Chamonix Road Trip - April 2006

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I never tire of returning to Chamonix and this trip was no exception. So far this Winter Jill and I had been very fortunate to have had a great time in the Portes du Soleil back in January followed by a brilliant Canadian road trip during late Feb and early March but I knew this would be a fine trip to finish off with and it would also be the last one for quite some time that we would be on our own now that a new addition is on the way.
Thursday 6th April 2006.
We set off at 6.45 am and had a decent run down to Folkestone. It was dull and wet but once below Preston it cleared up and turned into a nice and sunny afternoon. We went via the M6 Toll road and arrived at the tunnel terminal by 13.40. We got booked onto the 14.33 crossing and had some time to get a few things at the shopping area before we left. We were soon across at Calais and the first thing was to fill the car up with diesel (€1.17/litre) as it is still a bit cheaper than in the UK.
We had no plan as to how far we would drive this afternoon but we wanted to keep going for a few hours to make tommorow an easier day. We got onto the A26 and drove for just under 2 hours until we reached St.Quentin. This was a town I had stopped at a few years ago and I could remember the nice town square and Cathedral. I had looked through the forums onthe SCGB and had noticed that the small Hotel Florence had been reccomended as a stopover Hotel so we headed into the centre and by chance drove right past it. Drove round to the small carpark and went to reception to find they had one room left. We were in luck.
We checked in and then took a stroll through the town to look for a place to eat. We ended up going to the excellent Chinese restaurant in the centre of town.

The Cathedral at St.Quentin.


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After dinner we went a walk through the town and came across the Bar in the pic below...noticed the Mutzig sign right away and memories of Bar Robinson in Morzine came flooding back. We went to go in for a drink but a Cat sitting at the Bar turned round and in a stereotypical French accent said they were I did not get to sample any Mutzig in St.Quentin !

Mutzig !!!

Friday 7th April 2006
We had a comfortable night and after breakfast in the quaint dinning room we checked out. The price for a room and breakfast was only €45 which was excellent value. It was a clear and sunny day as we made our way back onto the A26 where we made good progress down through Reims,Troyes and towards Dijon.


Hotel Florence

As we headed further South the Temp started to rise and we reached 16'C . We had a stop for lunch then another stop at a very nice service station in the Jura. We took the new Autoroute from Dijon via Dole and Lons down to Bourg en Bresse and then on to Geneva. It is a very scenic route and taked about the same time as going via Macon.
We arrived in Chamonix by 4.30pm and got the car parked underneath the Hotel then checked in. The Hotel Alpina is typical 1970s architecture but is in an ideal location with smallish rooms but good facilities and a nice restaurant with brilliant panoramic views out over the Mont Blanc Massif.

Hotel Alpina Chamonix. Brevant behind.

Hotel Alpina,Chamonix.

We had Dinner in the Hotel tonight. I had the set Menu ( 5 Courses) while Jill had the Savoyard Mountain Menu and all the food was excellent. The Restuarant is on the top floor with magnificent views looking towards Mont Blanc.

Saturday 8th April 2006.
Got up nice and early and we went for the buffet breakfast in the Hotel which was again very good. We then drove up to Les Praz and got the Flegere gondola. It was very quiet and with a clear sky and warm sunshine and with the snow in great condition we had the makings of a fine day.

Jill at Flegere with the Vallee Blanche behind.

We started the day by taking L'Index chair up to 2396m. The views were stunning and I was amazed as to just how few people were on the slopes. We saw a few people "skinning up" in the distance to the snowfields under the Grande Floria  but them apart the whole area was ours. Once at the top we looked across the valley and could see the lifts of Argentiere where we would be heading later in the week.

L'Index chair at Flegere.

Jill on L'Index chair,Flegere.

View from Flegere.
Magnificent views.

We cruised around this area then explored down to the wooded areas accessed by the La Trappe chair. As the morning went on a few others appeared on the slopes but it was still very quiet. We then headed down under the Evettes chair to the link gondola and went over to the Brevant sector.
We made our way over to Planpraz and decided on an early lunch so we could get a prime table on the terrace over looking the Mont Blanc Massif. It was great soaking up the warm sunshine and watching people Parapenting just below us.


Jill enjoys the sun at Planpraz,Brevant.

Me at Flegere.

After lunch we went down to the Planpraz-Brevant cable car for the trip up to 2525m. It was such a clear day that you could see for miles. In one direction there was the Mont Blanc Massif and on towards Italy and in the other direction you were looking back across the valleys towards the Portes du Soleil.
The Black runs from the top are steep in sections and can get mogulled at times but today it was good and very quiet. We made our way down and then cruised over to the Col Cornu sector to play on the long Red runs such as Cornu,Chamois and Charlanon. We then took the gondola back over to Flegere then back down to the car park where it was very warm. We had enjoyed a fine days boarding.

Cable Car to Brevant.
Me at Planpraz,Brevant.

Back at the car the temp was reading 20'C. We got back to the Hotel and logged onto Sky Sports for the football results and I was quite happy that QOS got a point with a 1-1 draw at Airdrie. We walked up the street for a beer and then had a nice dinner at a Restaurant called Le Pitz.

Jill. Piste No1 CH.Bozon.
View from Brevant.


Chamonix Restaurants

Sunday 9th April 2006.
It was partly overcast when we got up this morning but the plan was to drive round to Les Contamines. This is only a 30 min drive away round the side of Mont Blanc and is a place I have been to a couple of times in the past. It is a fair sized area and never usually very busy. The lift tickets today were a bargain price of just €18. As I thought it was not busy and there was still plenty of decent snow to be found. On Piste was excellent and we were still able to find areas of untracked off piste and up at the top there had been around 5cm of fresh snow overnight.

Jill at Les Contamines.
Les Contamines.

We got the gondola up to Etape (1470m) then on up to Signal (1900m).We started the day with a nice run down the "gentianes" to the long and slow (but deserted) Buche Croisse chair, it takes an eternity to reach the top but on a nice day it affords great views of the nearby peaks. Once at the top we traversed the ridge in nice fresh snow and down the cruisy , well groomed "Choucas" run to La Ruelle at 1600m. It was so quiet that for a moment I thought we were going to be stuck over the back as the place was closed. We then took one of my favourite runs all the way down the back through the woods to the Hamlet of Belleville (1200m). This long Red run had been groomed this morning and we were the first to use it.
Once at the bottom we took the gondola back up to La Ruelle then another long chair back up to the Col. I had hoped to have a coffee break at Chez Gaston at the top of the Col du Joly but it seemed to have closed up for the season so we headed back down to Le Signal for our break.



After our little refreshment we headed up to the highest point in the area. Aiguille Croche is at 2487m and the snow up here was dry and squeaky. Had a look at the small Park then blasted our way around the nice Red runs down to the Jonction where an array of chairs fan out in different directions.
As the day wore on the snow ,especially lower down began to soften and become heavy and sticky so by 1.30pm we decided to head down. It was still just possible to ride all the way to the car park but we decided to take the gondola back down from Etape.





We packed our kit into the car and then drove into the village where we had lunch at a charming local Restaurant. It was then back to Chamonix via St.Gervais.
Tonight we went to another decent Restaurant in town. This time it was Le Bivouac where I indulged in an excellent Norweigan salad followed by a Salmon Lasagne. We were then ready for an early night after what had been another good day.

Les Contamines.

Le Bivouac Restaurant.

Monday 10th April 2006.
We got up at about 8am and found it was raining steadily outside. We went up to the Restaurant for breakfast but the splendid views had now been replaced by mist and low cloud. We checked out of the Hotel Alpina and took a walk up town. We found out that the Alpine Museum does not open till the afternoon so we decided to drive to the Quechua shop at Le Fayet and then onto the shopping centre at Annemasse. We had a MacDonalds for lunch then toured around the Go Sport store and the Supermarket before heading back to Cham. As we neared Chamonix it began to snow and as we headed up to Argentiere it became quite heavy. We checked into the Hotel Couronne and into our usual Room No 36 ! We took a walk up the street and then into the Office Bar for a refreshment. This evening we took a walk down to the Rencard Bar for a Pizxza for our dinner. I was pleased to find the service much better than it had been on our previous visit. We then had a nightcap in the Rusticana before heading of to bed.


Hotel Couronne

The Office Bar.

The Rusticana Bar.

Tuesday 11th April 2006

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