24-in-24: 🏔️ Chamonix-Mont-Blanc

Entry #0.2 in the series Paris 24 in 24. August 2022.

In the spring of 2022, I accepted a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Paris-Saclay that would last for two years, from September 2022 until August 2024. My partner Mandeep and I moved to France in August to set up shop before I would get to work in September.

🏙️ 48 hours in Paris

After returning from the Rhone Valley we spent a short weekend in Paris before we were off again. We had a tiny Airbnb next to the Gare de Lyon train station, where we enjoyed our first home cooked meal in a long time. It wasn’t much, but we welcomed it.

First home-cooked meal in France!!! 🍾
First home-cooked meal in France!!! 🍾

🛤️ To the Alps!

And then we were back on a train. This time we headed east towards the Alps. We stared out the window is endless fields turned into hills. And then we got the first glimpses of the mountains coming closer. Before we know it, and a couple train switches later we were making our way up the valley in the heart of the Alps to Chamonix.

Mandeep’s foot was healing; she was able to walk farther and no longer needed to wear the protective boot. But we were still not ready for any major hiking or cycling. We got a nice surprise at our hotel though, which had town bicycles that we could take out, which we took great advantage of throughout our stay.

Townie bikes were our jam.
Townie bikes were our jam.

On the bikes we circled around Chamonix and got a lay of the land, enjoying the stunning views of the mountains and turquoise waters of the river that flowed through the center of town.

The next morning, as we walked out for coffee, the sky was filled with paragliders. It was new for us. Maybe we’ve seen one or two here or there, but seeing the sky filled with them was a truly awesome experience.

Touring around Chamonix again, we discovered the huge field where the paragliders would circle into and land. We took a blanket, some food, and a bottle of rosé, and enjoyed a leisurely afternoon picnic watching the paragliders swoop down.

🚠 Aguille du Midi

Seeing as hiking was out of the question but we were still interested in getting up into the mountains, it only made sense that we would take what is, perhaps, Chamonix’s number one tourist attraction: Téléphérique de l’Aiguille du Midi. This is a piece of work, comprised of two cable cars, that ascend 2,800 meters from the town to the top of the Aguille du Midi, a rocky spire that looks directly across to Mont Blanc.

Mont Blanc, of course, is the tallest of the Alps, and it is truly breathtaking to see up close.

Face to face with Mont-Blanc.
Face to face with Mont-Blanc.

Surprisingly, there’s a lot of infrastructure at the top of Aguille du Midi, plenty of places to look out and gaze at all parts of the mountain. It was incredible to see all of the different mountaineering activities in full swing. Close inspection of a rock would reveal climbers and their ropes, rappelling down the sides, and ants speckling the snow fields that upon closer inspection revealed lines of hikers and explorers making their way to points unknown. The enormity of Mont Blanc and the Alps was staggering.

🧀 Settling in to Chamonix

The subsequent days took us exploring by bicycle and by the train that leads up the valley to some of the smaller towns to explore the quieter side of Chamonix. We enjoyed some excellent dinners, including a questionable call to eat raclette in August. I was especially excited for this, and we had a wonderful meal of, well, mostly cheese and potatoes, and decided wholeheartedly that, yes raclette is absolutely appropriate in August in the Alps.

We took a moment to write and send off some postcards and all of our wedding thank you cards, as we were still basking in the glow of our recent wedding.

Finally, as the clouds moved in, we were ready to say goodbye and make our way back to Paris and continue getting settled for our new life there.

Scenes from Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, August 2022.

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John Sullivan
John Sullivan
Postdoctoral researcher

Postdoctoral researcher exploring research through design in the areas of music, movement, dance, and human-computer interaction.

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