The next stop on my trip to France was Chamonix, a mountain town in the French Alps known best for its skiing. In the summer, Chamonix has a lot of great hiking, climbing, and cycling.
We were busy all week at the conference, but the meeting included a midweek excursion to a nearby mountain. We also snuck in some extra time for walking, hiking, and shopping.
The town is rather touristy, but picturesque with the Arve River flowing through and the old architecture playing host to street cafes.
We opted for the affordable option and stayed in the dorms at the Chamonix ski school. The school trains ski instructors and mountain guides to work in extreme environments.
Our dorm room came complete with some fairly legit swag as far as science conferences go — custom towels and soaps.
The International Glaciological Society meetings are known for their built-in excursions and Chamonix was no different. Midweek, everyone took the afternoon off to take their pic of field trips organized by the conference. I opted for a trip up the téléphérique to the top of the mountain L’Aiguille du Midi for views of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps.
When we got to the top we saw this:
The board with what we should have been seeing and the white abyss we actually did see. Turns out it was a bit cloudy.
The top of L’Aiguille du Midi has a series of viewing platforms and bridges to explore. They also have a plexiglass box dubbed the “Step into the Void” exhibit. You can stand inside and be truly immersed in the view of the Alps.
It was a little less dramatic with the clouds.
After several hours the clouds broke a bit so we could see across into the Italian Alps. We never got a great view of Mont Blanc, but it was beautiful up there nonetheless. As we waited for the elevators to go back down, it even began to snow.
When we woke up the next morning, this was the view from our dorm room.
Yeah, that’s Mont Blanc toward the right. Would have loved to see it from the 3800 m elevation, but life is just so tough that I have to settle for this view from my bed.
Speaking of tough, our last night in Chamonix was the conference banquet. It was held at the Majestic, which was aptly named.
Dinner included some amazing French cuisine and lots of wine, of course. On the menu was steak or salmon (for the vegeterians, as the host explained). Oh, France. Salmon isn’t a plant.
I’m glad I got the opportunity to visit Chamonix in this context. It’s a beautiful place, but it can be expensive and tourist-driven so I don’t think it’s a place I would visit if I had anywhere to choose from. But I had a great time both sight-seeing and sciencing.