Wednesday, April 3, 2013

C is for Chamonix

My parents and sister were still living in England during the first two years I was in college.  I headed back there for that insanely long break between terms that I realize I now completely took for granted. The day after Christmas we escaped to Mont Blanc region of France, for a week of skiing and relaxing in the Alps.

This was hands down one of my very favorite vacations- the perfect combination of activity, downtime and sightseeing. Buckle up- I took a ton of pictures!
Our hotel was located in Les Houches, nestled in the Chamonix Valley.  Here the most perfect skiing is done way above this sleepy town. Les Houches has slopes for pretty much all ski levels and one day when dad and I were feeling particularly confident we decided to take a separate gondola across a gorge to try another route.  We got into the car and as it began swinging across the abyss I was casually glancing around at the other occupants. That's when I noticed that I was the only one in there with rental skis. I was also the only one without a helmet (signed by Olympic skiers no less). And we were definitely the only Americans. After those red flags all I had to do was step off the gondola, take one look at the sharp, blind curve in front of me and know I was out of my league. So it was back onto the gondola and back across the gorge. I'm adventurous but not delusional.

Sister and mom aren't big fans of the slopes but we did drag my sister out one day with us...

After that, the two of them were happy to spend the rest of the time lounging in the sun and the snow,  reading, gabbing, and not falling down. That didn't keep them off the mountain though. Instead they hopped on the convenient (and a little bit scary) lift, sans skis, that dropped them off at this tiny hotel/restaurant way up on top. There they could enjoy chocolate chaud and watch the skiers come in and out.
One day we took a break from skiing to visit the Aiguille du Midi, which means "needle of the south." This is a specific mountain in the Mont Blanc massif and it's accessed by a two cable cars- the first travels from the village up 7,600 feet.  Changing into the second car you ascend to about 12,300 feet.  The summit ("le sommet"), at 12,602 feet, is accessed by an elevator up a center shaft in the mountain. The first ascent was in 1856. Don't ask me how, ladders were involved- yikes. It's a slow ascent and the sights from the cable car are breathtaking. You could even see some crazy people trekking out in the wide white open. In fact, if you bring your passport you can ski across the mountain down into Italy- there is an actual border crossing up there. 
Mom and sister felt some swaying on the platform below and the altitude was getting to them so they didn't take the elevator to the tippy-top with dad and I. When I stepped out of the elevator onto that deck an extra 300 feet up my eyelashes froze and the world opened up before me. 
Oh my gosh I haven't even gotten to the food yet! 
After a long day of up and down the mountain (or relaxing in the sun) we would head down into the village where we didn't have a single disappointing meal. 
Have you ever had raclette? It's a type of cheese and also a type of dish. This delicious wheel of cheese is cut in half and heated under a burner or over a fire. When it starts to get all melty and gooey you take a big knife and scrape (racler) the whole gooey stinky awesomeness onto bread or potatoes. Basically it's what I want to eat every day.  We also inhaled thin slices of beef cooked on a hot stones right on the table.  I learned there that I pretty much like my steaks rare rare rare, "bleu" as the French would say. Most meals concluded with crème brûlée,  or  tarte tatins.  

Take me back now please! 

15 comments :

  1. Take me back too! That was one of my favorite trips as well!

    Your posts are my favorite in the A-Z : )

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  2. Beautiful pix and enticing description. Thanks for sharing your travels through the A to Z.

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  3. Skiing in the Alps sounds like such a luxury to me. I hope someday I am able to make this trip!

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  4. Oh, what an awesome adventure, what a blessed young lady to have such experiences already under your belt. Great post!

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    1. You are so sweet. And I am so grateful to my parents for opening up the world to me. I do feel very blessed for the opportunities they gave me.

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  5. Amazing - it looks like you're standing on top of the world! I think I just found something to add to my bucket list... I'm only an OK skier but I can't get over the view.

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    1. I'm only an OK skiier as well and I promise you would be totally fine, plus the view is worth the challenge! I've heard it's also a fun place to visit in the summer- you can hike all over the glacier.

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  6. Breathtaking! I've never skied before so I'd probably be the one sitting with hot chocolate at the cafe :-) The pictures are AMAZING!

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    1. Thanks for your comment! Sitting in the cafe with hot chocolate would definitely not be a bad thing ;-)

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  7. Great trip. If you recall the temp that day at the top was -20 degrees. Awesome trip and you are a pretty good skiier.

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  8. Love, love love these pics! Would love to go skiing again someday, especially somehwere so beautiful!

    Stopping by from The Expat Diaries

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  9. WOW! This looks so amazing! I would love to head to the Alps one day, it's looks like such a gorgeous place! Thanks for linking up with us!

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  10. Found your blog on the link up- amazing photos! I would've been freaking out on a gondola with all very experienced skiers haha.

    -Ashley

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  11. Absolutely gorgeous! I love the view from the top with all of the snow and the clouds. I think I need to take a trip there as soon as possible.

    Thank you for linking up with us! :)

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  12. Take me with you! Those pictures are beautiful!

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