vendredi 22 août 2008

Back to Chamonix, again

To escape the heat we went up to the mountains the weekend before last, to Chamonix, which, it is fairly safe to say, is my favorite place in France. B hadn't been there before. It is just so gorgeous I think it surprises everyone when they first arrive. The town stands at 3400 feet, so it was cooler and less humid during the day than Lyon, and got nice and chilly in the evenings. We stayed at the Hotel Alpina, where our room was OK, if a bit small. You might generously call it cozy.

We arrived Friday afternoon too early to check into the hotel, so we went to the Scandanavian bar Chambre neuf to watch the Olympic opening ceremonies. We missed most of the spectacle and arrived in time to see the countries parading in. While at the time the countries appeared to me to be occasionally in alphabetical order, but more often not so, someone at work explained to me that apart from the first and the last, the countries came out in order according to the Chinese alphabet "stroke order," I believe she called it. The Chinese order words according to their complexity of strokes. Who knew? Not me.

On Saturday we went for a hike. Someone at a hiking shop where we stopped to buy a map had advised us that a good hike is taking one of the many téléphériques up the mountain and hiking across to another, or down, or further up from there, depending on your energy level. He pointed us in the direction of the Brévent téléphérique and off we went. Oops. It turned out to be under construction and the entire area under it was closed. Instead, we headed along the path called Petit Balcon Sud, which heads east along the valley towards the Swiss border.

Later we came out of the woods a couple of towns over, in the town of Les Tines, where we stopped for a coffee. Below, crossing the Arve river. The Arve starts there in the Chamonix valley, with runoff from the Mer de Glace glacier. The water is a cloudy bluish-green and looks quite unlike any other river I have ever seen.
We walked a different path back along the valley floor, which wound through woods and along the river, and we passed various small guesthouses. Below is the yard of a cafe where we stopped for ice cream.
Above us were Les Aiguilles.
And Mont Blanc in the distance.

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