Driving to Mont Blanc
Today was the first snow fall of the season! The road from Martigny in Switzerland to Mont Blanc in France was mesmerising. The entire landscape was coated in soft, glowing white sun-lit powder. It was sheer magic!
‘Gareth, I really want to go up there in the cable car!’
I had just caught sight of the Mont Blanc massif. And my photographer’s eye was gleaming.
“Not on my radar!” said Accidentally Cultured (AC for short) trembling with fear.
It’s a photographer’s paradise to ascend to the peaks in the cable car. Having a little jest I suggested we do this. But, even Gareth, champion skier that he is, was rather relieved by AC’s comment.
Shopping in Chamonix
It did not take me long to realise that it would be better to shop and eat than try to go up in the cable car. Also, the weather was bitterly cold. And, I had my secret doubts about the quality of the heating in the cable car. In fact, the weather was so bitterly cold, we were fearful AC would freeze to death in his tattered old coat. So, we search all the coat shops in Chamonix for a cheap coat to replace the ugly one we had just trashed. And, here he is, proudly displaying his new coat.
I was keen for a repeat performance of my favourite crêpe in Chamonix. So we found La Potinière where I indulged in the creamy delight of lardons, crème, and fromage crêpe washed down with rosé. AC, on the other hand, clearly preferred the indoors and ordered a three course lunch!
To help lunch digest we decided on more shopping. The French food had my interest, especially the ‘produits regionaux’ in the ‘charcuterie’ behind Gareth and Pebbles.
Meanwhile AC went in search of his favourite beverages. And, here is hoping to give the impression that he was exercising in the Alps. But, he is actually eyeing off the beer and rosé in the wine cellar.
We discovered that rosé is a very popular wine in Europe and even in Morocco. This European rosé is not sweet, has a delicate flavour, crisp on the palate and very suited to our indulgent lunches.
Of course, the beer and rosé are also the perfect accompaniment to the diverse varieties of saucissons et fromage.
Our next stop was afternoon tea and here is a small sample of what accompanied our coffee.
Les Bossons Glacier
Although snow clouds covered Mont Blanc, the glacier was visible. Les Bossons Glacier descends a total of 3600 m, from the highest summits of the Massif, making it the largest icefall in Europe. It moves at a speedy 1 metre per day, and eventually meets up with the icy cold stream running through Chamonix.
There was still time for more shopping, and here is Gareth waiting outside the organic food shop with Pebbles, yet again.
And here is Pebbles dreaming about her adventures in the snow, as all Swiss dogs do.
Our last stop off for the day was dinner in the Cap Horn restaurant. In France and Switzerland, it is customary for one’s dog to be allowed to sit in the restaurant with its owners. The family pet, Pebbles, exhausted from a busy day exploring, was peacefully snoring under the table of the exclusive Cap Horn. Suddenly, with a fierce flourish, AC threw the window open and asked in a loud voice,
“Did she do one?”
I was undecided whether he was doing a cover up, or whether he was referring to digestive problems of the dog. After all it was his second three course meal for the day, not to mention, the cakes for afternoon tea. Not surprising whilst swallowing a mouthful of steak he spluttered,
“My main compartment is full.”
This meant that his dessert stomach was ready to be filled up.
Being in France, we thought it was entirely appropriate to indulge in a Grand Marnier soufflé.
“That’s taken the billy off my stomach!”
I think this meant he enjoyed the soufflé.
Planning a Visit to Chamonix
It is possible to visit Chamonix and do more than just shop and eat. The website www.chamonix.com covers an enormous range of activities for each season and all tastes for adventure and culture.
For the truly fearless it is possible to ‘ Step into the Void’ which means standing in a glass cage at 3842 m for a better view of the Chamonix Needles, Mont Blanc and the Aiguille du Midi, not to mention the sheer drop below. There is also a ‘Panoramic Gondola Mont Blanc’ offering views of the Glacier du Géant across to Italy.
My taste for history, culture and the scientific would be well satisfied by riding in a little red rack and pinion railway car to Montenvers. Not only are there panoramic vistas of La Mer de Glace glacier, but it is also possible to go inside the glacier. The ‘Grotte de Glace’ is annually resculptured with current exhibits describing the life of mountain people in the 19th century; and in the ‘Glaciorium’ the evolution of glaciers is explained. ‘The Temple of Nature’, completed in 1788, is the oldest refuge in the Alps and has displays that bring some famous scientists to life.
For the mineralogists there is a splendid display of the minerals found in the Mont Blanc region in the Crystal Museum in Chamonix.
My favourite story is the construction of the cable car. In 1949 a caravan of 30 mountaineers took two days to hoist 1700 m of cable to the top of Mont Blanc. Each man had a portion of steel cable wound on a wooden frame and tied together they hauled the cable to great heights. This feat enabled luxuries like terraces, restaurants, toilets, telephones to be installed and enjoyed to this present day.
Everyone deserves to experience this magnificent place at least once in a lifetime!