The Panoramic Mont Blanc gondola to re-open 15 June
The Panoramic Mont Blanc Gondola has been closed since January 2018, when storm Eleanor laid too much snow on the cables and that cause them breaking and two gondolas falling down on the Glacier du Géant.
The lift connects the Aiguille du Midi (3,842m) in Chamonix, France to Punta Helbronner (3,466m) in Courmayeur, Italy, and the people that ride on the lift can see the marvellous Mer de Glace underneath. The ride takes 30 minutes to cross 5 km and is only opened in summer.
Around February the Compagnie du Mont Blanc found some more faults, but the company was still optimistic to open by the end of May. Now they are announcing its opening on 15 June. Last summer the gondola has to remained closed in order to change its power cable.
Our Route des Grandes Alpes to cross from France into Italy
This past summer we went to have a holiday in the mountains. From Chamonix we were off onto Courmayeur. But it was a Saturday – what is considered here in the mountains as a Samedi Noir or Sabato Nero, meaning very long queues to cross the Mont Blanc Tunnel.
This past summer was ridiculously hot – even in the mountains – with the temperature being 31 C in Chamonix in the morning – imagine staying a couple of hours in line to cross the Mont Blanc Tunnel did not seem too much fun at the time.
I’ve asked the evening before some friends I have in Chamonix on how other way we could go – and how about taking the Petit St Bernard Pass. Arnaud Jamson, the deputy director of the Chamonix Tourism Office suggested me to go all around and stop in Megève for lunch, then go to the Lac du Roselend and from there go up to La Rosière to cross into La Thuile through the Petit St Bernard. This is a typical road for motorcyclists and bikers alike – many of these roads have been used by the Tour de France!
As I have a memory of a mosquito, I’ve asked at the hotel’s reception where I could get a good map, and I was told to go into the main street in Chamonix. There is a wonderful books and magazine store – that I could stayed for hours just looking around, where I bought the IGN Map of Route des Grandes Alpes. I love maps and this one was a great addition to my collection.
L’Héliopic Hotel Sweet & Spa is a four stars hotel next to the Aiguille du Midi lift in Chamonix. Very well located in Chamonix; it is ideal if you are going up to the Aiguille du Midi and 10 minutes from Chamonix centre.
We have been twice at the hotel with my kids and husband in the summer in our way to Italy. My kids called it ‘the best hotel in the world’ – mostly because it has a dedicated kids’ area with free sweets, juices and a virtual reality machine and computer…. No brainer! The only thing is that while you are having breakfast suddenly your kids -maybe yours are very well educated and don’t do that, but I can say I educated mine, but they still disappear from the breakfast room and suddenly are – where? – obviously in the kids’ area having more sweets than their little bellies can bear!
My kids would also say that the spa area is really good, which it is indeed! With a nice large pool, a jacuzzi, an ice grotto, an ice dive standing pool, a sauna and hammam, plus a lovely relaxation area with hanging cocoons, it is a very nice place where to finish your day. It can get busy, so choose your time during the early afternoon or a bit late, just before it closes in the evening.
What’s new in Chamonix for the 2018/19-ski season.
Chamonix is the capital of skiing, and it does not cater only to the daredevil, extreme skier, but also to families and beginners. Its different areas have something for everyone. Chamonix is a long valley within tall mountains, with a series of ski resorts on both sides of this valley.
With 13,000 inhabitants Chamonix is a lively town that caters to tourists in all seasons. 400 shops opened all days, all year round and 130 restaurants can entertain the most discerning client, and those who don’t want to spend their bonuses. There are plenty of options for everyone.
Located in the border of France with Italy and just very near Switzerland, one can stay in Chamonix and ski the three countries with the Mont Blanc Unlimited pass. If you want to only ski in the Chamonix Valley Ski Areas, then purchase the Chamonix Le Pass.
QC Terme, the Italian brand of deluxe spas has just opened in Chamonix, by the Mont Blanc. There has been for years another QC Terme on the other side of the Mont Blanc, at Pré de St-Didier.
In this new QC Terme spa, nature is the protagonist, offering an indulging experience of swimming amidst the snow and grassy meadows.
The spa has an unexpected combination of warmth and freshness, water and earth. Within the spa’s 3,000 square meters there are more than 30 wellness practices, offering a multi-sensory journey. An infinity pool with a reflection that merges with the water of the adjacent Alpine lake and the Bossons Glacier.
On our way to Courmayeur, this year we stayed for two nights in Chamonix. We had the luck to go this time up to the Gare du Montenvers and take the train up to the mountain to see the glacier of the Vallée Blanche. That in itself was a great day out! The train goes over a rack and pinion railway and through some nice forests and then climbs up giving travellers amazing views of Chamonix and the mountains surrounding the valley. Most people go up the station and then climb down the stairs to the ice cave, which needs to be carved each year in the glacier, as each year the glacier retreats many meters. It is impressive to see how high the glacier was not so many years ago. There is a small gondola that takes you to the top of the stairs, and then each year the stairs have to be extended down and down to reach the entrance of the ice grotto.
The day we choose was amazing, pretty warm in the sun, with some clouds menacing a storm that did not materialise, and we were happy to be up the mountain, as in the valley of Chamonix it was 31 C (this summer was way too hot all over Europe!). This considering that Chamonix is by Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe and even here it was hot!
Not too many people know, that 100 metres from the train station (gare), walking back to the valley, you find the Terminal Neige-Refuge. This hotel was built in 1880 to accommodate the first mountaineers and travellers who went to visit the Mer de Glace. From outside is a typical ‘rifugio’ of the Alps, with granite façades and small windows. The hotel is perched at 2049 meters over sea level (6725 feet) with magnificent views to the Mer de Glace glacier, the mythical Aiguille des Drus, the Grand Jorasses, and also the Valley of Chamonix.
The summer holidays are coming upon us and I am counting the days to leave this hot city and have some days off. I have been planning this summer holiday for at least half an year and cannot believe it is finally coming! We will be going to the mountains and the beach in one trip, to please all the members of the family. Even though I will be having a couple of meetings here and there, it is still time to spend with the family and enjoy being and playing outside.
I love planning where we are going to go each year. For winter we always go to the Alps driving, and we have done already 5 years of going to Pila, just up from Aosta, one going to Madonna di Campiglio and one adding Courmayeur to the end of our stay in Aosta/Pila. We always travel by car, as we take all our equipment with us, and we are well positioned in SE London to get to Folkestone for the Eurotunnel station.
Summer is not different. I find that purchasing flights for the family during the kids’ school holidays is very expensive, plus I do love our road trips. So off we’ll be going soon to Folkestone to board the Eurotunnel and get into another adventure.
One thing to remember is to get the car lights stickers that are obligatory for UK cars driving in the Continent, so you do not blind the cars coming the other way, the yellow vests per each person in the car, a triangle and I am not sure if the breathalysers are still requested in France. It was the case, then I’ve read that it was not the case anymore – just check online before travelling just in case! Have all these things inside the car, reachable if you are stopped by the police, not in your car boot, as you could be fined if you need to get out to get them!
The Panoramic Mont-Blanc lift finished in the ground after suffering very weird conditions. A thick ice cover, thicker than the width of the cable covered a very long stretch of cable creating a very heavy mass, which made the cable collapse.