Posted by: vlibrizzi | August 31, 2009

Mini-Vacation in the Alps: Yodeling in Chamonix

DSC_1575On Friday we took a train from Annecy up through the mountains to Chamonix, which is nestled in a valley in the Alps. When you look up from the center of town, there are mountains everywhere! On one side, you see Mont Blanc’s snowcapped peak, and on the other side, you see green mountains. It’s amazing!

But, as soon as we arrived, we noticed hundreds of people in the streets. Then, we remembered how hard it was for us to find a hotel room this weekend (nearly impossible!) and we put two and two together—there was some kind of international event going on. 

 

DSC_0065I asked the guy at our hotel’s desk about what was going on and he looked at me like I had two heads: “The UTMB is this weekend.”

We had no idea what the UTMB was.

But after walking through town, through the hoards of people from all over the world, we figured it out. The Ultra Trail Mont Blanc is a mountain race that lasts two days. The participants climb over 200 kilometers in two days up mountains. It’s grueling, and definitely something that I’d never want to do…ever!

But, it was a great weekend to be around. It was like being at a 48 hour party. 

So, after dealing with all night long noise as race participants crossed the finish line (which was right outside our hotel room window—now I know why it was one of the only hotel rooms available in town this past weekend!), we woke up a bit groggy, but ready to hike ourselves on Saturday.

DSC_1700Unfortunately, the busses in Chamonix are a bit like the busses in Fontainebleau—-completely unpredictable. 

We waited for an hour and a half to take a bus to a chairlift outside of town which we could take up into the mountains to hike around for a bit, but the bus never came. 

Once it did arrive, C. was inside a convenience store buying us some water. Suffice it to say, the bus driver wouldn’t wait. And we missed the bus. 

So, we gave up on our first hiking idea and made lemonade out of lemons. 

DSC_1620We decided to take the Aiguille du Midi lift to get views of Mont Blanc, and then another lift across the border into Italy. You can see me in the photo to the left at the top of teh Aiguille Du Midi lift at 12602 feet…our ears definitely popped 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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While we were up in the lifts, C. stuck his head out of the gondola (which was against the rules, but he did it anyway). He said that it was the strongest silence he’s ever heard.

 

 

 

 

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It was freezing at the top of the mountains, but the views were unbelievable! You can see us posing in front of Mont Blanc in the photo to the left.

 

 

 

 

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After we reached Aiguille du Midi, we took another gondola across a mountain (you can see the gondolas in the photo to the left) to Italy, the Helbronner lift. At one point, we were suspended, hundreds of feet atop a glacier in our small, wobbly gondola. Clearly, it wasn’t a trip for those with a fear of heights, but we loved it!

 

 

 

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Then, instead of taking the lifts all the way down into Chamonix, we stopped halfway and hiked down a bit. You can see C. looking into the valley below in the photo to the left. The views from the mountains were so amazing.

 

 

 

 

 

DSC_0052On our hike down, we stopped at a refuge (a small hotel in the mountains) for a snack: a cheese plate and some great Savoie red wine. 

We then hiked back up the mountain, took the lift down, and walked around town, enjoying the UTMB scene. 

Later that evening, we had dinner in town at a great restaurant called L’Impossible. The food, savoyarde cuisine, was fabulous. I had the cheesy, potato-ey tartiflette, and C. had a melt-in-your mouth leg of lamb. 

 

DSC_0078The next morning, we were determined to get every minute out of our Chamonix experience before we had to catch our train, then bus, then train, then train, then bus (ugh!) back to Fontainebleau. So, we took a gondola up to another mountain to hike around for a bit. 

We stopped at one point to watch paragliders jump off the mountains to fly around the valley. Honestly, paragliding was never something that I really wanted to do, but after watching people do it, C. and I were completely hooked. We’ve decided that we’re going to go paragliding for our 30th birthdays! Let’s hope we still have the guts then 🙂

We had to cut our time atop the mountain short because we had a train to catch, so we took the lift back down, grabbed two amazing hamburgers at Poco Loco to go (seriously, if you’re ever in Chamonix, you must try one of their burgers! Awesome!), and started on our 9 hour trip back to Paris.

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By the end of the weekend, we definitely didn’t feel like we could conquer the UTMB anytime soon, but we felt confident enough in our yodeling abilities (after testing them while hiking), and we fell in love with the Alps. We’ll definitely be back…maybe to paraglide in a few years. Who knows. Yodel-ay-he-hoo!

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