Then we set off once more to meet our intrepid cyclist at the top of the mountain at a place called Vex. Some well earned refreshment for Randall and then we got to watch the official riders come past climbing the hill in various stages of exhaustion before they sped down back into the town of Sion.
Snow place like Chamonix
From Sion we went onwards to Chamonix and this was possibly the most exciting part for myself and Pierre because we got to see, touch and stand in real snow! I’ve seen snow flakes falling outside a train window as we whizzed past, and I’ve seen slushy bits of leftover ice in Leadville but this was the real deal…mounds and mounds of white, crusty snow. Here we behaved …well just like people who’ve never seen snow before.
The first ski town I was ever in was Aspen which is absolutely lovely but very ‘exclusive’ and made me feel uncomfortable because, as weird as this sounds, I saw no beggars and very, very few non whites – and those I did see were in service positions. Now, while I wish no person ever had to beg, the fact is that a town with no sign of poverty can only be that way because the poor are kept out. A place where the rich can set aside their social conscience and be with ‘people like them.’ Chamonix felt far more inclusive and less snooty, though make no mistake ski-ing is clearly not a cheap sport. There were lots of families and groups of friends and a pretty laid back attitude, a gent sitting on the side walk asked for change first in French, then switching to English when he realised we were not from around there. So, vastly different to Aspen in that regard. In Geneva I’d noticed it was a very dog friendly place, here in the village there were some lovely, large canines – making me feel a mixture of home sick and feeling at home.
The town itself is in fact a ski resort at the intersection of Italy, Switzerland and France a resort area charming but, as mentioned unpretentious it nestles between some pretty impressive mountains not least of which is Mont Blanc the highest summit in the Alps. The next morning while Randall and Sara set off for a hike myself and Pierre caught the ski-lift up to Aigulle Du Midi 3842 metres. Now given that one can begin to feel the effects of altitude at 3000 metres it was interesting to experience it given that the lift takes you up quite swiftly. Granted this was nothing dramatic but rather a slight light headedness and feeling a bit like you took a shot of tequila on an empty stomach.
It was icy, freezing and exhilarating out in the snow. We saw real glaciers, something I never thought I’d ever be able to say and I felt a bit like a kid and Pierre even more so. It was decided then and there – we were definitely going to come back again to play in the snow, a few ski-ing lessons perhaps maybe some snow-boarding. Below us we watched the brave / deranged folk who were braving the back mountains – puny little humans set against the huge backdrop of mountain and snow. A visit to the little museum for real Alpiners show various ways to die..I mean climb, abseil, base jump etc on the mountain. It makes boxing look like a sensible sport with minimal chance of injury and thats’ not even taking in the possibility of hypoxia and frostbite. Nonetheless we were now converted to the joys of snow and the vibe of Chamonix in particular and on the trip back to Geneva mulled over the kind of ‘ski-ing’ suitable for non-skiers.
Back in Geneva Randall mentioned he knew this girl who was in a punk band and who was playing that night – so off we set off to go and watch The Mighty Bombs a punk band boasting two lasses and a lad…This was totally cool for so many reasons, not least of which was it kicked off at 5:30 pm …a very reasonable time for someone like me who turns into a pumpkin at midnight. I wish all music events began at such a reasonable hour for oldies like me who like to rock out but also be in bed with their vitamins and a good book by 11pm. Secondly, they’re small, not (yet?) famous and were playing in a small funky record store which gave it all a very authentic feel. Finally, because it was early, at least 5 of the fans were under the age of 11. All responsibly wearing noise-cancelling headphones of course, the preteens got bored fast and stepped out but next to me was a little lass of about 5 who, even when her mom asked, preferred to stay. She was totally focused on the band, watching, thumb occasionally in mouth, no smiles – the toughest, cutest critic I’ve ever seen.
Geneva was nothing like I expected to find, no doubt there is a bustling, modern city however where our friends live is quaint, with lots of old architecture and nearly everything in easy walking distance. Furthermore though marijuanna isn’t legal to buy there it is legal to smoke it and, my nose can confirm, very popular. All in all it offered so many great experiences and we really felt that we’d done and enjoyed so much and having ‘locals’ who shared our interests and who were such great hosts just added a whole new level to the fun had.