Well the weather gods were smiling on us today, with perfect cloudless skies and no wind predicted and delivered.
A reasonably early start to the morning in order to catch the local bus (there aren’t too many of these) down the hill to the St Gervais – Le Fayet train station (main station for the area). We had a bit of time to kill on the station so just admired more stunning views of the mountains, literally all around us. We were on the 8:05am alpine train to Chamonix. This was a 45 minute train ride up the most magnificent Chamonix valley. Mountains to look at at every turn, amazing road infrastructure to admire, elevated highways built above sections of the villages below (no doubt streamlining the visitors to the ski fields!). It was not long before we had the most spectacular view of the many peaks of the Mont Blanc ranges, including the main Mont Blanc peak. It was breakneck viewing, as we were so close and the mountains were so high that they were actually hard to see through the train windows.
We arrived at Chamonix around 9am and wandered through the small town and found ourselves a place to have breakfast. At this hour of the morning, most of those wandering around the town were preparing themselves for one of the multitude of treks, climbs or some paragliding in the surrounding mountains, so most were carrying some sort of equipment – walking sticks, ropes for climbing or parachutes for jumping off mountain tops (crazy people!)
Fortified with some breakfast, we ventured up one of the cable cars to take us up to PlanPratz. This is part of the way up one of the mountains, and took us up to the start of our ‘easy’ walk for the day. Of course, cable cars and such things are never easy when you are scared of heights like me, but I wasn’t planning to miss out on things. So loins girded and eyes tightly shut we zoomed up the mountain!
Phew, made that with out too much trouble, now for the ‘easy’ walk! It was quite cool still, but we were on the side of the mountain that had the sun shining on us, so it was not long before our coats came off and we were warming up. Our ‘easy walk’ was supposed to be a reasonably flat walk between one cable car station and down to another one across the mountain. While it was not too steep, most of the track was rock and gravel and so was pretty tough going. However, every time Jackie and I wanted to have a grizzle about it being tough, we were passed by some elderly French couple, wishing us ‘Bonjour’! We couldn’t believe how many old people were up these mountains! We had been advised that the other cable car station was closed for summer, so we walked about ¾ of the way and then returned back up to where we started.
Our walk lasted 3 hours and was really very spectacular, mostly walking in terrain that, with the exception of a few parts, was treeless. This meant of course, we could observe where others were walking or climbing. As well, this is the area where paragliding was invented and so the skies seemed full of solo and tandem jumpers!
The mountain we were on was on the opposite side of the valley to Mont Blanc and the other key peaks. We had amazing views all day, such perfect weather. While we were not in snow, there is still a lot of snow on the very high peaks and also many glaciers to be seen across the valley. We finished our walk with a lunch of baguette and cheese before heading back down on that cable car back to Chamonix.
Our next activity, somewhat less strenuous, was the funicular train up one of the mountains to the Montervers glacier. This involved another cable car, down to the glacier itself to visit an ice cave that they carve out each year. As the glacier retreats the walk down to the face of the glacier gets longer and this year there were 400 steps each way from the bottom of the cable car. More fabulous scenery and an interesting perspective to the fast shrinking of the glacier.
While our mountain hike earlier in the day had been relatively quiet in regards to numbers of people. The funicular train catered for the less hardy tourist of which there seemed to be rather a lot!
Our day at Chamonix and admiring the breathtaking scenery finished around 6pm with the train journey back to St Gervais and the last bus up to our particular village. We stopped in at a restaurant close to our little hotel. Had a lovely dinner, a couple of glasses of wine, headed up the 3 flights of stairs to our room and collapsed heavily into bed!