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Clare
Clare

Days 6 and 7: Chamonix

On Thursday it was time for us to leave Chambéry and move on to the final destination of this holiday: Chamonix. When we were looking at the map and planning the holiday, we initially thought it would be quite easy to travel between Chambéry and Chamonix by train. When I eventually got around to looking at the timetables in more detail, however, it soon became clear that it would be anything but!  Most of the options I found took around 6 hours and involved multiple changes of train, including travelling via Switzerland. I was on the verge of giving up on the idea of visiting Chamonix at all, when I came upon the website of the French bus company, Ouibus. Ouibus seemed to have a good network of buses in this part of France, including a line between Annecy and Chamonix, and the prices were quite reasonable. Best of all, it was really easy to book tickets online on their website, and they also had an app you could install to get what you'd purchased as an e-ticket on your mobile :)

The only downside was that there were only a handful of buses between Annecy and Chamonix every day, with the most convenient one not departing Annecy until 15.50. We therefore had a rather relaxed start to Thursday morning in Chambéry first of all, before taking a regional train to Annecy. We arrived just on time for lunch, which we ate in a restaurant not far from the station, where I was delighted to find that they had Flammkuchen on the menu!

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We stretched out lunch for as long as we could, because it wasn't possible to have much of a walk around Annecy with our cases. Finally it was time to head to the bus station; we wanted to be there quite a long time before the bus was due to depart, because there were all sorts of dire warnings when booking with Ouibus about making sure you were ready to board the bus at least 15 minutes in advance of the departure time.

I was a bit sceptical about whether the bus would actually be at the bus station 15 minutes ahead of the departure time, but it proved me wrong and it was :) There was a bit of messing about before we were able to board, because the driver handed everyone a baggage label which we were supposed to fill out our names and addresses on. But despite that we set off on time, and the only downside was that people seemed to be taking the Montenegrin approach of not sitting in their assigned seats :D Luckily there were plenty of spare seats on the bus, so that wasn't a problem.

It was a pleasant journey as we left Annecy and headed towards Chamonix. 

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The closer we got, the more mountainous the scenery became, until we got our first glimpses of the snow-covered peaks in the distance.

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The bus took us through some tunnels and over a very impressive road bridge.

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Finally we were there :)

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Chamonix is another place where accommodation is ridiculously expensive and so the only way we could afford to come here was to stay in a 2-star hotel a couple of kilometres outside the town. I had been contemplating whether we ought to take a taxi, but it seemed to be a nice evening when we arrived, so we decided to give walking a go instead. 

We'd made it about halfway there when a very threatening cloud appeared - seemingly out of nowhere - and the heavens opened. We took refuge in a nearby bar to avoid getting completely drenched. Luckily the shower was only a brief one and once it was over, the rain held off again until we were almost at the door of the hotel.

The hotel turned out to be really nice; the room was basic, but it has a very Alpine feel with lots of wood-panelling :)

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Unexpectedly, we found we had a little balcony, and although the highest mountains were covered in clouds by this point, it was still a great view :)

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The rain seemed to have eased off a bit while we were settling into the hotel, so we decided to try and walk back into the town and pick up some supplies. Rather than walking alongside the main road, we found a path which ran parallel to it through the forest.

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It was a lovely path, but unfortunately the further we got along it, the darker the clouds become, until we started to feel the first drops of rain.

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The sky looked so threatening that we decided we'd better give up and go back to the hotel instead. It turned out to be a wise decision; no sooner had we got back then there was an enormous storm, with thunder, lightning and torrential rain. We went to bed hoping that the weather would be better in the morning!

Fortunately, when we woke up on Friday the weather was indeed better, although the forecast suggested that it would only stay dry until around lunchtime. The view from our balcony definitely looked a lot brighter :)

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We were eager to make a start to the day but before we could go anywhere there was one small problem to resolve; breakfast. It was possible to get breakfast at the hotel, but the price was €13 each which was way beyond what we would deem an acceptable breakfast price to be. There are no shops anywhere around the hotel, so our only other option was to walk into Chamonix.

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I'm not ordinarily a fan of leaving the house before breakfast... and definitely not without a cup of coffee... but if you do have to take a walk to look for breakfast then this is definitely a very scenic one to take.

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I think I look remarkably cheerful given how hungry I was xD

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Eventually we made it to the town. It was around 08:30 by this point and so our next challenge was that some of the places which looked like they might serve breakfast weren't even open yet! Out of the places which met the criteria of having a breakfast menu and actually being open, we were surprised to find that €12 or €13 actually seemed to quite a popular price to charge. Oh dear :(

In the end we did find a cafe where we were able to have what was described as a "French breakfast" for €6.90. This included a coffee, a glass of orange juice, a slice of French stick and a croissant. It was nice, but by the time we'd finished we felt like we could have eaten a second one. Perhaps it might be easier to pay for breakfast in the hotel tomorrow after all...!

Once breakfast was complete, we had a little stroll around the centre of Chamonix. We found the church...

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...the tourist information office...

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...and the town hall.

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We walked up a road behind the church to the base station of a gondola, which would take us up to a place called Planpraz at around 2,000m.

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There are lots of cable cars around Chamonix, but this one had come to my attention when I was doing my holiday research primarily because it was comparatively cheap. Some of the cable cars are horrifically expensive, but this one was only €14 to go up, which when you consider that breakfast can cost €13 seemed like very good value. I had then found a walk we could do for a couple of hours along the side of the valley, coming down on a different cable car closer to our hotel.

When we arrived at the base station and Tim started to buy the tickets, we realised that the prices were actually even better than we thought. For €17.70 we could buy a round trip ticket, which would enable us to go up this cable car and down the other one. That was definitely good value!

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We didn't have to go far once we got to the top of the gondola to get some amazing views.

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We set off on the walk....

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...but it was difficult to get very far because we kept having to stop to admire the view.

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On a completely clear day it should be possible to see the summit of Mont Blanc from here, but unfortunately today it was just hidden by the white cloud.

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We realised belatedly that it might actually have been better to do this walk in the opposite direction, as the path was leading us away from the views of the biggest glaciers. It was still beautiful, though.

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The walk started off quite easy, but as we progressed further the terrain became a bit rockier.

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We had to pay more attention to where we were putting our feet, but every time we turned a corner the views were breath-taking.

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We continued onwards for a while...

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...and were soon at the halfway point of the walk, from where we could see back down the valley to Chamonix.

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The views to the opposite side of the valley were still amazing....

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...but we also had good views up to the rocky mountains above us on our own side of the valley.

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We passed some enormous rocks...

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...and we soon came to a slightly disturbing sign, which warned us not to linger for too long on this part of the path as there was a danger of falling rocks!

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The path was indeed quite difficult to traverse here...

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...and once we'd got safely across, we could look back and see that it had indeed taken us across quite a large scree slope.

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After this the path became a bit less rocky, but I was puzzled by the fact that we could hear intermittent shouts and screams from somewhere above us. Eventually we caught up with another English couple who had passed us earlier, and they pointed out that there were people climbing on the rocky pinnacles above us, and that there was also a zip wire up there. No wonder people were screaming!

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From here the path went a bit lower, so that we were back among the trees.

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We were almost at the cable car station of La Flégère.

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Before we caught the cable car back down to the valley, we stopped at a little mountain hut for a much-needed drink. It wasn't a bad view to sit down to :)

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The cable car down was very speedy and took us to the village of Les Praz, which is on the outskirts of the main town of Chamonix, not too far from our hotel. 

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After our slightly sparse breakfast we were starving by this point, so we went into the first restaurant we found. It turned out to be more expensive than the restaurants we would normally eat in, but we had a very nice meal and some wine :)

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When we emerged from the restaurant we realised that the sky had completely clouded over and it looked like storms were about to break out again. We hurried back to the hotel as fast as we could and just about managed to avoid getting drenched. 

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It was a brilliant day, and we definitely managed to make the most of the good weather while it lasted :)

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