Store hours and holidays
Throughout the Alps, most stores will close at 12:30 PM or 1:00 PM and reopen in the middle of the afternoon. The afternoon opening may take place as early as 2:30 PM in the northern Alps, and as late as 4:00 in some parts of the southern Alps. The stores close again at 6:30 to 7:30 PM. Banks however, close much earlier. Due to the required short work in France, banks may be closed on Saturday morning (and always Saturday afternoon), or on Monday. Inquire in each locality.
Most food stores are open on Sunday mornings, and are closed all day Monday. Supermarkets in large towns typically are closed on Sundays, and open on Mondays. They may or may not close for lunch. In tourist towns such as Chamonix, many stores of all types may remain open on Sunday morning.
Several French holidays fall in late May, on shifting dates. In July, Bastille day falls on the 14th, and in August, Assumption falls on the 15th.
Credit cards are fine for most hotels and supermarkets, but not for most gîtes, refuges, and food shops. Euros or Euro travelers checks or Euro bank checks (if you have a Euro account) should be used.
In this day of e-mail, letters are practically obsolete, but you can have mail forwarded to you at hotels or even at a “poste restante“, (will call at the post office). Along the route there are a few Internet cafés and almost all hotels have free Internet access. Obviously, in the mountains Internet access will be spotty, but may be available from high points via cellular telephone.
You will find public phones here and there in towns and villages along the route: Some at post offices, some in outdoor enclosures, some in bars or restaurants. The vast majority use a prepaid plastic calling card issued by France Télécom that you can buy in tabacs or at newsstands. The phones usually have a display that gives instructions and tells you how many unités you have left. “Decrocher” means to lift the receiver; “accrocher” means to hang up. “Composer” means to dial. Lift the receiver, insert your card, and dial your number.
The guardians of refuges and gites will often let you use their phones to make reservations, or may do it for you. Hotels charge high prices for the use of their phones to make international calls.
Given the rise of cell phones, the public phones are few and far between these days. I strongly suggest that you buy an inexpensive European telephone with a prepaid SIM card in innumerable stores in the larger towns or in cities. You can typically recharge this card by telephone using your credit card. If callling abroad, it would be best to have your party call you right back. Unlike the United States, French cell calls are always charged to the calling party, and not to the receiving party.
French phone numbers start by “0”, and in the Alps region all start with 04. You must dial 10 digits for all French calls. International calls start by 00. The national code for the US is 1, hence dial 00 1 + area code + number. For Britain dial 00 44 + area code + number. From abroad, callers to French phones must drop the first 0, ie for the Alps: 4…….