Hiking France on the GR5 and 52 Alpine Crossing:

Shopping and Communications

By David May

Copyright 2004 - 2017, All rights Reserved
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Table of Contents Links:

General Information:

1. Why the GR5 and GR52?


Who should use this site?

Other Long Distance Alpine Hikes

About the author

2. The Entire GR5, from the North Sea to the Mediterranean (three months) (only summarily described here).

Page describing the Guidebooks and Internet resources for the GR5 from Holland to the Alps.

The Alpine Crossing, from Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) to either Nice or Menton on the Mediterranean. Nice is a 4 weeks walk from Lake Geneva, Menton, almost 5 weeks. I recommend the walk to Menton over the GR 52 variant, if you can possibly find the time.

Types of trekkers - "purists" and "easygoers".

Costs and Budget

3. When to Go and When to Walk

Accommodation: Types and Reservations

Planning your Route

Meeting People

4. Trail Identification and Direction Marks


5. Books, Maps, Internet sites, GPS

Page with English translations of French Topoguide navigation terms.

6. Conditioning, hiking speed, rest days

7. Shopping and Communications

8. Top sights attractions:
Lake Geneva Steamer*;
Dent d'Oche**;
Chamonix area*** (a very slight detour; consider allowing three or more sunny days);
Sospel*and Aspremont* ;
Nice** and Menton**.

9. GR5 access points:

Author's Route Recommendations and Tips for the demanding hiker:

10. Starting Points on the South Shore of Lake Geneva: The official St. Gingolph or Thonon-les-Bains, vis-a-vis my preferred starting point of Evian-les-Bains. Advantages and disadvantages. Getting there. Detouring to visit the Dent d'Oche**.

11. Accommodations from La Chapelle-d'Abondance to Chamonix (or Les Houches).

12. Accommodations and route, Chamonix to Briançon.

13. Accommodations and route, Briançon to Larche: My difficult but thrilling back way out of Briançon.

14. From Larche to the Vésubie Valley.

Recommended for the intrepid: Partially off-trail variation in the northern Mercantour Park to beautifully austere and isolated lakes.

Short-cut to the lower GR5 or GR52, possibly saving a day or more and much more exciting terrain than the official GR5 route

Joining the GR 52 by bus from Nice via Isola 2000 or via Boréon.

15. From the Vésubie Valley to the Mediterranean:

Comparison of the GR5 to Nice vis-a-vis the GR52 to Menton: Two possible endings for your walk.

The GR5.

How to handle the 2,000 meter (6,600 foot) descent from the Valley des Merveilles to Sospel on the GR52.

Don't miss the stupendous GR52 final day from Sospel to the Mediterranean at Menton.


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 week, 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.


Internet Access

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 Internet cafés in the following towns (as of 2004), and perhaps in others:

Chamonix See list: http://www.chamonix.net/english/services/cyber_cafe.htm
Near Tignes Powder Café
Val d'Isère Le Petit Danois Bar-Restaurant 9am - 10pm
Briançon Cyber Café at 2 rue Pasteur, near Rond Point de Queras in the lower city.
Ceillac, Snack Bar Le Pourquoi
Isola 2000 (on author's route) Cyber Café Le Vieux Chalet
Nice or Menton


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.

You can also 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 using your credit card by telephone. As "portables" (cell phones) are becoming ubiquitous and pay phones rare, this option is strongly worth considering if you think you may need to telephone. If callling abroad, it would be best to have your party call you right back. Unlike the United States, French cell calls are charged completely 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.


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