Les Deux Alpes

Cameras ready! My mother joined us for the second week of our vacation - we picked her up at Grenoble and drove her to the Chalet Mounier, a very comfortable hotel at the quiet end of Les Deux Alpes. We didn't like the town much - it has little of the charm of Chamonix - but the grandeur of the surrounding mountains and valleys, and the quality of our hotel with its five course meals and its million dollar views more than made up for the deficiencies of the town.

One of our best trips was a cable car ride from Les Deux Alpes up a nearby mountain. Amazingly, the last part of the ascent was on a full size underground train! The station opens on to ski slopes that were in use even in high summer - we didn't ski but we did visit this ice cave cut into a glacier. Large dinosaurs and other shapes had been sculpted into the ice but the sculpting has to be renewed every year as the glacier gradually slides away..

In the photo below, Catherine is overlooking the ski slopes, a few meters from the ice cave.

Catherine is cooling her feet in the river Pisse. Many rivers in this region carry this name which means just the same in French as it does in English.

Our best walks, such as this one, were at the head of valleys where the road doesn't reach. The rivers here often have white water for they are full of rock dust ("glacial flour") eroded by the nearby glaciers.

The view from our room overlooked the Parc des Ecrins, a national park with many impressive peaks.

This man is launching his radio-controlled glider from the cliff near our hotel - I loved the way the reflected sunshine was setting its wings on fire.

Oh, yes. There's something else that happened during our stay in Les Deux Alpes... France won the World Cup! I was on hand with my trusty videocamera to capture the celebrations. There had probably never been celebrations like this before in this young town - it's the first time France has won the cup.

After dropping off my mother at Grenoble, we drove south to the unusual coastline near Marseilles known as Les Calanques.