Saturday, August 31, 2013

More Chamonix - More Mountains - More Pics...

August 16, 2013 - More Chamonix

So we're on our way back to Chamonix. We were quite taken with the town, and we thought that, since we're on the back end of our trip (we leave on the 18th to go back home), it would be nice to putter around the town. 

Art in the Square
Hubby thought it would be a great idea to get a day-pass so that we could take in some of the mountains, perhaps ride the tramways and gondolas and generally get up in the air. For you wags and wits: The caption of the first picture is "Art in the Square" and NO, I don't think this man is not to my knowledge named Art...

1:15 p.m. -- I'm half-way up to the top of one of the highest peaks. I'm stopping and waiting for Hubby, who has decided to go higher. 

In true disclosure, I meant to get more fit for this trip. Really, I did. I lost a lot of weight, and that was good. But I didn't really exercise as much as I should have. Hubby tried to encourage me, but in all honesty: it didn't happen. My stamina wasn't where it should have been and it's my own darned fault. 

However, we're here. I just refuse to berate myself for it. It is what it is. I have to acknowledge that I didn't do what I thought I should have, and also -- I have to listen to my own body. I tell my yoga students that all the time: Honor what your body is telling you.

And mine, today, was telling me to wait for Hubby; I have had some trouble with stairs and the thin air. It was just more comfortable for me to perch myself on the handy boulder next to the steps and acknowledge that my legs were shaking. I'm sitting here watching clouds float by my face. There's glacier training and crevasse training going on below me. This stop was our alternate because the lot at Aiguille du Midi was packed. This is approximately the spot from which Hubby did his Leap. 

Walking down the street
Interesting: the sun is quite bright, but the breeze is very chilly. I can see a peak where, at the very top, it's split into 3 borders. Will have to ask Hubby what it is; Caroline, his pilot, told him. I forgot what he told me.

These people are all over the glacier like ants! It's so bright that I don't even feel like I'm wearing my sunglasses. The snow reflects the light and the thinner air just makes it all feel more "crisp" and shiny. 

Head in the clouds...
BIG cloud passing through where I'm perched. Now, I suppose, I can say that "my head was in the clouds!" and mean it. I asked the person in one of the tourist info booths what our altitude was. He said we were about 10,800 feet up at this point. 

4:05 p.m. -- Hubby is higher up on Aiguille du Midi -- I'm about as far as I'm comfortable with. I'm at the mouth of a small tunnel which you can go through to grab yet another lift to the ultimate destination: Pointe Helbronner - and the Italian border is right there. Women are coming out of the gondola area in ballet flats and mini-skirts! I'm freezing. They're walking alongside climbers (or "Alpiners" as the guide calls them) who are bundled up like crazy. I got some video on my camera and we'll head back down to Chamonix and the long walk to Mildred at about 5:30 p.m. When you get up on this part of the mountain, they give you a ticket and you get called to come down to the departure area at a certain time. 
Aiguille du Midi

When we were in the staging area down on the ground, we ran into an entirely OBNOXIOUS family. The matriarch of this family asked us to move so that her family could all be in one place. Fine; no problem. But then a couple of the teenage boys were lagging. She kept giving us kind of a stink-eye and acting as if we were cutting in. No, we weren't. Then she got into a pretty loud confrontation with their tour guide. I have no idea what she was asking for, but apparently they solved their differences. But it was just uncomfortable because they were very pushy and I don't mean just verbally. Take a number, people. We all had to do the same thing.

So we are far above the clouds and I can see the tops of the thunderheads. My pen is either seizing up because of the altitude or freezing up because of the temperature! Hubby checks on his GPS app for our altitude and info. We went up even more steps, at this point, and I'm ensconced on a bench in the inevitable souvenir shop. Hubby went higher...  I am not afraid of heights, but I'm feeling wiped out and slightly dizzy. He says that's not uncommon. Good. I'm not a wimp.

4:40 p.m. -- Twenty more steps, Hubby convincing me to come sit in the cafe. Even HE is winded and feeling the altitude. Now, according to the information posted, we are at 12,605 FEET UP IN THE AIR. The air is so thin, I'm having trouble keeping my bearings. He was trying to text, and had a hard time hitting the right keys. I have my usual knitting with me, and I'm just staring at it. He asked me what was wrong, and I said, "I can't remember how to purl." Seriously... 

Busy street
We'll be going down to the cable area to catch the gondola back to the bottom. Frankly, I'm kind of happy we are BOTH feeling weird. There's a tight band around my head (not my hat) and my ears are plugged. I have finally managed to knit 2 rows of the scarf but it was like I was 7 years old and had only barely started to knit. 

7:05 p.m. -- Getting back off the mountain was a huge cattle-call. Some folks didn't have their tickets; there were Alpiners coming off the slope; people were ignoring the fact that the guy in charge was calling "Ticket 35" and were shoving and trying to get on the cars. I admire him - he didn't threaten to shove someone off the mountain! They were letting the Alpiners on the gondolas, but only a few at a time - the equipment they had, ice axes, etc. and the fact that they were packing the cars to their limit - it was a way to get everyone down safely. 

Hanging out at the take-off spot
We're back down in Chamonix and at Bar Brasserie Pizzeria -- not uncommon to see a dozen pizza places. Then we find Mildred and head to the hotel.

Totals for today: 6 lifts - 3 of them doubles. Three different mountains: Brevent (8,284 feet), Grand Montets (this one is at 10,700 feet) and the grand-daddy (aside from Mt. Blanc, but it's right next to it) Aiguille du Midi (at 12, 605 feet) -- and strangely, we tackled them "small, medium, large" in order. Rick Steves said that Midi should be the first, but truly, I'm glad we did it our own way. 

As we descended, we felt our brains getting back to normal. I wish I would have taken a picture of my water bottle! It was a little squished.

And our dog count rose by 2: a little rat terrier on Brevent who allowed me to scratch his head, and a Great Pyr as we got to the pizza place. 

Soooooooooo - pizza place was a dud. Our waitress must've been on her first day. I had a 4-cheese pizza and Hubby had a Hawaiian. Two tables who came later than we did got served before we did. My pizza sat in the window a good 10 minutes - she had to have the cook stick it under the broiler again... She also set down a Spaghetti Carbonara at the table next to us - and the person wasn't even seated. Spaghetti Carbonara is basically "eggs and bacon with spaghetti." Quite good, actually, and they serve the egg still in the shell, so you stir it directly into the (when you do it right) hot spaghetti. This sat. And sat. And sat. The guy finally showed up (it was a large group) and he just ate it. Ick. The egg wasn't going to scramble properly in nearly-cold pasta. I wouldn't have eaten it.

Chapel in Chamonix
At least 3 tables came, sat and then left when they weren't served. One of the servers was running her butt off, but ours? Not so much. 

Ok, so the pizza was pretty good, but we had to flag her down to get the check. She took our money, and disappeared. Hubby had to go find her. 

You know you've been in one place too long when you start recognizing the landmarks! We retrieved Mildred and started back.

Tomorrow will be a very laid-back day. We leave on Sunday, and honestly, while this has been a fantastic trip, I'll be glad to get back home. 

Tragedy of massive proportions... This morning, Hubby's laptop died. Well, it wouldn't re-start, but we figured he'd deal with it when we got back tonight. Dead. As. A. Doornail. 

Arches on the highway
I asked him if, please by the grace of God, he had kept all the pictures ON the memory cards! He said that he had "briefly" considered wiping them after each day, but remember - we brought lots of them. So he didn't clear any of them off, even though he downloaded them to the computer each day. Whew. Just -- WHEW. I'd have cried. 

We discussed our day and figured yeah, we probably could have gone on a few more lifts, but at the first stop (Brevent) we hung around and got lots of nice pictures of the paragliding folks and just took our time. 

As I'm finishing this up back in the hotel, I figure it was the altitude that got to my pen. I see by the ink marks, the ink is now flowing normally. There you go...

PARAGLIDING = when you're sitting in a harness. PARASAILING = when your legs are stretched back of you and the frame is more fixed. So we were actually GLIDING. 

Tomorrow, we decided, would be Annecy. It's close and the weather is still forecasted to be a little dicey. 

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