From the top of Aiguille du Midi I looked longingly at Italy which is just a short 5km cable car ride over the snow clad mountains. The idea of breakfast in France and lunch in Italy is so tempting! It is not to be though as the cable car to Italy is not going to start running until the 30th of June – and today is the 29th and sadly I have a date tomorrow with a flight home.
I am based in Chamonix, a delightful resort town that much like our Queenstown was originally a ski resort town that has reinvented itself as a summer destination for active holidaymakers who enjoy mountains. Hiking and mountain biking being the main two activities on offer. This little alpine village is very pretty with wooden buildings covered in flowering window boxes and a snow fed river racing straight through the middle. It does however look and feel much more Swiss than French. Much of the village is pedestrianised and filled with cafes, bars, restaurants and shops. There is no shortage of outdoor gear shops so if you have forgotten hiking boots or you need a few more layers there is plenty of choice.
I have taken the cable car up to the top of Aiguille du Midi. At 3842 metres this is one of the highest cable cars in the world – an amazing engineering feat. The 360 degree views are truly stunning and the day I go up have nothing but blue sky and sunshine. Mont Blanc is sitting there in all its glory and across the valley above Chamonix is the summit of Le Brevent. On the slopes leading up to Mont Blanc are little lines of climbers attempting their ascents. It is fascinating watching their slow progress up the mountain.
I however have to burn off some of the cheese and bread I have been devouring so have decided I need a good walk! I go down in the top cable car to 2500 metres and from here I walk around the slope of the mountains for about 8kms to the Mer de Glace. The well marked walk is pretty easy although there are a few rough patches of rocks and the odd bit of snow to negotiate. It is a gorgeously sunny day and there are wildflowers tumbling down the hillsides. Way down below you can see Chamonix sprawled through the valley floor and all around you are snow clad mountains – it is truly picture perfect!
At the end of the walk is the Mer de Glace glacier. This is famous for the Ice Cave that is built into the glacier every year. Artists carve out rooms and sculptures deep inside the glacier that you can visit. I find this pretty stunning and not as cold as I imagined – just as well as I only had one merino layer. I sit at one of the restaurants for lunch and watch hardy people take guided walks right up the glacier. Then it is off on the little Montenvers train for a quick ride back down to Chamonix. You can of course simply get the train up and back down from Chamonix but the walk from Aiguille du Midi is spectacular.
Down in the town I feel I have earned a good dinner and what better than a traditional Swiss dish – a plate of melted raclette cheese, a bowl of cooked potatoes, some gorgeous prosciutto and a salad – all washed down with a lovely little Rosĕ. I am in heaven!