I settled into a routine here: I had a fun, though busy day out traveling and then I was in bed and asleep by 10:30. Thursday was no exception as Ed and I headed over to the ski resort town of Chamonix in France. About a 90 minute drive from Nyon, Chamonix is perched at the base of some breathtaking French Alps, most notably Mont Blanc which is the highest peak in the Alps.
On the drive to Chamonix we had the mountains in front of us the entire trip, which reaffirmed that we were headed in the right direction. We arrived in Chamonix around 2:00 and stopped at La Petite Kitchen for lunch where I had a steak onion and cheese sandwich with frites and hot lemon tea, very French. On our way to the Aiguille du Midi Cable Car Ed and I stopped at a bakery to pick up a pastry with the generic name delicieux--a name so generic in fact that Google images did not find anything that looked remotely like it. You're going to have to take my word that delicieux is a pastry made from filo dough, sliced almonds and raspberries and what tasted like mountains of butter.
A pastry in one hand and a camera in the other, Ed and I wandered through Chamonix in the direction of the Aiguille du Midi Cable Car, eventually finding the base station and ticket booth. Soon after, we were in a large 60-person gondola and assented the first 2354 meters up to Plan de l'Aiguille in about 10 minutes. We transferred gondolas and in another 10 minutes climbed to Aiguille du Midi at 3800 meters.
Once we departed the cable car, Ed and I had to get used to the fact that we were a couple miles above sea level. I'm not sure if you've heard but there's a lot less oxygen up there. Huffing and light headed we climbed several sets of stairs until we reached the bottom observation decks. A turn around the corner revealed the enormity of what we had just climbed; the mountains chained their way outward as far as we could see. Other than breathtaking (see what I did there?), the panorama of mountains flexed the raw power of nature and showed how small man really is. But then it got better.
Down the stairs, through a couple of convoluted hallways and across a bridge brought us to the base of an elevator carved into the rock. By 4:00 Ed and I were in one of the last groups to ride the elevator up those final meters to the 3482 meter observation deck. Up there we had a closer vantage point to the glacial peak of Mont Blanc. Though the sun was still up it was beginning its descent into the west, making the glacier and snow capped peaks shine and sparkle. I experimented taking a combination of various angles, panorama shots and videos on my camera but nothing really compares--this view must be seen in person.
Ed thought we might be able to see the Matterhorn on a clear day, but no dice. According to the various maps up there, Switzerland's most famous mountain wasn't visible from France's tallest. Not that it really mattered though as we saw a ton of other impressive peaks, both snow capped and not
After not long enough, we were ushered back down the elevator, through another convoluted set of stairs, bridges and hallways. We boarded the last departing gondola of the day back down the mountain. Going up may have been fast but going back down was faster. We transferred gondolas again at Plan de l'Aiguille and began our final descent. There were three cable towers along the route and after passing over each one the gondola would begin to descend a bit quicker which put us passengers in a temporary free fall; it was great.
When we reached the bottom a souvenir magnet and gelato were in order: banana's foster for me and rum raisin for Ed. The drive back to Nyon down a tight mountain road and through various mountain passes was traffic and border-stop free.
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