Nous ne voygeons pas pour echapper a la vie mais pour que le vie ne nous echappe pas
We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us
The heart of any city offers glimpses of life that carry the quintessential watermark of the local flavours unique to the place. Chamonix enjoys a humid continental climate. Here the summers are mild and winters are cold and snowy. The weather thus agrees well with the visitors with varied interests, thus not allowing the city centre any spell of lull throughout 365 days.
Let’s start our stroll today through the pedestrian-only, ‘jaw-dropping‘ city centre of Chamonix- Mont-Blanc.
Chamonix Village Center
Just a few meters away from the Gare de Chamonix Mont-Blanc is a notable city centre.
The bustle of the tourists and locals fills the air with life while the majestic mountains loom over existence with their mighty presence. Everyday life is punctuated by the drama played in the open skies by the low-lying clouds playing hide and seek with the snow-capped mountains.
While the upscale boutiques, gourmet restaurants, busy brasseries, and friendly casual cafes buzz with the activities, the old buildings with characteristic Alpine architecture provide a patient ear to all the humdrum.
The mural at Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix (Guides of Chamonix) attracts the attention of the jaywalker as it stands tall with pride. At the top of the mural is Marie Paradis, a waitress and the first woman to reach the summit of Mont Blanc (1808). The mural has a who’s who from the annals of the history of Mont Blanc mountaineering.
To add to the vibrant mood are the ever happy, ever attractive flowers, planted in pots along the street, on the balconies, and adorning the windows.
A lovely Baroque-style church on one side of the city centre attracts visitors with its pious calm.
The buildings of La Post (the post office), Hotel de Ville (Town Hall), and Office de Tourisme Chamonix-Mont-Blanc (Tourism Office) mark their presence with their impressive facades.
Right opposite the La Post building is the open area where a pretty red and white tourist bus awaits to welcome on board the visitors for a short ride around the city. The audio guide offers commentary in different languages including English.
Little away from La Post, a prominently placed statue of Horace Bénédict du Saussure is difficult to miss. Horace was a scientist and alpine explorer from Geneva. When he visited Chamonix, the majestic magnanimity of Mont Blanc possessed him. He offered a reward to the first person who successfully climbed it. And that led to the first-ever successful climb of the Mont Blanc!
A little closer to it is the statue of an unusual pair, one a doctor and the other a farmer cum crystal and chamois hunter, pointing to the Mont Blanc. They are none other than Jacques Balmat and Dr Michel-Gabriel Paccard who scaled the Mont Blanc successfully in 1786, for the first time in history! #
An interesting mural at the back of the Cinema Voix (a cinema theatre) is entertaining as well!
The city also harbours a noble and kind heart. During the Second World War, several Jewish children were safely hidden from the prying eyes of the Nazis in its ‘Children’s Home’ operated in Chamonix*.
Let’s call it a day and meet tomorrow for a thrilling day in this jaw-dropping city of Chamonix Mont-Blanc.
# For more information about the first successful climb of Mont Blanc, click here
* For more details about Children’s Home, click here.
Click here for posts so far in the “Exploring l’Hexagone” series