Chamonix-Mont Blanc, France: Alpine Magic Part 2

Posted on March 4, 2015 by Mickey

Welcome back to part two of Alpine Magic where I continue my exploration of the Swiss and French Alps. If you haven’t read part 1, it’s worth a read, as I trekked around Zermatt and the Matterhorn before heading for Chamonix!

However, this part of Alpine Magic focuses on my adventures in Chamonix at the base of Mont Blanc in the French Alps.

Day 4: Monday, May 25th, 2009 – Off to France!

I awoke early in the morning, and like the day before, went out to shoot a cloud-less sunrise. I was still determined to try and get a decent Matterhorn sunrise, but unfortunately the weather never cooperated in giving me a great sunrise or sunset. Even so, it was still a blast trying and just seeing the Matterhorn left me in awe. Especially since it’s pyramid-like peak was covered in a golden alpine glow.

After the sunrise, we packed up and headed for the train station. Our train ride would take us from Zermatt back to Visp, and then to Martigny, across the border and finally to Chamonix-Mont Blanc, France! We grabbed one last amazing breakfast at Fuchs bakery on the way to the train station, and set off to visit France for the first time. The rail trips from Zermatt to Visp and then on to Martigny were beautiful. Martigny is an old Roman town, and I remember seeing at least one old castle up on a hill top that was likely Château de Tourbillon near Sion. The countryside was beautiful with the Rhone river running parallel to the train, vineyards on the hillsides and above them the Alps towering over the entire valley of Valais.

As beautiful as this train ride was, it didn’t even compare to the train ride that crossed the border from Martigny, Switzerland to Chamonix, France. This train ride is called the Mont Blanc Express and was covered by our Swiss rail pass even though Chamonix is in France. The scenery along the way is stunning. The train immediately climbs out of Martigny, passing through the Trient valley, with amazing views, dizzying heights, crashing waterfalls in beautiful forests and charming little villages. One of my biggest regrets to this trip was not having my camera out. I had expected to just enjoy the train ride to Chamonix, then take some shots when we came back this way towards the Berner Oberland a few days later, but that day was cloudy and rainy, so I missed the chance to keep a visual record, but I recall the train on the side of steep cliffs, looking off across the valleys and wondering how in the world people who lived in small houses on the mountainside ever got to their house with the incline on the side of some of these mountains. It looked like a dream mountain environment to explore.

By the time we arrived in France, the train was rolling through a few beautiful mountain towns like Vallorcine, where you changed trains to finish the ride to Chamonix. The Chamonix valley itself was gorgeous. Glacier’s hung from Mont Blanc massif, and the peaks towered over the valley in a way I’ve never seen before. Mont Blanc, which towers above the Chamonix valley on the south is the tallest mountain in Europe excluding Russia. Once we arrived in Chamonix, we had a few blocks to walk to our hotel, which gave us a good sense of the beautiful town. Hotel d’Larve, where we stayed in Chamonix, was right next to the Arve river, with great views of the Mont Blanc massif and Bossons glacier. We explored the hotel a little, and found they had a small rock climbing wall in their workout area. There was also a beautiful patio area next to the river with great views of Aiguille du Midi.

Once we had explored our hotel, we decided to walk through town and find some lunch. We happened upon an outdoor cafe, called Cafe Valentino. It took me a lot of Googling, looking at Google Maps and then pictures of restaurants to figure out what the name of this cafe was, and truthfully, I can’t even remember what I ate there for lunch. From the reviews online, it’s not surprising I can’t remember what I ate. The only thing I really remember about it was a waiter at the restaurant next door having the biggest handlebar mustache I’ve ever seen. We spent a the rest of the afternoon wandering the shops a little bit and just walking up and down some of the streets.

Mont Blanc Massif Panorama
Mont Blanc Massif PanoramaPrints Available
Panorama of the Mont Blanc Massif on the Promenade des Bourses in Chamonix, France

The best memory I have of Chamonix was when I ventured out on my own to explore the valley. In the evening, I took a walk towards the northeast in the Chamonix valley. It was in this evening that I fell in love with Chamonix. I walked along the Arve River, crossing bridges, through forests, shooting some photos and just generally enjoying an amazing evening in the quiet of this place. On a few occasions I talked to a local or two who was also out for a stroll. I was still in awe of how deep this valley was compared to the massive Mont Blanc. Mont Blanc is around 15000 feet, whereas the valley floor is around 3500 feet. That’s a HUGE different in elevation for someone living in the Great Plains of Kansas. Even Colorado, where I often visit, struggles to compare to this. Most ski resort and mountain towns are between 7500-9500 feet, and Colorado’s tallest mountains are called the 14ers, at 14000+ feet. And even those 14ers rarely nestle themselves right next to a town. So the grand scale of everything in Chamonix was impressive to say the least. Add in a beautiful evening and the sound of the glacier water roaring along the Arve River, and it made for a fantastic walk in the valley. Even as someone who is obsessed with taking photos of my travels, it was far more about the experience than the photos on this evening.

Day 5: Tuesday, May 26th, 2009 – Chamonix and the Mer de Glace

I awoke early (though a little later than I had planned), with hopes of getting a nice sunrise shot of Mont Blanc somewhere in the valley. I didn’t have a lot of time to find a good composition as the light was beginning to present some vivid colors in the clouds swirling above Mont Blanc. I set up shop in a open area near the Alpine Museum of Chamonix to shoot the beautiful sunrise unfolding above Bossons Glacier and Mont Blanc.

Colorful Chamonix
Colorful ChamonixPrints Available
A vivid sunrise displays it’s colors above Chamonix

Breakfast at Hotel d’Larve was fantastic. There were many different types of breads and jams, local cheese, fruits and more. While we enjoyed this great food, we discussed what we wanted to do for the day. As we only had one full day in Chamonix, we had to decide how we were going to spend it. Many options were impossible. The cable cars and such on the north side of Chamonix to Brévent and Flégère were either on limited schedules or were still in off-season and not running. The original plan was to take the Aiguille du Midi cable car and then the cable car from there across the Mont Blanc massif to the Italian side at Courmayeur. The Aiguille du Midi cable car is the world’s highest vertical ascent cable car, going from just under 4000 feet in Chamonix, to the towering spires at over 12600 feet! At one point, during the trip planning, I had planned for to stay a night or two in Courmayeur, as they have a highly recommended hotel with an amazing Italian breakfast called Hotel Bouton d’Or. However, after contacting them, they informed me they were closed on the dates we were there for the off-season. This was a letdown, because the hotel and the entire area on the Italian side of Mont Blanc looked awesome.

Unfortunately, a number of things completely ended our hope to even make it to the Italian side of Mont Blanc. While the Aiguille du Midi cable car was running, the cable car running from there, across the border to Italy was in the off-season still. In addition, the weather looked a little sketchy with rain in the forecast, so we opted for taking the Montenvers train up to see the Mer de Glace instead of going up to Aiguille du Midi.

This option proved to be pretty amazing. We walked to the station that would take us from Chamonix up to the Montenvers rail station. The train that took us up here originally began operating in 1908 and the Grand Hotel in Montenvers has been open since 1880. But the real attraction to taking this train up here is the Mer de Glace which translates to “Sea of Ice.” The Mer de Glace is France’s longest glacier at almost 4.5 miles long and 650 feet deep of pure ice. We got off the train after a large group of French mountaineers with full gear, who immediately set off down the path and ladders that lead to the glacier to begin crossing it. In a few of the large stitched images I took of the glacier, this group of 20 or so mountaineers look like tiny ants on a giant sea of ice. We followed them down towards the glacier, stopping at the point where railings became sketchy without proper gear, admiring the beauty of Mer de Glace. As we went back to the train station, we found out about the Ice Cave. A cable car (or hike) with another walk down some bolted in metal stairs could take you down to the base of the glacier where you can enter the ice grotto. The Mer de Glace Ice Grotto was filled with many ice sculptures and beautiful caves. We explored these caves, reading about the history of the glacier and admiring the ice sculptures. As we left the ice grotto we decided to hike back up to the Montenvers train station. There were a lot of good look-out points to view the glacier from as we hiked back up. One of which can be seen below.

Mer de Glace
Mer de GlacePrints Available
France’s largest glacier, the mighty Mer de Glace, sprawls out with storm clouds building in the mountains above.

By the time we got back to Chamonix on the train, we were starving. Fortunately, Chamonix didn’t shut down shop like Zermatt did in the afternoon, so after dropping off our backpacks at the hotel we went in search of food. After walking up and down the streets of Chamonix, we decided to try a place called Poco Loco. We had eaten tons of cheese and bread most of the trip, but had been craving some protein and figured a good burger and fries would fit the bill. I got the special Poco Loco burger with fries (frites) while the others tried different kinds of burgers. Feeling satisfied from a good meal, we decided to get a nap in at the hotel for a bit.

Once we awoke in late afternoon, the stormy looking clouds that had been up at the glacier earlier in the day had made their way into the valley. We still wanted to do a little walking of the streets, knowing we would be leaving fairly early in the morning for our next destination and wouldn’t have time to explore then. So we walked the streets to check out the shops. I always like to see what local landscape photographers in mountain towns like Chamonix have to offer. I found a photo gallery of Chamonix photographer Mario Colonel that was unfortunately closed for the evening. I admired the images in the window as the rain began to fall. Within a few minutes, the drizzle turned to sheer downpour and we ducked into, of all places, a French McDonalds.

Once the rain died back off to a drizzle, we made our way back to the hotel. As this was my last night in France I wanted to make the most of it so I decided to venture out in the drizzle to explore the nearby area. While there was no chance of a sunset, the drizzle and clouds over the valley still created a nice effect moody scene. I wandered around the town square near the Tourism Office and eventually just past the church, where I eventually shot the image below.

Chuch of Chamonix
Mer de GlacePrints Available
The Bossons glacier and Mont-Blanc are partially covered in clouds as they watch over the Catholic Church of St. Michel on a rainy evening.

Tour du Mont Blanc

Before finishing this part of the Alpine Magic travel series, I wanted to bring up a part of the trip that I researched heavily, but never actually did. When originally looking up where to visit in Europe, one spectacular idea called the Tour of Mont Blanc came up on a number of occasions. The Tour du Mont Blanc is an extremely amazing multi-day trek around the entire Mont Blanc massif, spanning France, Italy and Switzerland! It’s over 100 miles in length, typically starting in Chamonix, France, heading south, then cutting east into Italy, and eventually turning more northward from Courmayeur and into Switzerland before cutting back to the west and south to finish in Chamonix. The tour boasts more than 6 miles of ascent and descent in Val Veni, Val Ferret, Vallee des Glaciers, the Trient valley and more amazing places. There is a plethora of accommodations on the trek, ranging from simple dormitory based refuges to luxurious hotels. When I was considering this trek as part of my trip, I realized late May was quite a bit early for someone to tackle the Tour du Mont Blanc, as snow still covers many places of the trail, and most of the refuges and huts in the mountains, and even hotels in Courmayeur and other locations, were closed for the off season. While it didn’t work out on this trip, some day I still want to give this trek a go. The opportunities for great photography and just an amazing experience still keep me researching and thinking about this trek at least once a year.

Join me in a few days when part three of Alpine Magic continues back into Switzerland with a day spent walking the promenade of Montreux and exploring Switzerland’s famous Chateau de Chillon!

Posted under: France, Switzerland

Zermatt & The Matterhorn: Alpine Magic Part 1

Posted on February 26, 2015 by Mickey

I have to admit, I should have written this travel journal of my 10 days in the Alps about 5 years ago and not waited so long to start a travel blog. This trip is what started my true love for traveling beyond the familiar to new places. Looking back through my life, the one place I have visited the most is Colorado. I still visit it at least once a year. These days it’s usually for it’s beautiful autumn aspens. It’s practically been my home away from home. From skiing as a 3-year old to hiking a 14er after college, I never get tired of the mountains. And the smell of those pine trees on a cool summer evening or crisp autumn morning has stuck with me all of my life. For almost 29 years, with the exception of a trip to Yellowstone and twice to the Black Hills of South Dakota, the majority of my vacation experiences were from the Colorado Rockies. Going out of the country was something I had always imagined and dreamed about, but until my late 20’s, I never took serious enough to realize that dream. By the time I was 26, I had become fairly overweight. I spent 3 months losing 60 pounds and getting into great shape. This new-found confidence in myself and an ever-growing interest in landscape photography had me again dreaming of visiting some of the world’s most beautiful mountain ranges to photograph and trek. The mountain landscapes of New Zealand. Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares National Park of South America. The Canadian Rockies. Denali National Park in Alaska. The Himalayas. European’s famous Alps. These are some of the most impressive and beautiful mountain ranges in the world. And I needed to finally take that step and visit one!

Like many people, I felt Europe was a great place to start my international travel experience. So I began researching a Europe trip. I started all over the place, from the Scottish Highlands to the islands of Greece. But I finally settled on the Swiss and French Alps. I spent months pouring over Switzerland travel books and Googling all the best places to visit. The iconic Matterhorn stuck out in my mind as a mountain I had to see in my lifetime. I read about Chamonix, just past the border of Switzerland, in the French Alps. I learned about a stunning cable car ride across the craggy peaks and giant glaciers of the Mont Blanc Massif lies Courmayeur in Italy. I saw pictures of all these places and got excited. And then I saw photos of the Lauterbrunnental Valley. This sold me. This beautiful green valley that is surrounded by cliff walls adorned with waterfalls from every angle. And yet higher still, the cliff walls are surrounded by some of the famous peaks of the Alps, including the mighty Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau! In the 1910’s, J.R.R. Tolkien took a backpacking trip through this reason, and it’s said that the beauty of the Lauterbrunnental Valley inspired the creation of Rivendell in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit books. And so I decided upon a 10 day trip: Three nights in Zermatt-Matterhorn, Switzerland, two nights in Chamonix-Mont Blanc, France with a possible day-trip into Courmayeur in Italy, four nights in Lauterbrunnen and a final night in Zurich before flying home. The trip was set!

A little snag

With dreams of hiking near the Matterhorn, viewing Mont Blanc in Chamonix, and gazing on the beautiful Berner Oberland calling, I booked the plane tickets, hotel rooms and Swiss rail passes! The trip was originally supposed to be a group of four. Two friends who were moving back home after college, my brother and myself. Unfortunately our two friends couldn’t make it, but my brother’s girlfriend at the time was interested in seeing Europe. So the three of us put in our passport applications and waited. A few weeks later, two of us received passports. A few more weeks passed, but my brother’s passport never came. Less than a week remained before our flights to Zurich. This turned into quite the ordeal. Two days before our trip, my brother was forced into taking a flight to Houston to speak with the passport office in person. He was told that was the only way he would have a chance at getting his passport in time. Once he arrived and waiting in line for an hour, he was told he had wasted his time and there was nothing that could be done. Thankfully a phone call to a congressman’s office changed all that. Within an hour of that phone call, my brother was back at the passport office, with passport in hand.

Day 1: Friday, May 22nd, 2009 – My first day in Europe

After months of planning and a diverted fiasco, the day was finally here! We had two legs: Wichita to Atlanta and Atlanta to Zurich, Switzerland! By the time we boarded our flights from Wichita, we were already exhausted. My brother had already done a spur of the moment trip to Houston over the previous two days and I was so excited for the trip I barely slept in the days leading up to the trip. The time spent in the Atlanta airport was a blur. And the flight to Zurich was an over-nighter that at least brought a few hours of sleep. However, because of the direction we were going, we were losing about 8 hours, which drastically reduced the night time sleep on the plane. By the time we arrived in Zurich, it was 8AM but felt like 2AM! (because it practically was midnight in the States) The excitement of where we were was the only thing keeping us going! As tired as we were, we had a train ride from one end of the country to the other. Zurich is situated closer to the Germany border in the north, whereas Zermatt, our first destination, is maybe five miles from the Italian border in the south. What people from the United States don’t realize is that many countries in Europe are no bigger than most states in the US. So the world class rail system (more on that in a minute) is only 3-4 hours. So we got off the plane, and did some money exchanging while waiting for the next train ride out of Zurich. As the Swiss rail system is, as they say, like clockwork, our train was right on time. The train ride itself was beautiful, but I literally dozed off multiple times on the train, nearly missing our connection in Visp to Zermatt. However, in my zombie-like state, I still remember seeing amazing scenery! I’ve never seen so much color in my life! The train passed through many Swiss towns, including Bern, which is one of Switzerland’s famous and beautiful cities. The trees, plants and grass were just so green! Everything from Zurich to Zermatt was absolutely gorgeous! And even though I was dying from exhaustion, the thought of finally glimpsing one of the most famous mountains in the world, the Matterhorn, kept me awake on the final train ride up from Visp to Zermatt. I still remember bending around a mountain and finally glimpsing that majestic peak for the first time!

We arrived in Zermatt right on schedule, thanks again to that ever effecient Swiss timing. As it turns out, the apartment we stayed at, Casa Vanessa, in Zermatt was a little over half a mile from the rail station. Exhausted though we were, walking through a town as gorgeous as Zermatt for the first time is pretty amazing. Seeing the little tourist shops, the bakeries (a lot more on these later), the various stores selling cheese and chocolate, both of which Switzerland is famous for, was a great introduction to our first Swiss town! However, as enticing as these stores were, we needed a nap in a bad way and trudged on to the south end of Zermatt.

It took us a moment to find our apartment. One of the things I remember most about staying at the Casa Vanessa apartment was entering from the street level into what seemed like a cave. Once in the “cave”, we took an elevator and ended up in a really nice apartment complex. The rooms were great, with spacious area, nice beds, a great kitchen. While I knew I would spend far less time in any hotel or apartment than I would out seeing everything on this trip, it was still nice to stay in a great place!

After a much needed nap, we awoke in late afternoon to stroll around Zermatt, just taking in the sights. We walked across the town to the northeast side of town, on a hill, where I was able to shoot a post-sunset twilight image of Zermatt and the Matterhorn during the “blue hour” of the evening. After grabbing a few shots, we eventually made our way back towards the center of town where we stopped and ate at a restaraunt near the train station, splitting two delicious pizzas between the three of us before heading back to the apartment to call it a night.

Zermatt at Night
Zermatt at NightPrints Available
Looking back at the Matterhorn near twilight with the lights of Zermatt shining below it.

Swiss Rail System

I should really take a pause from my adventure here to mention the extremely efficient Swiss rail system. It’s world class! It’s a beautiful way to travel in this amazing country. I’m not sure how the rail system is throughout the rest of Europe, as I’ve heard some places can be pretty bad – worker strikes, really late arrivals and departures, etc. – but in Switzerland, the train system is as punctual as their famous Swiss watches! It’s a cheaper alternative in most cases to renting a car or any other method of transportation within the country. Plus, there are some places in the Alps that are car free (Zermatt, Wengen, Murren and Gimmelwald all come to mind) that are accessible by rail, cable car or foot only. It’s a great way for someone from the States to really see the country! We had purchased a multiple-day Swiss rail pass that basically allowed us to ride the Swiss rail system as much as you like in the alloted time. There were a few specific or special train rides that were seperate of the cost of this, but for the most part, the pass could get you all over the country. One of the best features of the rail system is that it comes with free admission into many museums, castles, attractions and other discounts! It also gave both discounts and free admission on many of the cable cars that we took. In addition, even if a special train ride wasn’t part of the Swiss Pass, it usually gave quite a bit of discount to those with a pass. We took advantage of this multiple times on the trip, including the Jungfraujoch and Gornergrat! We also took advantage of it to visit other attractions such as the Chateau de Chillon and castle in Spiez to get in for free or much less than normal cost. All things considered, if you ever take a trip to Switzerland, a Swiss rail pass is the way to go.

Day 2: Saturday, May 23nd, 2009 – Exploring the Alps

Before my trip, I had many people tell me that the first few days would be tiring from the jetlag, but I actually awoke full of energy and ready to tackle a good hike! I chalked it up to a weird schedule which let us take a nap after arriving in Switzerland, which compensated for the time difference. Either way, I never felt this supposed jetlag the entire time I was there. It was like my body adjusted to the schedule immediately. Our plan for the morning was to take the underground funicular cable car to the Sunnegga Paradise area. We stopped at a local bakery called Fuchs to get some breakfast. This was our first experience in a Swiss bakery. And it wouldn’t be our last. I can’t explain how amazing the bakeries in Switzerland are! And Fuchs was one of the best. We grabbed some pastries and ate them on the way to the Sunnegga funicular station.

The funicular ride up to Sunnegga was interesting. It could probably be best described as a cross between a train and a ski lift built into a tunnel inside the mountain that stretched from Zermatt to a beautiful viewing platform and area called Sunnegga. My hope was to hike the famous 5-Seenweg (Five Lakes Walk), but we only really made it to two. The first, Leisee, was right near the Sunnegga paradise area, and only about a 10 minute walk down from there. We then hiked to Grindjisee, which is a beautiful lake with a clear view of the Matterhorn.

GrindjiseePrints Available
The Matterhorn looms over the Grindjisee near Sunnegga

As a photographer, my hope was to capture a nice reflection shot of the Matterhorn in one of these lakes, but the day was extremely hazy, making it difficult to get any sort of good shot. In addition, being there in the off-season of late May had it’s trade offs. While it was more peaceful with less tourists, many of the cable cars and lifts were either on shortened hours or not running until June. It was after 10AM before we even arrived at Sunnegga and unfortuantely, the day we were up here it was extremely hazy. Other than the one above, I never really captured that reflection shot I hoped for. However, thankfully I did have a great time hiking around the mountainside on my first full day in Switzerland!

Aftter hiking in the high country, we were pretty tired and hungry. We got back to Zermatt a little later than lunch time, and found that most restaurants close for a few hours in the afternoon. So we grabbed some food at the COOP, which is Switzerland’s largest retail and wholesale company. It’s a pretty sweet grocery store, selling lots of organic foods and leading the charge as a very eco-friendly and sustainable retailer. Back in 2011, they were awarded the title of “World’s Most Sustainable Retailer” by German-based Oekom Research agency.

Once we got back to the apartment, we had a nice lunch that probably consisted of way too much cheese (not that I’m complaining – it was amazing!), some great bread and Fanta soda. The rest of the afternoon was spent napping. After a few hours of rest, I set off to explore the south side of Zermatt. My hope was to shoot a nice sunset of the Matterhorn, but clouds muted any color I could hope for. Even without a vivid sunset, it was still a beautiful place to be, and as we were there in the off-season, it was very peaceful to just explore and relax.

Day 3: Sunday, May 24th, 2009 – Glimpsing a Glacier

We awoke to a beautiful clear morning and so I was up early to attempt a sunrise. I really was hoping for that iconic alpineglow view of the Matterhorn. After 2 days, I was still so mesmerized by this famous mountain that I had only seen in books or on the Internet. After getting a few shots, we decided to splurge for a train ride up to the Gornergrat (Gorner Ridge) and the giant Gorner glacier that resided up there. So we trekked back through town and stopped at another Fuchs bakery for more delicious breakfast treats near the entrance for the Gornergrat train.

The train ride up the Gornergrat was spectacular! The Gornergrat Bahn (or train) was the first fully electrified cog railway, built in the late 1800’s! Nowadays, like many things in Switzerland, it’s very green and eco-friendly. On the ride up to the Gornergrat station, we glimpsed some amazing views of the Matterhorn along the way, also crossing some beautiful bridges that had dizzying views. Once at the top, we found that not much was open. Like many things in late May, we were there in the off-season, so while everything was far less touristy (and cheaper), many things were either not open, or had limited hours. Some had hotels, like the Gornergrat, but unfortunately, were not open when we were there. Had I been there during these times, I’m sure I would have taken advantage to shoot some sunrises and sunsets from higher in the Alps! But we really weren’t at the Gornergrat to shop or eat, so we set foot above the observatory to take in the stunning panorama before us!

This was my first time seeing a glacier in person. I will never forget it. Nothing can fully explain what it’s like to see a giant glacier sprawled out before you. A huge river of ice with the power to crush the rock below it. The Gorner glacial system is actually the second largest glacial system in the Alps, only smaller than the massive Aletsch glacial system to the north of it. From the Gornergrat we could not only see this massive glacier, but also many of the famous peaks of the Alps. Obviously the Matterhorn was in view, with it’s famous pyramidal peak, but also Monte Rosa, Switzerland’s tallest mountain, topping out at 15,203 feet stood before us!

Gorner Glacier
Gorner GlacierPrints Available
The vast Gorner glacier lies below Monte Rosa, the Matterhorn and a host of other peaks

The above photo is a stitched panorama that can be printed at ridiculous sizes (at least 20×5 feet). One of my obsessions on this trip was to stitch photos together to be printed at extremely larger sizes. Once I got home and had to do all the editing of these, I thought twice about doing this on future trips. It takes a lot of time. However, you can read more about these large format images on my prints page. Many of the photos I took on this trip can be printed at giant sizes.

In addition to the amazing views, some of the local wildlife also greeted us. A family of ibex (a mountain goat that live in the Alps) were happily content to hover around the salt lick that’s installed at the Gornergrat. Walking back to the train station, we stopped to admire the “Bernhard von Aosta” chapel. After about 50 years of Sunday mass being held in the Gornergrat hotel dining room, the bishop expressed a wish for this chapel to be built. In 1950, construction began and when finished, it was dedicated to Saint Bernard. And it was soon after seeing the chapel dedicated to Saint Bernard that we met our first St. Bernard dog! We had just left the chapel, and wandered in to where the shops were. A post card shop owner was telling his dog to come into the store. This was pretty cool, as we were probably 15 miles from Great St. Bernard Pass where the St. Bernard is said to have originated from. After checking out some shops and buying a few postcards to send to family, we decided to head back to town.

That evening was a relaxing one, again spent wandering around the south side of Zermatt and into the countryside. I often find these times to be the best of a trip. It was a beautiful night with no wind and great temperatures. I took my camera and just walked and explored. Sometimes shooting a scene, and sometimes just marveling at the beauty around me. We stopped at the cross in the picture above numerous times, as it was just south of our apartment. This night wasn’t so much about photography, but just walking at the base of possibly the most famous mountain on the planet. I can also still remember the farms outside of town, with lots of sheep running around, the cross situated on the trail to Zmutt and the signs to hike to one of the Ricola herbal farms. On the way back, I shot what I could get of a subdued and cloudy sunset and we went back to the apartment complex to get ready for our next location: Chamonix, France.

Matterhorn Cross
Matterhorn CrossPrints Available
A cloudy evening at a cross in south Zermatt with the Matterhorn in the background

Check back in a few days for part 2 of Alpine Magic where we travel just across the border to Chamonix, France.

Posted under: France, Switzerland