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Discovering the French Alps: Lac du Mont-Cenis and Saint Avre

Experiences from our road trip to Portugal (part 4)

By Gabriela Trofin-TatárPublished 2 months ago 3 min read
Lac du Mont-Cenis, France -Photo taken by the author Gabriela Trofin-Tatár

Why would anyone take the tunnel when you could enjoy these spectacular views in the Alps?

Our journey from Hungary to Portugal by car, with our three kids, was getting more and more exciting. After stopping in Susa, Italy for ice cream and a walk around the Roman ruins, we continued our trip through the Alps, crossing the border to France.

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Over the Alps

If you are in a hurry and if you are lucky you might make it faster to Grenoble for example, through the 12.87 km Fréjus road tunnel. It links the Savoie and the Piedmont.

We chose to cross the Alps the old way, through the Mont Cenis Pass . It was worth the long and winding trip up!

From Susa to Saint-Avre — Printscreen from GoogleMaps

Once this was the main highway from France to Italy over the Alps. The legends also tell about famous generals crossing the high passes with infantry and elephants. Some say it was exactly this way that Napoleon Bonaparte led his army through the Mont Cenis.

Though only the imposing mountains could tell what truly happened. I found a study by the Smithsonian if you are interested in bits of intriguing history about the place.

There are no fewer than a dozen rival theories advanced by a rich confusion of academics, antiquarians and statesmen who contradict one another and sometimes themselves. Napoleon Bonaparte favored a northern route through the Col du Mont Cenis.” The Smithsonian Magazine

In 1959, Cambridge engineering student John Hoyte borrowed an elephant named Jumbo from the Turin zoo and set out to prove the Col du Clapier (sometimes called the Col du Clapier-Savine Coche) was the real trunk road — but ultimately took the Mont Cenis route into Italy. The Smithsonian Magazine

Nowadays, the crossing goes through the Val Cenis ski resort in winter. It is a popular serpentine road for motorcyclists. We did see many motorbikes along the way.

The weather was beautiful, and we could stop a few times to take photos. However, it was windy and 13 degrees in mid-June. The pass is pleasant to travel, not difficult at all. It goes up to 2083 meters above sea level.

View from the car — Photo by Gabriela Trofin-Tatár

We loved the massifs covered in snow and the magnificent scenery. We were also lucky to see a couple of mountain marmots, such dainty yet quick creatures.

Vinyl records and broccoli soup

Wearrived at Saint-Avre close to 8 p.m. and easily found our AirBnb. It was a quaint place, in an old house close to the forest. Had to climb a set of stairs to our apartment which was perfect in every way.

We listened to old vinyl records while eating our broccoli cream soups and told stories of our travels that day. We could hardly believe we had arrived in the middle of the Alps, in a small village, sort of in the middle of nowhere, after crossing Italy in a day.

In the morning we had this perfect view from the living room window:

Morning in the Airbnb — Photos by Gabriela Trofin-Tatár
Morning in the Airbnb — Photos by Gabriela Trofin-Tatár

The weather was so beautiful that we took a short hike in the forest close by. The whole time we marveled at the picturesque landscapes, lush green vegetation, and pure fresh mountain air.

A walk in the area of Saint Avre — Photo by Gabriela Trofin-Tatár
A walk in the area of Saint Avre — Photo by Gabriela Trofin-Tatár
A walk in the area of Saint Avre — Photo by Gabriela Trofin-Tatár

The next stop on our trip

We left the pristine French village and continued on our way to Carcassonne (still in France). There, we would explore one of the largest and best-preserved medieval fortresses in Europe and a magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Stay tuned for the next story in this series.

Have you been to the French Alps?

Or perhaps you passed through the same Mont Cenis pass like we did?

Let me know in the comments if you experienced Italian gelato or other delicious Italian foods.


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Stay human, be loved,



***I originally published this article on Medium.***

Thank you for reading! Your support means a lot and fuels our passion for travel and my motivation to write about our experiences. It takes me a few hours to craft an article about various travels, and we do travel quite a lot! So expect more in the future :)

I write about our travels with kids and our parenting journey. We hope to raise money for our next trip this coming summer. We plan another road trip across Europe to reach the Atlantic again.

Meanwhile, stay tuned for all the stories in this Portugal Trip series and other travels with our kids, too.

If you feel generous, send me a tip, Buy me a coffee, or a tea, and let’s chat in the comments.

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About the Creator

Gabriela Trofin-Tatár

Full Stack Developer in the making and mother of 3 littles. Curious, bookaholic and travel addict. I also write on Medium and Substack: https://medium.com/@chicachiflada & https://chicachiflada.substack.com/

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Comments (5)

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  • Ameer Bibi2 months ago

    Your story clearly describes how much you are excited and enjoyed your trip amazing

  • Ainy Abraham2 months ago

    Beautiful views ....your enjoyment can be sensed from each and every word of your story.

  • Nature Lover2 months ago

    The Alps are definitely the place to go to during hot summers. Stunning photos! Glad you had a great time there.

  • M.B Hesperia 2 months ago

    Alps are amazing , the way you elaborated each little detail is just awesome. Collection of pictures is great.

  • Zélia Alyie2 months ago

    I love your photos and the way you tell about your travels! I hope you raise the money for a new trip this summer. I will share this with my friends. The Alps are amazing! I am glad you had such a nice time in France.

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