SHARING THE FRENCH ALPS is a 7-day / 6-night active travel experience led by Karen Willis, founder of Sharing Bali & Beyond, along with Jo Sharp, a personal trainer, Pilates and yoga instructor and Andy Willis, founder Working From Anywhere, cycle tour specialist.

It’s your chance to hike the Alps, be active in the outdoors every day, cycle, explore villages, get a taste of local life, enjoy good food and wine and make new friends.

Best of all you’ll go home feeling fit, energised and more in love with life.

Bring your hiking shoes, an open mind, and a sense of wonder and curiosity.

When is it?

2018 trips are:
Saturday Aug 4 – Friday Aug 10
Saturday Aug 11 – Friday Aug 17

Where is it?

We are based in the village of Le Vert close to the town of le Bourg d’Oisans.

Who are Karen, Jo and Andy?

Karen Willis is the founder of Sharing Bali & Beyond and has been running healthy retreats in a small village in Bali for nearly 10 years. An ex-fashion industry player and wanna-be writer, Karen calls Bali home. Check out reviews of Sharing Bali here.

Jo Sharp our resident fitness wellness guru also runs retreats around the world. Jo will be on hand to rejuvenate your body and mind with pilates, yoga and core sessions. Jo is also available for private wellness coaching sessions.

Andy Willis is our cycling expert, go to person for local knowledge and all round support guy. Andy calls The French Alps his home for a few months each year. He gets to cycle everyday whilst running a private Tour de France bike tour and his Working From Anywhere business.

What do we do every day?

Every morning we travel to a new location to start our hikes, beating the heat and leaving us free to relax in the afternoon. A telecabin ride and a beautiful bike ride are highlights. We mix in visits to villages, call in to local markets where possible, have time to chill out in the garden of our Gîte and enjoy meals and wines served by our host Pauline.

Jo will create just the right blend of Pilates/Yoga/Core sessions to suit the group and the program. These re-energising sessions will stretch out & release all those muscles we never knew we had and work in some awesome core strengthening. Perfect balance to our hiking and cycling.

**We have to stay flexible with our program as the weather in The Alps can change quickly. You can leave that to us to worry about… just take each day as it unfolds.

Here’s an outline of the program:

Day 1:          settle in, walk the neighbourhood, welcome dinner and drinks.

Day 2:          hiking, relaxing, pilates/yoga

Day 3:          hiking, villages, cruisy kayak to town

Day 4:          challenge hike, shopping, eating, chilling in an artisanal village

Day 5:          hiking with the chance for a swim, telecabin ride to explore an Alpine hotspot

Day 6:          a taste of Tour de France… cycling on E-bikes

Day 7:          pilates/yoga, farewell breakfast, relax, pack up, move on to your next adventure.

*Breakfast and dinner is included at the Gîte, lunch is out wherever we are. Lunch is extra and your choice each day.

Can you tell me more about the hikes?

Think mountains, lakes and valley scenes that can only be described as epic. Prepare to get breathless, knocked out by the natural beauty. I’ve hiked every one of these trails with our local guide, each one left me inspired, energized and got my legs into the best shape ever!

The routes vary in length, altitude and terrain. Anything from 3.5 – 6 hours total moving time, depending on the route and our energy levels.

Expect forest trails, stepping across stones, and traversing rocky paths. At times, you will be challenged on uphill sections, other times, it’s an easier walk across undulating terrain. Every effort, every breath is worth it. It’s not a race. We are here to enjoy the stunning scenery, the empowering feelings of being active amongst such beauty. We stop for photos, rest and drinks as needed.

Most of the hikes take us to what’s known as a ‘refuge’, a simple mountain hut that provides shelter, advice, friendliness and best of all home baked tartes and coffee. A welcome by the owners’ dog is a bonus. Bliss.

Each hike is doable by anyone with average fitness, free of injuries that impact mobility. You need some cardio fitness for the uphill sections. Using your walking poles with correct technique is a great energy saver. It’s as important to rest as it is to exercise during your trip. Make the most of the down time!

Worried about your fitness? Start preparing now. You need to be fit for hills. We’ll send you Jo’s tips for getting in shape for the trip. It’s worth the effort. Your enjoyment level will escalate with a little prep.

I won’t give you every detail on each hike as I don’t want to steal away the surprise and delight. Pictures say it all, so here’s just a little sneak peak…..

What about cycling?

Our location is world famous for cycling as the Tour De France passes through every year. We will see groups of cyclists tackling the famous mountain climbs wherever we go.

Our day out on bikes will give us a taste of the excitement. You don’t need to be a TDF level cyclist as we will have electric bikes! We ride amongst breath-taking scenery, mainly on smaller roads, the e-bikes taking the pain out of the climbs.

** If you are an experienced, confident road cyclist with the ability to tackle inclines up to 12% you can choose to do the bike day on a standard bike. Andy will accompany you as support. There may be an option for an extra ride with Andy during the trip if you want to hire your own bike. We can work out the price depending on time and distance involved. (Andy’s local cycling knowledge is amazing. Be warned, his PB for Alpe d’Huez is 58mins!)

Is there time to do stuff by myself or add in extra activities?

There’s a lot on the program, you will be active every day, so we do encourage you to rest up when there is downtime. However, if you are up for more, the following is all possible:

  • Walk into the town of le Bourg d’Oisans. Cafes, shopping, cinema. Approx. 25mins on a small road.
  • Chill out at the nearby picnic and pond area.
  • Rent a bike for the week and explore the area whenever you like.
  • Parasail over the alps from Les 2 Alpes (perfect on day 5 –  we will be in the launch area)
  • Take a telecabin to 3200m to see a glacier and ice caves
  • Tackle a Tour de France level bike ride with Andy. (subject to Andy’s availability)
  • Book in for a private wellness coaching session with Jo. ($AUD60 per session)
  • Take an early morning run on the nearby trails.
  • Practice your French with our hosts or our good friend Lionel (he’ll be with us on all of our hikes)

We will also possibly include a cooking class if we can squeeze it in. Either at the Gîte or at a friends’ house. No promises, it will depend on how our timing works around weather etc.

How fit do I need to be?

You don’t need to be the fittest or the fastest, but you do need to be active, free of injuries that reduce your mobility, and at a minimum, have the ability to walk a hilly 5km track unassisted.

You do need to be ready to do hills. Training on flat ground only or on a treadmill won’t do it. Jo has put together some training ideas for you here.

This is a holiday, not a competitive event. You’re here to enjoy yourself and at the same time maintain or increase your fitness. Once you get into the rhythm of hiking, you’ll get stronger every day. It’s a wonderful feeling.

Where do we stay?

We stay in what’s known as a Gîte. (the dictionary defines it as: a small furnished vacation house in France, typically in a rural district).

It’s an old house from 1750 restored in 1992 by Pauline and Éric. They preserved the ancient appearance by using stone and wood. (Pauline and Eric, our hosts live in the house next door).

The rooms vary in size and outlook, each with its own charm. Simply decorated in provincial style, each one has a private bathroom. Towels and bedlinen are supplied.

There is a lovely dining room and living room built in unique mountain style for all to share. You are free to roam the garden or take an afternoon nap in one of the comfy chairs. There is an extra chalet with a room used for yoga, workshops or as a place to play pool.

Brandy, the dog, is always up for company.

It’s a lovely family environment, yet you still get your own space and independence. There will be other guests staying as there is capacity for 20. We will most likely be in the company of other cyclists and hikers.

How do I get there?

The closest airport is Lyon (2 hrs by car). The closest train/bus station is Grenoble (1 hr by car) We will provide group transfers from Grenoble. Exact details will be confirmed once we have everyone’s arrival details. I highly recommend that you overnight in Lyon airport hotel if you are on a long-haul flight. Get some rest and then the next morning simply walk across the road to the station and take either the train or bus to Grenoble. It’s really easy.

I am such a foodie. What do I have to look forward to?

The joys of travelling often revolve around food and conversations at the dining table. Our hosts invite us to their dining table for breakfast and dinner daily. It is local fare, using local fresh produce and vegetables from their own garden.

Breakfast is fruit juice, milk, coffee, tea or herbal tea, along with homemade jams, cheese and yoghurt, cereals, dried fruits. The bread is from the bakery “Boulangerie”, local brand of quality, with baguette, bread with cereal and toast.

We meet for dinner in the garden, enjoying an aperitif before the meal. The daily menu is made with vegetables and a chosen meat from a local butcher or a single dish based on cheese like tartiflette, fondue, raclette. Pasta is often included.

The cheese plate is from regional products like Tomme de Chartreuse, Bauges Tamié, Carré du Trièves, Reblochon, Bleu du Vercors, Tome de brebis d’Ornon, Saint Marcellin du Dauphiné.

Wine is served with dinner, finishing up with a herbal infusion at the end of the meal.

Lunch is at a different place every day depending on our program. This is your chance to choose for yourself and is at your own expense. As much as possible we drop into local markets giving you the chance to pick up local produce and test out your French conversation!

We will provide some snacks for the hikes. If you are dependent upon snack bars/protein bars etc. please feel free to bring your own supply.

How many people will be in the group?

We like a group size no less than 8 and no larger than 12. It keeps it personal and fun.

What do I need to pack?

On my last research trip to The Alps I travelled with 10kg check-in luggage and had everything I needed. I was equipped to hike, cycle, workout, chill out and dress up for 9 days.

Hiking

  • Boots/Shoes – ideally already worn in from your pre-trip training sessions
  • Hiking socks – buy the crazy expensive ones with all the science built into them. Your feet count.
  • Shorts/t-shirts – I don’t have special gear. I wear my workout gear, (compression leggings are great).
  • Wind jacket – essential. It is cold at the summit. I always bring a scarf as well.
  • Swimming gear. Lightweight travel towel.
  • Day pack, walking poles, sunglasses, hat, sunscreen.
  • Water – you need to be able to carry at least 1.5 litres of water either in refillable sports bottles or a Camelpak.

Cycling

  • Pack cycling gear if you have it, otherwise your workout gear is fine.
  • Sport shoes.
  • If you are planning to ride a road bike you need your own shoes and pedals.

Pilates/Yoga/Core sessions.

  • Comfortable clothes that allow you to stretch. Workout gear is fine. Sport shoes.

Kicking Back/Dressing Up

  • It’s a casual place, so relax in your comfy gear for summer. Best to pack a pair of long pants and a long sleeve t-shirt for cool mornings/evenings.
  • It’s nice to get out of your active gear, so girls, toss in a dress, guys, a nice shirt would work.
  • One pair of sandals that can be worn anywhere anytime.

Bits ‘N Pieces

  • An adaptor suitable for Europe. Chargers for your devices.
  • Camera. GPS/fitness tracker. Go Pro etc.
  • Reusable shopping bag or daypack. There are no plastic bags at the supermarkets.
  • Book. A journal if you like to write about your experiences.
  • Always wise to have a photocopy of your passport, credit card etc.
  • Be responsible about your medical conditions. Pack your medications and prescriptions as necessary.
  • A small personal first aid kit.

* The Gîte does have a washing machine for you to do your own laundry.

Who should/should not come?

You should definitely come to Sharing The French Alps if:

  • You want an active holiday in an exciting new location.
  • You love the outdoors.
  • You like to be challenged and try new things (nothing scary but everyone will be out of their comfort zone for one reason or another at some stage… and that’s ok!)
  • You have a sense of wonder and curiosity. (Best to leave the expectations at home).
  • You embrace everything about travel… new places, food, customs and friends.
  • You are ready to be part of a small group… sharing, supporting and having a good time.
  • You have never travelled solo or been overseas. You have the best of both worlds…. the support and safety of a group yet the space to be you.
  • You are excited by the concept of Simple Luxury.

This is not for you if:

  • The trip will put your body under stress due to your medical conditions. It’s not worth it. Recover, then join us when you’re feeling good.
  • You don’t like places where they don’t speak English as their first language.
  • You only eat the same food wherever you go in the world.
  • You are uncomfortable and dare I say it, grumpy, out of your home space.
  • You don’t like spectacular mountain landscapes, French food and wine.

What’s included/not included?

Included

  • Group transfers to from Le Vert/Grenoble.
  • Twin share/double accommodation with private bathroom, bedlinen and towels.
  • 6 x breakfast, 6 x dinner with aperitif, wine and herbal tea, served as a group at the Gîte.
  • Guided hikes.
  • 1 hour kayak trip to le Bourg d’Oisans
  • Use of electric bike and helmet for one day group bike trip.
  • Minimum 3 Pilates/Yoga/Core sessions.
  • Entry ticket for telecabin ride.
  • Surprise gift on arrival.
  • Loads of fun and friendship.

*Bonus – Andy is giving you 3-month membership to Working From Anywhere. (value $AUD75) We are always asked how we have built our lifestyles. WFA is the answer. Your membership will give you access to the tools, mindset and skills you need to integrate life and work as one.

Not included

  • Airfares.
  • Travel insurance (mandatory)
  • Lunch. Snacks/meals at refuges on hikes.
  • Private hire of bike and helmets.
  • Extra activities such as para sailing, rides with Andy, taxis, wellness coaching session with Jo.
  • Personal expenses – shopping, laundry, extra alcohol.

What if I decide to skip an activity/meal/session?

  • That’s your choice, but there are no refunds or credits on any unused activity/meal/sessions.

How much is it? Any deals? How do I pay?

It’s $AUD2750pp twin share for your jam packed 7 day/6 night active holiday in The French Alps.

If you like you own space, the single price is $AUD3500pp. This gets you your own private room.

We ask for a non-refundable deposit of $AUD1000pp to secure your place. The final payment must be paid 60 days prior to departure.

What are the terms and conditions? What if I need to cancel?

Prior to booking you need to fill in a pre-trip medical/fitness questionnaire and agree to our terms and conditions as follows:

  • Travel Insurance is mandatory for all of our guests.
  • Please confirm any special dietary needs before booking. Please note that for reasons of safety we cannot take guests who have a fatal allergy to any food/food groups.
  • We are not liable for personal injury, death, damage to property or other loss whether arising from accident, cancellations, delays or any other matter beyond our control. Participants should insure against all such possibilities. All participants participate at their own risk.
  • We reserve the right to refuse to take clients on any of our hikes/activities if we consider that their health/injuries are likely to present a risk to themselves and others in the group. Please respect our experience and acknowledge that your health and happiness is our priority.
  • We retain the right to change the program to suit weather conditions.

REFUND POLICY

Unexpected things happen. We know that. Life doesn’t go to plan and then you need to cancel. The best way to cover for the unexpected is to take out travel insurance as soon as you pay your deposit or buy your plane ticket.

Your $AUD1000 deposit is 100% non-refundable.

All payments are 100% non-refundable once we hit 60 days prior to arrival.

Payments (aside from your deposit) are 50% refundable before the 60-day cut off point.

Refunds/credits will not be given after journey commencement, even if services, activities or meals are unused or cancelled for any reason.

If I have to cancel the trip for reasons beyond my control (natural disasters etc) there will be a full refund. If this happens I’m not responsible for any expenses you incur such as airfares, visas etc.

Please understand that we can’t take out insurance against you cancelling on us, so we expect you to do the right thing and cover yourself. We will be incurring expenses and spending time on your behalf once you pay your deposit, so please don’t ask for a refund, it creates great heartache.

Best advice….

Check that someone can look after the family, the dog, cover you at work, water the garden or whatever else you need to be able to enjoy a guilt free holiday of a lifetime.

Book once you are excited, committed and ready to pay!

I’m extending my stay in Europe. Any suggestions on where to go, what to do?

Great idea. There are so many great places nearby… Provence is only a 4-hour drive. Paris is 3 hours by train. I’ve gathered up first hand travellers tips for you here.

I have more questions!

Hit the FAQ page or drop me an email any time.

I’m excited! How do I book?

Hit this link and fill in your pre-trip details. Karen will be in touch with everything you need to do to be Sharing the French Alps in August 2018.