Sunday, August 7, 2016

Pastries, Baguettes, and Bubble Water - Our Month in France, Part I

On July 1st, we made our way to O'Hare International Airport.  Somehow we had managed to pack all the clothing, climbing gear, and American snacks (read Trader Joe's licorice) we'd need for thirty days abroad. This I took as a good omen.  We needed luck on our side as we were already panicking about the impending avacado withdrawal (as part of our pre-trip research we learned they may not be plentiful and could also be expensive).  And despite a very delayed departure from Montreal and a power outage in the terminal, we made it to France... and so did all of our luggage.  Only a six hour car ride and a very slow-moving rental car company stood between us and our time in the French Alps.

Chamonix, as Brian described it prior to our arrival, is like Vail on drugs.  It is everything great about a mountain town and then some.  There was plenty of fresh air; there were trails to hike and rocks to climb; and there was gelato, lots of pistachio gelato.  There was never a day where we struggled to find something fun to do.  I was on sensory overload the whole time - a handful of mountains loomed above the valley, among them, Mont Blanc, which Brian summited after a mountaineering adventure with his guide, Jean Christophe. I never tired of simply taking in the scenery.

It was certainly a warm stay-over in Chamonix. We had plenty of 80-something degree days (or should I say 26+ C days).  We used more sunblock in three weeks than I may have used in my entire life, but romping around in the Alps for somewhere around 20 days made the sunblock-slathering and reapplying routine well worth it.  Evenings were cool and we slept, always, with windows wide open.  Ahh, fresh mountain air.  We also developed a strong pain au chocolat habit.  One of the many bakeries in Chamonix was just around the corner from our apartment and on the way to a few of the lifts; thus, one of the only French phrases we mastered was our breakfast order (complete with Bubble Water -- forget that still water!).

A climbing World Cup event was held in Chamonix while we were there, which meant we got our share of 'sports action' with a French twist.  Our friends, Scott and Steph, came to Chamonix mid-month, and were great company, both while Brian was out conquering "The Mont Blanc" and while we made our way through the list of local hikes.  Scott was also the catalyst for our exploration of  Le Tour de France. I'll be the first to admit that I'm no bike racing connoisseur, but I was sold after our trip to nearby Switzerland to catch one of the stages.  It was inspiring and terrifying to watch the bikers speed downhill and around corners, just inches from one another and from rowdy (often costumed) fans.  Thus, when Scott mentioned checking out one more stage, one back in France, we made a whole day of it. We packed lunch -- and chocolate and wine -- and rain coats (good thing because it was the wettest day of our trip) and caught a train to "Vive le Tour!" We even had a little cribbage tournament while S and S were in town.  We also tried some traditional French cuisine (less on the 'escargot and foie gras' end of traditional and more on the 'lots of cheese and cook your own meat' traditional) during our outings together.  We were sad to send them home but so glad Scott and Steph joined us in Chamonix.  We're already taking applications for our next adventure companions, location TBD :)

While I certainly don't glide off glaciers or make friends with donkeys on a daily basis, our time in Chamonix was, in many ways, rather routine and simple - it just all occurred at the foot of some major peaks in a town that captured my heart.

all our earthly possessions for the month 
one of our earliest exploration outings in Chamonix - to get our lift tickets

a day hike that took us past a herd of cattle and into Switzerland

from atop the Aiguille du Midi lift 

great views up high (also Aiguille du Midi)
our 10th anniversary outing, paragliding off a glacier

celebrating our 10th anniversary 
the view from our first apt. 
our friends came to visit, and Steph and I made friends with a local

we saw her two days in a row - she liked photos

so much to see and do in Chamonix 

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