We were much too early to check into the hotel, so we left our gear in the car and walked down to the Aiguille du Midi cable car which runs to the top of one of the highest peaks in the Alps. It doesn’t take long and ascends to 3,842m above sea level and faces Mont Blanc. The cable car tends to be very full but they are very organised in how they manage that. You are given a plastic token with your cable car number on it and told the time to come back. We had an hour to wait so wandered over the road for a drink and to browse the winter items on significant sale whilst Chamonix prepared for the new winter season.
Once our hour was up, we boarded the first of the two cable cars and rode up to the top of the mountain. At the top, we explored every corner of the station. There is a small museum of ice climbing equipment, a ‘void’ experience, which is a glass box hanging over 1000m drop. The queue for that was huge, and it wasn’t something we were particularly interested in as you got the exact same view (and could even see into the box) from the terrace next to it.
There are a number of terraces scatted around the station giving different views of the surrounding mountains. I used this chance to try out my new tripod, which had been gathering dust in the hotel room for most of the time on this trip. Its a solid tripod, lots of setup options and i’m looking forward to trying the monopod mode. Light weight and folds up small, it should be a useful addition to my gear.
I had set up in one corner of the terrace when a climber came over the wall right next to me. I think he was expecting me to move, but I was two thirds of the way through a panorama shot using the marked degrees on the tripod and did not want to repeat all the shots again. As he apparently didn’t want to wait for me to finish, we got in each others way a little.
I was surprised by my camera at this point, which was telling me that there was no space left on the Compact Flash card. Without wanting to look into it in detail, I moved the shooting over to the smaller SD card (that is mostly there as a wifi card to get photos off easily for Instagram) to look into the issue later.
We climbed a long set of stairs up to one of the high points looking back on Chamonix, and you can really tell the impact of the lower air pressure at that altitude, as we were both breathing hard by the time we was at the top of a fairly small staircase and it took a while to recover.
Once we’d seen all the terraces, we were more or less out of time and headed into the queue to get back to the bottom of the mountain. It took quite a while, mostly waiting in queues and once we got down we found a nearby restaurant for a very late lunch.
It was then time to check into the hotel, so we went via the car and walked through Chamonix central (where i picked up a card reader to sort out my errant CF card, having not brought one with me) and found the hotel. The hotel is a boutique, decorated with modern styled alpine items, a wall made of coiled coloured rope for example. The room was small for two people but well laid out and well decorated.
As it was relatively late and the museums in the town were not particularly interesting, I went down to the spa to have a sauna, use the steam room and have a jacuzzi. All in all, it was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. My mate stayed in the hotel room readying whilst I sweated out all the water in my body.
Once i got back to the room and drank about a litre of water to rehydrate, we went up to the rooftop bar to look at its fairly famous view. The view was lovely but the bar was closed. We ended up going to the bar by reception for an hour or so finding somewhere for dinner and searching for the hotel we would want to use when we got to Geneva on Thursday.
At eight-ish, we headed out. Intending to stop in a supermarket or two and find me beard oil as my beard was wild and untamed by this point. Everything that wasn’t a restaurant was closed. My colleagues and I complain about Sweden and its early closing a lot, and i’m slowly realising perhaps it isn’t everywhere else that is strange, perhaps it is us being spoilt by London.
We ate at La Tablée, a restaurant next door to where we had lunch, I had garlic bread, a hunters chicken and ice cream with a spirit overlaid. My colleague had the menu, three courses for only slightly more than my one. We ordered a carafe of wine and a bottle of water. When the waitress brought the wine she saw there was no glass for my friend and got one from another table, and he had to stop her telling her he wasn’t drinking wine. She then poured him water, and seized by impulse I had to stop her pouring me a glass of water to tell her I wasn’t drinking it.
We walked back to the hotel intending to have a nightcap in the rooftop bar. We walked passed the ground floor bar where an impromptu karaoke session was going on with the piano in the corner and a half dozen tipsy singers. When we got up to the rooftop, it turned out it was technically open, but with no customers and no atmosphere. We went back to the ground floor, got some drinks and listened to some fairly terrible singing…
We’d declined the €20 rooftop breakfast as a bit of a bad deal and had planned to have the €8 express breakfast in the downstairs bar. Which was empty. The names of dishes were out in the display case, but the food itself was sadly missing. We decided to try the Extreme Cafe around the corner which we had passed a few times the day before and had made fun each time for being a 90’s hold out, and no doubt where the rad snowboarders chill before their big race against the evil Ski School for the fate of the mountain.