July 25, 2023
Bonjour Cham 5A families! We are in Paris! We are so incredibly excited to be here and explore the city of love! What a perfect way to end the most amazing trip, with good friends, great food, beautiful city lights, and some of the world’s most sought-after attractions. The time has come for Cham 5A’s last trip update:
After a long 5-hour train ride from Lourdes, we had finally made it to Paris! Train station chaos was no challenge for this experienced group of travelers now, so navigating to our correct platform to get on the metro was seamless. We arrived at our hostel and got settled into our last set of bunk bedrooms! As we were tired from a long day of travel, some took the time to rest, and others showered and cleaned up for dinner! We went to the most adorable Italian place across the street from our hostel and as silly as it may sound, we were all so excited to eat a meal at a real restaurant! Aggie and Lacy ordered their favorite: caprese salads to start, which I think they had been dreaming of since we did iron chef in Costa Brava. All kinds of pasta and pizza were ordered and fully enjoyed. No crumbs left. After dinner we decided to seek out our second favorite ice cream place, discovered in Lourdes, Amorino! We found one just 0.4 miles from the hostel so it was no question we were going! It’s in the running with Chamon’Ice but not quite as good. But who can turn down ice cream! Livvy was first up with a caramel, and chocolate duo which, we have come to find out, eating ice cream is her talent! We then headed back to the hostel to grab sweatshirts and make our way to a grassy park nearby for Moonup. We reflected on what Moondance means to us and has taught us over these last few weeks. New best friends, once in a lifetime experiences, and some great views were major takeaways, once again making Henry and I so proud to have been their leaders. Then it was off to bed to get some sleep before our big day of exploration tomorrow!
This morning we slept in a little bit, a luxury we haven’t had in quite some time! However, the kids were ready to rumble shortly after, and stomachs were rumbling for some yummy breakfast. So, we walked the streets of Paris and landed on a quaint little cafe called Le Petit! Omelets, French toast, crepes, and many cappuccinos were had as our first taste of the extraordinary food Paris has to offer! And it certainly did not disappoint! Guy even got his two fried eggs he’d been dreaming about since he left home. After breakfast we headed to the pantheon and the Luxembourg gardens, courtesy of Hayden’s research on beautiful sights in Paris! We walked through the gardens on our way to do a little bit of shopping for the girls (the boys did a little too). Notre Dame was next on our list, and while we were bummed about all the construction still, we were impressed with Max’s knowledge of all the progress going on, and it was still incredibly stunning to be able to see in person! Next stop was the Louvre and Catherine and Emily were first to hop up and take the famous picture trying to get their finger on top of the point of the pyramid! The rain started to come down so we ducked into a place very familiar to us all known as Five Guys for lunch, greatly enjoyed by Henry L., who also can’t wait for some Nashville hot chicken. A delicious taste of home that would be coming shortly. After our bellies were full, we were fueled up to do a little bit more shopping on the beautiful Champs Elysees! Harris pointed out where the famous Monte Christo’s old house was (her favorite book). We made our way down to the arc de triumph, one of the most stunning sights. Sofie then led the charge to the Eiffel Tower, navigating through the train station for us all. And there it was, the marvelous Eiffel Tower and all its wonder we were finally able to lay our eyes on, and boy was it a beauty. After spending some time there, we headed toward dinner which was a fantastic Italian place, with great service and if you ask Wyatt, even better bread. We made our way back to the Eiffel Tower to watch her sparkle at night and soak up Paris one last time but were a little cut short by some rain. But that didn’t stop our last night festivities, so we headed back to the hostel to do Moonup there. Of course, we had to stop one last time for some ice cream along the way. During Moonup we gave our highs of the trip and shared our favorite memories with each other. This group is so incredibly special and Henry and I will miss each and every one of them dearly. We have watched them grow as individuals in so many ways. We have watched them make friends in the airport, learn red king that became an everyday activity, conquer the uphill climbs of the TMB, eat lots of cheese and bread, sea kayak through both the rivers and oceans of Costa Brava, learn knew cooking skills, trek with enthusiasm through the Pyrenees, become friends with donkeys, walked the streets of Paris, and so many more memories that I can’t wait for your kids to share with you. It has been our pleasure leading your kids these last three weeks, and I have no doubt they are headed for greatness in whatever comes next! This is Cham 5A signing off.
Henry and Grace
July 23, 2023
Hi Chamonix 5A families! When you’re reading this, it means that we are on our way to Paris and have just completed trekking through the Pyrenees. It also means that our time together has almost come to an end. It was hands down one of the best weeks we have ever had and I can’t wait to tell you about it so let’s get this update going!
We began our first morning of the trek in Lourdes France, the holy city we had grown to love and Hayden even said he wanted to live one day! We took a bus from Lourdes to our trail head, but first we met the famous Mandy who would be our guide for the next week! She briefed us on the entire trek by showing us the map and then showed us our Route for the day. Through the forest, and past many waterfalls, our group absolutely crushed day one of the Pyrenees so far. But the day wasn’t over yet. We stopped for lunch at a beautiful lake covered with fog, but there was an occasional reveal of the vast mountains behind, which was stunning. We all made our usual ham or Turkey and cheese sandwich on a sweet roll with a side of a Nutella cookie treat or the Lacy and Sofie special of peanut butter and honey on a tortilla. After lunch it was a calm ascent to our hostel at the top of a valley called Oulettes. To say this was the most stunning view would be an understatement, and it is only going to get better. We got settled into our room of TRIPLE decker bunk beds! Once we were all settled it was only a matter of time before Max, Guy, and Henry were down by the river taking a cold plunge in the glacial runoff (brrrr). Dinner was definitely a highlight of our day, and we got all warmed up by some vegetable soup with cheese and home cooked lasagna. After dinner, we layered up for a windy Moonup, and our LODs Wyatt and Catherine found the most beautiful spot that is probably on all of our top 5 most stunning views of the trip so far. After Moonup, our always adventurous Harris recommended we go and take a stroll down to see some beautiful horses, which was one of the most fun things we had done on the trip so far! While we didn’t want this once in a lifetime day to end, it was time to catch some Zs and gear up for a very big day tomorrow! We were headed to Spain!
This morning we woke up in the beautiful Oulettes with a wonderful view of the snow covered mountains. We slowly made it to our table for breakfast, where we had our typical bread, jam, and coffee to get us fueled up for our second day trekking. We got on the trail pretty early because Mandy had informed us it was going to be a long day, with the majority of the morning being an uphill climb. We trekked through the valley until we made it to the beginning of our uphill climb. After a few stops on the way up, we made it to the Spanish border! So this means Hola for the next few days! It was so windy at the top that Sofie and Emily’s hats blew away several times. But no worries, they were always quickly recovered by someone behind. Our descent down was not a cake walk but the group was extremely focused and made it down to the base of the valley no problem. We walked along the valley floor for almost the rest of the day but stopped for lunch along a very secluded part of the river. It was no surprise that Henry, Guy, Max and Hayden hopped in the river for a little cold plunge. We enjoyed the river for some time and after everyone had eaten their pasta salad and little chocolate bars, kindly packed by our new friends at Oulettes, we continued on to our next destination. An easy walk from here, with several stops for water due to the heat today. We finally made it to our hostel for the night Bujareulo! But first a little swim in the river to cool us off and relax a little after our longest hike of the trip so far! We headed to the hostel and made our way to our room for the night! But here’s the best part of the night: dinner! We started off with bread and olive oil, and for our appetizer, penne carbonara. Everyone was shocked that was the starter. For our main, barbecued lamb short ribs with French fries! And for dessert, vanilla custard. The most amazing dinner full of good food and as Guy always says good fellowship. And that it was! One of this groups many talents is their ability to live in the moment with each other and create good fellowship during their time together. We headed down to the river for Moonup and watched the stars fill the sky until our eyelids got heavy and it was time for bed.
Our third day of trekking was our easiest yet, but certainly not our least eventful! We began our day with a delicious spread of breads, cheeses, and meats before starting our trek to Torla! After trudging through the forest for an hour or two, we came upon a bridge over some gorgeous water. Naturally, we had to get in! Our adventurous group had no hesitation towards leaping into the chilly water. With Hayden and Aggie leading he charge, everyone took turns splashing around and enjoying a reprieve from the warm weather. After our swim, we continued our hike to Torla, soaking in the lovely views of the city from above. We finally arrived to the quaint little town of Torla and Mandy showed us to our hostel which was tucked away in the thick of the cobblestone streets and flower ridden windowsills. It was beautiful and we all sat outside, enjoying our lunch and a sweet surprise of ice cream. Because we were now in Spain, we were on siesta time. We unpacked our stuff and Max led the group down to the river for another afternoon cold swim. We found a good rock to jump off of and Henry L. conquered his fear to make the jump, with the entire group rallying around him. After some quality water time, we headed back to the hostel to take some siesta of our own. Around 5, when siesta was over we headed out to explore the town. Sticker, tshirts, bracelets, and keychains all reminding us of Torla will be making their way back with us in our suitcases. Catherine even bought a stuffed marmot to remind her of the Pyrenees. Our exploration was thorough but after a while it was time for dinner, and boy were we in for a treat! We were all able to pick from a menu, our choice of an appetizer, entre, and dessert. It was marvelous! The crowd favorite was definitely the yummy vanilla and chocolate ice cream cake with whipped cream but Aggie may argue it was the melon. After dinner we had Moonup near the hostel, and then off to bed a little early because tomorrow was going to be our biggest day yet.
Our 4th day of trekking began with a very early and quick breakfast so that we could catch our taxi at 7am to the top of the Ordesa Valley. The most stunning view we had seen so far, and little did we know it was only going to get better. The first part of the day was traversing around the valley and ended with a stop at the Refugio Goriz to have lunch. After a little bit of rain, a yummy prosciutto and cheese sandwich and a bit of sunshine was just the thing we needed to fuel us for the rest of the day. The hike was fairly easy until we got to the base of where we would start our ascent to La Breche de Roland. A quite famous break in the cliff that results in a natural gap through the mountains. This part of the trek was not so easy, and involved lots of rock climbing and careful footing on rocks below. We made it to the part of the hike in which we needed to grab a chain to traverse to ensure there was no sliding down the rocks. Everyone crushed it with complete grace, and even prouder of Emily who faced her fear of the chain and got across the traverse like a champ! One final ascent left to go and the group powered through like never before, hustling to make it up to the top and feel the sense of accomplishment they all very much deserve! It was smiles all around as we looked over the hike we had just completed and the stunning view that lie just on the other side. We soaked up the moments but it was fleeting because the wind was chilling our bones, and it was better to go ahead and get moving toward the hostel. It wasn’t long on the descent before we made it to Saradets! We got checked in and just an hour or so later it was time for dinner and boy were we hungry! Soup, rice and chicken curry was our spread for the evening and it did not disappoint. Our sleepy eyes followed shortly as we finished our dessert. Then it was off to Moonup and then our bunk beds for a good night sleep!
Good morning saradets! We woke up to the most stunning view of the breche and a surprise breakfast treat of oatmeal and sweet cake. After our stomachs were full we grabbed only the necessities in our bags and started for our trek to the summit of a nearby peak called Le Taillon. So day 5 of trekking began, going back up toward the the breche. Not many people can say they have done that even once and our group will have gone through it three times! Our ascent was not an easy one as we were blasted by wind the whole way up once we passed through the breche. From there we climbed upwards and around the “false breche,” a finger-like rock formation where we briefly rested and shielded ourselves from the wind. Then we progressed on and walked along a rocky ridge before ascending upwards through skree and dirt as the winds blew all around us. After another 30 minutes of climbing at our brisk pace, we reached the summit of Le Tallion where we stopped for lunch and soaked in the panoramic views of both France and Spain while sheltering behind rocks from the wind. Our descent back down went quickly and smoothly and finally we found ourselves near a glacial lake. Of course we had to take a plunge! Max and Harris dove in first, inspiring the rest of the group to take the plunge and feel the frigid temperatures of the glacial water. It was the highlight of the day for Hayden, Livvy, and others on a day in which we summited a 3000+ meter peak! After soaking up some sun and drying off, we finished our last 20 minutes of descent with wet pants and bright smiles! When we reached Saradets, we decided to soak up the sun and dry off the rest of the way before going inside to get some delicious chocolate bars as a small reward. After a long day, showers and naps were definitely needed. The girls told storiesA delicious vegetable soup once again, accompanied by white rice, pork, and mushrooms. Very yummy and just the thing we needed after a long day. Our LODs Guy and Lacy suggested we have Moonup at the top of a pass just a short hike away and I’m so glad we did because the view was magical and the sliver of crescent moon popped out to say goodnight just as we were ending. Then it was off to bed for the next day ahead.
Day 6 began with an early morning wake up call once again to go downstairs and get breakfast before we got ready for our second to last hike of the trip. We can’t believe how fast this trip has been going. But there’s still more time, and we are going to cherish it. Once the group was all ready to go for the day, we bid adieu to the owners of Saradets thanked them for taking care of us the last two days. Then it was down to Gavarnie we went. Most of our morning hike was spent above the clouds, and the view could not have been more magical. We relished the vastness of the mountains while we still could and before long we were beneath the clouds, engulfed the the fog. An hour or so in the fog, and slowly, the town of Gavarnie finally came into clear view. While we had a long descent in front of us, our trail conversations were keeping us energized and moving quick! When we reached the bottom Mandy found us a spot in the park to have lunch. Lacy and Aggie scouted us a delicious pizza and panini place where we were eagerly ordered margarita pizzas and ham and cheese paninis! After lunch was every quickly scarfed down, the girls were ready to explore Gavarnie and in Catherine’s words “do a food tour” which included ice cream, Gavarnie cake, and fruit. And of course everyone had to get a sticker for their water bottles. Livvy and Emily found the most amazing marmot shirts and convinced all of the girls to get one (including me)! Safe to say that we got the most out of our short time in Gavarnie. It was time to begin our ascent up to espaguettes and Mandy had told us it would take 2 hours but with this group of fabulous hikers, we knew it would probably only take an hourp. Most of the hike was forest but then Espaguettes came into view at the top of the hill and a short 30 minutes later we had arrived. We dropped our packs and did something Harris calls “scorpioning” to stretch our backs out. It was much needed. After some time on the grass we finally went inside to settle down in our rooms. Then it. Was straight to the picnic tables to play red king. Henry L. participated in 3 hours worth games, now that’s dedication. But at some point the cards had to be out away and it was finally time for dinner. Vegetable soup (which was becoming a new favorite for a lot of people) and rice with tomatoes and chicken sausage was on the menu for the night and boy was it yummy. Sofie and I even chit chatted with the sweetest family from the UK who we shared the dinner table with. We cleaned up dinner and headed right to Moonup so we could catch some good views while also cherishing some of our last nights together.
The day has come to say good morning to the Pyrenees one last time. What a treat to have spent our last night at the bucket list hostel, Espaguettes! Now we begin our final descent back into Gavarnie. But first, a pit stop to the cirque Du Gavarnie waterfall. The tallest waterfall in all of Europe! Our descent was quick and when we reached the base of the cirque we took a little gogo squeeze and water break before we started the ascent to the waterfall! With rain jackets on and go pros out we trucked up the rocky hill and as we got closer and closer the spray from the waterfall was starting to get us very soaked but it was smiles all around! After we got some pictures it was back down to the base to begin our walk to Gavarnie. We stopped along the way to capture a human pyramid in front of a gorgeous view of the waterfall and it is definitely a picture for the books! We had just a short walk from there to Gavarnie where we met with our taxi drivers. But first, we had to get some treats for the car ride! Wyatt snagged a ginormous blueberry muffin which was to die for and he even let everyone try a bit. The. We loaded up into the taxis and after a short drive we arrived in the most adorable town of Luz. We said our tearful goodbyes to Mandy and thanked her for the best week! We walked to a cute little outdoor restaurant for lunch and got some burgers, paninis and milkshakes! After that Harris and Henry wanted to stop by the park to get on the seasaw. We made it back to the hostel and if you haven’t guessed by now what we do with our free time, it was a big game red king. After many many rounds and many winners it was time for dinner at Henry and I’s favorite pizza place across the street. Everyone had their own pizza that was not pre cut and Sofie and Livvy decided to eat it like a big taco. We had Moonup in the park and talked about our hidden talents which proved to be very eye opening about some! After that we had a surprise excursion to an ice cream shop for a little treat to show how proud we were of them for completing this trek! We are so proud of this group and cannot wait to go explore Paris with them tomorrow! (They already have some itinerary planned) We will see you again for one last final trip update in a couple days! Talk to you very soon!
Au Revoir from Henry, Grace and you Cham 5A squad
July 17, 2023
Hola Cham 5A family and friends! We made it to Costa Brava, Spain! The train ride from Chamonix to Costa Brava felt like no time and was of course filled with games of red king, naps, snacks, and good conversation to pass the time. We hopped on a bus that then took us straight to our little village we would call home for the next few days. We split into our tents and got settled, running into some friends from other groups along the way. We then went to dinner at the campsite restaurant and it was delicious! Good food surrounded by good friends was the perfect way to end our long travel day and gear up for relaxation tomorrow. We had Moonup around our tents and then headed to bed for some peaceful Zs.
Today is beach day! Wahoo! We were ready to sit in the sun, swim in the ocean, and dig our toes into the sand. Some well-deserved rest and relaxation after completing the TMB! But first, breakfast! We were so excited to finally cook our own breakfast and Max, Aggie, and Livvy were on it this morning, whipping up eggs and bacon before everyone was awake. I think the unanimous decision would be that this was the best breakfast we had had so far. After breakfast it was time for the beach so we made the short walk from our village to the beach and we all found a spot to set up camp! Everyone immediately ran to the water with Catherine and Harris leading the pack. Before long everyone was in the water and playing games, and having a blast. All the swimming was making everyone a little bit hungry so we went to sit at a nearby restaurant for lunch! The kids had not had enough of the beach yet so we went back to our spot after lunch to bask in the sun and go in the water one more time for the day. Of course, ice cream was also included in today’s activities. As we wrapped up at the beach, I gave everyone their teams for iron chef! Each team had the task of going to the grocery store and picking out food to make an appetizer, main entree, and dessert for Henry and I to judge, while also staying under $100. Everyone did great in the store and from what I peeked at while they were shopping, I knew dinner was going to be good. We got back to camp and the groups got to cooking. Lacy’s team was Catherine, Hayden, and Wyatt and they started off strong with a beautifully presented caprese salad, and a stunningly plated pesto pasta, leading us to believe that they had some cooks in the group. Guy’s team was Sofie, Livvy, and Emily and they excelled on the taste front with their loaded nachos on pita bread as well as their impeccable customer service. Last but not least, Aggie’s group, Henry, Harris, and Max won creative points for their chicken parm and interesting dessert which turned out tasting spectacular. However only four chefs could go home winners, and our decision was made clear when Lacy’s group made chocolate fondue with pound cake, strawberries, and Oreos for dessert that they were the clear winners of Moondances Chamonix 5A iron chef competition. We all had so much fun and Henry and I loved watching the kids cook. All that cooking though did mean cleaning, but they were excited to do dishes to just continue the laughs. After all it chefs had put away their aprons, we went to the bottom of the hill outside the campsite for Moonup, and looked at the stars. Then it was off to bed and ready for our first day of kayaking tomorrow!
Day 1 of kayaking began with another beautiful breakfast of eggs, bacon, avocado, pastries, fruit, and donuts! Our chefs did fantastic this morning. We got picked up by our guides and headed to the river front for our tour of the river today. We partnered up and got into our kayaks. Once we were out on the river, the splashing began almost right away, which ended up being one of the most fun things about the day. Emily and Lacy were definitely our kayaking queens, as they were in the front the whole time chit chatting with our guide Tony. We broke for lunch on the river bank, and Henry L. passed out the Turkey and ham sandwiches! After a quick lunch we got back out on the river and arrived at our final destination shortly after. The taxis picked us up to take us back to our favorite: Yelloh Village where we immediately went to get some ice cream. It was much warmer than we had been used to so the nice cold treat was perfect for all of us. We hung around the campsite for a little bit, and then a group consensus for beach time was made and so we headed to the beach for some late afternoon sun time. We have a bunch of water babies in this group because they all absolutely love being in the ocean. But our ocean time had to end at some point, and from there we headed to the grocery store to buy dinner for the night. Chicken and steak stir fry was on the menu and everyone could not have been more excited. Livvy, Hayden, Max, and Lacy helped me shop for dinner for the group, picking out lots of veggies! Once we were back at the campsite, everybody got to cooking, with Wyatt on the rice, Guy on the meats, and Sofie and Harris on cutting veggies. Diner turned out fabulous, special shoutout to Guy for making some phenomenal sesame chicken! Another shoutout to Lacy’s iron chef team from the night before for making their famous fondue again for desert. Once our bellies were full, we had moonup filled with laughs about what animated character we would want to be and why. Then it was off to bed in time for our early wake up call the next morning.
Our second day of kayaking began much earlier but that meant we were the first ones on the beach which was quite peaceful. We were in the ocean today, and everyone was in their own kayak. We suited up in our spray skirts, life jackets, and helmets and hit the water. Our guide for the day, Roger was quite enthusiastic so early in the morning, which made for a fabulous start to the day. We started out at a great pace and there was nothing but positive vibes coming from this group! They absolutely loved sea kayaking! Emily even said it was her favorite part! Roger took us through many caves and we were all in awe of how cool they were. After a short while in the beautiful blue water, we made it to our lunch spot which seemed to be quite popular with all the boats surrounding it. We set up for some ham and cheese sandwiches and one of our guises surprised us with some ice cold lemonade! It was fabulous! Max, Catherine, Hayden, Henry and Harris went snorkeling, and Henry saw lots of fish! We wrapped up lunch and headed back to the beach. I was so impressed with how well this group paddled. Once we got back to the beach, the group took a little swim and we went back to the campsite to shower and get ready for our cooking class. We also got some laundry going and thanks to Catherine’s Spanish, we were able to get the machines working! It was time to head back toward the beach for our cooking class and everything was all set up for us when we got there! Lacy, Catherine, Aggie and Harris went straight to the kitchen to help make the paella for everyone! Max got to preparing our salmon ceviche, with very poised skill I will say. Sofie and Livvy were in charge of making the guacamole which was to die for! Wyatt and Emily we stationed at the tomato bread station and I think all of us could argue it was the best part of the dinner. Guy was in charge on making the grilled lettuce and Hayden and Henry the vinaigrette for the lettuce. We can all agree we had never had such a fantastic meal and every bit of it was gone by the end! We were so proud of everyone for trying new things and improving their cooking skills! After dinner, it was late, and we went back and had one last Moonup in the Yelloh village!
Tomorrow we were headed to Lourdes, France where we would spend the night and then off to the Pyrenees and we could not be more stoked to get back in the mountains! We hope you enjoy some shoutouts from your kids and we will talk to everyone soon!
-Henry and Grace
Livvy- Hey y’all! I am having the best time ever in France and Spain we just left costa brava and we are starting out trek on the Pyrenees tomorrow. I’m having the best time love and miss y’all, Livvy
Lacy- Hey everyone! I am having a blast! I love our group and have made so many great friends! Yesterday we went sea kayaking in Costa Brava which was gorgeous and so fun! Tomorrow we are starting the Pyrenees which I am really excited for- I have heard the views are incredible! I am having the BEST time! Pike- good luck in your lacrosse tournaments! Mom and dad- please schedule me a haircut and switch my flight. Love and miss you all!
Emily- Hi Mom and Dad! I’m having a great time. My group is awesome! We went sea kayaking in Costa Brava yesterday which was one of my favorite parts yet. Everything we have seen is so beautiful. I can’t wait to see y’all again, love and miss you lots! Also thank you for switching my flight
Catherine- Hi family what’s up! I am having such a fun time!!!!! I love this trip and have an awesome group. We just left costa brava which was awesome and I talked In Spanish too. I hope you had fun in New York and happy birthday dad!!! Love you guys and miss you!
Aggie- Hey Law Fam!!!! I’m having so much fun!!! We did the Tour Du Mont Blanc first and had a blast!! We left Spain today and finished up kayaking yesterday which was also so much fun!! I love our group so much and have made so many great friends! Hope everyone is doing well!!! I miss y’all and love y’all so much!! Best family ever!!!!!❤️❤️ Also give Darla some hugs from me!!!
Harris- Hey Fam!! Having a blast in France and Spain! We finished the Tour Du Mont Blanc last week and just rapped up sea kayaking in Costa Brava. My group is awesome and I’m having the best time! Leaving for the Pyrenees tomorrow! Happy birthday Dad! I’m sorry I’m missing it, but I’ll be thinking about you. I hope Tibbs is having a blast in Colorado and the Assembly crew is having fun. Love y’all and can’t wait to tell you about all my adventures!!
Sofie- Hey y’all!! Hope everything is going good at home. Everything here is absolutely incredible and I can’t wait to tell y’all all about it. Last week we finished the south side of the Tour Du Mont Blanc and then headed to Spain to kayak- it was nothing short of amazing. We’ll be on our way to the Pyrenees tomorrow and I’m insanely excited. Miss y’all TONS but having the best Moondance yet!! PS- saw our constellation in Spain last night and thought of y’all. Love y’all!!
Max- Hey family!! Just left costa brava after a nice rest from hiking. We are about to start trekking in the Pyrenees for a week then we are off to Paris. The tri has been amazing and can’t wait to see you all again.
Hayden- what up everyone, just left costa brava in Spain and am now in Spain about to climb the Pyrenees in France. We finished the southern half of the tour de Mont Blanc and it was super sick, I took as many photos I could but that old lady scammed us with the camera and all the regular photos are blurry as heck. Overall, Moondance isn’t what I expected at all but in a good way and I am livin it up over here, really assimilating into French culture by eating bread and chocolate all day. Hopefully Abby and everyone else are hanging in there, I’ll be back soon don’t worry too hard, Hayden.
Henry- Hey Mom and Dad! We’re about to leave for the Pyrenees. We made a quick trip to McDonalds on our way back from Spain today, so I’m fully charged. Tell Ellie and Kate I say hi and I miss them. I’m having a great time over here and I can’t wait to tell you about it when I get home. Love you!
Wyatt – Hello Muddah, hello Faddah!! Here I am at Camp Grenada Pyrenees. Despite being mildly sick for a couple days, the trekking and views have been great, and I’ll be the first one to say that we are starting the Pyrenees tomorrow. Hope you are all well!
Guy – Hey mom and dad! Just got through with sea kayaking and it was a blast. I am super excited to get started hiking in the Pyrenees tomorrow. I hope everyone is doing well. Thanks for such a great opportunity and I can’t wait to see y’all! P.S. let Chris know I am still alive lol
July 13, 2023
Bonjour Cham 5A families! We did it! Through constant smiles, laughs, jokes, 5-star moonups, lots of cheese, and a whole lot of grit, this group completed 46 miles of the Tour du Mont Blanc. Henry and I could not be prouder of this group for their positivity and perseverance this past week, and it makes us even more excited for what is to come! But let’s get into the extraordinarily memorable week we just had in France and Italy!
Our first day of trekking the TMB (Tour du Mont Blanc) began at the Chamoniard, our favorite hostel, with some warm baguettes, a spread of Nutella, honey, and jelly, and some coffee and hot chocolate, a typical French breakfast. Then we packed up our bags and headed down to meet our guide Christophe! With enthusiasm, he briefed us on the day ahead and we started walking toward the bus station. Aggie and Christophe were fast friends as she began asking him many questions about Mont Blanc and how he became a guide in the mountains. We took a bus to the end of the valley and then boarded a cable car (so cool!) to the summit of one of the peaks below Mont Blanc. We took in the view from the top for a little and quickly realized if we waited any longer, we may need to break out our jackets, so off we went toward the trail head. A calm descent was the beginning of our trek, through the shaded forests. We eventually broke out of the forest to a beautiful glacial lake where we stopped for a break and took some great pictures with the glacier. After some GoGo squeezes and cliff bars, we continued on our way. After some intense, but beautiful, uphill climbing, we reached a little flat part that was perfect for lunch. Everyone made sandwiches and Aggie and Catherine were especially loving the prosciutto and cheese combination. We had Oreos as a treat, double stuffed of course, and proceeded to pack up and head over the pass where we could then see our hostel for the night. Max and Hayden threw us a curveball and wondered if they could go to the top of the next peak, and the group’s immediate response was “yes!”. Amazing. We began our descent down into the valley and after two short hours, we arrived at this adorable little village of huts called Miage. Christophe informed us that cold water was good for the legs, so Henry, Max, Guy and Hayden did some polar plunges to refresh. After being cold, it was time to lay in the sun a little and photosynthesize. After showers, it was time for dinner, and we were in for an interesting treat! Omelets for dinner! Accompanied by bread, cheese, and salad, the omelet was filled with potatoes and cheese and was a very big hit. Right after dinner Christophe broke out his maps and taught the entire group about map reading, and when quizzed Wyatt proved to be picking the skill up quite quickly. With full bellies we walked to a stunning spot for Moonup with a snow-covered mountain behind us and the sunset in front, a beautiful way to close out our first day on the TMB.
Day 2 on the TMB began with our typical French breakfast of bread, jelly, butter, and coffee. We could see our uphill climb ahead of us, but it only enhanced this group’s excitement for the day. Once we got to the top of the ridge there was a little bit of flat ground and then we began the descent down into a very cute town to shop for our lunch for the next few days. LODs Aggie and Hayden helped me shop while the rest of the group explored the town. Wyatt and Christophe even surprised everyone with some sweet croissants as a little treat for doing so well on the first part of the day’s hike. We also bought some fresh baguettes for today’s lunch and Lacy by far had the most in her bag, making for some funny pictures. We found the best lunch spot in a little sun kissed mossy meadow and put those baguettes to good use. Salami, prosciutto, and ham sandwiches were just what we needed after the hike so far. We were even in for a treat with the amazing apples the LODs got. We continued trekking on and eventually arrived at a fork in the road, and naturally we took the longer more difficult one, but only because it had the best view. And it didn’t disappoint. We began getting higher and higher into the mountains and the view became wider and more beautiful. Our hostel finally came into view, so that meant taking our shoes off was nearby. We arrived, and almost an hour later it was dinner time. The most fabulous dinner of vegetable soup and rigatoni bolognese was perfect to refuel after a long day’s hike. We found out here Hayden has a talent for drawing and has been drawing all of our hostels. We waited until just before sunset to start moon-up so that we could have the best view possible.
Happy day 3 of trekking through the TMB! We had quite the distance of hiking ahead of us today, including two passes! We started the day with some Muesli, bread, jam, and coffee before embarking on our longest day of trekking yet! We started the day with a lengthy descent down to the bottom of a valley where we then walked on flat ground surrounded by massive peaks. As we looked ahead in the distance, we could see the first pass we had to cross for the day. Max and Hayden pushed the pace with Christophe while Sofie led some great trail talk about thrifting. After trekking through a large portion of the valley, we stopped for some much-needed snacks including pretzels, nuts, go-go squeezes, cliff bars and more! After our break, we began our first ascent of the day. Climbing rocky switchbacks and passing many fellow hikers. Guy continued on his quest to have his “roll tide” answered by another Alabama fan and finally found some luck in a fellow American trekker. We also passed some donkeys and stopped for some pictures before we made it to the top of the windy pass. We hiked another 15 minutes before our lunch break where we enjoyed sandwiches crafted with various deli meats and cheeses. After eating, we hiked along a ridge for about 45 minutes before coming to another pass and yet another remarkable view. While our ascent for the day was finally completed, we still had quite a ways to go to get to our accommodation for the night, a former cheese factory-turned hostel! Our descent took us about 2 and a half hours before we finally laid eyes on our hostel and got to rest our legs. The rest was much needed after a 13!! mile day of trekking. Henry, Max, Guy, and Hayden were quick to head with Christophe to the river for a cold plunge before dinner while Sofie and Harris showed off their guitar skills for the rest of the group. Before long it was time to make dinner, and the dinner crew did not disappoint with their spread of meats, cheeses, salad, and potatoes! We even had the opportunity to melt our cheese and spread it on our potatoes like fondue! For dessert, we enjoyed some watermelon and tea made by Christophe from flowers he had picked along the trail! Some more guitar and card games led by Max and Aggie, respectively, preceded Moonup and a much-needed night of sleep before our exciting next day of trekking and our 3rd country of the trip!
Our 4th day on the TMB gave us quite the challenging hike! We started early with some breakfast classics including cheese, bread, croissants, and salami. We began our hike by descending from our lovely hostel into a small town to buy some groceries and catch our cute pink bus! The bus took us to the other side of the valley and brought us ever closer to the French-Italian border. Before our real hiking began, we stopped at a real cheese factory! After buying some local cheese and catching a glimpse into the cheese-making process, we began our ascent towards Italy! The warm weather and steep climbing were no match for our super group of hikers. Sofie led from the front while Lacy, Aggie, and Emily led from the rear, smiling, and supporting the group the whole way! Our tough ascent was made a little easier by Henry’s seemingly endless supply of jokes! When we crossed the border from France to Italy, we were rewarded with an awe-inspiring view of Mont Blanc and its surrounding peaks from the south. We also quickly found some snow, where Harris and Guy were quick to start a snowball fight. After soaking in the views, we continued to our lunch spot where we enjoyed our customary spread of bread cheeses and meats. With full stomachs, we began our lengthy descent into and through a valley leading to Courmayeur. We walked along a road built by the Romans some 2000 years ago during their conquest of Europe! Our long day of hiking concluded with a bus ride into the town of Courmayeur where we were to rest for the night. Guy and Catherine, our LODs, went shopping for the next day’s lunch and once we reunited, we did a little more walking to our lovely hotel. After enjoying a delicious dinner of pizza, pasta, charcuterie, and tiramisu, we mooned up in a local park and then said goodnight before our final day of trekking on the TMB.
Our last day of the TMB! Woah that just flew by! We woke up to one of the most wonderful spreads of hard-boiled eggs, cream filled croissants, yogurt parfaits and some of the best coffee we had had so far! A sign for a great day of hiking ahead. And that it was. We began in Courmayeur and took a short bus to the end of the valley. From there we took a steep uphill climb toward the Swiss border. The trail conversations were amazing and still included Guy saying roll tide to every passerby. He’s yet to get a Roll Tide back. We finally made it to the top of our summit for the day, we all enjoyed some cokes and mars bars as a small little reward! Catherine later mentioned it was the highlight of her day! We later began our descent back down into the valley, having a nice calm walk down a well paced gravel road. We shared conspiracy theories and talked about the royal family, which Livvy turned out to be very knowledgeable about! When we got back down to the base of the valley, we set up lunch and basked in the sun by the river, listening to music and just enjoying our last few views of Mont Blanc. A bus arrived to take us back to Chamonix and we said our goodbyes to the TMB. Christophe awarded everyone with certificates and then we said some tearful au revoirs. Then off to shower, get unpacked and head to dinner. We couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than pizza of course! 14 pizzas for 14 hungry hikers. And we obviously couldn’t leave without getting one more dose of our favorite gelato place: Chamon’ice! Bedtime was calling our name shortly after, and we welcomed that call with open arms. Off to bed and sweet dreams of the beach were to come! To Costa Brava we go! We will talk to you soon!
Love Henry, Grace, and your Cham 5A gang
July 7, 2023
Bonjour Cham 5A family and friends!! Henry and I first want to thank you for sending your kids on this trip! It’s been 3 days and we can already tell this group is so special!
From the moment they arrived in the Paris airport, there were smiles all around, and palpable excitement and eagerness for what was to come! Not to mention most of them had not slept on the flight, so the wide-eyed faces were quite impressive! We had an early arrival to kick off airport day and were so excited to spend time with Livvy in the airport before the rest of the group got there shortly after. Around 8am, Henry and I began to get very antsy and excited for all of our people to arrive! We saw Aggies big smile from across the room and the rest of the group followed! We all gave hugs and shared hellos before quickly heading to the train station to catch our train to Geneva! With plenty of time to spare, the group was able to further get to know each other over some fancy Starbucks donuts, and sandwiches! Harris’s stories from her plane ride experience were the main talk of our new moondance circle. Guy was even able to make the best nap spot on top of ALL of the bags! Once 2 o’clock rolled around we were up and moving toward our platform to meet our train to take us to Geneva! Once everyone was settled on the train Sophie, Lacy, Hayden and Wyatt immediately broke out a set of cards to get a game of red king going. 4 hours later we arrived at the Geneva train station where our bus driver Raphael was waiting for us to then take us to the beautiful Chamonix! A short ride later and we arrived at our home for the next two days: Le Chamoniard Volant! Dinner was served shortly after we got there and then it was off to bed everyone!
Day 3 started off with sleeping in extra this morning! Something we won’t be doing much of for the rest of the trip. Breakfast was bread, Nutella, Frosted Flakes, and coffee! After breakfast, we hung out a little bit and got ready to go into town for a little sightseeing and shopping. Our first stop was Intersport, in which everyone bought the most amazing hats! I’ll give credit to Catherine and Emily for spotting them! They are now our group hat and we love them! We continued walking around, buying some t-shirts, and taking all kinds of silly photos. When we were finally shopped out we made our way over to a famous little fast food place called poco loco! A tradition in the Moondance world, and necessary stop for group 5A. Triple burgers, goat cheese and spinach crepes, and many laughs were had as we all tried our best to finish these massive portions of food. We took a digestion walk around the park afterward, and decided to go buy a soccer ball and play a little game on the basketball courts! We met some French locals while playing and Max was able to fix his bike for him! Go Max! The game ended with the boys well ahead of the girls in goals, but it was ok, it was all just for fun! And us girls had the best time! We headed back to the hostel and Henry led everyone in a little packing lesson for our trek coming up tomorrow! Some took a little snooze, but when everyone was up and Adam, I took the LODs Max and Livvy in to town for some grocery shopping for tomorrows picnic lunch! When we got back, it was time for dinner! Cheese bread, Turkey, mixed veggies, and crème brûlée were on the menu for tonight and it was a hit! We were even in for an extra treat when Henry L. gave us his Shrek impression at dinner. We did moonup in a nice little spot in the park and pretty soon after got ready for bed. We had a big day ahead of us tomorrow and we needed our beauty sleep! So off to bed we went. We will begin our trek of the tour du Mont Blanc tomorrow and these kids could not be more excited! Henry and I are stunned by these kids eagerness and desire for new adventure. It’s amazing. We can’t wait to update you on what is to come in our next 5 days! Au Revoir
Love Henry, Grace, and your Cham 5A squad
July 4, 2023
Hello Chamonix Families!
We heard from our leaders last night and the group has landed safely in France! The trip is off to a great start, and we cannot wait to hear more stories from their adventure.
Please remember our leaders and students will be unplugged during their trips but we will be posting up to three trip updates throughout the next couple of weeks! This will allow you to follow along with the trip and the students will also give a special shout out mid-way through! You can also follow us on Instagram, @moondanceadventures, to see more of what we are up to this summer!