charming chamonix & l’aiguille du midi
A few weeks ago, when the fall colors really started turning and I was finally starting to recover from being sick, we spent the weekend in Chamonix, France. Martin and Reese picked me up from work and after a quick dinner stop we headed south. One of Martin’s acquaintances from the world of rugby was staying in Chamonix for a few more days at a place owned by his sister’s family and we were invited to join. I was a little on the fence about the whole weekend as I still wasn’t feeling amazing and didn’t really know what to expect, but Martin drove and we visited and listened to podcasts and the 3.5 hours went by quite quickly.
saturday in chamonix
As it turned out, the house was an amazing newly built modern chalet next to a rushing stream and with spectacular views of the mountain peaks surrounding Chamonix. While Martin and the guys talked shop, he also took Reese along into town and I was able to enjoy a few quiet hours hanging out, reading, and developing my own desire for a mountain getaway.
By late Saturday afternoon, Martin’s friend was off to the airport for the long trip back to Australia and we headed back into town to walk around a bit before checking into our hotel for the night and getting dinner. Chamonix is a picturesque little town with a main street packed with name brand sports outfitters from Patagonia to Columbia, Moncler, Helly Hansen, and everything in between. Between these shops there were some tourist spots featuring lots of alpine mountain photography, restaurants and bakeries. Even though it wasn’t high winter season, the streets were pretty busy with visitors and shops bustling. We stopped at a new-ish coffee cafe called La Jonction before making our way back to our hotel.
As we checked in, the friendly hosts at Le Morgane Chamonix kindly upgraded our room (which was already a really good deal) to make more space for Reese’s travel crib, and pointed us in the direction of some dinner recommendations. The room was clean and spacious, and also came with access to the hotel’s spa space, which was unfortunately not open to the under 7 age group so we didn’t have a chance to check that out. I would definitely stay there again though.
For dinner, we walked over to Casa Valerio while sitting right next to the rushing river and enjoyed some delicious Italian food. Reese loved her pasta, as did I, though the focaccia was a bit too dry for me. Afterwards, it was back to our hotel for an early night of reading.
The next morning, we returned to La Jonction for breakfast porridge, bagels, and more coffee. After another pastry stop and (and a failed search for the farmer’s market which was probably Saturday morning as it turns out) we joined the crowd lining up for the cable car up to the summit of the L’Aiguille du Midi. Reese was thrilled about the ride up, even though it took some negotiation to convince the cashier as technically children under 3 are forbidden, though Reese turned out not to be the only little kid at the top (and it also wasn’t her first time above 10k feet).
From the panoramic viewing station at the top around 12,600 feet we had beautiful views of the fall colors and valley below, back into Switzerland and the Matterhorn, as well as to Mont Blanc. We also stepped into the “Void,” a glass sky box viewing area. Reese was a little hesitant at first but then stepped in and just giggled while looking down and around.
After checking out all the views, we headed back down to the mid-point at Plan de l’Aiguille for a hike to the Montenvers and the Mer de Glace glacier. While we ate a few snacks, we also had our pictures taken as souvenirs for some other random Asian/Indian tourists who thought Reese was adorable and apparently it was interesting that we were hiking with a toddler. I guess I can see how I might want to take a picture of an Indian family or cute kid if I was on a trip there.
Our hike was just under 4 miles meandering through beautiful alpine brush, rocks, and amazing fall colors until we reached the ridge above the glacier. I don’t think I have ever seen such a beautiful contrast between the snow-covered rocky peaks and the rich autumn foliage. It makes me want to go back again this time next year.
Once we reached the Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice) we could only look down and wish we had been a little earlier in the season. The cable car down to the glacier itself and ice grotto were already closed for the summer season. The Mer de Glace is the largest glacier in France, 7km long and 200m deep and is one of the biggest attractions in the Chamonix valley. The historical photographs and signboards outlining the declining height of the glacier over the last century were really amazing (and depressing) to see. Next time, we’ll come a bit earlier in the season so we can also see the sites down on the glacier and enjoy it a bit more than just riding the cogwheel train back down to Chamonix.
The drive home was scenic and eventful, thanks to Reese’s first time getting super car sick on the windy road back down into Switzerland, but after we got her cleaned up and changed she had already started feeling better and was fine for the rest of the trip home.
All in all, it was a great weekend, and now I’m deep into imagining renovating or building our own mountain chalet. More on that to come in another post. Until then, I’ll leave you with more of our favorites from our weekend.
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