Having spent a spectacular morning yesterday 3,000 metres dizzily high in the mountains at Aguille Du Midi, and not to mention my mildly embarrassing fainting episode from altitude sickness that has been the centre of all jokes, today was a slow and relaxed kind of day. Every day I spend in Chamonix begins with the thought of how charming this little alpine town is, and even though it’s February, it still feels like Christmas each evening. Night market activity. Holiday delirium. Slish slosh of wet snow under boots. Jovial adventure seekers descending down the mountain following hours of skiing and snowboarding. A horse drawn sled by a guy that suspiciously looks exactly like Santa Claus. Even a few stray Christmas decorations have hung around. Do the locals feel this merry holiday spirit even after Christmas has been done and dusted? And if so. I want to live here forever!
We decided to check out another section of the mountains – Montenvers. In 1700, mountaineers endured fatigue and wild conditions to reach the 1913 metre high site, we are taking a comfortable little red train from a platform next to the main station. The 108 year old journey on the funicular railway is a unique experience, not too many of these rack railway trains exist. Chugging and rattling, climbing in a spiral direction around the sides of Aiguilles de Chamonix and through the vintage windows we see snow capped trees. Visible ravines. Snow flakes. Chamonix down below disappears with every metre climbed. It’s a magical winterland. The vintage train takes roughly 20 or so minutes to climb to an altitude of 1,000 metres which compared to yesterday’s excursion is quite slow. The Aigulle du Midi cable car whizzed us up 2,309m in 8 minutes. Speed and daring views from yesterday are replaced by sweet serenity.
We are the first passengers to arrive, the train pulls into a station on a ridge, directly opposite the main attraction, Mer de Glace. France’s largest glacier of 7km in length and 200 metres deep. It’s dramatically, a sea of ice spilling out from the mountain. We’re told every year it shrinks, imagine what it would have looked like in 1700. The snowfall is fresh on the top, it’s fluffy and angelic white, I want to dive right in and do backstroke into it, if it wasn’t for the fact that it was freezing and I’m certain I would injure myself trying to attempt this. We have a couple of cappuccinos and Nutella toast inside the cosy warm terrace cafe.
Up top there’s an ice cave (winter months), restaurant and cafe, museum and Grand Hôtel. It would be pretty cool to spend a night in the mountains, most of the early writings about Montenvers entails ghosts and evil creatures. The tale of Dr Frankenstein and his monster originates from Montenvers.
The Montenvers Train
Last glimpse of Chamonix below
To show the enormity of these mountains, in the circle below is a helicopter!