Insiders view on Chamonix

The Wanderers in conversation with Chloe Ancrenaz

Everything the guide books or tourism websites won’t tell you about the place.

In one sentence, Chamonix is a Quintessentially French destination with a truly European character.

Chamonix Mont Blanc is a charming alpine town and the third most visited natural site in the world. Located at the foothills of the majestic Mont Blanc range and the crossroads of three countries – France, Switzerland and Italy, this alpine town is a true piece of paradise. It is an ideal destination for holiday makers, business visitors, sports adventurers or peaceful lovers during all the four seasons. You are bound to be engulfed by the scenic and pristine beauty that surrounds you and a heaven-on-Earth feeling takes you over; in two words – Simply magical!

Little known facts that everyone should know about when travelling to Chamonix.

Chamonix is the 3rd most visited natural site in the world and the Mondial capital of Alpinism or first winter Olympic games. Also of note is that the first ascent of Mont Blanc summit occurred in 1786!

What is a must buy?

1)      Resin snow ball in form of pyramide

2)     Pen holder

3)     A cristal de Quartz or Améthyste

4)     A sonnette (cow Bell) or a handmade in local wood knife – a grolle

One take-away

A wooden tray – Charlie Adam A very nice Photo from the Mario Colonel Photographer and artist
Some cheese (Raclette or rebloch on) or goat cheese with “piment d espelette” (Espelette Chili)

One thing to definitely pack

Do not forget good closed shoes and warm / windproof clothes as well as the camera when you are packing for your trip to Chamonix.

What is your advice to first time travellers?

A good camera to take back memories!

Activities anyone travelling to Chamonix should not miss.

 1] Tandem Paragliding

2] A walk on the Mer de Glace with a mountain guide(for sport enthusiasts)

3] A skiing experience

4] A walk at night with light & snowshoes and ending with a drink by the fire

5] A helicopter ride over the Mont Blanc Range with Pascal – CMBH

Where should one get their picture clicked..

In front of the Mont Blanc summit on Aiguille du midi terrasse

Which is the best place to get a panoramic photo of Chamonix?

The best places to get a panoramic photo of Chamonix are Merlet animals park and Balme summit up to ‘le Tour’ village.

Best place to enjoy sunset/sunrise

Les Gaillands Lake with the reflection of the Mont Blanc in the lake – a very peaceful place!

Best romantic place to take you special someone to..

La Floria (45 min walk from centre) or a night at The Lake Blanc Hut, in the mountains, Flegere side.

Best place to have street food?

Some of the best places to savour street food in Chamonix are Linguini pasta bar, chez Francesca or Cabolée at foot of brevent lift.

Your favourite local dish and drink that you would recommend..

1] Crozets au beaufort with a glass of Savoyard wine such as Mondeuse
2] Croute au fromage with a green salad and a glass of Savoyard wine
3] A raclette with potatoes as and a glass of Genepi to finish.

The best pub in Chamonix

‘Rue des Moulins’ on pedestrian street

A local festival you feel more travellers should come and see

Cosmo Jazz at the end of July and Guide Festival between 13 and 15 August are two festivals travellers should not miss.

Things guide books won’t tell anyone about Chamonix?

There are more than 45 outdoor activities like rock climbing, paragliding, mountain biking, river sports, water sports, golf, ski, scenic flights, snowboarding, rafting, tennis etc. For a traveller, Chamonix offers a plethora of activities for all ages and all levels and can be mentored under the expert guidance of alpine professionals.

Is there any particular month you wouldn’t recommend travel to Chamonix and what would that reason be?

November, because it is the only time when the weather is not very clear and locals are away on holiday.

Chloe Ancrenaz lives the charmed life in Chamonix with her husband who is a mountain guide, and their children. She works in the Promotion and Marketing Dept of the OFFICE de TOURISME de CHAMONIX MONT-BLANC in France. We met her this summer in Chamonix as she proudly showed us the famous sights in and around Chamonix. She shares her thoughts as a resident of one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations and on what makes Chamonix tick.

Climbing Gobi’s highest dune

By Alifiya Calcuttawala

Its 6.30 am on 20th, June 2013.  The alarm goes off but today is a relaxed day. I get up for my morning cuppa and sit outside my ger watching the sand dune at a distance. Thats where I am going shortly. After breakfast and a quick shower we huddle into the car, excited like school kids – on our way to visit the tallest sand dunes in the world. I am in the midst of the Gobi desert in Mongolia, the largest desert in Asia and the 5th largest in the world.

Eventually after a drive of about 40 minutes we were there. Standing at the base of the tallest sand dune in the world!

I check my gear:

water bottle – check
sunglasses – check
hat – check
shoes laces tightened – check

Ok all set – the weather is kind to us today – its overcast, else it would have been a very big challenge to climb up in the heat. It’s not hot and there’s no wind, which is good as its difficult to climb a dune with the sand blowing in your face.

As I start climbing, it dawns on me that its not as easy as it looks – with every two steps forward, I come down one step as the sand keeps sliding down. With my feet buried in the sand, going forward and up gets more and more challenging. The peak of the dune now looks quite elusive. Panting and out of breath I am soon at, what feels like, the half way mark. It has taken me 45 panting minutes to get here and WHAT A VIEW IT IS!! The landscape from the top is simply wow. Sand dunes rolling into the horizon interspersed with semi arid land on one side with patches of green on the other; a small pool of water (at least that’s what it looks like from here) and the blue mountains in the distance. People and cars look so tiny from up here. An incredibly awesome view. I decide to continue the climb but finally give up as its very difficult towards the end as the dune sucks my legs in up to my knees. I sigh! ‘Am almost there.

Coming down is, however, a fun experience – I feel so “free.” I kind of roll and slide down the dune, falling, laughing with the sand in my eyes, hair, mouth, clothes and shoes. By the time I return to the base, my feet feel 2 kg heavier. I take off my shoes and empty all the “gobi” sand out.

We drive out.

Next stop is the herders camp, where we stop to get onto the camels. These camel herders camp here in the summers and raise camels and horses. All of us alight on the camels and go off for a short “spin” – this too is a unique experience – getting freakier in parts as the camels snort and get too close to each other with one of them scratching his face on my legs .. eekss!!!! But every minute on the camel is worth it. It makes my experience of the Gobi complete.

I walk around the camp, taking pictures and trying to chat up with them through my guide and interpreter. Quite strangely, the herders in the middle of this stark wilderness terrain cannot resist the ease that technology brings. I see a washing machine with a generator next to it to power it! They need clean clothes too, I guess.

We return to the camp, take a hot shower followed by lunch – all of us are famished and tired.

Most of us retire to our ger for an afternoon nap. Lying on my bed, I look back at the morning with a sense of achievement.

I think of the days to come. There’s a lot of Mongolia left in the trip. I drift off to sleep with the wind howling around my ger.

(Alifiya Calcuttawala is the Regional Director of The Wanderers based in Kolkata. When she is not busy sending people to distant places on the planet, she is herself at some distant place on the planet. She wandered off to Mongolia this summer with a small band of travellers)

Check out our latest Photography Trip in Mongolia