I’m lucky enough to have had the chance to travel a lot in the past few years, while it’s exciting to venture to new places, it’s always nice to return to countries that already hold fond memories for me. My most recent trip was to Switzerland: the land of beautiful vast mountain ranges, chocolate and neutrality followed by France: the pastry, coffee loving nation who also eat snails and frogs.
Early in April I set off on a 10 day road trip, as part of some super confidential client work for a summer campaign – watch this space. Both countries have a lot in common: languages, cultures, great food and a 572km long border featuring some kick-ass mountains. I was joined for the first leg of the journey by my Finnish friend Konsta and Tobias, a local Swiss. Embarking from Zurich, we travelled south to the beautiful region of Bernese Oberland for a few days to explore the surrounding lakes from our base at Interlaken.
The highlights from the first few days included driving around the famous Lauterbrunnen valley, renowned for its vast waterfalls, and visiting the charming little village of Iseltwald. Situated on the shores of Brienzersee, the cute collection of chalet’s nestled among some stunning vistas make it an unmissable stop.
After a few days in Switzerland, we met up with our final group member: Matias, who joined us from Denmark. We then made the long drive from Switzerland over the French border to the famed sunny south of the country. On arrival, our plan was to explore their largest national park: Vercors NP. Spanning over 330,000 acres, Vercors is one of the most scarcely populated areas in France and with peaks well over 2000m, we knew we were in for a treat.
Our time here consisted of early mornings, rising with the sun and making the most of the plethora of hiking options in the region. We took on the challenge of peaking the tallest mountain in the park, Le Grand Veymont, a 2,341m high mountain that requires a 20km hike at a steep incline to summit. Leaving at mid-day, we ascended at a steady pace and enjoyed the views and sunset at the top, before finally returning to our cars at 10pm, totally knackered and ready for bed.
After indulging on far too many croissants and café au laits, we said a fond farewell to Vercors and headed back north towards the French Alps to the village of Chamonix, a world-famous town among skiers, snowboarders and Alpine tourists. The weather had brightened up on our travels north, with temperatures shooting over 25 degrees, the urge to apres-ski was hard to refuse, even if we didn’t actually take part in any skiing.
In Charmonix, we went glacial hunting, witnessing the Mer de Glace up close and personal. It’s pretty devastating the rate at which this glacier and many others around the world are receding. We also caught a glimpse of Europe’s tallest mountain, Mont Blanc from the Aiguille du Midi viewpoint, the peak of which scraped through the clouds at towering 3,800m. This area of France is renowned for its treacherous, yet beautiful peaks and it was a great area to grab some pictures and marvel at the natural world.
A few days later, it was time to leave Chamonix and pack our bags for the flight home. This trip made me realise that you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover: the Alpine region of France and Switzerland are mostly known for their mountains and rightly so, but there is so much more to each of them: the charming villages, friendly people and fantastic food.
If you are still to visit these countries, I would highly recommend doing so when you can. There is so much to do and see you will be spoilt for choice!
Check out what else we’ve been up to on the road at our ‘Expeditions’ page.