Chamonix, France – Eat, Ski, Shred & Dance!
Chamonix, France was on our bucket list for decades. Being avid outdoorsmen and winter connoisseurs, visiting the highest peak in the Alps was a Pitt Stop necessity. From the moment we scanned our passports at Logan International, we were “prêt à célébrer” (ready to celebrate)!
Chamonix Mont Blanc did not disappoint. With only a short stay, we had to make the most of our time. The following is our three-day itinerary, which we would recommend to anyone planning a quick stop, or “Pitt Stop” in the majestic alpine resort town.
Day One – Arrive, Shop, Eat, Sleep
Upon entering the ski village, large, fatty snowflakes fluttered about and the air was fragrant with mulling spices and street-side crepes. We quickly unloaded at Hotel La Vallée Blanche, a boutique hotel in city centre, and set off in search of adventure. Our first stop was finding some mulled wine. We knew this as glühwein from our trip to Garmisch Partenkirchen, Germany. However, we quickly learned in France we were seeking vin chaud. ALAS we were quickly swept into the charm and beauty that makes up this wonderfully diverse destination.
Our first night we found superb local fare at Restaurant Le Monchu. The aroma of deliciousness and fondue filled the air, and the food did not disappoint. Hands down, they serve the best French onion soup in the world! Since we were in France, we also paired our dinners with some champagne cocktails called Kir Royales, and then went to bed.
Day Two, Part 1 – Ski & Après
Morning came, and we were up and reading the snow report at our hotel’s buffet breakfast, which literally cantilevered over the River Arve. There are several ENORMOUS, high altitude alpine options right in the valley, all of which are either walking distance or a quick shuttle or train ride away. They are Les Grands Motets, Les Houches, La Flegere, Le Brevent, Balme and Bellevue-Prarion.
On our visit, it was dumping snow and visibility was a little challenging. Therefore we opted for one of the biggest and open mountains in the area, Les Grands Montets. Based on local knowledge from Chamonix Tourism, we definitely made the right move. We found ourselves skiing 15-20cm of fresh snow on clearly marked trails. This massive ski paradise reaches 10,825’ in elevation (about 3,300 meters) and looks over the village of Argentiere. The Mountain faces North/Northwest to guarantee some of the best snow conditions on the planet…even late into the season!
After tiring ourselves out on the slopes, we took a shuttle back to Chamonix to indulge in the cultural side of the French Village. First stop – MORE VIN CHAUD! Looking to refill the tanks we also eagerly explored the city centre menus before deciding on Restaurant La Moraine. To be honest, we were a little H-ANGRY by the time we reached the table but this menu did not disappoint. Our waitress was very patient with our mediocre French and the food was also delightful. It had some of the best lasagna we have ever eaten!
Day 2, Part 2 – More Après
OK…now onto the nightlife. YIKES!
If you are in town for a weekend or extended stay, definitely stop into the Chamonix tourist office for the local scoop. They certainly led us in the right direction for an epic night out!
If your looking to romance or bromance, our suggestion is warm up with some fine dining and then stop in for some après at one of many outdoor establishments. Most have outdoor heat lamps and bars too.
After some outdoor indulgences, we enjoyed a quick cocktail at the really fun and loud (in a good way) restaurant/club, La Terrasse. It was located right in the center of Chamonix, and they had an outdoor and indoor dj, with parties on both sides.
After getting our ya-yas out for a bit we took a nice walk through a snow-covered park to one of the coolest jazz clubs we ever experienced, Maison des Artistes. We enjoyed many French and English classics over a local beer and fizzy concoction. The live band was superb, and played a mix of French and English sets. Therefore, this is a must see for those visiting the area.
From there my suggestion is to go to bed if you plan on skiing the next day. We, however, went to Monkey just in time to hear the band close with a Hendrix classic and proceeded to meet a gregarious and friendly group on holiday from Scotland. After being invited to join them next year in Scotland for Hogmanay, they were gone but in our email box and quickly replaced by some complete gentlemen from Sweden (Skål!) who we quickly chatted up.
We joined the Swedes who treated us to the late night boogie that is Chamonix, France. One thing to note about the clubs is a 2€ coat check, and you also have the option to pay 20€ for cover and 2 drinks inside. You are limited to specific drinks, but overall not a bad cover charge! We were also surprised to see smoking was allowed inside, but it made for a good fog machine. After a lot of bad dancing and VIP treatment at Le Tof and the Amnesia Club, we had made some new shreddy buddies and were certainly ready for bed. OYE …VIVA LA FRANCE!
Day 3 – Sightseeing
Breakfast is always the first stop after a night of après. Therefore, we stopped at the Extreme Cafe for yummy coffee and Crepes before heading to our first stop.
One of the most iconic sites in the Chamonix Valley is Aiguille du Midi. The Aiguille du Midi is accessible by cable car from Chamonix center. Fun fact: When we were waiting in line, Glen Plake literally walked up next to us. For anyone who knows skiing, you know that name. For those who don’t, he is one of the most iconic skiers of all time, known for his crazy mohawk and daredevil skiing. Apparently while we were planning on enjoying the panoramic views of the jagged Alps, he was going to ski them!
Once at the top, you can take another lift that brings you to the summit terrace at 3,842m. There you will have a clear view of Mont Blanc on a nice day. If you are brave, make sure to take “A STEP INTO THE VOID”, which is a 2.50m glass cage hanging over a 1000m cliff. Definitely not for the faint of heart, but a must see!
Another incredible sightseeing destination, if you have time, is the Mer de Glace. Take the scenic train to Montenvers and enjoy a tour of “grotte de glace” in the center of the glacier. There is also a new exhibition center called The Glaciorium where you can learn about the evolution of the glaciers. Depending on weather, there are also some great hiking trails in the area.
There is so much to discover…
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