TMB: Day 7-B. A few hours and then goodbye…

Since I only technically walked about 1.5 hrs this morning to finish the trail, I’ll just go ahead and call this Day 7-B. It would be a shame to add on an extra day for a shabby little hour and a half of walking!

I stopped at my favorite bakery in Les Houches just after sunrise and munched on a chocolate chip brioche washed down with a double espresso before hitting the trail. As I observed people’s bakery orders, I had to smile when 6 out of 6 men all ordered pain au chocolat with their baguettes. Women, myself excluded, seemed to order more sensibly.


There were clouds in the sky this morning, and rain was on its way. I was glad to get a move on things.

Although I felt sad that it was all coming to an end, I never dreamed the whole experience would be as rewarding and rejuvenating as it was. The trails, the mountains, the food, the community, the kind-spirited people I met along the way will stay with me for a really long time. Without getting all sappy on you, my Readers, I will say that I simply loved the experience. Every last bit. And I’m going to do it again next year, only faster! So join me if you wish.

The train back down to civilization (Le Fayet) was empty and allowed me to reflect on my week and slowly start to prepare myself to reenter my life off the trail.

ciao, ciao, Mont Blanc.

Ciao, Ciao, Mont Blanc.

Day 7-B recap:
Les Houches to Col de Voza
1.5 hrs

TMB: Frequently asked questions

Since I’ve graduated to the title of mini-expert extraordinaire of the Tour de Mont Blanc, I would like to offer some insight into your most pressing, imitate TMB questions!


Who should hike the TMB?

-Everyone with good balance, good knees and a good pair of walking sticks! Really, I saw grandparents, little kids with little backpacks, people of all sizes, shapes and shoe preferences, mountain bikers, and even a couple of donkeys! You can always take extra rest days and some of the bus transfers in the valleys if you need an extra little boost, just ask my Parisian friend. Go on, you can do it!

What essentiels should I bring?

I like the packing list on the website ‘Walking the TMB,’ although it might be a little bit too extensive.

Here are my absolute essentiels:
–Walking sticks (They save your knees and give so much support)
-One hiking outfit
-One refuge outfit
-Silk sleeping bag liner for the orphanages
-Ear plugs (Don’t forget them like me; they’re hard to find on the trail!)
-Music (I really like listening to my IPod for a couple hours of day when I get tired)
-Journal & pen
-Thermos & good tea
-Trail running shoes (I prefer them to hiking boots)
-Small first aid kit
And all the other necessary stuff…underwear, toiletries, snacks, you know.

Should I reserve my bed at the refuge ahead of time?

-If you plan on hiking in a big group, yes, you will have to reserve ahead and stick to your itinerary. I found that I could always find a bed (even in busy August) for one person if I called the night before. That allowed greater flexibility depending on how I felt and meant I didn’t have to keep canceling reservations, which many hikers do when they realize the itinerary they planned out from their laptop in the big city didn’t pan out like they thought it would on the trail with the addition of rain, fatigue, blisters, etc.

Is it safe for a woman to hike all by her little-lonesome, womanly self?

-Yes, and it will force you to reach out and meet lots of wonderful people when you feel the need. I’ve never felt any danger on the trails or in the refuges.

Who wins the MPV award for your Tour, Lady?

-My magenta thermos, of course! Having mid-morning tea on the trail was just too good to be true. Isn’t she gorgeous?! Make sure to bring an assortment of tasty teas.

I love you, Thermos!

I love you, Thermos!

Can I mountain bike the trail?

-Hell yeah! Especially if you have sexy calves and are a ridiculously skilled biker! The mountain bikers I crossed paths with were pretty bad-ass and were able to bike everything except the stretch above the Chamonix Valley. Bells on all bikes, to warn the hikers, would be a swell addition to your VTT packing list.

What’s your favorite alpine flower on the trail?

-Well, thank you so much for asking! Check out these moisture loving Scheuchzer’s Cotton Sedges. Even the name is cool. I love how light and airy they are in the wind and sun. Simply stunning!


When will you go next year?

-Email me, and we’ll set a date 🙂

Joucas at dusk

Yesterday afternoon, under misty and grey skies, I revisited the town of Joucas with my dear friend and colleague, Nathalie, to find some new hikes for our trips. After a couple of hours on the trails, we stopped at the only café in town for a glass of red wine, sat outside and gazed across the Luberon Valley at the distant hills of ochre in Roussillon. The locals seemed pleased to have a couple of new smiling faces in town, if only for the afternoon ‘aperitif.’

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Canola in full bloom

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No matter how small the town might be, every French village has a ‘Mairie,’ or town hall.

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Spring Irises!

Joucas is home to a unique husband and wife artist team, Mieke Heybroek and Ulysse Plaud, who have adorned the village with their striking sculptures of human-figures carved from wood (near the 18th century church of St. John the Baptist, you’ll find some sculptures made from 700 y/o olive wood from a Greek isle), and fortified with metal and stone. Check out their small ‘atelier’ as you stroll through town. You can’t miss it.

Trains, treni

I love the trains in Europe. Traveling from France to Italy meant over 12 hours reading, gazing out the window and contemplating life during four different train segments: Paris to Avignon, Avignon to Geneva, Geneva to Milan, Milan to Bologna. Unfortunately, a ticket mishap in France meant that I had to repurchase my ticket in Switzerland from Geneva to Milan for a ridiculously exorbitant price in Swiss Francs. Maybe it was the Swiss Francs that annoyed me, or the persistent jet-lag, but I arrived in Milan a bit grouchy. I still love trains though. That will never change.