FTF tells you who to contact for great lodging and outdoor fun when planning an on-the-ground exploration of the French Alps.
Many families find the slow pace and engaging nature of hiking and biking journeys to be the most rewarding way to enjoy our planet. Not to say, economical! Mix Europe’s stunning scenery with a new culture, wonderful cuisine, eons of history and the majesty of the Alps, and you’ll understand why France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and farther afield, Great Britain and the Czech Republic, are some top destinations for active on-the-ground vacations with all ages.
Let’s look at some ideas for touring France overland with kids.
Crowned by Europe’s highest peak, Mont Blanc (15, 770 feet), the French Alps cross the country from Lake Geneva in the west to the Mediterranean shores in the east. Among the best known destinations is Grenoble, site of the 1968 Winter Olympics and home of the Chamonix ski resort. In this chic region, don your most stylish gear for a taste of 195 miles of hiking trails or, if you’ve got little ones aboard, a cable car ride on the teleferique Grenbole-Bastille high above the Isere River. Teens will be tempted by the local whitewater rafting, horseback riding and paragliding options; the French language site www.grenoble-isere.info is helpful in finding vendors.
In the French RhÃ´ne Alps around the medieval city of MegÃ¨ve, a small chain of family-run inns provides many charming places to rest your head after a long day’s travel.
The Compagnie des Hotels de Montagne (33/4/50 93 63 20) has many deluxe properties in and around this winter-time ski resort, where there are 181 miles of skiable terrain. The rest of the year, they melt into well maintained hiking trails skirting Mont Blanc.
Their Fermes de Marie ‘hotel’ is a collection of rustic-style chalets with antique filled, full amenity, mountain-view rooms and a central lodge with fireplace, beamed ceilings and gourmet restaurant. A small health and beauty spa, and a library, round out the cozy facilities. The company’s larger Lodge Park resembles an American wilderness lodge and organizes many sports programs and local excursions.
Contact the French Government Tourist Office (00/1/514/288/1904) for more information about the region.
Families with young children should consider basing themselves in a gite rural (a country house, small farm or apartment in a rural village) which will allow them to prepare meals and explore a region in depth. The French Experience (800/283-7262) offers many choices throughout the countryside.
Families with older children can explore the biking tours offered by Discover France Biking (800/960-2221), which often include visits to local castles, festivals, and cultural institutions.
Other escorted tours include those of Butterfield & Robinson(800/678-1147; 416/864-1354), a well known firm which offers a variety of very high-end, pure luxe, skillfully guided biking and walking tours. Families with children age 10+ can join B&R this summer in the Czech Republic and Austria, Switzerland or France. Toddlers age 3+ are welcomed on walks through the Dolomites or on bike rides through Ireland.
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