mountains

First 24 hours in Chamonix, France

· 5 min read ·

It’s not so often that a single day is packed with serendipity. Our first day in Chamonix certainly was!

First off — We arrived to Chamonix off a nearly 10 hour train + bus trip that was actually pleasant due to a nice stop in Annecy (which we’ll touch on in a future post!), lots of leg room, and an abundance of snacks. We were ready to explore!

We dropped our bags off at our Airbnb (that is right in town!) and started walking around the area. It was such a treat to follow James through memory lane, as he pointed out the shops he’d visited, named the mountains he’d hiked, and recalled stories from the squares of town we crossed. Simply a few minutes in the mountain town give you a feel for the culture, which is quite different from that of Paris. You can tell everyone is coming off a day of their choice outdoor adventure or mapping out the next one, and there’s a very relaxed feeling in the air — a special mix of vacation vibes and athletic fatigue.

Suddenly James and I realized we were reaching the “bad place” of hunger. You know, when you realize with a pang how hungry you feel and suddenly you feel like you’re in a food desert even though you were just wowing over all the neat options. Then your vision starts to go a bit and you feel irritable then irritable that you’re irritable. We’ve found ourselves here probably a tops of 5 times during our adventure and we’ve gotten a bit better of dealing with it before things go too far south. Suddenly we were in the grocery store grabbing many a random vegetable and—surprise!— apparently the rest of the town decided this was also a good time to go to the store. We attempted to figure out which vegetables needed to be weighed and which were sold per piece but it was incredibly confusing. We ended up with a smorgasbord of things and unfortunately the cashier didn’t know what some of our vegetables were or how to ring them up, so she sent me back to weigh celery (which I swear was supposed to be priced per piece!). I’m mid-way through weighing the celery, trying to be quick because James is at the register with impatient shoppers, and I hear my name!

Rachel & I playing twister at an airport in Europe. Part of our high school Spanish trip where we decided to also bring and play twister in various famous areas
Rachel & I playing twister at an airport in Europe. Part of our high school Spanish trip where we decided to also bring and play twister in various famous areas

I turned to my right and there was one of my friends from my (very small) hometown, Rachel Gottlieb! Both of our jaws dropped. I ran to hug her and then saw her mom (who I haven’t seen in perhaps 8 years) and hugged her too, then ran to the register, to relieve James from the glares of waiting shoppers.

Rachel found us after checkout and instantly invited us to dinner. Pushing our vegetables away she said “eat these tomorrow! We have salad and wine and goat cheese from a farm we hiked to!” James and I forgot about the quick dinner and good night’s rest we had planned (we were still making up for sleep debt from the Joe&Tessa visit) and we happily obliged!

Dinner with the Gottlieb’s was nothing short of unadulterated bliss. The food, the company, the mountain views at the golden hour— it felt like there was no where else we could possibly be.

But wait it got better.

At this time I should mention that for the past few weeks, James has had an interesting skin irritation on his leg that we’ve been “troubleshooting”. This means we’ve sent pictures to doctor friends, FaceTimed my (nearly) pharmacist sister multiple times, and mildly stressed over finding an effective & English speaking doctor abroad. Anyway, about 30 minutes into the Gottlieb dinner it dawned on me that we were surrounded by extremely smart, science trained humans, two of which are doctors. And so, a grocery store run-in became a scenic dinner with local goat cheese, which became the solve to the medical matter at hand. I’m happy to report that his leg is nothing to fret over, is healing, and we feel more at ease. You can’t make this stuff up!

Three of the Gottlieb sisters that went for out for a beautiful mountain of ice cream post dinner
Three of the Gottlieb sisters that went for out for a beautiful mountain of ice cream post dinner

The next morning we woke up to hike to Lacs Noir. We started the hike by walking all of 8 minutes (again super grateful for the location of our accommodations) to the base of the gondola, which we rode up to Pranplaz. From start to finish the views were spectacular and I was reminded of the hikes and views of Switzerland. It felt unbelievable to be back on the mountains and was totally worth the fact that my heart felt like it might explode at times due to altitude.

LOVING the mountains
LOVING the mountains

Though the clouds threatened some rain towards the end of the hike, it was blue skies the whole time we were on the mountains. In fact, the thunderstorm held off its start time until James and I had safely reached our Airbnb.


Later on that day we strolled the town once more. James had been thinking about a certain pair of pants he wanted to buy for a YEAR now, and I was excited to get him an early birthday present. We could have just walked in and bought the pants and left but nope— We were in the store for an hour, talking to the owner, and trying on different colors and styles of comfy pants. We left after a pleasant experience and with some new pants that were also ON SALE 😉

Wandering the “long way” back to our apartment the tiredness suddenly hit me. “Ah I’m so excited to go home make dinner and go to sleep early…” I trailed off as I said it, as I was distracted— many people around us seemed to be filing into a park to our left, walking by banners that announced some sort of Jazz festival. NO WAY … James and I had been trying to find live music like this basically since this trip commenced. So we once again ditched our early night plans and pivoted off our homeward bound track to check it out.

Turns out we had happened upon the Cosmo Jazz Festival and the evening’s performance was just kicking off. The small grassy hill before the concert stage was already filled with people but we found a nice place to sit before the rest of the area filled in. The band was awesome and we listened, people-watched, and marveled at how this night had come to be. Great as it was, it didn’t last long— the thunderclaps and lightening were back twenty minutes into the set and we took it as a sign to go home and wind down the awe inspiring day.

This was just the first 24 hours! There is much more we’ve seen done and experienced in Chamonix and we can’t wait to share more photos and musings with you.

Paragliding, very popular in Chamonix. Fun to watch for us!
Paragliding, very popular in Chamonix. Fun to watch for us!
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Adventure travel blog by James Simone & Sheila Murray. Travel along with them on their backpacking trip(s) as they actively explore the American West, Europe and beyond:

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