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The French Alps

On August 14, Bob and I left Scotland and headed for the French Alps.

We had a week before our next house sit in Chambery, so Bob set us up in Chamonix, at the base of the highest mountain in the Alps, stunning Mont Blanc.

We arrived in Chamonix under the darkness of night. I woke up, looked out the window, and “Wow”. That pretty much describes the place. Every direction has a view of the mountains, some so high they are permanently capped with snow. I got dizzy looking up at the beauty.

Paragliders floated down from the mountain just outside our window. I signed up to tandem glide, but it was canceled because the lift up the mountain wasn’t running. Slightly disappointed, I wrapped my head around the idea that it wasn’t meant to be. BUT, I will jump off a cliff another time.

Chamonix, which is a most popular ski resorts in Europe in winter, has gondolas, tramways, and cable cars that take you up to the mountain peaks where all the great hiking happens. So, that’s where we went, to the top.

One day, we rode a cable car up, hiked across the mountain ridge to another peak and took a gondola down. I forgot my camera in the cable car on the way up and realized it about 10 minutes after we got off. Panicked, I hiked back to the cable car station, pantomimed that I forgot my camera and without missing a beat this kind Frenchman called down to the bottom and my camera got it’s very own cable car ride up the mountain. Now that’s some luck.

Another day we went all the way across the glaciers to Italy on a cable car. Yep, traveling in three different gondolas, we climb all the way to a mountain peak overlooking Mount Blanc that’s so sharp it’s called a “needle” in French. We’re talking serious altitude here, over 12,500 feet. Today, however, the needle is covered in clouds and the visibility is zero.

It’s an eerie feeling to look out and only see white. Getting off the gondola, I start adding my layers as the temperature has dropped by 30 degrees. Brrr…. We walk through a short hallway dug out of the mountain to the cable car to Italy. We get in, the door closes behind us, and the tiny little cable car, with just us inside, slides out into the white nothingness.

I’m a bit nervous. When we first start out, the only thing I can see is the cable piercing the clouds. We are descending a bit now, so within minutes we travel out of the clouds and realize that we are above a gigantic glacier. Again, WOW. What a view.

We get out at the top of an Italian peak and  wander around the station, looking at the spectacular views in all directions. One mountain looks just like the peak above Whoville where the Grinch lives. I listened for the Whos singing, but no luck. By the time we got back to the “needle” in France, the clouds had cleared, and there was Mont Blanc so close we could almost reach out and touch it.  We had incredible views the whole way down. Once again, all I  can say is, “Wow.”

Chamonix was a short six days and soon Sunday came and we were off to Chambery, still in the French Alps, to start our six week house sit for Sabrina’s furry friends.

Sabrina introduced us to a few of her neighbors and we’ve been adopted. Guido and Felicia took us on a fabulous hike to La Croix du Nivolet. To get there we drove half way up the mountain through the beautiful countryside, surrounded by mountains.

We started the hike serenaded by the clang of cowbells, not for a Wisconsin football game, but around the necks of actual cows.  The mostly wooded trail took us to the top, but not before the rain. Just in time for lunch, we turned a corner as it really started to pour, and there was a refuge filled with hikers waiting out the rain.

We were warmly welcomed as people scooted over, making room for us to sit on the benches. Cookies, coffee, wine and some amazing homemade cordial were passed around. I like French hikers! We hiked up to the cross despite the rain. The view was a bit cloudy, but still great.

After the hike, Guido and Felicia drove us to a spectacular overlook to see the Chambery valley stretched out far below and promised more hikes in the future.  Then we descended down the mountain and home.

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