On the first day of my Tour du Mont Blanc escapade last September, I decided to veer off the official route of Chamonix – Les Contamines, to spend a night in Saint Gervais les Bains where I’d previously lived for a ski season (see my resort tips); if nothing else, so I could taste one of my favourite pizzas in the world from the Pizzeria Tout le Monde :)
This option is slightly shorter than hiking on to the usual stopover of Les Contamines, and there’s slightly more choice of accommodation and food in Saint Gervais. It’s also not hugely demanding, so great for a warm-up day. You’ve just got a little further to walk in the morning to get up to Les Contamines.
The route begins in Chamonix if you’re being traditional about it, winding down the valley floor for a few miles to reach the village of Les Houches. A steep climb off the road commences the ascent of the Col de Voza. A pleasant route winding up along with a quiet road until you meet a chairlift station and start heading on to a forest track winding up all the way to the Col.
It’s all well signposted to this point, and you won’t be able to stop looking back at the panorama of the Chamonix Valley laid out below you, with Mont Blanc towering over all.
Taking in a breather at the Col de Voza I found it very quiet, although I was there at the very tail end of the season. After watching a tram or two pass, I ascended a little up a zig-zag path heading North from the Col, and about halfway up branched off onto a contouring forest track.
Stunning views over Mont d’Arbois and on to the Aravis behold you all along this terrace track, and about halfway along an old man tends to his herd of goats, if you’re lucky he’ll still have a few small tommes of cheese in his fromagerie to sell you for an authentic stinky mountain treat.
Eventually the track levels out at a junction – carry on straight ahead and slightly downhill. Eventually you reach a zig-zagging road – this will take you all the way down to Saint Gervais over the course of an hour or so. There are numerous little footpath shortcuts along here to cut some of the zigs and zags out.
Now go enjoy a well-earned drink at the Mirliflore bar, enjoy the spa facilities for a reasonable fee at the Piscine Municipale, then when you’re all freshened up, head to Pizzeria Tout Le Monde En Parle. I recommend the Miélé pizza! If you’re fancying something a bit more fancy, head to L’Edelweiss, a small intimate savoyard restaurant with a wonderfully friendly owner and hearty food.