Ahhhh…the Baguette in Chamonix, France

Saturday, September 5, 2009

For the next eight days, I will be traveling with a group of people with whom I have signed a blood pact that  states “what happens this week in France…stays in France”.   Therefore I have changed the names to protect the innocent.

Let’s say that that they’re all from a small town that we’ll call – Erie. Yea – that’s it – on a lake.  That’s Ray on the left, then Bill and me (I’ll keep my own name) Natalie and her fiance Jay.  The flexible one at the bottom is Michelle and she’s married to Bill.

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They arrived in Geneva on Saturday afternoon and I was waiting to meet them with a smile and the location of the rental car counter.  That was my last important contribution to logistics.  From then on – everyone else knew more about our plans than I did.

With two separate cars – two walkie-talkies – and a thing called a Tomtom that gave us directions from Sean Connery or Yoda – depending on your mood, I guess, we hit the road for Chamonix.

The town of Chamonix is in a beautiful little valley tucked into the northwesterly part of the mountain chain know as the French Alps and dominated by the largest of them all…Mont Blanc.

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The valley was created by glaciers a few years ago and some members of our group actually walked through an ice cave that was probably created by those very same glaciers. More on that later.

While the views surrounding the town are immense, the town itself is small and cozy running a mere 10 miles from end to end and counting only 10,000 as full time residents.

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It didn’t take much time for a “baguette” theme to develop.  Boys will be boys…

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Oh for heavens’ sake!

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During summer season this little town bursts with almost 100,000 visitors per day (60,000 in winter).

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I have to make note that every photo you see on the blog pages – Chamonix and Villefranche-sur-mer –  could have come from any one of us.  The benefit of having the laptop was that I got to download everyone else’s pictures and use them.

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With so many tourists, there is an obvious need to feed them – hence the multitude of eateries.  There were an equal number of lingerie shops, but I didn’t take pictures of those.

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Oh, I am in HEAVEN. Thank god everyone else likes chocolate and ice cream as much as I do – the guilt is a little less if someone else is eating it too.


Our daily gelato / ice cream/ glace fix…

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This is what I mean —Earth pleasure = two scoops – Heaven = ten scoops!

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It was sooooo good

There is a small river that flows directly through the center of town, the Arv, on its way down to Geneva where it joins the Rhone.

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Chamonix stands in good company as “sister” with other exciting towns around the world. The best, of course, is our very own Aspen – then Davos in Switzerland, Fuji Yoshida in Japan, some others plus Courmayeur in Italy – a lovely town that we had a birdseye view of from the top of the Pointe Hellbronner in Italy.  Alyce Henness (family friend) lives down there with her new husband, Lucca, and I waved to them both from the top of the mountain!

We are here just after peak summer season so the crowds are light and it feels more authentic.  In the entire town, there is only 32 feet of flat ground.  Seriously, 32 feet.  This space is located inside the Post Office.  Everything else is up or down.  I have to say  though that I was ready for the challenge.  You don’t make it through Tibet and Mt Emei without feeling as if you’ve got a few mountains under your belt and the Alps can just kiss my ass!  Bring it on!  Now with that attitude, you can imagine which one of us fell down the mountain first.

I’m fine!  A bruised ego never killed anyone…

Our home was a lovely little alpine chalet/townhouse at the top of a – you guessed it – a big ass hill.

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Two of the three people in the car (I won’t say who) with Michelle (who was driving) were really glad at that point that our car was an automatic.  OK – I was glad.  I won’t speak for Bill – but he looked a little pale. Our home contained three bedrooms and two bathrooms, a living room/kitchen/dining room and lots of stairs.  Surprise!  It’s funny how you begin to dread the stairs when you’re hefting the orange wonder up them!  How does this thing keep getting heavier?

The couples each took a bedroom – Jay and Natalie

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Bill and Michelle

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Ray took the bunk room

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And I took the living room.   I totally got the biggest room!  🙂  Privacy is vastly overrated.

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Our apartment came with all the necessities including a dishwasher, washing machine and dryer all in one – in the kitchen.

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Oops…no dryer.  And that little piece of information took us three days to figure out. How many adults does it take to use a washing machine?  Apparently more than 6 Americans.  We never did figure it out.  I know that Bill THINKS he figured it out, but since we never actually washed any clothes, I’m not buying it

Our first hike up the mountain was relatively easy.  It involved two gondola lifts and no hiking up.  Chamonix rests at a comfortable 3400 feet above sea level.  We took the Brevent cable car up to 8300 feet that afternoon.

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Note the climber half way up

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Looking down over the edge

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And the jagged peaks all around

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Lots of paragliding

Group Photo

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Michelle and Bill

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Ray has plans that none us want a part of.  Is there something special…like a parachute in that backpack?

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Kings of the World!

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Me, Jay and Natalie

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On our way down…

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It was peaceful – a time for a bite of baguette and some quiet contemplation…

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Enter the walking/sliding disaster on two feet

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Michelle — slid right down the hill and into Bill

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By the time we sashayed ourselves half way down the mountain – we were exhausted.  Whew!  It was time for some refreshments!  There is something so satisfying about working hard and then sitting back to enjoy a well-earned beer.  Have I mentioned that it was all downhill?  Come on folks – it’s harder than it sounds – really it is.

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These white lounge chairs were exactly what we needed to rest our aching bones (OK, I exaggerate) and from then on “white chairs” became code for “place to rest our bums, all other places with aches and pains and have a beer”.

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Yea! Beer !

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After this hike and a couple of beers, we found ourselves eagerly anticipating dinner – again.  We managed to have some really good meals in Chamonix.  Our first dinner was over the top with cheese fondue! There were some steaks on the table and various other items – but the cheese was the most fun.

It’s an attractive look – I know. There is actually a piece of bread in there – somewhere. It’s a little like watching second chin being created in real time.

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Another dinner was pizza night!

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This is our very first “Chamonix Cafe” on day one

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Michelle’s beer is the big one – this was, of course, after the drive down here. You would think Bill and I should have gotten the big one.

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There was a live German Oompah band!

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And this became our most favorite place in town. Michelle and I are trying to think of ways to copy it. The sandwiches are out of this world!

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That’s Poco…he’s impressive in front of a grill!

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That’s us out front with “Table Dog”.

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One of the most charming aspects of life in Switzerland and France is their dogs.  They take them everywhere and so we enjoyed the company of many a frisky and friendly pooch throughout our travels.

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And so we nibbled – we sipped – we slurped our way through the wonderful delicacies of Chamonix. It was a gastronomic extravagance 🙂

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Screw the calories!  We’re hikers!

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And the next day…we would put that statement to the test!

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