Chamonix & Mont Blanc

Lucy & I decided to take a day trip to Chamonix yesterday. We’ve lived in the Alps for a year and a half, but still haven’t actually seen much of the Alps… So after two hours and three trains, we made it to Chamonix, which was surprisingly warm for February. Then after another hour of searching for a bathroom and the Tourism office, we finally found ourselves at the télépériphique to go up to the Aiguille du Midi.

After having a mini heart attack upon seeing the price – 38 € ! thirty-eight freaking euros !– for the privilege of going up to the top, we handed over the small fortune (well, for us anyway) and climbed into the cable car. About 25 minutes later, we were on the terrasses overlooking Chamonix and the snow-covered Alps.

The Aiguille du Midi takes you up to 3,842 m

We stayed up there for about 3 hours, taking pictures and videos of the mountains. The highest level of the Aiguille du Midi gives you a great view of Mont Blanc (the tallest mountain in Europe!) You have to take an elevator up there, but it is free even though the sign down at the office in Chamonix says it costs 3 €.

Mont Blanc – latest measurement puts the summit at 4,808 m

The restaurant on the Aiguille du Midi is only open mid-June through mid-September, but there is a small overpriced cafe. FYI, their croque-monsieurs aren’t so good.

We both got bad headaches (I think the glare got to us) and sunburns on our faces. We didn’t actually forget to bring sunscreen, but we did forget to put it on. ::sigh:: Climbing the staircases to go from terrasse to terrasse will make you get out of breath easily – but don’t worry, you’re not out of shape, it’s just the thin air (or at least, that was my excuse…)

You can also buy a one-way ticket for 35 € and then ski/climb/hike all the way down. But man, that’s a long way.

Look how close I am to Europe’s tallest mountain!

Other highlights of the day included tricking the automatic public bathroom (no way were we both paying 40 centimes!), marveling at the “British Foods” section at SuperU, and being lucky enough to sit way across the aisle from a sick little girl on the train. The woman sitting directly across from her was not so lucky.

One last piece of advice – if you buy your return train ticket at Chamonix, make sure they sell you the right one. I bought my ticket at the machine, and Lucy bought hers at the counter and since we both have the Carte 12-25, they should have been the same price. But somehow she was charged 5 euros less. Apparently the lady sold her a période bleue ticket when we were leaving in a période blanche, even after asking Lucy what time we were leaving. If we wouldn’t have noticed this and changed it right away, Lucy probably would have been fined on the train even though it wasn’t her mistake. Never trust the SNCF!!

Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.