Chamonix, France

Earlier this spring, I added a few days onto a work trip to Geneva to wander a pretty Alpine resort town out of season and picked Chamonix, France after looking into the shuttle services from Geneva International Airport to the ski-side towns in June. (For recommendations of other ski resort towns within easy reach of Geneva, scroll to the bottom!)

Chamonix is unbelievably pretty. I loved the drama of the tiny, peaked roofs of the little chalets against sheer mountainside. The altitude of the surrounding Alps is among the highest in the region – Chamonix is home to Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, and only a tunnel drive away from Matterhorn.

Honestly, I was a little ill-prepared for this extra visit, and it seemed that every leg presented some absurd difficulty. Also, after finally finding the shuttle, an hour or so into the journey (when it was clear we were in the French Alps and nearing the destination), I got off the coach early. I knew I was aiming for the penultimate stop and since the driver changed half-way through the drive and the new one had some incomprehensible pronunciation, I found myself in the middle of Les Houches! Which is… more than an hour’s walk away.

And for a few extra little twists of inconvenience: there were no ATMs, I had only Swiss Francs, of course I speak no French, I had about 8% battery and it started raining quite heavily. It’s a good thing it was the cutest walk on Earth.

Dream childhood treehouse.

A truly adorable part of the world. This update isn’t heavy on detail and advice, but enjoy the scenery!

The trip was mostly a mini solo, photography retreat to take the most advantage of being so close to the Alps. I would’ve loved to have Jack with me, but for such a short trip a little time on my own with my books & camera was perfect.

Just unreal how pretty it is here.

Especially into the homes like this that are totally decked out in wood cuts, flowers and bric-a-brac.

The bridge leading to the little train that takes you up to the Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice).

The Airbnb I stayed in for a few nights – the Gingerbread House – about 25 minutes outside of Chamonix and alongside an American astrophysicist, a German traveller and a mother-daughter team from Texas.

The view from the breakfast bench!

The next morning, I got a ticket up the Mont Blanc massif: several cattle cars heaving with people up to the 3,000+ metre mark. This is halfway.

Peering out over the massif, watching the ice climbers make an intense ascent. Would love to do this one day.

The peak of Mont Blanc – the highest in the Alps – is just over 4,800 metres, so still quite a hike from the top of the lift.

To take a guided climb (not including equipment, but inclusive of shelters and food), it’s 1,100 euro a day, though it’d take a few days really.

At the highest point (3,800+ metres) taking the Aiguille du Midi cable car to explore the top. 

Above the clouds

The only person photo you get this time, I’m afraid!

Some ice climber, doing his thing

Waiting for this base jumper to take off!

Waiting for the wind to change enough for a safe jump.

Coming back down

Virtually timeless

Look how skinny that hotel to the right is!

Pretty Twin Peaks of Chamonix

Although I did come on this 48 hour visit looking forward to some alone time, the others staying in the Gingerbread House were pretty intent on hanging out, so we ended up going out to watch the Germany-Ukraine game (Euro Cup still happening) over burgers. The astrophysicist (Jim) studies ‘terrestrial seismology.’ The things you can do in this world!

My last morning, I went on a hike over to Bossons to see if I could make my way closer to the Glacier des Bossons.

Can you imagine having a glacier looming above your house like that?

A quivering little strand of forget-me-nots

Valais Blacknose and friends under the glacier

Made it close to the tip of the glacier – the last out of season, out of commission chairlift.

For future note! I asked a Swiss friend of mine in Geneva about other easy trips from Geneva for the best skiing when in season, and he recommended these top three:

Tignes, which has 300km of slopes and excellent skiing. Not the most exciting village though.

Les Arcs, which is similar to Tignes, but has a little more skiing at 425km of slopes.

Les Portes du Soleil, which is really a larger area of connected, smaller stations comprising 650km of slopes. Part of it is in France, the other part is Switzerland. The Swiss villages tend to be nicer and more expensive. Morgins, for instance, on the Swiss side, is quite nice. On the French side, Morzine and Les Gets are decent villages. The only disadvantage of Les Portes du Soleil over Tignes and Les Arcs is that it’s altitude range is lower, which of course means less guarantee of snow.


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