Welcome to 2011! How are the resolutions working out? I won’t complain much, I’m still on vacation in France for a few more days. In this series of posts I started last week, I intend on sharing pictures of France in winter, not the most well-known side of my country. Lots of variation in Frenchland, you see. I honestly favor June but every 3 years or so I do have to face a pilgrimage for Christmas, to replenish with nutrients and rudeness. A few days ago I posted photos of Chamonix by Night along the river, I now bring a few more outdoor pics by day. It’s difficult to do justice to the sheer size of the French Alps, but I added some snapshots of the mountains as well.
This is the second post in a five-parts series relating my winter trip to France in December 2010. In separate installments I posted photos of Chamonix by Night, wondered where the princess was, ambled down the roads of Uzès and Arles, and gave French food some thought.
In the header, wind blows on top of The Aiguille du Dru, a mountain in the Mont Blanc massif in the French Alps. The mountain has two summits, the Grande Aiguille du Dru, 12, 316 ft. (3,754 m.), and the Petite Aiguille du Dru, 12, 247 ft. (3,733 m.), both spectacularly scary. It was first ascended in 1878. Despite its name, the north face of the Petit Dru is considered one of the six great north faces of the Alps. Note that Gérard Depardieu is not considered one of the great faces of the Alps, despite the nose.
Once again, the Arve river, which flows for approximately 62 miles through in the département of Haute-Savoie. While it is pretty shallow in this picture, many signs along its path warn passersby about the dangerous flash floods occurring now and then. It’s also very very cold all year long. “Refreshing”, if you are a local.
Above, the view from our balcony (click on the thumbnails for more mountains). In the distance, the Aiguille du Midi, 12, 604 ft. (3,842 m.), which translates literally as “Needle of Midday”. The cable car to the summit, the Téléphérique de l’Aiguille du Midi, was built in 1955 and held the title of the world’s highest cable car for about two decades (photos). It still holds the record as the highest vertical ascent cable car in the world, from 3, 395 ft. to 12, 604 ft. (1,035 m. to 3,842 m.); see Wikipedia for more factoids. Needless to say (see what I just did here?), I’m not going anywhere near this cable car. An adult ticket from Chamonix, as of July 2010, is €41 round-trip (that’s about a bazillion dollars). The view is quite something I hear, even if it’s the last thing you see.
Less dangerous, there are a few unusual benches to be found around the Arve river. Here is another one (or click on the thumbnails above). I don’t know why they were built at the moment, but this won’t stop me from assuming it was to worship Couchus, the God of Seating.
Chamonix is a very popular destination for ski and snowboard. Small ski resorts can be found literally at street level (above), while larger domains span multiple peaks across France and Switzerland. Off-trail skiing can be really fun but people get into deadly accident on a regular basis. Be careful, my experience with American resorts is that there is less signage in France. Maybe on purpose.
Small houses at the bottom of the mountain. Open this photo large to check the fault lines. I do like this area but I’m not sure I would build my home here, the valley has seen houses engulfed in huge barrages of snow in the past. On the 9th of February 1999 the village of Montroc was hit by a massive avalanche killing 12 people in their homes.
Back home. This was taken in the yard, on Christmas Eve. I left the shutter open for 4 seconds to gather all the light I could, while Laurent-Philippe, planted under my tripod, shot his own flash to illuminate the snowflakes. Rear-curtain flash teamwork.
I rarely post family photos, but here is a small assortment, a glimpse at what we French people do on Christmas Eve. We enjoy it mostly like you guys do, of course, we sip Champagne, wait for the younglings like Jules above to get tired, and put gifts under the tree. OK, fine, we do burn one or two cars in Paris too, but that’s just tradition.
We listen to the wise, the bearded ones, we share the old stories. My dad, above, make them all up, and that’s before the wine flows. He cracks me up.
That’s when I realized my sister is not a little girl anymore and I can’t even lift her off the ground. I had not seen her in 20 months, that’s a lot for a 13 years old. I’m really looking forward the next few years, when she decides to cross the ocean. She wants to be a veterinarian in the USA, she confided to me. Does she picture mythical animals roaming America, or does she want to be closer to her one and only brother?
Time to leave. One last photo from the train that leads me to Avignon, in southern France, where I’ll spend the rest of my vacation. This is a transition I had not seen that often, the mountains looming over a typical southern village, curved tiles covering the roofs, cypress trees popping up in the distance. Welcome to the south.
Next up, a castle… built like a ship. Want to see more? In separate installments I posted photos of Chamonix by Night, wondered where the princess was, ambled down the roads of Uzès and Arles, and gave French food some thought.