Travel Journal: Overlooking Mont Blanc

5/21/20247 min read

Last April, I went on a spontaneous trip to visit friends in Grenoble, France. With no specific plans, I aimed to explore the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region and catch a glimpse of the legendary Mont Blanc. So, without further hesitation, equipped with just a camera and a small backpack, I set off on this exciting trip.

On my way to the mountains, I took time to admire the beauty of Paris and taste its local cuisine, enjoyed a delightful city walk in Lyon, and explored the charming urban landscape of Grenoble. Finally, I headed to Chamonix to take in the breathtaking views from the mountaintops.

Picture by Urte Foto

In this article, I'll share the beautiful places I discovered, my travel methods, and the memorable moments I captured along the way. As a photographer, I love taking pictures during my travels and I'm excited to share them with you in this blog article. Whether you're a fellow travel enthusiast looking for budget-friendly tips or simply love to experience new destinations, I hope there's something here for you. The highlight of my adventure? The stunning views of the famous Mont Blanc that had me standing there in awe for a while.

Keep reading to join me on this journey and see the incredible sights I encountered. For those who prefer a quick overview, skip to the end for a concise summary of my trip, including travel distances, time, and budget tips.

Picture by Urte Foto

The Journey Begins: From Rotterdam to Paris

My adventure began in Rotterdam, where I booked a ride through the BlaBlaCar app. With a quick train ride, I met the driver in Breda, and I was joined by two other travelers. We had a lovely conversation that made the four-hour journey to Paris fly by. If you haven't tried BlaBlaCar yet, I highly recommend it—it's more comfortable than a bus, offers a chance to meet new people, and is budget-friendly. For just 25 euros, I reached Roissy-en-France comfortably, while also making some new connections.

Since I had never visited Paris before and had some time until my next ride, I decided to explore the city for a few hours. I took a metro ride to Gare du Nord (for around 7 euros) to meet a friend for lunch. We headed to Bouillon Chartier Grands Boulevards, a French restaurant with a beautifully decorated interior. The waiters, dressed in white shirts with black bow ties, added a touch of elegance to the experience. I thought to myself, "This must be fancy," yet the food prices were surprisingly affordable.

We enjoyed a delicious meal, having a taste for the traditional French cuisine for under 15 euros per person. While the food might not be Michelin-star quality, the experience was worth it. Sitting in the 19th-century interior, watching the busy waiters and the lively atmosphere was an attraction in itself. The restaurant's history and ambiance made it a perfect introduction to Parisian culture. If you find yourself in Paris, I definitely recommend dropping by for a local meal and a taste of history.

Picture by Urte Foto

Exploring The Historic Bastille of Grenoble

After lunch, we walked around the area for a bit before it was time to catch another BlaBlaCar ride to Grenoble. The ride took about six hours, and by midnight, I was already crashing at my friend's place, looking forward to the days ahead.

The next day, after waking up, I had a chance to explore the area where my friend lived. It was the campus of Grenoble Alpes University, located east of the city center. The campus was massive, with all sorts of facilities for students—restaurants, small cafes, various housing units, laundromats, and other interesting buildings catering to student needs.

Picture by Urte Foto

After a short tram ride, we reached the centre of Grenoble were we had some delicious pancakes at the local crêperie called Desi Twist, before heading towards Fort de La Bastille. This incredible fortress is situated in the heart of the city and can be reached via a very unique-looking cable car! It was so cool to see the panorama of the city open up to us as we slowly ascended the hill. The entire fortress is filled with architectural structures and buildings to explore, along with various terraces and grassy spots at the edge where you can comfortably sit while enjoying the vast view. And that’s exactly what we did! We spent a few good hours just lying on the grass and taking in the surroundings. Bonus tip: on your way there, grab some French pastries and a good bottle of wine for the perfect picnic!

Picture by Urte Foto

A Day Trip to Chamonix

The following day, we gathered some more friends, hopped into a car, and headed towards the Alps. The ride through the countryside from Grenoble to Chamonix was truly beautiful, and it was amazing to see the mountainous views. April is not considered a high season for skiers anymore, so there were fewer people in the area. Regardless, there were enough people roaming the streets and enjoying daytime shopping.

Pictures by Urte Foto

Picture by Urte Foto

After arriving in Chamonix, we started our day with some fresh coffee at a cozy local café. It was lovely to sit back and enjoy the sun lit mountain views - a perfect start to our adventure! Energized, we explored the charming streets of Chamonix, stopping by some shops while enjoying the lively atmosphere.

We then headed towards the cable cars, but since it was off-season, we could only get a seat on the Brévent cable car. Regardless, we were happy to secure a spot. The ride to Planpraz at 2000m was mesmerizing, with vast views of the mountains unfolding before us. At Planpraz, skiers were still making their way down the slopes, and the small bar with a terrace was filled with people enjoying drinks and the sun. We joined in, grabbed some drinks while soaking in the lively atmosphere. To our luck, a private party near the bar filled the air with good music, adding to the ambiance.

After enjoying the scene at Planpraz, we took another cable car to Le Brévent at 2525m. The ascent was thrilling yet slightly nerve-wracking, especially as the cable car dangled high above the ground. However, the breathtaking panoramic views of Mont Blanc from the top made it all worthwhile. Surrounded by snow-capped peaks and breathing in the fresh mountain air, it was easy to lose oneself in the beauty.

We spent a significant amount of time at the summit, taking in the stunning views and capturing unforgettable moments. The sheer majesty of Mont Blanc and the surrounding mountains left a lasting impression. This was undoubtedly the highlight of my trip!

Picture by Urte Foto

Final thoughts

My spontaneous trip to the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region was an unforgettable experience. From the vibrant streets of Paris to the serene views of Mont Blanc, every moment was worth capturing. If you’re seeking a mix of adventure and breathtaking scenery, this region should be at the top of your travel list. On my way back to Rotterdam, I also visited Lyon and had the chance to explore the city a bit. While I didn't write about it here, Lyon definitely deserves an article of its own—maybe next time!

Picture by Urte Foto

Quick Summary

Total Distance Traveled: Approximately 1300 km (808 miles)

Total Travel Time (Rotterdam - Chamonix): Around 13 hours by car

Cities Visited: Paris, Lyon, Grenoble, Chamonix

Highest Peak: Le Brévent at 2525m

Duration of the Trip: 4 days

Budget Tips:

  • BlaBlaCar: Comfortable and cost-effective carpooling option;

  • Consider travelling in low season to cut down costs (for instance in April);

  • If you are not staying at friends' place, consider Couchsurfing for a fun, budget stay;

  • Another way to save on hotels is to travel with more people and booking through Airbnb;

  • Bouillon Chartier Grands Boulevards in Paris for budget-friendly French cuisine;

  • For an affordable day time lunch consider buying fresh bread from a local French bakery, some tasty cheese and lunch meats from a supermarket and making your own delicious sandwiches (yummy!);

  • If you're travelling with friends, it's always nice to delegate trip planning tasks among each other — one might have a knack for finding great deals for overnight stays, while the other picks the best dinner spots, etc.

Pictures by Urte Foto

If you haven't yet explored the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, hopefully this article sparked your desire to go on a similar spontaneous trip. Capturing these amazing views was such a joy, and as a photographer, I'm passionate about bringing these moments to life. If you're looking for someone to capture your moments, events, or portraits, feel free to reach out to me anytime. I would love to work with you!

Don't forget to subscribe to my newsletter for more travel stories, tips, and inspiration. You'll get firsthand insights into my adventures, practical advice for your own travels, and a dose of captured moments from my trips.

Until next time,

Official logo of Urte Foto photography services in Rotterdam, Netherlands
Official logo of Urte Foto photography services in Rotterdam, Netherlands

Disclaimer: All the images featured in this article are the exclusive property of Urte Foto and are protected by copyright law. Only Urte Foto has obtained explicit permission from the individuals depicted in the images for their use on Urte Foto's website and social media channels. If you wish to use any visual content from the Urte Foto website, you must first obtain written permission from the photographer.

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