I feel like a giddy, little girl.
Really, it sounds corny, but I can't help it. It is love at first sight. Here I am, on the verge of nirvana on the edge of a mountain, and suddenly, I feel like Heidi. I am her, that storybook sweetheart who finds her true happiness when she's sent to live with her grumpy grandpa in the Swiss Alps. Never mind that this is France, not Switzerland, although we're only 130 miles from Geneva.
We arrived in darkness the night before, after traversing a tightrope trail teetering on the edge of Alpe d'Huez. I doubt Lance Armstrong is thinking about Heidi as he's power-pedaling up this majestic mountain, one of the toughest climbs in the Tour de France. But then, I'm not thinking about Lance, either, as a sliver of sunlight stirs me from my sleep in a cozy chambre d'hôte (bed & breakfast) just off the thirteenth switchback of the celebrated summit.
I open the heavy wooden shutters, and...is that angels I hear singing? I am in heaven in this place. I could almost yodel at the view. (Mercifully, I decide against it.)
It's as idyllic a setting as you will ever find, and you will find it just a 40-mile drive from the city of Grenoble, a little more than twice that if you fly into Lyon. Bring a bicycle, and you can scale the steep slope if you dare to, and many do.
At the top, your personal glory awaits you along with stunning views of the valley below from Alpe d'Huez Village Ski Resort, which welcomes skiers of all levels from December through April with nearly 150 miles of runs.
Bring your sunglasses and sunscreen, too. This place boasts an average of 300 sunny days each year. And plenty of sunny dispositions. You can't help but feel giddy here. Really!