France and Channel Hopping Discussion

Discussions regarding holidays and channel hopping in France.
22 Posts
I haven't been to Chamonix-but I have been to Avoriaz which is pretty close.

It is a very short season-we went August and we had a lovely hot week-but my daughter went a few years later and weather was pretty dreadful.

If you do get there-and not too far away-make a point of going to Les Linderlais-it's half way up the Avoriaz mountain.

It's a goat village-straight out of Heidi-absolutely fantastic!

They really do eat anything and everything-including my son's cap!

Thanks for your info. It really does sound idyllic.

We have now booked Chamonix, staying at Les Balcons Du Savoy and booked our flights with BA as they were only £40 more expensive that Easyjet, plus the flight times were much better.

We may even hire a car when we get there which will give us a great opportunity to explore round and about.

Thanks again
I would definitely go for the car option-as there are so many lovely places to see.
Avoriaz is at the top of a mountain. One day we woke up and couldn't see the mountain opposite-possibly Mont Blanc-not sure. As we were so high up we were in a cloud.

We drove down the mountain-ans it was c brilliant and red hot sunshine.
It is so picturesque -you really don't know where to look first. In Avoriaz-other mountains just peaked all around us and many eons ago a glacier must have carved its way through them for the main road to Thonon and Lake Geneva snaked round huge outcrops of rock-very dramatiic.

Cor-I wish I was coming.

I devoured the Heidi books when I was little and this holiday just brought them to life.
we went to Chamonix a couple of years ago in September for a walking holiday. It was glorious. Best holiday of our lives

The tour guide told us at the time that the summer had been quite dreadful, but that the week we went had been the sunniest and warmest for some time
If you can spare the time, take a trip to Annecy. Its about 2 hours by car if memory serves me right. Hire a pedaloe on the lake and go for a swim. Bliss !
I agree with the post suggesting that you visit Annecy. We did a Eurocamp holiday on Lake Annecy 2 years ago and one of our day trips was to Chamonix. We had a baby and a 3 year old in tow and I'm not sure that the drive even took 2 hours. Annecy and Chamonix are both wonderful places to visit and the scenery in the whole area is unbelievable. We took the train up Mont Blanc and we have a photo of our then 3 year old standing in the snow at the end of June.
Thank you both for your suggestion re Annecy. It too does look lovely and when I was looking at a "package" for Chamonix, I remember reading that you could twin Chamonix with Annecy.

Think we will have to hire a car and explore this beautiful area. Off to Switzerland next month as well so really looking forward to that too!
I'm resurrecting this old thread as we are thinking of going to Chamonix in July. We've been to quite a few Alpine resorts over the past few years so I know it's our kind of place but I'd be interested in any specific recommendations of things to do - especially in bad weather.
We went to Chamonix a few years back just for the day. It was a very warm August day with temps over 30C in the valley. We decided to go up the cable car to the Aguile du midi. At the top it was -1C! So we had to spend short periods outside taking in the stunning views before diving back in the cafe to warm up! The tickets for the cars were timed so you couldn't even take an earlier car back down. Wouldn't have missed it though!
Thanks for the info Hi De Hi - we'll be getting a lift pass as I'm addicted to cable cars so Aiguille du Midi is definitely on the list. I hope we get good weather!
I've been in both winter and summer, a couple of times for ski-ing (superb) and once for hiking when I spent a couple of days wandering around on my own whilst OH climbed Mont Blanc and I drove to Annercy which didn't seem all that far though the road was full of hairpin bends. It's quite a few years ago since I was last there so can't give you any up to date info, but as other posters have said do get the cable car up the Aiguille du Midi and try and visit some of the surrounding areas.
I do remember the town being a little crazy in the evenings, due no doubt to people being on an adrenalin high after bagging the big one.

OH just said that Chamonix will be packed in July (height of the French holiday season) and parking a car will be a nightmare. :(
Hi Judith

Thanks for the info. We're going on the 4th of July which is just before the start of 'les grandes vacances' so it's classed as mid season - hopefully it won't be too crowded. We won't be hiring a car though as we're going with Inghams - will have to make sure we're up early to catch the trains, buses and lifts though!
3 weeks until we go now - does anyone have any further advice they can share? Particularly interested in suggestions for wet weather activities.
Lots of fresh snow Corinne of course it may be all gone and everywhere could be green by the time you go.. The weather in the Alps has been just as awful as the UK. Can't give you any tips other than take a variety of clothes for all seasons.

OH has just told me that the snow isn't settling on the lower slopes so you won't need to take your skis. The only positive thing is that the weather is so changeable at the moment that it could be really lovely by the time you go. Keep your fingers crossed.
Hi Judith

After getting snow on our trip to Selva last year, I shall be well prepared for Chamonix - already got the fleeces and waterproofs out! The temperature seems to be picking up a bit now so hopefully we'll get good weather when we get there.
And finally, here's my review:

We spent 7 nights in Chamonix in July 2012. Here follows an account of our trip:

The Journey

We flew out from Heathrow Terminal 5 to Geneva with British Airways and had no problems at all with either the outbound or return flight or 1 hour minibus transfer to Chamonix. We weren’t given an in-flight meal in either direction but we were given a drink and a snack.

The Weather (

The forecasts had shown quite a bit of rain in the week before we travelled so we were prepared for some wet weather. In the end, we only had a small amount of rain on 2 days with the remaining time split between sun and cloud. As you might expect at altitude, the weather changed very rapidly so it is always worth taking warm layers and a waterproof jacket with you just in case. In general, temperatures were warmer than we expected, ranging from 20-30c in Chamonix and reaching a low of 0c at the top of the Aiguille du Midi.


Chalet Hotel Sapiniere

After previously having had a great holiday in a Thomson Chalet, we were keen to see if an Inghams Chalet would be as good. We had always wanted to go to Chamonix so the Sapiniere looked ideal. Some of the reviews we saw had said that the décor etc was a bit tired but at £500 each for flights, accommodation and nearly all meals and drinks – we weren’t expecting the Ritz! To be honest, after a week there, I don’t know how anyone could dislike this place – the food is amazing, the views of Mont Blanc are stunning and the staff couldn’t have been more helpful. We were very sad to leave! From looking at other reviews, there seem to be many different opinions on whether it’s worth paying for a balcony/Mont Blanc View. It comes down to personal preference really – we were in room 40 in the new wing and were very glad we had paid the extra as we had a sunny balcony and a fully uninterrupted view of the mountains. It was also useful having the lift if only for moving our cases around. As for the food, we’ve eaten less well in 5 star hotels so credit must go to the kitchen staff for all their hard work. We normally never go back to the same place twice but I think the Sapiniere may have changed our minds!
Things to do

Usually we find that the rep welcome meetings are all about selling excursions and nothing else so it was a refreshing change to find that the Inghams rep, Joy, spent most of the time talking about what there was to do and see in the area. It was also useful that we could buy our Mont Blanc Multipass and Hellbronner tickets direct from her (she would even have refunded the Hellbronner ones if we hadn’t used then). We already knew that we wanted to go on as many of the lifts as possible so went for the 6 day multipass which wasn’t cheap at 115 euros each but pretty much covered all our sightseeing for the week. We were also given a free guest card by the hotel which gave unlimited use of the buses and trains in the valley. We managed to cover a lot of ground in our week – here’s some info on what we did:

- Aiguille du Midi & Helbronner – before we went, we were a bit confused as to the best way to ensure that we went up on a clear day without having to queue for hours. Joy, the rep, advised us to just turn up as early as we could on the day we wanted to go but we thought that it might be more sensible to make a reservation (free with the Multipass). In the end, we had a reservation for the Monday morning but ended up going the previous Saturday morning as the weather looked perfect. We only ended up having to queue for about 30 mins so this was definitely the right decision. Make no mistake, the Aiguille is very high up and if you have anything more than mild vertigo then you may find it too much. I felt dizzy and panicky the whole 3 hrs that we were up there but it was definitely worth it for the views. There was a massive queue for the elevator to the very top so we didn’t do that but there were no queues at all for Helbronner so we had a cabin all to ourselves – this is definitely well worth the extra 25 euros as the scenery is amazing. There is lots to see up there so make sure you take your time exploring – we particularly enjoyed the climbing museum and the various different views of the mountains and climbers. Wrap up warm!
- Montenvers – we actually ended up doing this twice – the first time we went up it was misty and overcast so you couldn’t see much but the glacier looked really eerie and there were no queues for the Ice Cave so it was a good time to visit. We also went up on a sunny day so we could get a better view of the overall area. Make sure you visit the new Glaciorium exhibition (just behind the hotel) as this is really good and the Ice Cave is excellent too.
- Brévent & Flégère – There are lovely views of Mont Blanc and surrounding valleys from the top of Bréven. We took the lift back down to the mid-station at Planpraz and then followed the signs for Flégère – this took a couple of hours and was mainly an easy route with a couple of short steep/exposed sections. I’m sure most experienced walkers would have no trouble with it though. There is not much at the top of Flégère -Index but going up the chair lift was fun. There are frequent buses from Les Praz to Chamonix or you can walk back in about an hour. The restaurant opposite the bus stops does really nice pizza.
- Vallorcine/Balme – we took the rail replacement bus to Vallorcine, then walked to Charamillon over the Col des Posettes. We then took the chairlift up to Col de Balme and walked up to the Swiss Border. Sadly it was blowing a gale and raining up there so we quickly turned back and headed back to Le Tour.
- Grands-Montets – like the Aiguille du Midi, you need a clear and preferably still day to go up the top. It is nearly as high as the Aiguille so can get very cold so make sure you take lots of layers, a warm hat and some gloves. I actually enjoyed this more that the Aiguille as there was hardly anyone us there so you had more time to take in your surroundings.
- Bellevue/Prarion/Tramway du Mont Blanc – we really liked it up here as the scenery was very pretty and there was hardly anyone around. If we were to go back, I would go to the top of Prarion first, then walk down to the Tramway stop at Col De Voza, take the Tramway up to the terminus and then walk back to Bellevue.
- Gorges de la Diosaz – A good place to go to on a drizzly day as the steep gorge sides seem to keep a lot of the rain off you – allow at least 2 hrs including the walk from the train station.
- Alpine Museum – not the best museum we’ve ever been too but a good rainy day option. The labelling is mainly in French but they do have translations.
- Espace Tairraz – this currently houses the Crystal Museum and a Mountain Climbing exhibition. We found the Crystal Museum a bit boring but the Mountain Climbing exhibition was excellent with lots of interactive features for both adults and children. Highly recommended!
- Transport – we made good use of our guest cards and travelled up and down the valley all week on the local buses, train and rail replacement buses. In general, we found the train routes were much quieter – the buses could get absolutely rammed at the start and end of the day. We also found the free ‘Mulet’ shuttle bus in Chamonix to be very useful.
- L’étape – Monday is the chalet staff’s day off so you have the opportunity to try out one of the local restaurants. We wanted to go to a typical local restaurant, rather than a tourist trap so Joy suggested L’étape which is just round the corner from the hotel. The food was excellent and very well priced so we would recommend it.

There really is so much to do in the area that a week isn’t enough to fit it all in. We absolutely loved Chamonix and didn’t want to go home – we’ll definitely go back one day!

Inghams Excursion Prices as at July 2012

- Discover Vallorcine Guided Walk – 20 euros
- Three Countries Tour – 62 euros
- Hidden Chamonix Guided Walk – 15 euros
- A Day in Annecy – 49 euros
- Also available – paragliding, white water rafting, canyoning, glacier walks, mountain biking, guided walks, hydrospeed, rock climbing
Many thanks Corinne for your brilliant review. I've only been to Chamonix once and that was way back in 1976 but reading your report brought back many happy memories :tup

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