From Paris we hopped on the TGV and headed southeast to Chamonix. This was another place where I had lived back in the last century. Not long after I left, I ended up buying a miniscule apartment with what was my life savings at the time. I assumed it would be my nest egg. Said nest egg was sold when N and I bought our first house in Tahoe. That was the only wise investment decision I have ever made.
Chamonix in 2011 is both same same and different different to the place I left twelve years ago. Like many mountain towns, there are plenty of people I know who are still there. They might have spouses and kids and mortgages now, but they stay for the same reasons I wanted to. The mountains. In the past decade the town has certainly changed and grown. There’s a MacDo now, a few more roundabouts getting into town, underground parking and a Chanel boutique. For me the most revelatory difference was the receding glaciers. They were quite a bit smaller than I remember. And I heard that they’ve even covered one.
We were in Chamonix to see friends and do some exploring. I’d found a small flat in Cham Sud, ironically in the same block as my old studio. The views of the rental were much better though, looking out towards the Aiguille du Midi.
The mild weather was perfect for hiking, so I took N up to the Lac Blanc, which used to be my favorite hike. It’s a lot easier when the trams are running, as that shaves off 3000 feet of hiking. Alas, the off-season meant that the trams were closed, so we ended up climbing 4600 feet up and down. But the views were well worth it, even if I had difficulty walking the next day.
The following day my friend H suggested we hike up to the top of the Montenvers Tramway, which is on the other side of the valley from Lac Blanc. It was a great way to see where we had been the day before, but the highlight of that hike was encountering this incongruous sight at the top – a golf cart filled with haphazardly stacked taxidermied creatures. H’s suggestion of a photo ended up being my favorite photo of the trip.
And really, after a photo like that, that’s pretty much it.
While it was a brief trip that didn’t include skiing, it was nice to be in Chamonix during the ‘intersaison’. It was less crowded and much quieter. Which I didn’t mind at all.