Travelling by airplane in the United States has become an exercise in shuttling humans as packed together as possible while nickeling and diming them for every little thing from their luggage, to real food, to reserving a seat. When I was a kid, flying was always a grand event. It’s lost some of the romanticism that used to go along with it. That’s not true in First Class. If people knew what was going on in First Class, there would be a riot. Seats that lay flat, Sax Fifth Avenue blankets, gourmet meals…even ice cream Sundays with hot fudge, strawberries, and caramel! It’s like you’re not even on the same vehicle as the rest of the people suffering in the back. You get off the plane and you feel rested, ready to go. Everyone else looks like they just had a 10-hour colonoscopy. The difference is staggering, but on the rare occasion you get to live it, it’s wonderful. Although we have both flown first class before, we have never sat in seat 1A and 1B…and we probably never will again….but it was really fun to be the first ones off the plane in Geneva.
Speaking of which, Geneva airport looks like it fell out of the 1970s. The 1970s will forever be known as the era where all construction should have been halted. It produced the ugliest buildings on the planet, with the airport in Geneva being one of them. Now the approach into Geneva was beautiful. Flying along the lake, mountains in the distance. But the airport is not much to look at. You deplane and hop on a little bus and then go into the arrivals hall and border control. Soon you are waiting for your luggage and then zipping off to find out that your van doesn’t leave for another 1.5 hours. Fortunately, the Geneva airport has many spots to get bread, chocolate, and other expensive and tasty things. We opted for chocolate (having just had breakfast on the plane). Eventually, it was time for the AlpyBus. We followed the guy out to the bus and then he took roll call….Michelle? Michelle? Eventually, Mike stepped forward and said, “Michael?”. He responded, “In France, you are Michel.” So it was and off we went on the bus to Chamonix with six other lost souls starting their next adventure in the middle of the Alps.
The drive to Chamonix takes you out of Switzerland into France and up the canyon into one of the most beautiful mountain valleys we have ever seen. After dropping everyone off at their hotels, we were deposited next to our hotel, The Grand Hotel Des Alpes. Right in the center of Chamonix’s shopping district, the grand hotel was indeed grand with a wonderful and helpful front desk staff and a view of Mont Blanc not to be beat. Our room looked like if fell out of a Victorian movie set and our balcony overlooked the Arve River. There was no time to waste, however, because the skies were clear and the Aguille du Midi cable car was just 100 yards from our Hotel.
From Chamonix, you ascend at a ridiculous pace and angle on the cable car with swoons of other awe struck tourists from all over the world. Interestingly enough, the Indian tourists were the pushy ones cutting in line and trying to squeeze ahead for some mysterious purpose. In the end, we all made it to the top and all got to see the amazing views of Mont Blanc and the valley below. The entire experience was much more grand than we could have realized. The first cable car takes you only so far, and then you change to a smaller car and then take an elevator to the top. It is ridiculously high and with each ascension you get another ridiculous view of the stunningly beautiful Alps and the overwhelming Mont Blanc. While waiting in line to do “standing in the void” (a glass box hovering over the abyss), Mike ran into some Brazilians and chatted with them for a while. Once the view and selfies and pictures were done, we descended back down into the now gathering clouds to go back to Chamonix. We walked around the town, which was fairly crowded with tourists and touristy shops. We did find a cool shirt for Sara that was for the Tour de Mont Blanc, which is an ultra race that goes all the way around Mont Blanc. The race looked well organized and seemed like something that would be fun to do at some point in your life. As always, its fun to see the butcher shops, pastry shops, and super markets which are so different than what we have and do in America. After walking around and looking in the various shops, it was time for dinner. Mike had made reservations at at little restaurant called Panier de 4 Saisons. It is a cute little restaurant well decorated with the feeling that you are in a well-appointed ski cabin. It was absolutely charming. We ordered the set dinner and quickly dove into the fresh bread. Everything was delicious and immaculate from the salad to the desserts. We both got the duck and it blew us away. You can’t go to France without having a great dinner. If only we knew that our gastronomic vacation was just beginning. From dinner, it was back to the hotel. Having been awake for a long time at this point, we were ready for bed…and ready for the next day’s adventures.