To drive directly from Pérouges to Veyras would take just a bit more than 3 hours. We planned on extending that time by taking a less direct route and sightseeing along the way.
Majella and I were eating breakfast by 7 am but we let Callum lie until 7:30 am. When he appeared he was wearing a new T-shirt proclaiming how he was living the dream of being a grandson… Hannah had made it for him as part of a running joke that began when Majella gave Matt a T-shirt with a similar message about being a son-in-law.
After breakfast we tidied up, packed our bags, put them in the car, and prepared to leave. I walked around to return the keys to Jean who walked back with me to say farewell.
Formalities complete we drove off around 8:30 am headed for Chamonix-Mont Blanc. Most of the way was on toll roads and we moved quickly except where an accident had interrupted traffic flow or where we passed roadworks. At first the countryside was flat farmland with occasional industrial sites but it soon became more mountainous as we passed through the southern end of the Jura range. We skirted Geneva and then drove up the Chamonix-Mont Blanc valley.
It took just a bit more than 2 hours to reach Chamonix. Although the téléphérique to Aguille du Midi is heavily promoted on the web, the site was short on the location of the terminal. We walked to the nearby tourism office where Majella asked about location. We left with a map and advice to go immediately and book since it was full to at least 1 pm. I could have bought timed tickets online weeks ago but I was not prepared to gamble the price of the tickets on the weather. As it happened, the weather this morning was clear blue sky with some scattered clouds.
At the téléphérique on the edge of town we were able to buy tickets for 1:20 pm, a bit more than 2 hours away. We strolled back into town and ate an early lunch – croqué monsieur for Callum with apple juice and quiches for Majella and me with coffee. Then we filled time browsing shops and watching paragliders overhead, collected jackets from the car, and strolled back to wait our turn to ride.
Our scheduled departure at 1:20 pm turned into 1:40 pm and sometime soon after that we boarded for the first part of the ride. That was a steep incline above forest until we passed the tree line as we approached the rocky Plan de l’Aguille at 2317 m. There we changed for the second section of our ride which took us to 3842 m. The Aguille was shrouded in cloud and the last part of our ascent was into and through cloud with zero visibility.
We arrived at the Aguille in thick cloud and thought our luck may have run out. Callum was excited by the snow and ice and used his bare hands to shape it into balls which he alternated between eating and throwing them at Majella or a wall. We were surprised to see a black bird, about the size of a crow, flying about. There did not seem to be a lot of bird feed available.
Before long our luck returned and we began to see blue sky and mountains among the clouds. We could see the tower on the Aguille, people trudging through the snow below, and people climbing on nearby rocks. Despite the hour we continued our tradition of calling Hannah from high places. This was the highest we have been by 800 m or more and Majella and I both felt the lack of breathable oxygen this time. It did not seem to slow Callum at all but perhaps he was running on adrenaline.
The queue for the return journey was long so we were later back to Chamonix than we would have liked with a bit more than an hour to drive. Majella wanted hot chocolate and we needed to acquire a vignette for the Swiss motorways. They were supposedly available from service stations near the border so we planned to buy vignette and hot chocolate in one stop.
Majella missed stopping for the only service station between Chamonix and the border but stopped at a bakery just beyond it. I walked the 100 m or so back for the vignette, asking in my best French. The woman answered in French and pointed to a sign indicating they were available at the border customs station 8 km on. I walked back and drank the hot chocolate Majella had ordered for me.
The Swiss customs station had no vignettes either. The man there assured me there was no immediate need on that road and I could buy one at a service station later. We drove on, beginning to wonder if we could chance it for a sixth visit to Switzerland without a vignette. I had not heard of them at all until I was planning this trip but after our experience leaving Hungary in 2017 I’m not wanting a 200 CHF fine on top of the 40 CHF (65 AUD) vignette.
We crossed into Switzerland and over the Col de la Forclaz down to Martigny. From there we were on the motorway and did not see an opportunity to visit a service station for a vignette. There is always tomorrow.
Majella had been keen to go first to Marie-Françoise but I persuaded her it would be more efficient to check in first at our AirBnB and then go on to Salamins’ knowing that we did not have to rush out to checkin. Our host, Elisabeth, greeted us and showed us around. The building may be old but it has been renovated to a high standard in modern style. We have remote operated electric blinds outside the windows and Hue lamps that can be dimmed and coloured. Callum missed out on an ensuite bathroom this time but his room has direct access to an indoor gym with exercise bike and a weights machine.
We dropped a few food items in the refrigerator and headed off to Salamins’. Marie-Françoise, Roland, and Michel greeted us warmly. We exchanged news of the day and gifts before settling down to enjoy a drink together. Marie-Françoise had prepared the makings for raclette for dinner – cheese melted under a table grill, potatoes, cold meats, pickles, and fresh home baked bread. We all enjoyed the meal and Callum was happy making his own mini-pizza with meat on a slice of bread topped with melted cheese. Dessert was strawberries and redcurrants with ice cream and whipped cream.
After dinner we chatted for a while about plans for our visit. We agreed to be back at 9:30 am for a trip to Val d’Anniviers and left with a bundle of breakfast food.
Back at our accommodation we unloaded our bags from the car and settled in. With a later start tomorrow we are all looking forward to a rest.