Friday, July 14, 2006

France Chamonix Day 6

When the schedule for the trip was finalized, I looked at this day and felt some dread. The plan called for a big jump from Reims to Chaminox in the French Alps. It was a long travel day with a number of connections.

We set the alarm for 5:30 a.m. We loaded up the rental car and headed to the train station in Reims. I dropped Sharon and Jack at the train station and then headed to a different rental car return location that was open early to drop the car. It turned out to be about a half mile walk back to the train station.

We caught the train back to the Paris; this was an easy hour and 50 minute trip in an empty first class car. In Paris, we had to switch train stations. We took a cab from Gare de Est to Gare de Lyon. At this train station we had a quick bite to eat and boarded one of the high speed TGV trains for the trip to Lyon. This leg was slightly less than two hours in a full first class car with lots of younger children roaming the aisle.

By the time we got to Lyon, it was noon and we were still faced with two more trains that were making a number of stops. We boarded a full train towards St. Gervais using second class tickets. This was scheduled to be a three hour trip ride with a number of stops.

About an hour and a half into the trip, the train sat in the station for what seemed to be a long time. They made several announcements in French that neither Sharon nor I could get wrap our brains around. After a bit, I wandered off the train and tried to talk to one of the conductors, but he spoke no English. I am going to write a separate blog entry on our experiences dealing with the language.

There was an Italian woman yelling at the conductor who reminded me of a friend of Sharon’s and mine both in her appearance and her attitude that turned out to speak English. She explained that there was a fire on the tracks between this station and the next one. They did not know when it was going to be put out. There were no other trains leaving from this station so we were essentially stuck there. To say that the Italian woman was not pleased about the situation would be an understatement.

In a similar situation in the past, Sharon and I went into the town and rented a car. Given the amount of the luggage that we had and the fact that there were three of us, we decided to wait it out.

After sitting for more than two and a half hours, the train started off again. At some point, the trained stopped and they told everyone to get off. They loaded us on to a different train for St. Gervais. We finally got to St. Gervais at 6:30 p.m. about three hours later than we were scheduled to get there.

The next train for Chamonix was at 7:05 p.m. We finally got to your destination about 7:45 p.m. and were in the hotel room by 8:00 p.m. This was about three plus hours later than we had hoped.

Sitting in the hotel room, we could not have been more pleased. Chamonix is wedged in a narrow valley between peaks that literally tower 10,000 feet over the town; imagine sitting in the parking lot of Squaw but looking at peak that is more than twice as high on both sides of you.

We are staying at the Grand Hotel des Alpes. The hotel is in the middle of town right along the river. The second story room opens on to the river and has a view of Mt. Blanc, the highest peak. The hotel is in the central business district within easy walking distance of everything. I do not believe that we could have been more pleased with the hotel.

We explored the central business area and ended up having dinner at Restaurant La Caleche; this restaurant was listed in one of the travel guides. I had Chicken and Sharon had duck; it was the second best meal that we have had on the trip. Sharon particularly liked her salad. Jack had McDonalds! We finally crashed about 11:45 p.m. listening to the roar of the river outside our window.

Based on some of the adventures that Sharon and I have had, I believe that any day you end up were you were scheduled to be is a good day. In spite of the very long travel day—five trains and almost 14 hours hotel door to hotel door--we were excited to be in the Alps and looking forward to the next couple of days!

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