We’ve always approached learning French in our own, unique way.
We knew we wanted native-speaker instructors. And not just any native speakers. We have always worked with experienced teachers, with a proven curriculum and lots of local knowledge.
And, we wanted a lot of instruction. In class and out, five mornings a week. Location was important, for a lot of reasons. We chose Chamonix because it’s beautiful and exciting and nestled below some of the world’s most spectacular mountains.
Because it’s summer and we’re in the mountains, we also want to be outside, hiking. It’s who we are: adventurous, energetic people who love the idea of learning a gorgeous language and then heading up into the mountains for an afternoon of fresh air and fitness, friendships and fun.
Where do you want to learn French? And once your lessons are done, how do you want to spend your days? If you’re like us, you’ll pack up your hiking boots and your English-French dictionary and head for the Alps. Allons-y!
I loved the French classes. Both teachers were amazing and super helpful. I loved the scavenger hunts we did with them.
- Lily Johnston, Darien, Connecticut
Day 1: Trip Start
We’ll meet in Geneva and travel to Chamonix at the base of Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in Europe. The Mont Blanc Valley, with its jagged mountain peaks, carved glacial streams and quintessential European towns, will be our home for the next three weeks. We will spend these three weeks in a gîte–a typical French inn used by mountaineers and families on holidays.
Days 2-5: Language Class, Hikes & Exploration in Chamonix
On our first full day in the Chamonix Valley, we will walk to school, meet our French teachers, take a placement test and explore the lush valley on a day hike. In the mornings, we will attend French class, seeking to improve our French in a fun, supportive environment. Through short skits, interviewing local residents in Chamonix’s main plaza and other hands-on activities, we will improve our speaking and listening comprehension. In the afternoons, we will explore the many trails in the Mont Blanc Valley. We’ll start with shorter hikes including Le Chapeau, the Mer de Glace overlook or Chalet de La Floria. These hikes are meant to help us acclimate, get to know one another and challenge us physically while providing fantastic viewpoints of the surrounding mountains, glaciers and valley. Through the week, our teachers will accompany us on various cultural excursions including a visit to the St. Bernard Farm and the High Mountain Emergency Rescue Center. At night, we’ll return to our gîte and cook dinners with local ingredients.
Days 6-8: Camp & Hike in Argentiere
In the nearby Alpine village of Argentiere, we will spend the weekend camping and hiking; surrounded by wildflowers, rolling meadows, jagged peaks and pastures full of grazing cows. Over two days, we will challenge ourselves with demanding hikes to rewarding viewpoints like the Point de Vue next to the Argentiere Glacier–a true highlight.
Days 9-12: Language Class, Hikes & Exploration in Chamonix
In class, we will expand upon lessons learned in the first week, continuing to improve our French through interactive activities both in and out of the classroom. With our teachers, we’ll visit the town of Annecy, dubbed ‘the Venice of the Alps.’ Annecy is larger than Chamonix and sits on the shores of France’s second largest lake. Our teachers will challenge us with a guided scavenger hunt through a local market and teach us about the culture in the Haute-Savoie Region. Afternoon hikes will continue to challenge our group as we trek to different areas in the Mont Blanc Valley like Chalet de Cerro. Our French will improve throughout the week with cultural excursions, like a visit to a local zoo, a bakery or cheese shop.
Days 13-15: Camp & Hike in Vallorcine
Near the Swiss border, we’ll take a train to Vallorcine at the northern end of the valley to spend our final weekend hiking in the Alps. From our campground, we will hike along trails to waterfalls, lakes and beautiful mountain huts. We will hike high in the mountains for astounding views of the Mont Blanc massif.
Days 16-20: Language Class, Chamonix & the Aiguille du Midi
During our final days in Chamonix, we’ll celebrate our French language skills on the Aiguille du Midi, the world’s highest cable car. We’ll watch mountaineers summit Mont Blanc and catch a view of the entire valley. We’ll descend halfway on the cable car and then hike the Grand Balcon Sud to Montenvers. We’ll explore an ice cave and hike down to the Chamonix Valley. At trip end, we’ll enjoy a final dinner in Chamonix to celebrate three weeks of fun, accomplishment and friendship.
15 nights in a private section of a gîte, a typical French inn used by vacationing European families. We will have regular access to showers and bathrooms.
4 nights of frontcountry camping with access to showers and bathrooms.
Itinerary may vary by group and is subject to change.
Improve your French, hike in the Chamonix Valley and experience French culture.
Students going on Language & Hiking France should prepare for:
- Full days of outdoor activities led by two caring Overland leaders
- Day hikes to viewpoints and mountaintops
- 12 days of French class for 4 hours each day
- A fun, supportive and wholesome Overland experience
We expect you to arrive to your trip fully prepared for all activities.
Preparing for the Hiking
On Language & Hiking France, you should be prepared for day hikes in the Alps on well-established trails through a variety of landscapes including forests and alpine environments. The terrain in the Alps can be challenging at times—there are some long, steep, rocky sections and occasionally some hiking on snow. A few days of hiking may be at elevations higher than 8,000 feet. In the month before your trip, you should break-in your hiking boots (wear them a lot!) and complete the pre-trip training (see below). Once on your trip, you'll find that enthusiasm and a positive attitude will help to make the trip a success for you... and for everyone in your group.
- 4 weeks before your trip: take three 30-minute hikes or walks in your boots.
- 3 weeks before your trip: take three 1-hour hikes or walks in your boots.
- 2 weeks before your trip: take three 1-hour hikes or walks in your boots with a backpack loaded with 10% of your body weight.
- 1 week before your trip: take two 2-hour hikes or walks in your boots with a backpack loaded with 10% of your body weight.
Preparing for Class
Overland's language programs require dedication to learning a language and enthusiasm about experiencing a new culture. Your classes will be conducted exclusively in French and you will speak French outside of class for approximately two hours per day. Your group will be divided into smaller language classes upon arrival; the classes will focus on speaking and listening comprehension in order to accommodate a range of skill levels. We recommend you arrive with at least one year of classroom instruction, or the equivalent experience (time spent studying abroad, for example), in French.
Preparing for an Overland Experience
Overland trips are wholesome, structured experiences with high expectations of each student’s behavior. You are expected to be enthusiastic, positive, helpful and supportive of your trip mates and your leaders. We ask that you leave your cell phone and electronics at home (cameras are always welcome), so you can fully engage with your group and your trip. Arriving ready for a challenge—and prepared to contribute to an enthusiastic group—will go a long way toward creating a successful trip. Please contact us if you’d like to discuss preparing for your Overland trip!