It took 3 days, two planes, a stop in Iceland, and a bus, but we finally arrived in Chamonix, France-the mountaineering capital of Europe. I had been once before, years ago with my then husband to hike the 8 day Tour de Mont Blanc and Chamonix had remained in my mind as the most beautiful town I had ever been to. I was eager to see if it still held up. It did not disappoint. Upon arrival we called our Air B&B host to let them know we were there and were ready for them to come meet us with a key. They were very apologetic, but said they wouldn’t be able to make it for a bit as downtown was closed to traffic due to the start of a foot race. Sure enough, a few moments later, a gun went off somewhere, not far away, and soon we were pushing along with the rest of the crowd to get a better look (luggage still in hand) at the 3,000 runners stampeding through town. It was the 100 mile Mont Blanc Trail Run and the runners were geared up with headlamps and everything else they’d need to be running for the next 20-40 hours. What a way to start our visit with a bang! It was SO exciting.
Our apartment was situated on the Rue Docteur Paccard, the main street through the village. We could stand at our window and look over the beautiful old buildings to see the mountains, the chair lifts, and the Bossons Glacier. When I came down with the inevitable cold one gets from international air travel, I lay on the couch and looked at the snow-capped mountains and listened to the strains of a street performer and his accordion float up on the breeze and thought, “Shoot, being sick isn’t half bad.” We could walk out the front door to crepes and champagne, outdoors gear shopping that left us drooling (or high-end handbags if that’s your poison), hiking trails, gondolas and chairlifts to whisk you up the mountains. I’m not sure it gets any better.
We spent our first full day just walking the streets, window shopping, people watching, eating and getting the lay of the land. There were beautiful fountains around town that are water, fresh from the mountain, wonderful for drinking. That evening we went to a tiny, ancient movie theater down the street to watch a movie in French. Neither of us speak much so we thought it would be good practice and a gesture towards cross cultural good will to see something not made in Hollywood. We didn’t understand a word, but had a good time nonetheless. It was an early night for us as tomorrow we were to hit the mountains.