29/09/2016

♥ The Holiday Diaries: Roaming the French Alps ♥


Megève, Haute-Savoie (74), FRANCE
For the past few years, my parents, my little brother and I have been taking a week away in the mountains to escape the buzz and the routine of our daily life at home. It is always a welcome break and the fresh air of the Alps makes me feel much more relaxed and peaceful. 
We do a lot of walking there, especially as we go waterfall hunting or hiking in narrow, rocky paths. I am not much of an adventurer, but whenever I go on holiday I am ready to climb mountains and walks miles and miles like there's no tomorrow, until my feet hurt and I feel like I've been doing something special. 
We always stay in a little flat in Megève, a picturesque village of Haute-Savoie, and take the car to explore the surroundings. If you ever find yourself in Megève, there are two interesting walks to take: 
- the Chemin du Calvaire: a lovely clear path that leads you on the hilltops of Megève, as you follow little chapels all the way to the top. All the photos at the beginning of the post were taken as we climbed (the path, although completely made of asphalt so easy to walk on, can be a little steep at times), and this is where you get the best panorama of the city.
- the Cascade de la Belle au Bois: a small but cute waterfall hidden deep in the woods, as you walk along the river that crosses the village. Visiting the Belle au Bois is something we've done every time we've come to Megève, it's a rather easy walk, but be careful as you climb down the last few meters to access the waterfall. There, you'll probably come across a little group of gorge-walkers, jumping down from the top of the waterfall and into the freezing water.


The water was so cold, it felt like dipping my foot in a box ice cubes. You know when ice is so cold it starts burning your skin? That's exactly how the water felt. Consider the fact that I did take a swimsuit with me to bathe in the waterfalls... How optimistic and naive I was! 
We had a lot of fun nonetheless, breathing in the cold air around us. The 'pit' of the waterfall is surrounded by high trees and rocks, so that the sun barely reaches the area. It makes it even more special and unique to stand there and walk around carefully to avoid falling into the icy waters. Nature really is a wonderful thing!

The Best Waterfall of the Area: Cascade du Rouget, Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval

 
The cascade du Rouget is by far the most impressive waterfall I've seen (yet!). You can access it by car if you don't feel like hiking - it's actually quite a long way from the town of Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval itself, so the car park area they've created is quite welcome. You'll arrive directly at the foot of the waterfall, just a few rocks to climb and you're there, most likely with eyes as big as tennis balls and mesmerised by the sublimity of the water pouring down, drops flying around in the wind and sending shivers down your spine. 
The view from down there is the most impressive, but there's actually a path that goes all the way up to the source of the waterfall. My father and I decided to conquer the steep rocky paths and found ourselves at the very top, jumping from rock to rock in the river.


The surroundings of the waterfall itself, when you go back down and cross the village of Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval, are pretty amazing as well. We paused for lunch at the prettiest spot near the river, where the water was crystal clear - but, may I add, still as cold as ice.


The landscapes in the Alps are truly breathtaking. We generally think of summer holidays as the perfect occasion to go to sandy beaches and exotic islands, but I hope I convinced you that going to the mountains can feel just as good in the summer months! 

Have you ever been to the mountains? What is your favourite area to take a step back from the busy city life?
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17/09/2016

♥ The Holiday Diaries: Discovering Cefalù, in Sicily ♥


My friends and I were back in Sicily at the beginning of September, for a late summer holiday. Some of you might remember that we were there in May, and we loved it so much that it was a natural decision to come back. This time, we steered away from Palermo itself and explored the surroundings a little more.
The beautiful city of Cefalù is an hour away from Palermo by train, and it is a rather popular town amongst travellers in Sicily. It was my favourite discovery of the trip, and naturally, I wanted to share with you the beauty of this medieval seaside town.

When we arrived, we wandered through the town looking for a place to have lunch. Like any typical Sicilian village, Cefalù is full of narrow streets, crumbled doorways, laundry drying at the windows and little shrines at every corner.


The main roads of Cefalù were buzzing with tourists, both Italian exploring their own land and foreigners immersing themselves in the Sicilian culture. Looking for more peace and quiet, you have to engage yourself in the smaller, more confidential streets. You'll probably hear the humming of a television or the loud Italian voices of a family through the closed shutters of a house, as they hide from the heat. You'll find plenty of little restaurants to fill your belly with good pasta, and dozens of souvenir shops where you can get postcards, magnets or colourful earthenware. 

If you visit Cefalù, you'll probably be interested in its two most famous landmarks: the (very busy) beach surrounded by little medieval fishermen's houses, and the cathedral, overlooking the whole town since the twelfth century.


We did not stay at the beach as we knew we'd go there the next day, and it was actually quite crowded so we didn't miss that much. If you can choose when to go on holiday, I would say the end of May/beginning of June is the best period to go to Italy - the weather is warm and sunny already, and you avoid the crowds that stay there until late September. 
The cathedral of Cefalù is not the most impressive of the island, but it is still a beautiful spot in the city and the Roman columns are worth a visit. You know my love for Roman history, so I was thrilled to see a little bit of Ancient Rome in these beautiful Corinthian columns. 

After the cathedral, we decided to be a little more adventurous... And climb la Rocca, the huge mountainous rock that stands in the eastern part of the city. We had not planned to do some actual hiking, but it turned out the little walk in the mountains was more of a challenge than what we had expected! And so, like three girly Indiana Jones, we walked all the way to the top, guided by the mysterious ruins of the medieval castle that stand far, far above sea level, almost touching the blue sky.


Not many people go as far as reaching the top of La Rocca, but the effort (especially under the warm September sun) is definitely worth it. As you climb along the rocky paths, you'll stumble upon various ruins, of watchtowers long abandoned, of wretched defensive walls, and you wonder who would have even bothered, at the time, to try and attack them there.
However when you arrive at the very top, where the castle once stood and where its ruins still stand strong, you realise that once you conquered the heights, you really do feel like you're on top of the world. The lucky people up there had the best views on the whole of Cefalù. No joke!


If you ever go on the west coast of Sicily, please visit Cefalù and take the time to climb that gigantic rock. If the photos below haven't convinced you yet, let me show you a little more. 
The view up there is beautiful from absolutely all angles. On one side you see the infinite chains of mountains, and on the other, you can observe the whole town from its highest point. Pass by the temple of Diana, spot the tall cross, then walk in its direction to stumble upon the magical view that will make you feel privileged to be able to witness so much beauty.


After taking in all these amazing views, we walked all the way back to the town centre and had an ice cream in front of the Tyrrhenian sea, rather proud of ourselves for having walked so much under the heat and constantly remarking that Cefalù was pretty awesome.
If this post hasn't convinced to visit Sicily for your next holiday, then I don't know what will. To be honest, I was sold even before we got there! ;)

Would you have tried climbing the mountain too? Do you enjoy being adventurous when you're on holiday?
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