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5 Random Things I Did This Weekend

While many of you read my Alpe d’Huez triathlon race report yesterday, here’s what the rest of the weekend entailed.  And, because I was on vacation – I’m using the term ‘weekend’ with a little more flexibility…so it’s more like the ‘last 4 days’.  Thus, a proper French long weekend.

1) Hiked up past some cows, on the way to high alpine lakes

With the triathlon over on Thursday (yup, mid-week), it was time to enjoy a few days up at Alpe d’Huez on the mountain.  During the winter, the area is a bustling ski resort (one my brother and I visited last year…inclusive of the epic ski video he put together), but in the summer it’s a bit more sleepy.  There’s a bit of mountain biking you can do and some hiking – but otherwise it’s pretty quiet.

On Friday we decided to head up for our first hike, towards some lakes we saw on our just-purchased map.  Along the way, we found cows:

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The herd of a few hundred cows wandered freely across one entire half of the ski area.

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A bit later in the hike we came across a 850m long sand track for horses.  There appeared to be some sort of horse school (unsure if it was schooling the riders or the horses) in the middle of the ski area a bit lower down.

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After leaving animals behind we worked our way up further, crossing a few streams along the way:

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We’d ultimately end up circling around a few different alpine lakes, one more easily accessible, and one a bit further out.

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The view from up there was pretty awesome.  And we had perfect weather for it too.

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We ended up sitting at the edge of the water for a while watching the tiny fish feed on flies and mosquitos (carefully captured and offered to them as desserts…by The Girl).

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All in the hike was about 4ish hours, though I neglected to start the GPS until a little ways into the hike.

Afterwards we stopped by the grocery store in town and I noticed a few things I hadn’t seen before.  First, was wine in juice boxes:

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This was labeled as for cooking (cuisine), but I suppose there’d be no technical issue in tossing it in a lunchbox.  It says ‘ideal’ for cooking, but it doesn’t mean you have to limit it to just cooking.

Alternatively, you could upgrade to self-contained wine in a glass:

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Yup, like the single-serve yogurts of the wine world.

2) Decided to hike again, this time up a rock bowl

One of the greatest things about being married to The Girl is that she’s super active.  It’s awesome that we can simply wake up and decide to randomly pick a hiking route that gains thousands of feet of elevation in a short period of time on a thin little rocky trail up a barren alpine mountain.

So we did just that.  This time we picked a far less traveled path up the mountain.  Our goal was simply to go to the base of the upper tram (aka the top of the lower gondola), and then take the peak tram to the very tippy top to check out the view.

That essentially involved navigating up to the top of what you see below, well beyond the little cabin.

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With being a less traveled path, we only saw a few hikers, though we were always within view of the village should we have had to get back quickly.

Still, this route looked much more barren once you got beyond the cabin seen above:

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And quite a bit steeper, which led to a few moments like this:

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The elevation profile was fairly unrelenting, though thankfully we were mostly out of the sun – within the soaring rock walls on either side of us.

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We only had one minor snag…this:

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Actually, it looked a lot darker than that.   As we approached about the 75% marker we could see just how quickly the storm was moving in.  In our case it wasn’t so much worrying about being in danger, but rather just not wanting to get drenched.  I’m reasonably certain I would have been less soaked going for a swim than being out in the ensuing rain storm.

So we ran…rather fast.  Albeit making one 50y detour to get a snowball:

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Then it was back to running for the top of the chairlift (see upper right in the below photo):

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The good news is that we just barely made it to the gondola when it started raining…pouring…dumping…everything.

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The bad news?  The wind then picked up and said gondola had to be shut down.  So we, and a bunch of other people that were up there, got to hang out inside the building for about an hour, before getting a free scenic off-road truck ride back down to town.  Ironically, by time we headed back down the rain had passed and the sun was out.

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We probably would have just hiked back down, since it only took us about 2 hours to get up there, but we had planned to take the tram back down so we could get on the road and onto our next destination.

3) Did some shopping at a giant store

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It’s funny, we rarely rent a regular car in France (not counting our little Paris-only car-sharing thing).  But when we do, we really try and get our money’s worth.  It’s usually when we take a road trip around France – such as to Saint Malo, or the West Coast, or the Pyrenees.

In most cases we get a mini-van, simply because we usually have bikes with us.  But that doubles in allowing us to pickup supplies for either the CupCakery or just for home.  Moreover though, the stores outside of Paris proper are just so much darn bigger than those in central Paris.  Our grocery store is the size of most gas stations in the US (actually, a bit smaller).  Most of the bigger grocery stores are really out on the fringes of Paris, a solid 20-25 minute drive for us.

So while passing through Grenoble on the way back home we stopped into the giant E.Leclerc, which is like combining a huge grocery store with a Target.  I guess kinda like one of those super-Walmarts, except with an entire aisle dedicated to French cheeses.

In any case, we got lots of mostly household things there, but also things for the shop.  Specifically, the little coffee capsules we use for people who want coffee with their cupcakes.  The major grocery stores are actually the cheapest place to buy them (cheaper than the restaurant supply stores).  So, we buy a lot of them.  But since the bike was already in the back of the van we had to get a bit creative:

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Fear not, the boxes weigh practically nothing – less than a t-shirt would per box and I was careful to avoid the chain/derailleurs.  And, this was pretty much the best option we had at 10PM (it was still open then!) without re-packing the entire car before driving another 2-3 hours to our hotel.  Yes, that’s how we roll.

4) Checked out Dijon (the city, not the mustard)

After our shopping adventure we trekked up further north in the general direction of Paris, stopping in Dijon for the evening.  Because the next morning was a Sunday, virtually nothing was open (normal) – especially combined with being August in France.  Like a double-whammy.

The good news though is that this small crepe place was open, which had incredible crepes.  Below, mine included crispy lardon and ham, eggs, Roquefort, caramelized onions, and crème fresh.  Without question the best crepe I’ve had in France.

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We then followed that up with a dessert crepe (you can’t have just one type, right?).  In case you’re wondering that’s blackcurrant ice cream on top with caramel and then a spiced bread of sorts.

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With our dining complete we figured we’d head over to the local summer beach.  Which is similar to the Parisian ones, just on the lake instead.

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The only problem, as you might discern from the below photo, was the incoming thunder storm in the background.

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Which meant that about 25 minutes later…we looked like this:

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Actually, by time we got all the way back to the car, we were completely drenched.  Oh well, win some, lose some…

5) Across the pond at 35,997 feet

We got home around 10PM that night from Dijon, but The Girl and I had lots of work to do to prepare for the week ahead.  With me travelling and her returning back to the shop after a few days away we worked well into the night ensuring things were good to go for the week ahead.  This is one of the busiest times of the year for us at the shop – both in terms of walk-in visitors but also numerous wedding cakes, and other special projects we have going on.  I think the clock said about 4-5AM by time we were finished.  Fear not, that gave me three hours of sleep before heading back out again to the airport (and her to go bake).

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From there I droned across the Atlantic and Canada to Chicago, where I connected down to Atlanta.

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I’ll be here for Tuesday before catching an early evening flight over to Salt Lake City for Outdoor Retailer.  Fun week of stuff coming up ahead!

Thanks for reading!

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17 Comments

  1. cj

    The French Tourism Board should start sponsoring you as well. Great post!

  2. Marco

    Be care of cows if there have calves with them!! The mothers can get very aggressive if they are frightened about their children… In emergency case: Try to escape downhill…. Uphill you won’t have any chance… :-)

  3. Remco

    Hi Ray, France remains a nice country to travel. I was wondering, I use the gusto capsules as well at work, but I figured they are quite cheap on amazon when you get bunch. I must say I quite buying them now, as I fill them with my own ground coffee from home. In this way I can get other flavors they do not offer. But for the cupcakery that is not an convenient option.

  4. hdb

    Ah yes, box wine – you can get it here in NZ as well; we’ve dragged a box of red around on tiki tours. In our experience it is generally quite ‘young’ (Wednesday, a great vintage!) and mostly indistinguishable from grape juice..

  5. Tyler Haas

    The single-serving wines are available stateside, too. 500 ml tetra-pack and single cup 187 ml size. Alas, most of the wine in them is pretty uninspiring, but it’s convenient for hiking/boating/etc.

    • Phil

      The single serve wines premiered on the show “shark tank” I think in the US it’s limited to what the inventor produces, but I’m sure part of the deal was securing licensing agreements abroad. Shark Tank is definitely a guilty pleasure of mine!

  6. Scott E

    Dang! Those crepes do look good. Forget the cows, might even use the crepes photo as a screen saver.

  7. ChrisB

    I love the huge French hypermarkets. One day I’ll find somebody to explain all the different sorts of pre-packed ham in the ham isle to me! In the meantime, I’ll be in the cheese aisle…

  8. Eli

    Target has grocery stores in some of them now too.

  9. Steve Fitz

    Sort of off topic but.. when The Girl is away from the shop I often wonder if she is confident that the business is run correctly. In other words is the cash flow safe from employees. I to own a small business and I have great people but it is in the back of my mind here and there.

    • We’ve got great employees and have had no problems. At the same time, we’re pretty much in constant contact with them. We have Dropcams inside the shop which make it easy for us to check-in on things 24×7 (and everything is recorded to the cloud), plus, we can keep track of sales in realtime up to the minute via apps there too. But ultimately, it all comes down to having a great team of employees – which we have. :)

  10. Nicolas

    Dijon is a nice city to visit ! You should take a note for next July and go for the triathlon. Did it last month while traveling in France, pretty challenging with nice scenery on the bike ride. Swim is in the lake Kir and run is following the lake too.

  11. Neil Carrington

    I’m new to your site. I’ve read your info. Question: What do you do for your ‘regular job’? You said something in tech. I also notice you say you didn’t go to college. I’m curious for more details and how is it humanly possible to work, travel, review products, post, blog, photo, video…etc…

    Good stuff from what I’ve seen. Thanks!

    • Hi Neil-

      I think in your follow-up e-mail you found more info, but for others, here’s a bit more background here: link to dcrainmaker.com

      I didn’t go to college as I had a small software development company in high school and then continued that before moving into more of an IT consulting role. I had applied, been accepted, etc… But at the time it just worked out.

      As for fitting everything in…not much sleep!