|Mer de Glace Glacier, 4.3 miles long and 656 feet deep|
Following our trip up Aiguille du Midi, K. and I headed down the cable car in order to catch the Montenvers train up to Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice). The nearly empty train wound it's way up the mountain, giving us perfect glimpses of soaring, alpine peaks and Chamonix town far below. Arriving in mid-afternoon meant our follow-on trip in adorable, little red gondolas down to the glacier was peaceful and uncrowded (very unlike our trip down from Aiguille du Midi, which resulted in a small brawl with a large, drunk fellow who'd taken a liking to K.).
This was a first glacier trip for both of us, and we were awed. Mer de Glace moves at a rate of 1cm per hour (!), and each year, "they" (the mysterious they) carve an ice cave inside the glacier. As we took the gondola down, we were able to see the curve of the glacier in the distance, with just a hint of that color that seems a mix between sea glass green and cerulean blue, depending on how the light hits it. Just below us, were several crevasses and the entrance to the ice cave, which we had almost all to ourselves. I fell in love with the curvature of the ice, the way it seemed to flow and whisper.
One of the things I loved in Chamonix were some of the vintage posters. On our final night, Nathan and I visited a photography shop and fell in love with some of the postcards showing photos from the late 1800s/early 1900s of explorers, both men and women, walking about on the glacier, generally without rope holding them together, the women carrying parasols, looking for all the world as if they're out for a Sunday stroll. One postcard clearly shows that parasols were for more than sun protection as the women used these for the men to help them across a crevasse or while walking along a narrow ridge - clever girls, weren't they? These vintage photos are contrasted with our trip to the glacier, where K. and I saw several hiking groups, all roped together on the glacier or, off the glacier, weighted down with packs carrying rope, pickaxes, carabiners galore, and so on. We found the painting to the right adorning the outside of a Chamonix bank, and later found a postcard of it displaying the original photograph, which was taken by Georges Tairraz in 1908 of an ascension of Mont Blanc.
K. and I met up with the guys back in town, running into them strolling down the street in their skiwear. They'd been to the pharmacy since Nathan had hurt his ankle in a fall. Nothing too serious, but ibuprofen and a compress was needed. Cocktails were in order, so we had an apres-ski get together at a local bar (in France, a bar is an actual bar, not a place for coffee) before heading off to another delicious dinner.
Day Two was a lazy day of hanging about town, exploring the shops, eating every couple of hours. It was France, home of the best croissants in the world, nutella crepes, gorgeous patisseries, yummy baguettes, and a selection of cheeses to make one swoon. Chamonix is in the region of Savoy, home of such delights as Raclette, Fondue (good fondue, not the stuff made with Velveeta), and, a new discovery, Tartiflette. This dish is very similar to a potatoes au gratin, but to my taste buds, which have been eating octopus salad, fried dough balls, mozzarella, and spaghetti with clams for the last four months, I thought I might actually pass out from pleasure over Tartiflette - potatoes, cooked with cream and bacon and onions, then covered with Reblochon cheese and baked. The reblochon cheese is phenomenal. I must eat more Tartiflette. And to my aunt, who asked in a comment a few posts ago if I'd gained weight since moving here, I now have what our friend K. calls a "cheese baby." My cheese baby was a delight to conceive over other meals, too, such as Raclette, where the waiter brought a small, cast iron, charcoal grill to the table for us to melt our own cheese, then pour it over sausages and potatoes.
I have to also mention the cocktails available in Chamonix. Each restaurant had their own house cocktails, which usually involved some sort of fruit liqueur or syrup with either white wine or champagne. All delicious...but my absolute favorite is a traitor to Nathan's hours upon hours of perfecting the best mojito, which he learned to make during our station in Key West. Hotel Le Morgane, where our friends were staying, had a swank bar in the lobby, decorated in gray tones with fuzzy chairs and tree trunk coffee tables. One of their specialties was a twist on the mojito - lots of sugar in the bottom of the glass, then fill the glass with fresh mint (lots and lots of mint), then just pour in the champagne and stick in a straw. Voila! If I can get some fresh mint growing around this house, we will change the name (Nathan's a bit hurt that I would like this "mojito" better than his, but it really doesn't resemble a mojito in the slightest) and add it to our cocktail offerings for dinner guests. I think I'll call it Alpine Dream.