I live in a small town and have never been a huge fan of large cities, so it came as no surprise to me that Chamonix would be my favorite town during this trip. Don’t get me wrong, I love how much there is to see/do/eat/explore/learn in larger cities, but I enjoy myself the most in quaint communities. I like the idea of everyone knowing their neighbors and trusting one another. Also, for a trip where less than a week is allotted in each destination, Chamonix was completely “doable.” I left Chamonix with plans to come back, but I also felt like I had seen the entire town and was comfortable to navigate through it myself.
Chamonix is most famous for being a ski resort town during the winter months, but during the summer there is plenty to do as well. The downtown part of Chamonix is small and picturesque. The main streets are lined with flowers and fountains, while also housing dozens of name brand stores. The real beauty of the town lies in the views of the mountains surrounding it. The buildings, which are primarily chateaus, are never more than a few stories, so postcard-worthy views can be seen at all times. The mountains themselves cannot be described in either words or pictures. They are too immense and breathtaking to justly depict.
As I mentioned earlier, Chamonix is condensed enough that it is “doable.” Unlike other larger cities where I left with several activities I still wanted to do there, I did everything in Chamonix that I had planned, plus had time to find new things as well. Although I had a good time in the downtown part of Chamonix, I found that I much preferred exploring the scenery away from town. The first afternoon in Chamonix was dreary and cloudy, so sightseeing from the top of the mountain was postponed and Hugo led a hike instead. We followed a stream up a mountain in the Gorges Diosaz Servoz. I loved the bridges that laced back and forth across the stream. Another event led by Hugo, taking the lift to the top of Le Brévent, was equally as enjoyable. With few clouds in the sky, we were able to enjoy a view into both the Chamonix valley and of Mont Blanc, the iconic mountain of Chamonix. Just a piece of advice for future FN students: Do any event or activity led by Hugo. He knows the best things to do, and you honestly can’t not have a great time with his personality.
Perhaps my favorite experience in Chamonix is when I went on a solo hike to Lac Blanc. The hike itself was tough and steep, but the real challenge for me was finding the proper lift and hiking trail in the first place! The entire 2 hours each way of the hike has panoramic views of the mountains. The lake itself was amazing, the bluest water I had ever seen that was only more vivid being surrounding by snow and having a cloudless sky above. I literally sat and tried to absorb the scene for several hours. Although it was not my original plan to do the hike by myself, I’m actually glad it worked out that way. Not having an agenda and being able to enjoy everything at my pace was very enjoyable. I went on a similar unplanned adventure by myself in Barcelona, and I was equally as thankful to be able to experience part of that city on my own. I would highly recommend that, providing that you feel comfortable and confident, future FN students try out traveling alone, even if for only a few hours.
While in France, my main goal was to eat a crepe. I succeeded in this goal and actually ate around 5 during our few days in Chamonix. My favorite was Nutella, but a savory ham and cheese crepe was a close second. On the last night in this town, a group of us girls decided we wanted to go all out on a meal. We shared among the table the notorious French dish of escargot, a.k.a. snails. Although the texture was too chewy for my taste, it wasn’t half bad and I can cross that one off my bucket list. For my main course that evening, I had tartiflette, a French potato cheese and bacon dish. If I ever had to choose, this would be my last meal. Even if you don’t take any of my other advice, trust me here and try tartiflette.
While in Chamonix, I learned how to properly eat escargot, how to read hiking signs, how to wait for tartiflette to cool before consuming, to bring a waterproof raincoat everywhere, and that you can still get sunburnt when it’s cold. But most importantly, I learned that I love Chamonix and will have to come back in the future!
By: Alana E., FN 2016 Alumna