Day 5: Col du Télégraphe
The plan for today was to split in two groups. After breakfast, Jo and Eileen stayed in Courchevel to see the views and do some hiking while the bikers headed off early (at 7:30) to get to Col du Galilbier and Col du Télégraphe, where Stage 11 of the Tour will be going through.
The two climbs for the riders are both difficult. The camper vans and crowds make it even more technical, plus the concern of finding a place to watch the race without getting stuck, but all this makes for an exciting ride and they certainly had fun getting there.
Matt ride up the first climb, the Télégraphe, and started the decent towards the next climb when he realized it was a better idea to stay at the top. He got swag from the caravan and a good view of the race.
After the tour had passed, Matt rode back down to where the van was parked, but the rest of the group were in a different area watching the rest of the race on TV. Matt rode to a bar in St-Michel-de-Maurienne, the nearest town, for lunch. There was no TV in the bar, but he found a friendly French man who shared his phone screen.
While Matt and the others were biking and watching the tour, Eileen and I started our day a bit later (9:30, woo!) by walking through La Praz towards the gondola. On the way, we stopped at a farmers market and bought pan au chocolate for second breakfast and saw some ski jumpers practicing on the courses. We took the gondola up to Courchevel 1850 (to indicate 1850 meters) and walked around the town for a few minutes. It is a very popular (and expensive) ski resort in the winter, but since its summer, there a few people wandering about and a few stores open, but mostly empty.
From there, we took the next gondola, called Vernons, up to the next area. Each gondola stop has it’s own name to help the skiers know where to go, even though they are not towns. We ate our pan au chocolates while enjoying in the view before taking the next gondola up to Vizelle, the highest point you can get to with the (working) gondolas at 2,659 meters. We admired the amazing view of Mt. Blanc, the surrounding mountains and glaciers, and of course, a giant gorilla Captain America statue.
We took the gondolas back down to Courchevel 1850 and started to hike from there to our lunch reservation at Le Bouc Blanc at 2,000 meters. We walked along a small dirt road between the ski slopes to get there. While the walk was only about 3.5 kilometers, there were some up and downs as we went around the hills. The last kilometer was pretty steep as we walked up from the base of a chairlift to the top of a gondola route (but a bit below the chairlift end). We had a lovely leisurely lunch with spectacular views.
Once we had our fill, we took the gondola that is right next to the restaurant down to La Tania, where the 1992 Albertville Olympics were held. The town was built for the Olympics and has been growing into a destination ski town ever since. From there, we decided to forgo waiting 30 minutes for the bus and would walk instead. We started walking along the road, but quickly came across a path with a sign pointing to La Praz. We started on the trail, which became canopied by trees and surrounded by a variety of plants — including raspberry bushes! The 3 km walk through the trees was perfect and the trail ended just past the ski jump routes in La Praz.
We took a quick walk around the lake where they were setting up a firework/pyrotechnic display for tonight in honor of Bastille Day tomorrow. Back at the chalet, we agreed that we needed to test out the hot tub. Yes, it was 80 degrees outside, but the hot tub was pretty nice.
After we were cooked, we came back in the chalet to relax before dinner and the bikers were soon on their way back as well. After dinner, Matt and I walked to the lake in town to watch the aforementioned fireworks show. After a rocky start, it turned out to be pretty cool, with the display telling a story more than just making a bunch of colorful explosions.
Tomorrow will be another long day – Alp d’Huez on Bastille Day. It should be a blast!