MBFF had been planning a week away over 🌸 the spring holidays – April would normally have us travelling to our beloved 🇮🇹 Toscana – but Macron’s announcement last week for a 3rd confinement, with a 10km limit to travel, has somewhat scuppered those plans, and we shall now be remaining in-situ!
However, as places to spend confinement, 🗻 le Pays du Mont-Blanc is a pretty good option, correct?
First things first: how to measure out your 10km? There is a useful site to enable you to do so! I have measured out our limits – we can get to Magland in one direction, and Servoz in the other direction, and plenty of village up the hillside from Sallanches!
[ ⇒ click here for the link ]
Remaining positive, let’s think of some FUN activities for us all to do en famille over the next couple of weeks . . .
Colour Code for listings:
🗻 Pays du Mont-Blanc
🗻 Chamonix Valley (Chamonix, Argentière, Les Houches, Servoz) & Vallorcine
🗻 Passy & environs
🗻 Sallanches, Combloux, Cordon & Domancy
🗻 St Gervais, Le Fayet, Saint Nicolas de Véroce, Bionnassay & environs
🗻 Megève, Praz-sur-Arly & environs
🗻 Les Contamines-Montjoie & environs
🇫🇷 Further France
As long as associations and clubs stick to the 10km rule, and limit the number of children in the group to 6, then they can go ahead and offer outdoor actitivities. Which is a good thing, as children NEED to be 🌳 outdoors, and one of the worst day-to-day aspects for many kids during this pandemic has been too much time INDOORS, and the lethargy that this has created.
Some stages have already cancelled, so do check if you have already booked! Some are waiting to see what 🌧 the weather does!
Here are some ideas for stages – there were still some free spots last week, but you’ll need to check with each club or association for the current status:
Though 🧗♂️ my son’s CAF climbing classes have been suspended for most of this school year due to Covid (sigh), some enterprising local outfits are offering 🧗♂️ outdoor climbing over the spring holidays . . .
- 🧗♂️ Les Ateliers Montessori: Viens, vis et deviens – an afternoon of tyrolienne and escalade in the Parc Thermal (Le Fayet) on Saturday 10th April at 14h / 6+ years / price: 25€ pour les adhérents (fratries : 40€ pour 2 enfants et 50 € pour 3 enfants) et 30 € pour les non-adhérents (fratries : 50 € pour 2 enfants et 60 € pour 3); enfants) / more information: http://www.viensvisetdeviens.fr;
- 🧗♂️ Granit Escalade (Chamonix Valley) – see here for more information;
- 🧗♂️ Koala Grimpe (Chamonix Valley) – see here for more information;
Faire l’école Buissionière (Chamonix)
🌳 Bilingual forest school activities, highly recommended! / see here for more information;
Visit a new town or village au Pays du Mont-Blanc
I began to write this article a couple of weeks ago, when we were still allowed to travel more than 10km from home, and I was going to suggest visits to Evian, Yvoire, Lac d’Annecy villages . . .
However, with a 10km restriction to our movements now in place, this does limit the villages and towns that we are now able to discover or re-discover! But there are still many wonderful options here 🗻 Pays du Mont-Blanc, and in some of the villages, you’ll find thematic walks (with pannels to read), treasure hunts (see section below) and activities on offer.
For example, if Combloux is within your 10km, you’ll find available 🗺 a treasure hunt (les p’tits curieux for 5 to 7 year olds, and les p’tits observateurs for 8+ years) and 📱 a visite numérique patrimoine tour . . .
There is also Praz-sur-Arly’s « Balade ludique en famille: sur les route du petit patrimoine » – learn the hidden secrets of the village, with this treasure hunt!
Check with tourist offices to see the list of visits on offer!
Culture au Pays du Mont-Blanc
The fabulous Culture au Pays du Mont-Blanc has a list of autonomous family-friendly outings available to do for free: jeux de piste, patrimoine . . .
Obviously, you’ll need to check to see which visit fits into your 10km restriction!
[ ⇒ here is the link with a list of suggestions ]
Following on from the above section about visiting a mountain village, you might also want to accompany a visit with a jeu de piste or treasure hunt, parcours d’orientation or the pursuit of geocaching. For these activities, you’ll need either 📱 an android phone with the correct app (and charge) or 🗺 a downloaded and printed booklet (most of the tourist offices are currently shut).
📱 Explor Games© Megève: « À la recherche de la déesse perdue » – this game is for older children and the adventure takes place around the Secteur du Calvaire and the Creux Saint-Jean (forest path!) / the game teaches you about biodiversity and history of Megève / you download the adventure game via a FREE app / more information here;
[ ⇒ for more ideas, head over to separate MBFF article here ]
You must all know by now how much I enjoy observing and photographing 🌸 spring blossom and its evolution! This pursuit in Japan is called Hanami, and it is known to be good for the mind and soul! Much of 🌸 the early cherry blossom has now fluttered away, and many of the magnolia trees suffered with these periods of snow and freeze that we have had recently, but there is still lots of 🌸 blossom and 🌼 spring flowers to enjoy!
[ ⇒ see article 🌸 Springtime & Summer Blossoms and flowers au Pays du Mont-Blanc, for some ideas about where to go to admire 🗻 Pays du Mont-Blanc blossom and flowers ]
Many parks are open at the moment, and these can be the perfect spots to admire blossom and flowers. All the bigger parks and castle grounds are more than 10km from the 🗻 Pays du Mont-Blanc, however, locally we have some pretty options (note: the lovely alpine garden, le Jardin des Cimes, does not open until 1st May 2021):
🌷 Parc Couttet – in the centre of Chamonix, this is a great place to picnic and to let little ones run around;
🌲 Le Parc Thermal in Le Fayet – there is a playground, grass for games, paths for buggy walks and short hiking trails / see MBFF article for more details;
A stroll through a 🌲 forest is a marvellous thing . . . as well as some walking paths, there is also plenty of scope for the imagination and creativity: cabane-making, LandArt, scavenging and collecting! We are surrounded by woods and forest paths here 🗻 au Pays du Mont-Blanc, but here are some suggestions:
- 🌲 Bois du Bouchet in Chamonix – makes for a perfect buggy walk, or a tour on a draisienne (push bike) . . . / you’ll also find 🗺 a parcours d’orientation / check to see if either ☕️ Le Robinson or La Crèmerie are serving takeaway;
- 🌲 Le Paradis des Praz (Les Praz de Chamonix) – this is lovely to stroll or take a bike ride to get here from the golf course or Les Tines / ☕️ check to see if the buvette re-opening / FB page;
- 🌲 Lac des Chavants woods (Les Houches) – a great place to make a cabane, and there is also 🗺 a parcours d’orientation, a playground and more on-site / ☕️ check to see if La Guinguette opens for takeaway drinks and snacks;
- 🏰 Servoz forest and castle – did you know that there were castle ruins in the Chamonix Valley? A popular spot for walking, dog-walking, biking . . . and there is a parcours d’orientation too! / check to see if either the ☕️ Restaurant Le Chalet des Marmottes (on road into Servoz) or the Sauvaugeonne (on the roundabout in the centre of town) are serving takeaway !
- 🌲 La Moraine in Argentière – with its super playground in the woods and the bucolic stream (great for tadpole and newt spotting!), this is a super spot for exploration (on foot, or with bikes) / you’ll also find 🗺 a parcours d’orientation / check to see if either ☕️ La Crèmerie d’Argentière or ☕️ the Argentero or ☕️ Buvettes des Marmottes are serving takeaway;
- 🌲 Bois de la Braconne (Sallanches) – a small space, but perfect for treasure hunts;
- 🌲 La Pesse & Médonnet woods & boulders – boulders and cabanes to be made in this ethereal forest location near Cordon and Combloux . . . our own mini Fontainebleau! / parking: a small lay-by on route de Nant-Cruy and then access to boulders and forest via sentier piéton VTT 42 – La Pesse or lay-by in Médonnet / take a picnic blanket!
- 🌲 Cordon – « Forest Discovery Trail » – a great, annotated family trail through the 🌲 forest, or simply a picnic at Les Plaines . . . / departure point: picnic area des Plaines / parking: Parking des Plaines (no tarmac on road above Lezaive d’en Haut) / more information / check state of the path with Cordon Tourisme (landfall, etc . . .), before embarking on this!
During the last confinement here in France, which fell in 🍁 autumn, I put together an article about creative ideas and nature games for when you are outdoors or in the woods . . .
[ ⇒ see article 🌸 10 ideas for NATURE GAMES & CREATIVITY en famille (on your 1km stroll from home) for some ideas ]
Frog & Toad mating, chorus and tadpoles
The other day, I was at 💦 Lac des Chavants, and we spotted so many 🐸 toads a-mating . . . are they still there? I have no idea, as we can’t get to Les Houches with the 10km restriction! Go have a look!
Soon, it will be 🐸 tadpole season, but you’ll have to wait a bit for this.
[ ⇒ to get prepared, and to know where to head locally, head to separate MBFF article here ]
Despite the Covid restrictions, some of 🐮 our local farms are still allowing family visits, with a reservation.
For example, the lovely pedagogical farm 🐮 La Ferme des Montagnards (Ormaret, Combloux), offers visits. A visit to this farm combines nicely with a super family walk to ⛪️ the Chapelle d’Ormaret (see here).
[ ⇒ for more information about 🐮 La Ferme des Montagnards, head over to separate MBFF article here ]
We all still remember 🌈 our favourite playgrounds from our childhood, right? And our own children surely have their favourite playgrounds, depending on their age.
Generally, we can walk or take a bike to the nearest playground . . . but perhaps over the holidays you’d like to test out a playground a bit further afield? Most should be free of snow by then, I hope!
note: the main 🌈 aire de jeux at Lac de Passy is SHUT during this confinement. I’ve checked on the government website, and it doesn’t look like all playgrounds are shut, so just check with each playground and commune!
[ ⇒ for more suggestions, and a list of 🌈 MBFF’s favourite plagyrounds, see separate article here ]
In springtime, on a warm and sunny day, it can be pleasant to head to 🏖 the sandy beaches of 💦 Lac de Passy and 💦 Lacs des Ilettes (or le Paradis des Praz or other sandy spots!), with sandcastle buckets and spades, diggers and dump trucks!
As the snow melts, our options for 🏔 family hikes (without snow shoes!) increase . . . 🌷 in early spring, high altitude hikes will still have lots of snow cover, but there are still plenty of lovely low-altitude walks to enjoy en famille.
Here are just a few suggestions for buggy-friendly, draisienne-friendly family strolls . . .
- 💦 RIVER strolls (Chamonix) – Arve and Arveyron rivers;
- 💦 Paradis des Praz (Les Praz de Chamonix) – check snow cover / more information in article here;
- 💦 Lac des Chavants (Les Houches) – more information in article here;
- 💦 Lac de Passy – with playgrounds and an Espace VTT / more information in article here;
- 💦 Passy – sculpture walk au cheminement de l’Arve;
- 💦 Sallanches – along the Bialle stream and into the Braconne woods / see here;
- 💦 Lacs des Ilettes – also fun to explore and picnic at the 💦 Cascade d’Arpenaz (no buggies here and be very vigilant with small children!) / more information in article here;
Our 💦 Arve Valley lakes are especially great for a flat buggy walk or with a draisienne or pedal bike / more information about lake destinations here;
- 💦 Combloux’s « 100% bio » – loop around the Plan d’Eau Biotope and beyond / 30mins / possible with cross-country buggies;
- 🗺 Saint-Gervais-les-Bains’ parcours d’orientation: « A la découverte de Saint-Gervais » and the « Boucle des Maisons Fortes » – 1 hour / both available as free leaflets from Tourist Office in Saint-Gervais;
- 🗺 Les Contamines-Montjoie – the Sentier Découverte along the Nant Borant river up to Notre-Dame de la Gorge / annotated panels explaining the history, nature and patrimoine of the area;
[ ⇒ for further suggestion for BUGGY WALKS au Pays du Mont-Blanc, see here ]
Springtime family HIKES
It’s that time of year when most of the high altitude hikes are still under ❄️ snow, and will perhaps require crampons or snow shoes for safety. Even some of the lower altititude hikes will have patches of very slippery ice (especially forest walks in the shade), so you’ll need to be careful and make sure you take attachable crampons.
We also have several themed walks here 🗻 au Pays du Mont-Blanc, and these are great to keep little ones occupied.
[ NB – don’t forget suncream, sunglasses, sun hats, warm clothing, waterproofs, first-aid kit, maps, emergency equipment and mountain rescue phone numbers . . . ]
You may be hiking en famille with older children, or perhaps you are heading out with toddlers who can manage a bit of walking or babies in baby carriers . . . for some inspiration for 🏔 family hikes au Pays du Mont-Blanc (both high and lower altitude) ➡️ check out MBFF articles:
- 🏔 MBFF’s recommended family hikes au Pays du Mont-Blanc;
- 🏔 FAMILY HIKES – tips for hiking with small children hiking;
Here are some ideas for short family hikes, some themed (not suitable for buggies!):
[ note: please check snow cover or ice conditions before heading out on these paths! The buvettes are probably not yet open for the new season! ]
- 🏔 Chamonix Valley: Cascade du Dard (can be icy early in the season) – Le Chapeau Le Lavancher (La Buvette du Chapeau) – La Floria (Chalet de la Floria) on the Petit Balcon Sud – up to Refuge de Caillet and La Buvette des Mottets / Vallorcine – la Buvette du Bérard / Les Houches – Chalets de Charousse / Argentière – Crèmerie du Glacier;
- 🏔 Lac Vert (Passy Plaine-Joux) boucle or departure from Himalayan bridge;
- 🏔 Sallanches: refuges of Tornieux, Mayères, Doran . . .
- 🏔 Combloux’s « Sur Les Traces des Graniteurs » – on the trail of the old granite workers / 1h to 1h30 / HIGHLY recommended (check if open with Combloux Tourisme);
- 🌲 Cordons’s « Forest Discovery Trail » – for more details in PDF see here / 1 hour loop in the forest / not possible with a buggy / NB – please check accessibility and winter damage on this route with Cordon Tourisme;
- Saint-Gervais-les-Bains: « Charlotte la Marmotte au Bettex » – we did this hike in early winter, and you can also do it with a good mountain buggy;
- Megève’s Le Sentier Nature du Calvaire – a nature parcours for families to learn about the surrounding countryside: traditional and farm architecture, geology, forest secrets, animals, ski history / for 6+ years / about 1 hour from centre of town, 1,8km / more information here;
Visit a WATERFALL
The spring melt is the ideal time to visit 💦 a WATERFALL: the water is gushing, and powerful!
We have several waterfalls here au Pays du Mont-Blanc – the path there may still be icy for some them, but one that you can access easily is:
💦 La Cascade d’Arpenaz – you can park here, or do a lovely 2h boucle from Lacs des Ilettes, up to 💦 the waterfall and then back to the lakes via the pretty hamlet of Luzier . . . / more information here;
As the weather warms, we can begin 🧗 to climb outdoors . . . you can hire a climbing guide, or head out by yourselves, as long as you have the right kit and experience! (please remember to use up-to-date kit and to take precautions!).
Here are some suitable 🧗♀️ climbing & bouldering spots for families 🏔 au Pays du Mont-Blanc (note: some may not be open yet, as it is still early in the outdoor climbing season here!):
- 🧗♀️ Chamonix Valley – Les Gaillands in Chamonix / Pierre d’Orthaz (bouldering) & Via Corda Alpina (Les Bois) / Les Houches (at Lac des Chavants) / La Joux (Argentière) and bouldering in the Moraine d’Argentière / Col des Montets (Vallorcine) / Servoz / Vallorcine;
- 🧗♀️ Passy – Plaine-Joux – blocs d’escalade and Larses & Barmus (for more experienced);
- 🧗♀️ Sallanches (Lacs des Ilettes) – falaise d’escalade des Ilettes;
- 🧗♀️ Cordon – Rocher d’escalade;
- 🧗♀️ Médonnet & La Pesse boulders (Nant-Cruy) – bouldering in a beautiful forest;
- 🧗♀️ Le Fayet – Le Parc Thermal (and Via Ferrata);
- 🧗♀️ Megève – Rochebrune;
- 🧗♀️ Les Contamines-Montjoie – rocher d’escalade de la Duchère;
Depending on the age of your kids, 🚴♂️ a bike ride could mean several different things:
- 🚵♂️ a short outing on a draisienne (push bike) or small pedal bike around 💦 a lake – Lac des Chavants, Lac de Passy, Lac des Ilettes – or through 🌳 the woods – Bois du Bouchet, the castle area of Servoz . . .
- 🚵♂️ a first outing on a FAT BIKE or TROTTINETTE, which are perfect for snow conditions;
- 🚵♂️ a longer bike ride along a paved track – for example, you can now get all the way to Cluses from Sallanches along the piste cyclable, that will one day form part of the completed 🚵♂️ Véloroute du Léman au Mont-Blanc (from Geneva to Sallanches)!
[ ⇒ for more suggestions, see separate MBFF article 🚴♂️ BIKE PARKS au Pays du Mont-Blanc (the higher altitude bike route are not yet open) ]
Visit a PUMPTRACK
Have you visited 🛹🛴 a pumptrack yet? Pumptracks are sooo 21st century; all the kids know about them, and many of our towns and villages here 🗻 le Pays du Mont-Blanc are now equipped with one!
What is 🛹🛴 a pumptrack? It is a circuit, with ups and downs and turns, on which the 🚵♂️ cyclist / 🛹 skater / 🛴 scooter can keep moving simply through “pumping” (no need for pedal action, once moving). Not just for cyclists (BMX, VTT), it is also open to skateboards, rollerblades, scooters, draisiennes . . . You must wear a helmet, and other protective gear (gloves, knee and elbow protection) is also favourable.
MBFF’s favourite 🛹🛴 pumptrack? The one in Combloux (shhhh) . . .
[ ⇒ for a list of all of 🛹🛴 our local pumptracks here 🗻 le Pays du Mont-Blanc, see separate article here ]
A great way to expend some energy is to grab a basketball or football and head off to one of the 🏀 FREE terrains multisports on offer au Pays du Mont-Blanc . . . some, as you can imagine, have sublime mountain views to enjoy as you score goals or shoot some hoops!
Here are a few suggestions:
Terrains de Sports
- 🏀 Chamonix – the running track at the Centre Sportif Richard Bozon has some options also for ball games / also next to médiathèque;
- 🏀 Les Houches – terrain multipsorts behind the patinoire (where you can rollerskate or rollerblade in warmer months);
- ⚽️ Servoz – two football pitches near the rocher d’escalade;
- 🏀 Vallorcine – there is a small terrain de sports right next to the Gare SNCF and the playground;
- 🏀 Sallanches – in the sports zone near the swimming pool, you’ll find tennis courts, stades de football, rugby and the indoor Centre Sportif de Cayenne . . . you will also find some NEW outdoor basketball pitches;
- 🏹 Sallanches (near Centre de la Nature Montagnarde) – indoor and outdoor centre for pétanque and archery;
- 🏀 Combloux – possibly the terrain de sports (City Stade) with the best view au Pays du Mont-Blanc! / bonus: a playground for little ones, a freestyle parcours, a pumptrack & skatepark, proximity to town (lovely boulangeries for picnics and restaurants) and family walks!
- 🏀 Praz-sur-Arly – terrain multisports at Les Belles / bonus: playground, mini-golf, bike park, tennis, buvette in warmer months;
- Les Contamines-Montjoie Loyers – basketball hoops in Parc de Loisir du Pontet, and you can play street hockey where the patinoire sits in wintertime;
And you’ll find 🎾 outdoor tennis courts (the indoor courts are currently SHUT) here:
- 🎾 Centre Sportif Richard Bozon (Chamonix) – there are both indoor and outdoor tennis courts and squash courts available at the sports centre / see here for more details / tel: 04 50 53 28 40;
- 🎾 Tennis Les Iles (Argentières) – reserved for sporting clubs / tel: 04 50 54 09 59;
- 🎾 Servoz – outdoor tennis courts next to the pumptrack and playground;
- 🎾 Lac des Chavants (Les Houches) – outdoor tennis courts at the base de loisirs, next to playground;
- 🎾 Tennis Club de Passy – both indoor and outdoor courts / see website for more details / address: 410 rue du Stade, 74190, Passy (not far from Mountain Store) / tel: 04 50 78 10 93;
- 🎾 Plateau d’Assy – two outdoor tennis courts / reserve through Passy Office de Tourisem / address: 231 rue des Granges, 74190, Plateau d’Assy, Passy;
- 🎾 Tennis & Squash Municipales & Tennis Club du Mont-Blanc (Sallanches) – outdoor courts and two indoor tennis and squash courts / opening hours: see here / address: 283 avenue Albert Gruffat, 74700, Sallanches / tel: 04 57 44 41 83;
- 🎾 Combloux – outdoor courts behind the Plan d’Eau Biotope;
- 🎾 Cordon – 2x FREE courts at la Charbonnière (tennis ballon played here also) / 1 court (12€ per hour) at Hotel du Chamois d’Or (tel: 04 50 58 05 16);
- 🎾 Parc Thermal (Le Fayet) – 2x quicks;
- 🎾 Saint-Gervais-les-Bains – Sporting Club (address: 798 avenue de Miage, 74170, Saint-Gervais-les-Bains) has 6 outdoor courts and a mini-tennis and restaurant on-site (next to mini-golf) / Bettex has x2 quicks;
- 🎾 Megève (Le Palais) – with a terrain en Taraflex and ping-pong too / tel: 04 50 21 15 71;
- 🎾 Praz-sur-Arly (Les Belles) – tennis courts next to terrain multisports and playground;
- 🎾 Les Contamines-Montjoie (Parc de Loisirs du Pontet) – see website;
[ note: be sure to check opening hours, and Covid reservation restrictions, with each structure! ]