Saturday, February 15, 2014


"Look!  There is the mountain you'll never climb! Isn't this fun? NOT!"
Chamonix Fail.  The words to describe this whole day's experience.

Before leaving the U.S. to come to Geneva, I saw this article on The Atlantic talking about a new attraction just build at the peak of Aiguille du Midi in the French Alps called "Into the Void."  It is a glass box suspended over a 1,035 meters (3,396 feet) drop down the side of the mountain's peak.  
Obviously, after seeing these pictures, of course I wanted to go.  So, I found a classmate to go with me, and we purchased tickets from a station in France, routed through the tiny French town of Saint Gervais, to arrive in Chamonix to make our adventure on Aiguille du Midi.  Chamonix is an extremely popular skiing location, and at the height of skiing season (when we were arriving), it was bound to be full of French, Swiss, and British tourists all taking advantage of their holiday breaks in the resort town.  However, this trip was just one dose of crazy after another, leaving not the greatest impression of French organization or tourism in my mouth.  
This is pretty, but it's not even from Chamonix!
The town itself was okay but surprisingly small, empty, and disorganized for supposedly being some mega-popular skiing town in Europe.  When we finally found our main attraction after wandering lost for about thirty minutes (the signs for the tourist office pointed in opposite directions), it was closed "due to wind," even though other lifts were running up the other peaks...AND THERE WAS NO WIND.  The employee told us to just try to come back each day and check (clearly impossible due to having jobs and budgetary restraints and American-style vacation policies).  After a quick lunch at a pizzaria, we turned around and headed back to the train to return to Geneva.  As we were waiting by the platform, I walked over to a small snowbank in the empty lot to climb it to at least feel a small sense of accomplishment from all of this, when I was promptly yelled at and told to get off the snowbank by a French security guard (who had previously been texting on her phone).
All in all, the trip that was supposed to be a nice, fun adventure, turned out to be a waste of time and money.  Although my classmate and I did get to bond about the complete ridiculousness of the situation by coming up with potential posts for Twitter or Tumblr (if either of us had had one of those) to chronicle the experience.  We named it "hashtag Fraaaaaaaance" (to be read aloud in an extra-whiny voice).

  • When you ask the French ticket seller at the train station if your tickets printed with a specific time are transferable or if you have to buy new tickets, and he says "yes" to both questions.  #Fraaaaaaaance.
  • When you make an "early" train, only to sit and wait as the train is repaired.  #Fraaaaaaaance.
  • When conductor announces that the train is fixed every ten minutes, but you leave an hour and a half later.  #Fraaaaaaaance.
  • When the train you paid for does not exist, so instead you are ushered onto a bus by a Frenchman shouting "Chamonix Boooos" in a style very reminiscent of how Ecuadorian busing works.  #Fraaaaaaaance.
  • When the "boos" almost crashes into a sign within the first minute of driving.  #Fraaaaaaaance.
  • When you arrive in a tourist resort town at the peak of ski season and no one knows how to get to the main mountain lift.  #Fraaaaaaaance.
  • When you arrive in a tourist resort town at the peak of ski season and the signs for the tourism office point in opposite directions.  #Fraaaaaaaance.
  • When you finally arrive at the lift you came to see, only to find out that everything is closed "due to wind." #Fraaaaaaaance.
  • When it's closed "due to wind," but there's no wind. #Fraaaaaaaance. 
  • When you try to climb a snowbank in a field in lieu of a real mountain, but are promptly yelled at by a French security guard who is now all of a sudden interested in doing their job.  #Fraaaaaaaance.
  • When you finally find the train back to the station, but cannot find the "boos."  #Fraaaaaaaance.
  • When that "boos" that almost crashed was faster than the train. #Fraaaaaaaance.
  • When you try to see something nice in a mountain town, but there is nothing there, nothing open, and the whole town can be thoroughly walked around in 10 minutes.  #Fraaaaaaaance.

At least the pizza we found on our way back was good.   

And I saw this cute dog in Saint Gervais.


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