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Man hanging from ski lift saved after stranger walks across cable to cut him free

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This is amazing on so many leveles:

1. The kindness of strangers.

2. The speed and foresight of the helper. 

3. The fact that there is such a profession as a a professionL slackliner. We’ve got the kit so clearly we must practice more often!

3. Um, and yes we know that rucksacks are a pain, but still use them to bump fellow skiers off the lift..

Chamonix, the new centre of the ice cream parlour?

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Although Chamonix is currently having one of its best early season for years with lifts open in November, its with fondness we look back at those warmer sunny days….

It’s always fun to ring the changes in a familiar area, but this was a trend we’d not anticipated. Stupid really as you always see ques for ice cream during summer evenings in the Market Square courtesy of this place.

Given our loathing of queuing we prefer the place on the Avenue Michael Crozier near the museum. This little place (Mer Des Glaces) is open winer and summer (well it would have to be with a name like that).

It was while walking towards the SNCF station on that same avenue that we spotted a few trendy looking stools outside a cafe. It then hit us that with this amount of ice cream parlours Chamonix has truly landed on the summer map for those other than hard-core outdoor types.

So we kept our eyes open when wandering around town and we were amazed how many more we saw.

Cote Macarons walking out of town towards the hotel Alpina.

Chez Rochford

And of course Chalet 4810 who converted from a rock shop into a patisserie a few years ago

These 6 are just of course the ‘tip if the iceberg’ as many of the restaurants make their own and are famed for such delicacies. A little hunt around identified our next door neighbour L’Impossible as a leader in this field.  The local speciality of Chestnut ice cream has even inspired famous chefs to create their own Mont Blanc.

Neither Facebook or Trip Advisor seems to have cottoned on yet though, so watch this space.

Via Ferrata De Curalla, Passy, not for the faint hearted

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Having watched YouTube videos the night before it seemed like a good idea.

Also the single photo I saw of it from the lad’s trip earlier in the year looked spectacular. And the enthusiasm of a teenage daughter made it seem accessible.

The guidebook states that it is Europe’s best and most beautiful one. Supposedly it is the only via ferrata opposite Mont-Blanc. Total length is 400 meters, difficulty AD+ and you can make it in 1 1/2 hours. It also happens to be the closest to Chamonix town, bar the Mer Des Glace, and a few ladders dotted around the valley. 

The viaferrata was graded as AD+ which means just two grades harder then the easiest viaferrata in the grading system. It took me about 20mins longer than the estimated 90mins though, as I had an attack of the nerves a good few times. So I’m not convinced how accurate the grading system is. Saying that we were over taken once by those more competent than I. So maybe I’m not completely cut out for this kind of thing ( it’s the look of deep concentration on my face that gives it away!)?

It’s definitely a popular spot with plenty of parking and the opportunity to buy a drink and hire equipment or a guide if necessary. The walk up to the start is around 15mins and the descent from the end about 25mins.  It’s on the Plateau d’Assy, about a 20 mins drive down the valley.

Although I might be putting myself in the faint hearted category, my daughter went back and did it again later in the week. 

Teenage Chamonix summer holiday wish list

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So the kids have been here for the last 8 years, each one has not greeted with great enthusiasm due to the usual teenage malaise, and us being horrible parents of course.  This year is different though. We’re bringing a  friend; a teenage friend….  So good is this that it’s prompted positive anticipation and almost (just almost) excitement. This is providing we follow the suggested itinerary and leave them at home to go shopping should we hit the high mountains..

I’m not sure how representative this list is of the average teenage girl, but it might be useful as inspiration for others coming to Chamonix for a few weeks. For me it is actually a nice reprise of the things they enjoyed when they were younger and haven’t grown out of yet (3 are from an ever popular blog I did 6 years ago!)

  1. Hurtling down the slides of the municipal pool on the edge of Lake Geneva at Thonon
  2. Stand Up Paddle boarding on Lake Annecy.
  3. Taking the 3 person inflatable canoe to the lakes at Passy near Sallanches.
  4. Riding the slides at the Richard Bossons sports centre in the middle of town.
  5. Cycling up to the Les Chavants lake in Les Houches and stopping for an ice cream, both on the way up at the terrace next to the super market and at the cafe on the lake!
  6. Popping into the amusement park in town and doing the Luge de Ete.
  7. A day trip to Lake Geneva, again, this time to the Aqua Park, full of flumes and typical tourist things.

You may have spotted the water based theme, so we’re very much hoping for good weather.  

I’ll let you know how we get on. Maybe we’ll be able to swap a swim session for rafting perhaps? We have a teenager with us who is rather unfamiliar with the great outdoors, so it could be fun 😉

UTMB availability, sleeps 6, Aug 24th to 28th

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TDS 2013 going up to Petite St Bernard

Having visited the town during its peak week for many years, we’ve decide to give someone else  the opportunity to experience the buzz that is the UTMB.

There are lots of great family activities going on during the week, and some fantastic opportunities for seeing what endurance athletes can achieve.

The apartment that sleeps 6 is available from the Weds to the Sunday evening. More details and booking links can be found here.

Availability this year only, as he’s applying to enter again in 2017…

An old picture (as of course we have a new sofa), but it give you an idea.





Could this be a Geocachers new obsession?

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I’ve just got home after my usual Saturday morning run with the dog. Nothing remarkable in that, admittedly. Unlike many regular runners though I’ve resisted the temptation to record my speed, metres climbed, course records, kudos points etc. Until today. 
My new found way of recording running achievements is slightly different to the norm though. It’s Pokémon Go. It actually added 20mins to my normal run but the dog didn’t seem to mind. Those extra 20mins enabled me to find all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures.

I just love the way it puts the beasts on the right background. 

So on my first run out I managed to achieve level 3, which I didn’t think was bad for a non gamer. But I lost loads of balls on this batty thing. Clearly a trick to doing him!

I don’t think I’ll be playing every time I run, but it certainly appeals to the part of me that enjoyed Geocaching. Running around new places to find little surprises.

This of course works nicely in the Chamonix valley with all its foot paths. I’m not sure if it’s in France yet but I know the US ski resorts have had playing it. So I’ll keep my eye open.

Introducing the new grey wool sofa

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Definitely worth the trip down to drop it off. A nice 3 seater Worsley sofa by Made.

Wolseley 3 seater sofa grey

Wishing our guests many cozy nights snuggling up on it. Bon Vacances!

Wolseley 3 seater sofa in grey residing in Barrats A Chamonix

New furniture for the flat

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So this is how we looked as we set off from at 5am this morning before our drive down to Chamonix.  New sofa and fridge on its way!!

We must be quite a sight given that this is the view when you look up from the windscreen.

Marvellous, clever rope tying.


Via ferratas in spring: scarey views

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You have to look hard, but you can see a few small people climbing up the metal ladders. Great views in the mountains today!

Tips for first time Cross Country Skiing

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We woke up to a beautiful layer of snow in the town when we popped over for a quick break recently.  Unfortunately though, the visibility was a little low, so as much of a travesty as it sounds we decided not to hit the big mountains but stay on the valley floor.

snow in the car park of Barrats A chamonix
morning snow on the cars in Barrats A’s car park, with Mount Blanc in the Background

We took ourselves back to ski school and booked places on a group nordic skiing lesson. It was very bizarre going back to school, but it was absolutely necessary.  – What seems to be the easy option when you drive past the walking pace skiing on carved out paths as you head up the valley past Bois du Bouchet to Argentiere is in fact rather technical and hard work.

So we rocked up to the ski hire place next to the Masion du Fond (Interpsort) near the ice rink and asked for cross country skis.  Ah, so it seems we have a choice of two: classic and skate, which do we want? Having never done it before we were advised to go for the classic.  It turns out that these are the slightly thicker, lower bridge skis more akin to tele-marking which are best suited to the pre-cut groves on the side of the piste.   When you use them it’s like the motions you go though on a gym ski simulator with arms and legs moving in opposite motion as you lunge forward.

Ok great, so we took our classic skis and comfy boots and were given them for 4 hours.  4 hours? What a rip off, you hire alpine skis by the day, why only a few hours for these, the lesson is 2 hours? Having enjoyed our 2 hour lesson and made good progress managing to get up to the top of the Chamonix piste right the way up to Les Bois we were shattered.  The slower than alpine pace afforded us some lovely views though, as you seem to have so much more time to look up from the slopes in front of you.

View while nordic skiing, Les Bois, Chamonix
Take a moment to reflect and spot the beauty around you

We pootled for a bit after our lesson, but the shop was right we didn’t need them for a full day. This then offered us the opportunity to do something else in the day too so we grabbed the bus up to Argentiere for a lovely lunch in Les Remis, which we’ll tell you about later.

Day two we went back to alpine skiing, but on day three we returned for another cross country ski lesson to find out what those skating skis were all about.  This time we had a private lesson which worked equally as well, and I must say that our ESF guide Bernard was fantastic on both occasions.

For our skating lessons we didn’t cover anywhere near as much ground kilometer wise, but we focused a lot more on the range of techniques needed for skiing.  I’d say that it’s the more difficult technique to master, but once you get it you go faster and probably expend less energy. You look a little like a penguin, like these guys below as you flip your way around and shuffle round corners, but that’s part of the fun.

Nordic skiing Skating style chamonix

After our 2 hour lesson we continued to skate around the Bois du Bochet, but again no more then the extra 2 hours were needed.  In fact we used around an hour having lunch at Le Robinson.  We felt rather inadequate following one particular family in there though as the dad was actually skiing towing his young daughter in a sledge behind him! Wow, very fit. It’s no surprise that nordic skiers tend to be rather slim.

We had great fun trying out this new sport and were grateful to be in Chamonix early enough in the season to have snow in the town.  Les Houches has its piste on the top of the mountain which has got to be great for late season tracks and Easter skiing so we may well be doing it again soon.

In terms of practical tips on doing it here are a couple more things:

  • Don’t wear your salopettes, but running tights or jogging bottoms.
  • You can leave your bags with your extra layers in the Maison du Fond for your return. Toilets and vending machine are there too.
  • On your trip to Chamonix make sure you have your swimming costume (your budgie smuggler types :-)) as your piste ticket entitles you to free us of the swimming pool and sauna on the same day.  This actually means your piste ticket is free if you had intended to go to the sauna anyway.
  • On the days when the full piste isn’t open they even offer you a discount which can work out that they are paying you to do it if you were intending to go to the pool anyway.
  • When you enter the swimming pool, before swiping in get your haman (sauna) band from reception.
  • Book your ski lessons before the day you want to go, ideally at least the morning before, as in low season group lessons might not happen.
  • Even for 4 hours hire its not expensive, 20 Euros per person for boots and skis.

Alle, alle!