Sunday August 28: Zermatt to Chamonix
Just to show us what we're missing, this morning the sky was almost cloudless, and in particular the Matterhorn was fully visible. This is because we were leaving, so we didn't have time to go to any of the good viewing points to see it in all of its grandeur.
We got up at our normal time and had our typical breakfast. Our train was about 10:15, but they wanted us out of the apartment by 9. We were packed up by around 8, so I did a quick walk down to the bridge to get some pictures of the Matterhorn as best as I could without going too far.
At 9, we schlepped our stuff over to the train station. While Amy and Sam waited with the luggage, I ran off to try to find an angle where I could take a picture of the Matterhorn with the church steeple in the foreground. I sort of succeeded, but I couldn't quite get the angle that I was hoping for.
The train just runs the length of the Zermatt valley, just going back and forth between Zermatt and Visp. The journey took roughly an hour. There was no good place to put our luggage, so we piled it up about the only place that we could find, which partially blocked one of the doors. Some people came in after us and piled up more luggage there.
At Visp, we had about a 15 minute layover until the second train. That was accomplished fairly easily. Where we got in the rail car, there was no place for luggage, We found, however, that there was a luggage rack at the other end of the car, so we had to schlep our luggage down the aisle and find home for them in the racks. We got all but one suitcase in the racks, and we put that suitcase in one set of two facing seats.
This was a larger (two level), more modern, very smooth train that ran along this large valley. We took that for about an hour to Martigny, where we had about 4-5 minutes to change trains again. I was a bit concerned about the shortness of that transfer, but it went well.
Just before we got to Martigny, we got our suitcases off the racks and got ready next to the door. However, just before we stopped, I noticed what side the platform was on, and there was a sign on that door saying that that door did not function. So we had to race up the aisle again with all of our luggage, then out to the platform and on to the next platform.
My sense was that the third train was basically waiting for the second train to arrive. The third train was a very small train. It had just two cars. It was also fairly full. We ended up just putting our luggage next to the doors and standing there--there was nowhere else to go. Fortunately, after a few stops, a family that had been occupying the wheelchair area left, and we stacked our luggage there. Sam sat in a nearby fold down seat, while Amy and I got seats further up the train.
This train went up one valley, crossed into France, and then went down the Chamonix valley to Geneva. It went through some steep sections where it used cogs for traction. At one point, it went along the side of a very steep and very deep canyon--I couldn't actually see the bottom.
I checked with Sam, who complained that the suitcases rolled about whenever we went around curves, which was often. I restacked the suitcases on their sides, so that they didn't sit on the wheels. Then Sam could join us in the main section of the car. We were all very excited when we got our first views of Mont Blanc.
We got to Chamonix and departed the train. From Google maps, I found that the hotel was literally next to the train station, so it wasn't far to get there. Our room wasn't ready yet, so she gave us a key card to the luggage room (bagagerie?), where we dropped off our luggage. Then we wandered into town to look for lunch.
The place was mobbed. There was a large crowd, with people periodically cheering. It turns out that it was some sort of race, although it was a strange one in that runners were taking pictures of each other and selfies as they went through town. Later on, Amy asked someone what the race was about. Apparently it is a race around Mont Blanc, so it is about 100km long, but with significant uphills and downhills. I guess the tough guys do it in one go, even though it takes them longer than a day. Apparently there are some shorter variants for more normal people.
We found a restaurant we liked, and Sam and I opted for burgers, whereas Amy got mussels. She might have had the better option. We ordered our burgers medium rare, but they came out somewhere between very rare and raw. We also got fries with them, so I entertained myself at the end tossing little scraps of fries onto the ground, and watch some house sparrows flock each piece like a school of piranha.
This took us to about 3:30, so after lunch (and after hitting an ATM), we went back to the hotel, checked in, and brought our luggage up from the storage room. The room features a "master alcove" with a double bed, and a main area with two twin beds in it. There is no A/C, so we have the window and door open to cool the place off. We paid extra for a view of Mont Blanc.
Unfortunately, during lunch, some clouds came in and semi-obscured the mountains. According to the forecast, tomorrow is supposed to be sunny, but the next day should bring rain. So we plan to go up to the mountain tops tomorrow.
Amy and Sam chilled in the room while I took about an hour walk around town. Then I stayed in the hotel room and typed this up, while Amy went across the street to a park to bird.
We went out and decided to eat at a Chinese restaurant. The prices weren't too bad, and we weren't that hungry because we had had a late lunch. The restaurant had a patio out back that was less crowded and noisy than having tables out in the front, and being in back, we got a view of Mont Blanc.
It was good that we had the view because as we were finishing dinner, we saw that the tops of the peaks around Mont Blanc were lit up by the sun, while the rest of the mountain was still in shadows or under clouds. We took a bunch of pictures, but about 5 minutes later it was gone.
We walked back to the hotel, I took a shower. Sam is taking a bath. Soon it will be time to call it a night.