanned expenses such as lost ski goggles or needing extra hats, gloves, etc. It happens, so just get ready for it!

All in all, you can find a ski trip for every budget. But be prepared to do the leg work to find the lower priced options!


So just where are our Alpine hearts headed to this coming winter? Well, if all goes well we will first be heading to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany for a short break to the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort. This is a military resort (sounds contradictory right?) and I am very curious to see what it's like. And then the big, amazing, oh my goodness are we really here trip will be to Zermatt, Switzerland!! You know, the one with the Matterhorn?! Pretty amazing. If we take advantage of the border crossings in these two resorts (which we didn't in Chamonix) we will have skied the French, Swiss, German, Austrian and Italian Alps! Too bad they don't stamp our passports once we cross :)

Skiing the Alps is an incredible experience and so worth all of the planning!!

For a look at last years Alps ski holiday....

Are you planning a winter adventure? What slopes have you conquered in the Alps?

Laugh Anyway

Treasure Tromp

Chamonix | Food Love

Ok, I promise we didn't choose France for our ski holiday because I love French food...BUT..I was super excited to return to land of amazing cheese and wine. I swear, everywhere I have been to dine in France is nothing short of amazing. Chamonix did not disappoint! I have chosen a few pictures from our culinary experiences while in Chamonix to share with you. Warning: You may be drooling by the end of this post!!

hot stone cooked beef, duck and chicken w/ variety of sauces
The pizza almost always has a baked egg on top
beautiful sweets in Chamonix

mont blanc themed cookies and meringues

simple and delicious, basil, mozzarella and tomato starter
this dish should be called SIN- bread topped with sauteed mushrooms, cheese, white wine, tomatoes and CHEESE
not the prettiest dish, but those carrots were the best I have ever tasted
meats
And finally, our pretty, sweet, delicious purchase.

AND NOW, FOR VAN'S BLOG DEBUT......


Van's contribution to photographing the food and drink of Chamonix :)

Do you have a favorite French dish?

-Jamie

Chamonix Ski Holiday | The details

Our trip to Chamonix was amazing but did start off with some bumps. We chose to fly EasyJet from Stansted to Geneva because it was the cheapest option. Geneva is about 75 minutes from Chamonix. Our friend Maggie decided last minute to come along with us for a couple of nights and ended up in the row behind us. (It literally is THAT easy to make a last minute decision in Europe because of cheap airfare). Our plane was delayed due to maintainence issues...and when the captain got off the plane to check the issues, I became super nervous. Both Van and Maggie were chill of course; they know airplanes. I do not. Obviously our plane made it without crashing, but I still was a bundle of nerves on landing....
View of the mountains while approching the runway
The Geneva airport was pretty cool. The picture above shows a gorgeous floral shop in the airport. Once we arrived, we withdrew some Euros and found our meeting point for our transfer bus to Chamonix. I chose AlpyBus because it was only €54 per person, roundtrip. It was a great value and I would choose them again. They dropped us off right on our apartment doorstep...it was nice. 

We arrived late Sunday night and we were unable to see any of the sights while driving into Chamonix. I was so anxious to wake up the next morning and see the scenery. This is what I saw....



I was so excited and ready to get up the mountain. The clear skies turned to clouds before we left for the slopes.


Chamonix is a LARGE ski resort and when purchasing your lift tickets, you have two options, Chamonix Le Pass or Mont Blanc Unlimited. Le Pass allows you access to 3 ski areas while the Unlimited allows access to 6 ski areas plus access to the Aiguille du Midi lift. We chose Le Pass and decided 3 areas would be perfect for our 4 days of skiing.

Map of the ski areas. You better believe I kept this baby on me the WHOLE time.
 The first day, we chose to ski at the Brevent-Flegere area. It was a great first day. I quickly learned the European signage and overcame my nightmare of falling off a cliff. Seriously though, Mont Blanc has nicknames like "The White Killer" or "Death Mountain"....seriously?! Now, Maggie did suffer on the first day but we didn't know the extent until she came back to the UK. Yep, that's us in the picture below, Maggie unknowingly has a cracked rib! What a trooper!

Beers and yummy French sandwiches at Brevent-Flegere
We skiied the Balme area on Tuesday but it was whiteout conditions and I took zero pictures. We all 3 loved Balme though. The runs were longer at Balme than Brevent-Flegere and when the clouds cleared just a bit, the scenery was amazing. I knew Wednesday was going to be crystal clear so Van and I planned on splitting Wednesday between the Grand Montets and Balme ski areas.

Below are a few pictures from Grand Montets. I thought this was the most difficult of the 3 areas. Van loved it of course! It was just a little too steep, icy and narrow for me. Plus my legs were so sore by this point. We left Grand Montets around noon to head to Balme. It's so easy to get around in Chamonix. They have an amazing bus system and it took us no time to get to Balme. But before we head to Balme, enjoy some Grand Montets scenery....







So Grand Montets was great, but I was ready to get back to Balme and snap some pictures. It was funny to ski Balme in the clear conditions and see the areas that I couldn't see in the whiteout. Funny because it was crazy how easy it would have been for us to ski right off a cliff if we weren't paying close attention to the boundary poles. Maybe it was a good thing we had cloudy conditions the first 2 days and I couldn't freak out!

ahhhhh Balme

Notice the lifts in the background....Balme is so expansive and mostly treeless. 
Notice all of the ski trails EVERYWHERE. "Off-piste" skiing is awesome at Balme. You can't get lost in the trees so you basically can just make your own path!
Behind the fence is where helicopters land...normal right?!
Ok, the photo below is one of my favorites from the trip. Balme was amazing for off piste skiing (off of the marked slope). It was a clear day and a lot of snow had fallen during the night. It was a powder wonderland. It you look closely at the photo, you can see Van boarding...he is in the center line of the photo. I loved how this captures the expansiveness of the off-piste areas. 


off piste 

On our last day on the slopes we had heavy snowfall. But, with it being our last day we had to get out there and soak up the remaining hours in the Alps. We chose the Balme area since we were most comfortable there in the whiteout conditions. We were both sore and we took it easy and ended a little early. But it was a great last day.


And of course, Van had to bring Auburn to the French Alps!


I hope you enjoyed our photos from our French Alps experience! It was more incredible then I could have dreamed it to be and my photos and words could never do it justice. It literally left me speechless many a times during our stay. This is a must return trip for sure!


More Alps Ski Info:
-Jamie