Cham’ and me

Chamonix, France

We are fortunate to live between two chains of mountains. I awake to views of the Jura, the older, gentler slopes just across Lake Geneva on the Swiss side. In the other direction, to the southeast in France, are the Alps. They aren’t far, although we don’t get many views of the Alpine peaks from here.

Visitors are a good excuse for us to get out and see the Alps close up. That is just what we did when my sister and her family came to visit the other week.

Outside of ski season, it’s easy to forget just how close we are to Chamonix – Cham’ to the locals – home to our highest mountain, le Mont Blanc. We drove about an hour to Valorcine, then parked the car and took a series of chair lifts up. It’s fun to take a chair lift in the summer as you can see all the detail of the green slopes just below. And I enjoy it more when my fingers aren’t frozen.

We couldn’t figure out why so many chairs had spots blocked off but decided it was for all the people with bikes. This is a popular spot for the sport and just below us, we could see mountain bikers descending the narrow dirt trails at break-neck speed. I can see why they take the lifts – riding down must be a lot more fun than going up.

Chair lift near Valorcine

At the top, the views open up to the valley below in a way that soon had us singing, ‘The hills are alive…’ Thankfully no one started yodelling or the Swiss, who share a border just a few hundred metres away, might have changed their minds about staying neutral.

We could see the glacier called La Mer de Glace – the Sea of Ice – and a little bit of the Mont Blanc peak, although there were a few clouds. There were wild flowers and a few mountain cows – although we argued as to whether they were cows or bulls. Do cows have horns? And are there male cows? My daughter the future veterinarian would certainly have a few things to say on that subject.

From the top, we hiked downhill for half an hour to a small mountain refuge that runs a restaurant. This was my favorite moment of the day.

thumb_img_5605_1024It’s enough to make me want to come back and do it again – but don’t tell ZFrenchman, or he’ll soon have me up and out the door to Cham’ every Sunday morning.


When was the last time you were in the mountains?


  1. francetaste · September 8, 2016

    Oh, how beautiful! The bike story is hilarious. I live between the Black Mountains (the bottom part of the Massif Central) and the Pyrenees. Coming from the Midwest, which has only rolling hills, the mountains are something to marvel over everytime I see them. Even after more than a decade here. But here, it’s so dry, not lush like the Alps.
    Did you ever read Heidi? I read it not too long ago with my kid and it’s a fascinating depiction of mountain life back then. Great writing.

    • MELewis · September 8, 2016

      Glad you enjoyed! I lived in the Midwest for 5 years as a teen – near Minneapolis. I remember how flat it seemed after Ontario…and our hills were merely rolling, not peaks! Have not actually read Heidi but will check it out – I do love books for and about children (still one myself!) 😉

      • francetaste · September 8, 2016

        Really! I lived in St. Paul in 1988. Great place, but I could do without the winter.

  2. poshbirdy · September 8, 2016

    We popped over to Les Angles last week and took the lift up then walked down. It was incredibly peaceful, despite the odd mad biker coming at us at random angles. Lovely views but would have been better if we could have got a beer as you did

    • MELewis · September 8, 2016

      Beer makes everything better. I would’ve thought you’d find it flowing like a river in the Pyrénées! 😉

  3. Osyth · September 8, 2016

    Cows do have horns (our locals have Harley handlebars). Many years ago in Austria the boy 15 year old me was making cow eyes at told me earnestly that his father kept girl Bulls. I should’ve married him with hindsight …. He was clearly a natural feminist 😂😂

    • MELewis · September 8, 2016

      Ahh, Osyth, if we had married the boys who stole our hearts (not to mention other things ;-)) at 15, where would we be now? Surely not sitting pretty in France, methinks. BTW, when are you returning?

      • Osyth · September 8, 2016

        Indeedy-doo! I leave here middle of next month and will spend time in England and the Far East if all goes to plan then back home mid November and Grenoble from the start of December …. Can’t wait!

  4. Suzanne et Pierre · September 8, 2016

    I love hiking in mountains. Our last foray was was in July when we visited the Parc du Mont-Orford. Obviously those mountains have nothing to compare then to the Alps but they still offer nice hiking opportunities. Nice post. (Suzanne)

    • MELewis · September 8, 2016

      Love it too but I’m not sure you can really call what we did hiking. With both a husband and a son who do the real thing, the reality of hiking or climbing in the Alps is often beyond my comfort zone (read: way beyond…). I might just love Mont-Orford. Merci Suzanne!

  5. wanderingcows · September 8, 2016

    Ahh the last time I was in the mountains was when I was in Chamonix in mid-January. The weather was terrible. Rainy & slushy. The ski runs were wet and miserable. And the Mer de Glace was closed for fear of an avalanche. Never mind. I’ll have to go back. And your pictures look so cheerful!

    • MELewis · September 8, 2016

      Glad they inspire you to want to go back. I confess to being a fairweather mountaineer, and if faced with rain and slush in January, might never want to return. Maybe you should try a spring or summer view of the glacier? Bon courage!

  6. Colin Bisset · September 8, 2016

    Oh, I envy you your proximity to all that wonderful nature. Heading to the Alps in October and cannot wait to breathe in that mountain air (and enjoy a crisp beer afterwards).

  7. That’s the wonderful thing about mountains – beautiful to visit with and without snow. We are not far from you on the Annecy Lake. The mountains are all around us and, when we are there, we can choose easy, hard, short or long walks according to how we are feeling, or who we have visiting!

    • MELewis · September 9, 2016

      Lucky you! Lake Annecy is known as one of the prettiest (and priciest!) spots in France.

  8. zipfslaw1 · September 9, 2016

    Very pretty! How do you pronounce “Chamonix”?

    • MELewis · September 9, 2016

      Like it’s spelled (ha, ha…)
      Sha-moh-nee. 😉

  9. awtytravels · September 9, 2016

    Oh, hello from the other side of the border!

    • MELewis · September 10, 2016

      Where are you exactly?

      • awtytravels · September 13, 2016

        Been living in Val d’Aosta for a quarter of my life, and in Piedmont for the remainder 🙂

      • MELewis · September 14, 2016

        Sounds lovely! It is such an intersection between France, Switzerland and Italy up there, I wasn’t sure which country you were waving from. 😉

  10. acflory · September 13, 2016

    How fabulous! I loved the bit about the Swiss border only being a short distance away. I remember visiting Salzberg many years ago and taking the cable up to the top of the…Untersberg mountain [had to look that up, memory is woeful] and actually standing with one foot in Austria and the other foot in Germany. Surreal.

    • MELewis · September 13, 2016

      Great memory! We are going to Salzburg for an anniversary weekend end of November. It’s one of my fave places and haven’t been back in more years than I care to remember. Will have a thought for you if we make it to the top! 🙂

      • acflory · September 13, 2016

        Please do! And have fun. 🙂

  11. Mél@nie · September 14, 2016

    magnifique… ❤ tu sais que I love mountains & volcanoes… 🙂
    * * *
    j'adore les chansons de Jean Ferrat: voici la montagne… 🙂

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