So, we’re in Europe. Let’s all just let that sink in for a minute.
I realize that Europe is a pretty common travel destination, and most American youths wind up in Europe sometime during or after college. But this American youth didn’t get that super exciting experience, so the fact that we are currently sitting in a “flat” in Switzerland is basically blowing my mind.
We flew into Geneva, Switzerland on the most delightful flight of my life (despite it being twice as long as any other flight I’ve ever taken), thanks to the Netflix-level of entertainment choices. Way to be, Delta. Way to be. From Geneva, we took a shuttle to Chamonix, France. By the time we got there, we’d been awake for about 26 hours, so it was a really fun game of “don’t fall asleep at the table.”
So, France. I feel like it’s really hard to mentally prepare yourself for a place so incredibly foreign, despite watching every Rick Steves show involving the region on Hulu. But man, oh man, did Chamonix deliver. For those of you who, like me, had never done much European geography learning, Chamonix is in a beautiful valley in eastern France, super close to both Switzerland and Italy. It is surrounded by THE ALPS, including Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in the area. As far as I can tell, everyone there speaks at least two languages (aside from us ridiculous English-only Americans), and exclusively eats bread and cheese (that’s “pain” and “fromage” in French). Oh, and a bottle of wine, at least when purchased at the the grocery store, is cheaper than a bottle of water.
In our first round of international couple travel, our luggage, naturally, did not make it to our destination until 24 hours after we arrived, which means we were without winter-wear for a delightful French snowfall. I forced my poor husband to walk through the streets with me, despite having only our fleeces to keep us warm. I loved it. Eric, maybe, not so much.
But check out the freshly snow-dusted view from our balcony the next morning. Dreamy, dreamy, dreamy.
I’m pleased to report that snow made everything in Chamonix even prettier. I can say that for certain because I insisted upon no fewer than 10 walks around town during our short visit.
Since our hiking boots and warm clothing didn’t arrive until late into our second day in Chamonix, we had to forego any hiking dreams, but opted for a train ride (the Montenvers Railway) up the Alps to visit the Mer de Glace, an enormous glacier with an ice grotto carved out to allow you to go inside the glacier! The train took us up to 6276 feet (that’s 1913 meters, if you’re into the metric system). We took a gondola from there down to a lower platform, where we then descended 420 stairs to the entrance of the ice cave.
Apparently you can ski on the glacier, as these wild folks below demonstrated.
I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen a glacier in real life before, so this was pretty spectacular. First of all, it’s in the Alps, so everything around the glacier is mind blowing. The inside of the glacier, itself, is this unreal blue that I don’t think I even have the words to describe (perhaps there’s an apt description in French?). Apparently they have to carve a new ice tunnel each year because the glacier moves quite a bit. (By the way, if you’re interested in seeing how climate change has impacted this glacier, check out these photos.)
Because restaurants in a French tourist town are pretty spendy (as we learned on our first night), we opted for a grocery store picnic on our hotel balcony (overlooking the Arve River, and of course, those lovely Alps). If I may make a recommendation, skip the storebought macarons and buy some from Chamonix Macarons (we did both). I wholeheartedly suggest the “café” flavor (even this American could translate that one).
My favorite thing about France? Aside from the mountains, snow, and macarons? Hearing, “Bonjour Mademoiselle” when I walked into shops. So delightful. Let’s work on that one, America.
Au revoir, France!