From Courmayeur, Italy to Chamonix, France
We loaded up the car for our final leg of the trip, three nights in Chamonix, France on the other side of Monte Bianco/Mont Blanc. From our fabulous little airbandb in Aosta, we made our way towards Courmayeur, where I wanted to stop off at the Cave Mont Blanc to pick up some wine. Sadly, they were closed and I was very disappointed! There was a lovely meadow of wildflowers next to them to cheer me at least.
You never know what you might see on the road in Europe! It was chilly and rainy for the drive, and we had planned to stop off in Courmayeur to shop and explore a little while. However, once again, everything was closed! A glowing Cafe Relais de l’Ange sign lured us in for an espresso and to warm up a bit. How charming! http://www.relaisdelange.com/
Time to drive through the tunnel to Chamonix – goodbye Italy, hello again France!
We were through the tunnel in no time and ready to get checked into our new place, Le Cristal de Jade, a MGM residences complex. What a fabulous apartment, and we loved our balcony and the view of the Aiguille du Midi lift and Mont Blanc. https://www.mgm-hotels-residences.com/en/residence-cristal-de-jade-chamonix
We wandered about in town and found a delicious lunch at one of the popular restaurants on the main street. We spent the rest of the afternoon unpacking and relaxing, followed by an evening walk around town.
The next morning we set out to explore the countryside around Chamonix. We had spent a few nights in the fall but didn’t have time to see much. After a delicious and filling breakfast at Omeletterie La Poele, we walked through town to find the tourist office and hiking information. https://www.chamonix.net/english/generic/La-Poele/5896
There was quite a bit of tourism info at the Tourist Office, however, not a great “hiking” brochure or map. Wally wanted to check out their golf course, so we drove in that direction. It was very pretty, but very pricey! It had begun to rain again, so he decided it wasn’t worth playing.
I navigated us to the Le Buet trail with the Cascade de Berard waterfalls. I had found trail listings on the https://www.chamonix.net/ website that listed trails and their descriptions. We parked next to the train station, walked across the street, through a scenic pasture, and up into the woods. This was a short hike that would be perfect for families with older children, or those that want a little bit of a challenge and adventure, but not too much. It does have some steep sections as you go up hill, but the waterfalls are worth seeing and there’s a little cafe next to them (if it’s open). I loved the cows in the pasture!
The weather was just all over the place that week.
Chilled, damp and hungry, we returned to our apartment to change and go in search of lunch. Elevation 1904 had a crowd and the menu looked good, so we grabbed an outdoor table and ordered – and it was a great choice! https://www.elevation1904.com/
We rested a bit and then plotted a drive in the opposite direction from our morning excursion. The Parc de Merlet (an animal park) caught my eye, so we decided to go that way. On the way up the hill, we noticed a HUGE statue in the woods, and later spotted signs for the Statue du Christ-Roi. So the road went up, and up, up, up, up, up to almost the top of the mountain. We began to see parking spots, but it still looked a long way from the park entrance, so we kept driving on a ways. We finally parked and then walked towards the entrance, which ended up being a long upward hike, only to find a parking lot much closer to the entrance and for handicapped parking. They have some amazing views up there, and there was a group of children there for a field trip. We decided to not to go into the park, wanting to find a moderate hiking trail instead, so headed back down the mountain. There is a trail head that begins right next to the park that goes over the mountain, but it was steeper and longer than we were up to doing. http://www.parcdemerlet.com/en/
On the way back down the mountain, we stopped off at a pull out to check out the Statue du Christ-Roi. This was a super cool little trail leading to the statue that had mossy rocks and slate, and Wally spied a porcini mushroom that had been nibbled on a little.
The sheer size of the statue is amazing!!
When we were back on the highway, the views along the valley were gorgeous and look at this glacier!
Driving back into Chamonix, we stumbled upon their local park and Lac des Gaillands, where there were rock climbing and mountain bike lessons going on. What a peaceful, scenic park to hang out in! There was also some kind of adventure park set-up, but it was not in operation that day. Find out more info: https://www.chamonix.com/lac-des-gaillands,34-151113,en.html
Back in town, we walked around some more and decided that our previous lunch at Elevation 1904 had been so good, we were going back for a burger and fries!! YUMMMM!
Elevation 1904 was also handy for our next excursion departure, which was taking the scenic Montenvers Mer-de-Glace train up to the glacier. We just missed the train, so wandered down the trail along the tracks to kill some time until the next one – and discovered the community gardens! https://www.chamonix.com/montenvers-mer-de-glace,81,en.html
Back at the station, we wandered around checking out their old train and surroundings. Aren’t the murals on the building neat? There are several scattered around Chamonix.
Here’s our train and here we go…amazing scenery along the way!
Once you disembark from the train, you can hang out on the terrace, check out the crystal cave, get snacks or a meal from their cafe, or walk over to the historic Grand Hotel du Montenvers and Restaurant. We didn’t realize that the glacier had melted, leaving just a small trail of ice in it’s wake. From this level, you can take a small cable car down to the next level to descend steps (way too many) to the ice grotto on the glacier floor. We took the never-ending stairs down to the ice grotto/cave, and although it was pretty cool, we would opt to do drinks and lunch on the terrace or at the hotel if we had to do it again. I do NOT recommend this for small children, the elderly or those that are stair challenged – we saw several parents having to carry their children down and up. Learn more at: https://www.chamonix.net/english/leisure/sightseeing/mer-de-glace
Going down the stairs and taking yet another breather (I’m stair challenged).
Into the ice cave,which is dripping and melting in areas!
And out and back up..
The terrace and view… I bet it was so amazing before it melted!
I loved the little local crystal cave!
Time to go back to Chamonix! So beautiful!
Back at our apartment, we rested, had some cocktails, and watched the Aiguille du midi cable car take passengers up and down Mont Blanc. We had taken it on our previous trip. https://www.chamonix.com/telepherique-de-l-aiguille-du-midi,48-156953,en.html
Time to take our late afternoon walk through town in search of new things.
We walked past the church and found a little park with a bee exhibit that was really cool!
We walked past the lovely church – I had to just stand and take it in…
We walked this way and that before asking someone if there were any nearby walking trails. And of course there was – and oh my heavens, it was past a herd of sheep and their dog shepherds! I LOVE sheep, having raised them when I was young, and what a backdrop!
We meandered along the meadow trail and back through town to Le Cristal de Jade. It was our last evening of the trip, and the sunset from our balcony was spectacular. I don’t think we could have asked for a better last day to such an amazing trip!
From the French Riviera, through the Italian Piedmont, to the Alps, it’s been an amazing two weeks! I hope you’ve enjoyed our trip too, and be sure and use the web links and our suggestions to plan your own future trips!