Summer in the French Alps

Last month I completed Portuguese language A2 level. To celebrate, I made a quick trip to the French Alps. This was my second time in Chamonix – Many years ago I trekked the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) from France to Italy and Switzerland – it remains one of my favourite areas in the whole wide world.

The weather was perfect this time around, I did a lot of hiking with my favourite mountain in sight.

First: How to get there?

The closest international airport to Chamonix is Geneva.

Several companies offer transfer service from Geneva Airport to Chamonix. To find one suitable for my time of arrival, I looked up the timetable on the Geneva Airport website.

Note: The current timetable is valid until September 30th. If the link becomes invalid afterwards, simply go to the Airport website and click the link under Regional Buses.

The popular bus companies I see are:

Alpybus

Chamexpress

Easybus

Flixbus

The companies share buses, so don’t be surprised if you book with Flixbus but end up on Alpybus. The journey takes between 1.5 – 2 hours and drop-off is at the Chamonix Sud bus stop – at 234 Avenue de Courmayeur,74400 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc – which is about 11 minutes walk to the city center.

Because nowadays the flights are umpredictable and I did not want to drag my luggage around, I chose Mountain Drop-offs for door-to-door transfer. Pick-up time is based on the actual flight arrival. Simply provide the flight number at the time of the booking, they will monitor the flight and pick up accordingly.

Note: There may be some wait time as they try to group the arrivals together, but usually no more than an hour.

Second: Getting around the Valley

If you stay at a tourist accomodation in the valley, be sure to ask for a guest card (la carte d”hôte). The card enables you to travel freely on buses, and trains between Servoz and Vallorcine, as well as discounts at municipal sporting and cultural attractions. Not staying at a tourist accommodation? The card can be purchased at the tourist office for €10 per weekly stay.

Note: For the card to be valid, you MUST fill in the name and the duration on the back of the card.

The bus scheduled can be found here on chamonix.net website.

Third: Lifts are your friends

While you can hike all the way to the top of the mountain on foot, sometimes it is worthwhile to take the lift to the middle point, where it is less steep and the view is more rewarding.

The lifts I used more often were:

La Flégère-L’Index

Le Brévent

Télécabin de Vallorcine

Please double-check the time of the last lift, as noted in the Opening Dates tab on the pages above. Missing the last lift down might mean steep descend the uninteresting part of the trail, not to mention the limited daylight during spring and autumn.

Note: If you know where you are going to hike at least three days in advance, I recommend getting the Cham’Summer Pass online at their webstore. The pass covers the afronmentioned lifts, plus the Grands-Montets lifts, and it can cost as low as €16 when purchased days in advance. Price goes up as the date gets closer.

Fourth: Equipment rental

Due to security reasons most airlines don’t allow trekking poles as carry-ons. Instead of checking the baggage with a fee, which adds up to the cost of my short distance flight, I decided to rent onsite in Chamonix. Both Snell Sports and Intersport offer rental service, whereas Snell Sports charges €8 a day for a pair of trekking poles, Intersport offered €22 for a 5-day rental. Service was quick and professional.

Fifth: Where to stay

I’ve stayed at two different hotels in Chamonix: Hotel l’Oustalet and Chalet Hôtel Le Prieuré. While the former is more family oriented and has a pool. I was impressed with the service of the later.

I arrived late on the first night and was given a room on the second floor by the road, it was noisy. So the next day after hiking, I stopped by the reception and asked for possibility of a room change. They were nearly booked, but the manager was able to find me a room on a higher floor, furthest from the road. Guests were given a complementary water bottle and a bar of Shoukâ chocolate upon arrival. Personal care products are organic. Slippers available upon request.

Sixth: Events in Chamonix

Chamonix Valley offers cultural and sporting events throughout the seasons. Check here to find out what’s happening during the time of your visit. While I was there the Climbing World Cup took place and I had a fun time learning about the sport and competition.

Finally food!

Upon arrival, I had to eat something before the restaurant closes, so I simply stopped by a restaurant on the main drag of the town and ordered their daily fomule, which turned out to be Savoie steak with shallot confit and fries.

Delicious!

Coming up next: Gorges de la Diosaz

15 thoughts on “Summer in the French Alps

    1. Funny you mentioned the frites. Usually I don’t eat processed food, but I had an inkling for ketchups. So I asked for a bottle. The waiter said their fries did not need any additional flavouring, but he would bring me anyway. I tried it with ketchup and then I tried it without, and put the bottle away lol

      Liked by 1 person

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