Chamonix and the Majesty of Mont Blanc

The two Englishmen who discovered the ‘Priory of Chamouni’, or Chamonix to you and I, in 1741 could have had little suspicion that their visit would create an interest that would continue right through to the present day. So great are the mountaineering and skiing opportunities that the first winter Olympics were held here in 1924 and if that isn’t enticement enough to come try out the activities, then the breath-taking views should be.

Statue of Saussure and Balmat in the centre of Chamonix Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Statue of Saussure and Balmat in the centre of Chamonix

Mont Blanc is one of the most famous and most visited places in Europe and one can immediately see why. Arriving in the Alps, the crystal clear sky so blue the shimmering snow on the mountains beneath seemed to take on its colour and the air so crisp I barely notice the altitude. I was so distracted by the natural beauty that I almost forgot to collect my suitcase from the coach. Transferring from Geneva couldn’t be easier with the Sat Bus daily service. Though I have to admit I really wished I could have afforded the helicopter option.

View of Mont Blanc above Chamonix Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

View of Mont Blanc above Chamonix

What a view that would have been, swooping up over the peaks and dips of one of the world’s greatest mountain ranges. Still, I couldn’t complain, I was there, in Chamonix. I’ve always loved winter sports, but more to watch than to participate, with one exception, ice skating.

Before my trip I’d assumed all the activities would be aimed at the crazy and the adventurous; those who love to conquer mountains either by climbing them and sliding down them, but I was wrong.

Pretty House in Les Bois, Chamonix

Pretty House in Les Bois, Chamonix

It didn’t take long for me to discover, not only a fantastic ice rink, but paragliding, mountain biking, great spas, golf, tennis and more hikes than I dare count. Now I may not be inclined to try out crampons and a rope to ascend to the ‘roof of Europe’, but a hiking trail or two to explore and I’m there.For me it was spring time, the snow was beginning to ease and the leaves were gathering on the trees so making my way along the mountain sides, looking out of the stunning vistas couldn’t have been more relaxing.

I was also surprised how family friendly the area is. The pretty meadows and hamlets of Les Houches are the perfect place to acclimatise children to the mountains and all they have to offer. One of my favourite touristy activities was Le Petit Train; this cute wheeled train may look like it’s just for kids, but the tour is a great source of local information, history of the town, its architecture as well as the sports and sportsmen and women how have made their mark on the area.

Savoyard cheese at Chamonix market

Savoyard cheese at Chamonix market

The town itself is almost idyllic in its Alpine construction and as I wandered around the shops I was not disappointed with the variety, there’s everything from the obligatory sporting suppliers to designer stores like Chanel. There are also local handicrafts, as well as some lovely tea rooms and pastry shops to refresh you during a hard afternoon of shopping.

And don’t miss a visit to La Refuge Payot, this quaint delicatessen sells some of the most amazing local produce you can possibly imagine, including wines and hams but it was the array of cheeses that drew me in and who can resist a brandy cake!?

Don’t be fooled into thinking Chamonix is all about the daylight hours either. If sitting by a roaring fire in your cabin isn’t enough for you of cosy evening, then there is plenty of nightlife in Chamonix. There’s the cinema, the casino and British style pubs, but for me, it was the local bars and live music spots that kept my evenings lively and bright.

Sunset over Mont Blanc

Sunset over Mont Blanc

More articles from Chamonix

Inside the glacier – at the Mer de Glace above Chamonix
Video diary – walking on the Tour de Mont Blanc above Chamonix
What to wear for a trek in the mountains – on the Tour de Mont Blanc

My thanks for this article, written by Leah S Thorley,  to MyDestination.com – your guide to all things Chamonix

Photo credits: MyDestination.com and Heatheronhertravels.com

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read more travel articles at Travel Blog Home

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  • Reply
    Debbie @ European Travelista
    November 14, 2011 at 1:36 am

    This is a part of France that I really want to visit! Thanks for whetting my appetite 🙂
    Debbie @ European Travelista´s last blog post ..Armored Schloss Ambras

    • Reply
      November 14, 2011 at 9:09 pm

      @Debbie I highly recommend the alps around Chamonix in summer, there so much to do if you love hiking and wonderful scenery

  • Reply
    Fly Girl
    November 14, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    Wow, this looks like such a spectacular place; makes me want to learn to ski!

    • Reply
      November 14, 2011 at 9:08 pm

      @Flyfirl – I’ve only visited Chamonix in the summer to walk the Tour de Mont Blanc but the scenery is stunning

  • Reply
    Barbara Weibel
    November 14, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    My gosh, another place to add to my list. Chamonix sounds wonderful, especially the parts about the music and roaring fires. Don’t know about ice skating, though; my ankles have never been able to stand up to that. And that last photo is stunning. I’d go just for the sunset.
    Barbara Weibel´s last blog post ..PHOTO: Penguin Surrounded by Algae and Sally Lightfoot Crabs, Galapagos Islands of Ecuador

    • Reply
      November 14, 2011 at 9:57 pm

      @ Barbara Yes Chamonix is wonderful although I’d recommend it in summer and go hiking like we did on the trails above the towns to get away from the crowds

  • Reply
    Sherry Ott
    November 15, 2011 at 7:45 am

    That sunset pic is stunning! It looks and sounds like a beautiful winter wonderland. Hopefully next time you will get that helicopter arrival!
    Sherry Ott´s last blog post ..China Town in Hawaii

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