This week was the least planned and most fun trip I took. It started with a ticket to Geneva.
- home base
- lots of swans and ducks
- expensive, even more than Copenhagen
- amazing chocolate filled pastries
- just an excuse to get into France
- first time I dared take a shower in a hostel
A man without a plan
- had a return flight from Geneva a week later
- arrived with a hostel for only the first night
- determined to find a couch in France
Literally as I was nodding off to sleep in my hostel I got an acceptance on Couchsurfing to stay with Denis in Annecy, France starting the following night. I quickly booked a bus ticket for the afternoon.
A track to set the mood
The Venice of the Alps: a well deserved title. Partly to please my mother, I visited this quaint French town. I enjoyed eating, window-shopping, and hiking.
- I studied French in high school
- most of it I forgot
- hearing it again made some come back to me
- listening was easier than speaking
- I regained enough to make basic requests
This is the most beautiful town I’ve ever seen.
Herbie the loveboat
At the market I got to taste little pieces of the different meats, cheeses, and nougat on offer.
I also enjoyed the local favorite, raclette. You know those trendy Facebook videos of a cheese slab getting torched, melted, and scraped over something like potatoes? That’s raclette. Getting the whole wheel is expensive so I just got a raclette sandwich with cured ham and pickles.
It’s basically an out of order grilled cheese
They have a lot of duck diversity here. One morning I was enjoying pastries by the water and a duck squad came right over to me, walking right across my feet. The black thing (I don’t really know what kind of bird that is) was really freaky. It has a white mask type shell on its face and it just went around bullying the other ducks.
Look at the feet and face on that black one
My Copenhagen Couchsurfing experience was very atypical because I never actually saw my host. This time was different. When I arrived at the apartment, Denis’ door was open; I had to triple check to make sure I wasn’t barging into a stranger’s house. He was already in the kitchen preparing dinner to share with me. He showed me my room (yes, a private room) which was far nicer than I could have expected from a free couch sharing service. He lent me comfy slippers and a house key. His apartment has a beautiful view from the balcony overlooking Mont Veyrier.
We chatted for a bit about his work and hobbies. He is a civil engineer, helping plan out and manage city renovations/repairs. He plays and follows basketball. He has lived in Annecy his whole life. Most importantly (as I learned from his profile), he is a big fan of Calvin & Hobbes. We shared a delicious dinner of potato, zucchini and onion. In the evenings we shared clips of our favorite musicians.
Denis is an incredibly generous guy. In addition to the lovely room, he offered my all sorts of French cheeses, artisan ice creams (like blueberry, lychee-rose, and rhubarb), breads, and pastries. His favorite cheese was comte, but I really liked the half-goat half-sheep milk cheese. It felt like a real French experience.
While Couchsurfing is technically a free service, “surfers” are encouraged to have something small to offer their hosts, tangible or intangible. I am not an experienced chef but I made my simple tomato basil pasta recipe for Denis the second night. I also spent some of my “homework” time to make a little custom postcard for Denis, featuring his two favorite characters exploring his hometown:
I didn’t want to overstay my welcome, and I couldn’t get this near to the Alps without seeing them up close. I booked an affordable lodge for three nights in the Chamonix resort and set off. Denis generously encouraged me to pack some fruit, bread and cheese from his kitchen for the road.
- small resort town
- very hard to find open supermarkets
- expensive, and no presence of Too Good to Go
- small, only 15 or so residents
- helpful staff lady with an Australian accent
- breakfast is available 24⁄7
- hot tub and sauna
Thankfully I knew about this place before this whole trip, so I had a swimsuit just in case I wanted to use the hot tub.
Just my luck
I didn’t come planning to go skiing or anything. But then, I learned that the following day was the last day of the season. This meant there was a special party taking place up on the mountain and lift passes were a measly 5€. The main expense would be renting all the equipment (including proper clothing). This was a tough decision because the weather outlook was grim. Time was ticking, and I had minutes to decide in order to claim the rental deal offered by my lodge. A push from my parents, and I was committed.
The rental guy was super nice. In addition to the rental of my snowboard and boots, he had some spare goggles, gloves, face mask, and snow-pants for me to borrow free. These proved invaluable…
…except for the fact that he gave me two left gloves. I was able to borrow a right-hander from a fellow lodge resident.
Snowboarding in the Alps
Atop the Grands Montets area the top they had cheap food, free ziplining, music, and a pond skim for the end of season party. It was superhero themed, so many people were in costumes.
Here I met up with two other lodge residents:
- Michael from Australia
- Elisabeth from Canada
These people were very friendly and made sure I didn’t die up there. This enabled me to join them on some more challenging trails than I would have tried otherwise. Most of the trails I went down were red for “difficult”, and this was only my second time ever snowboarding.
Visibility wasn't great, but I was glad it was snow instead of rain
Most of the time I looked this
Warming up with a hot dog and beer at the Lognan lodge
One more red trail down to the base
We were all exhausted. I was sore for days. The shower felt glorious that night.
- next day was bright and clear
- went to a trail across from the mountain where I snowboarded
- packed a lunch from the supermarket
- fresh coat of snow, no tracks to follow
- found out afterwards that this trail was closed
This is the trail I snowboarded down
Afterwards, I relaxed on the lodge patio in the sun with a very chill bunny and cat.
- stewed in the hot tub
- gloriously warm and steamy against the freezing air
- jets helped massage my sore snowboarding muscles
- clear view of stars and snowcapped mountains glowing in the moonlight
- pan chocolat is so good in France
- glad I could go snowboarding
- I loved the authentic Couchsurfing experience
- 10⁄10 trip
- for a week I forgot I was studying abroad, instead I was just living