All posts by John Williams

John Williams looks at travel from a responsible consumer's perspective. He is doesn't accept hosted trips, so don't expect gushing reports of experiences that neither he, you, nor our planet can afford. He, is the first to acknowledge that when it comes to sustainable travel, he has a lot to learn. TravelCrunch is a platform for sharing his learning, but if you have any tips or disagreements feel free to air them in the comments.

Discovering the Semois

Winding its way lazily for 210 kilometres, starting in Arlon in Belgium, arriving in France and changing its name to the Semoy before joining the Meuse at Monthermé , the Semois can charm most lovers of the great outdoors. Usually, the river has an optimal flow of water for safe canoeing and kayaking in early summer, but following substantial rain it is also becomes navigable in August and September. The area was more popular in the 60’s and 70’s before European visitors jetted off in search of more far flung pleasures. To me this is a benefit as the crowds have gone elsewhere, making the trip down the Semois very civilised indeed. There is still plenty of accommodation from hostels and camping sites to luxury hotels but on this trip we stayed with friends at their house.

The Semois
The Semois

Canoe and kayak hire locations can be found at numerous points along the course of the river. The operators will collect you and your boat at the end of your voyage or even take you upstream to commence your journey. The river is perfect for first time kayakers as there are no dangerous rapids and generally the water is slow moving. There are a number of weirs which can be avoided by beaching beforehand and carrying your boat past. We went over the weirs and had no adverse effects other than a bow wave that washed over the kayak’s prow soaking our legs. My camera, watch, phone, spare clothing, lunch, etc. were stowed in a waterproof barrel secured to the kayak.

Kayak on the Semois
Kayak on the Semois
Dragon flies and flowers
Dragon flies and flowers

Paddling downriver is not the only means of slow travel to explore the Semois. GR16 is a long distance trail that follows the river valley from Arlon to Monthermé, where it connects with GR12.
We hiked a section by Cugnon and made a deviation to visit the caves where Saint Remacle lived for a while in the seventh century while converting the Ardennes to Christianity.

Caves of St Remacle
Caves of St Remacle

GR 16 looks like an appealing project when we have finished our flirtation with GR 579 (Brussels – Liege) and GR 12 (Brussels – French Border), but there is still a lot of Semois river to paddle! That is the primary benefit of slow travel; there is always so much more to experience.

Rock stairs on GR 16
Rock stairs on GR 16

About John Williams

John Williams looks at travel from a responsible consumer's perspective. He is doesn't accept hosted trips, so don't expect gushing reports of experiences that neither he, you, nor our planet can afford. He, is the first to acknowledge that when it comes to sustainable travel, he has a lot to learn. TravelCrunch is a platform for sharing his learning, but if you have any tips or disagreements feel free to air them in the comments.

The bell tolls for paradise lost

Bostadh Beach with its bell on Great Bernera, off the Isle of Lewis is an enchanting place. It is not a new discovery as evidenced by the Iron Age Village unearthed by a storm in 1992. Trying to encapsulate its charms with my humble words is a futile task; therefore, this will be a photo essay. In fact as with many places like this only a visit can convey the full experience.

Bostadh Beach
Bostadh Beach

Time and Tide Bell

In 2010, Bostadh was selected as a location for the installation of one of Marcus Vergette’s twelve Time and Tide Bells that are to be installed around the British Isles at the rate of one per year. The waves at high tide move a paddle which is connected to a striker which sounds the bell albeit reasonable quietly. With the predicted sea level rises over the coming decades the bells will not only toll more frequently but the tones will change subtly according to the height of the tides. It is not intended to be a part of the Dark Mountain Project, , but it fits nicely with the philosophy of civilisation being slowly drowned. The bells will toll more frequently signalling the demise of low-lying habitats around the world. Bostadh is an excellent place to stop and think, and perhaps the bell sounding will stimulate thought of places less fortunate as the tide comes in.

Time and Tide Bell
Time and Tide Bell

Installation of the bell at Bostadh was approved after local consultation and meetings. Objections were received just after the approval had been given. A number of people got in touch complaining that it would spoil the pristine natural environment at Bostadh. I’ve already mentioned the Iron Age village, in addition there is a cemetery, car park, toilets and picnic tables. However, there is little else there. Apart from the toilets there is no building newer than the Iron Age.

But, it seems for some people, a single bell can destroy paradise. But not as fast as the human race is managing to do in the early 21st century.

 

Iron Age Viallage at Bostadh Beach
Iron Age Village at Bostadh Beach
Iron Age Village at Bostadh
Iron Age Village at Bostadh
Inside Iron Age House
Inside Iron Age House

About John Williams

John Williams looks at travel from a responsible consumer's perspective. He is doesn't accept hosted trips, so don't expect gushing reports of experiences that neither he, you, nor our planet can afford. He, is the first to acknowledge that when it comes to sustainable travel, he has a lot to learn. TravelCrunch is a platform for sharing his learning, but if you have any tips or disagreements feel free to air them in the comments.

Travel jargon demystified

Sustainable travel can seem serious, but travel is meant to be fun!

We have all read the jargon. ‘Take a trip to this exclusive eco-resort, where the discerning traveller will be pampered and experience authentic,  local travel in Africa’. But what does it all mean?

I’ve done some word crunching to bring you the TravelCrunch guide to blogging travel jargon. You probably won’t agree, but that is what the comment boxes are for. They are not for ‘Nice post. Thanks for sharing!’ or even, ‘I came across this blog while searching on Google. It is the most helpful blog I have come across in my quest to become the best promoter of casinos and medications on the internet. I will be back!’.

This is an alternative view of travel jargon. Many of the true explanations of slow travel, sustainable travel, staycations and the like have either been covered on this blog or will be in the future.

Extreme adventure-travel jargon
Adventure skiing

Adventurous
Other variants: adventure and occasionally extreme.
Means: The writer is up for anything, but would become a crumbling wreck if they had to organise and pay for it themselves.

Authentic Travel
Other variants: Real
Means: The travel was not provided via a memory implant. See the Rekall Corporation.

Budget travel
Other variants, phrases and keywords: Cheap, no frills, cattle class.
Means: Travel where many of the basic necessities are payable extras. Don’t expect champagne, but WiFi is usually included.

Digital Nomad
Other variants: Nomad, Nomadic, Roamancing, wanderer.
Means: Staying in one place too long is like an admission of failure to these people. They must have been born under a ‘Wandering Star‘.

Polar bears
Polar bears at Grand Place, Brussels

Eco
Other variants: Green, responsible, sustainable.
Photo opportunities: Polar bears, pandas and parakeets. This is all about the 3 P’s.
Other key words and phrases: Travel lightly, ‘protect people, planet, profit’.
Means: Fly 4000 miles First Class to a resort where they have two solar panels and where they don’t change your bath linen unless you request it. They employ at least one local inhabitant as a Night Porter.

Flashpacking
Other similar variants: Glamping.
Means: Budget travel sold at a premium rate, now there’s a contradiction in terms, but I kid you not. The emphasis is on the included internet connectivity which is usually a given in budget accommodation.

Hidden gem
Other variants: Gem, jewel.
Means: I don’t know the answer to this one. I’ve visited many of the places where these gems are supposedly to be found, but I’ve never located even the tiniest chip of diamond or rubies. Shame if I found one perhaps I wouldn’t have to blog anymore.

Hipster
Other variants: ?
Means: This one baffles me as it apparently refers to a group that reject labelling. So why do they call themselves hipsters?

Jettsetter
Other variants and related words: Jet Set, turn left, upgrade, Flyer Miles.
Means: Someone who’s proud of their large carbon footprint or the transport mode of choice for high profile Climate Change Film makers. They feel fine as long as they plant a few trees each year which will take 30 years to grow enough to absorb the carbon dioxide. Then the trees either die or burn down and release the carbon once more.

Local travel
Variants and phrases: ‘Travel like a local’.
Means: Getting up at 7 am and taking public transport or a slow queue infested drive to the business quarter of a city. When there, the day is spent updating Social Media accounts on a computer. Then at 5 pm returning for a meal then either sitting in front of the TV or going to the nearest bar.

Luxury travel
Variants and keywords: Exclusive, discerning, pampering, champagne, suite, infinity pool, massage, spa, 7 stars.
Means: Making the statement: ‘Money comes so easy to me. I can afford to squander it on overpriced travel’. Nearly always served with champagne, but WiFi us usually a chargeable extra.

Off the beaten track
Off the beaten track

Off the beaten track
Other variants: ‘Off the beaten trail’, ‘The road less travelled’.
Means: The SatNav is malfunctioning.

Slow Travel
Other variants: Slow Food, Slow Movement, Slow Gardening, Slow Science, Slow Art, Slow Fashion, Slow Money
Means: Travelling by air when a volcano erupts in Iceland, or by rail in France when the Rail Unions have been told to work for longer, before taking retirement, or bus at any time.

Staycation
Variants: Holistay.
Means: Originally meant using your own home as a base for your vacation. Now means staying anywhere in your own country. Lucky Russians. They have a choice of anywhere between the Baltic and Black Seas and the Bering Sea.

Tourist
Other keywords: Touristy, touristic, tour guide, tourist trap.
Means: The term the travel industry professionals use to describe consumers of travel products and services.

Traveller
Variants: traveler. Often preceded by budget, luxury, eco, green, responsible, adventure.
Means: Just like in the Sound of Music, ‘Me’ is a name I call myself. This is the term consumers of travel products and services like to call themselves.

Unique
Variants: Exclusive.
Means: Only you will feel exactly this way about the trip you are about to take, or just took.

I guess everyone will have their own definitions of a travel jargon. What are your favourites?

 

About John Williams

John Williams looks at travel from a responsible consumer's perspective. He is doesn't accept hosted trips, so don't expect gushing reports of experiences that neither he, you, nor our planet can afford. He, is the first to acknowledge that when it comes to sustainable travel, he has a lot to learn. TravelCrunch is a platform for sharing his learning, but if you have any tips or disagreements feel free to air them in the comments.

Slow Scottish travel

This summer I found some Bargain Berths for the Caledonion Sleeper Train. Staying at family run B&B’s and hostels and hiking to Inverness seemed like a low carbon, ethical way to travel. It was certainly enjoyable. I guess Sleeper Trains are higher carbon than normal trains and that passenger trains are higher carbon than full buses; so we could have done better. Passenger trains are less efficient than buses due to the weight built into the trains to ensure safety. I’d hate to be the engineer that has to justify the designs for an efficient passenger train, if it means that more passengers would be injured or killed in a crash.Sustainable Scottish travel via the Great Glen Way The Great Glen Way uses a lot of Forestry Commission roads. Views of the various lochs were not that frequent and depended upon where the trees had been felled recently. Plesiosaurus The Loch Ness monster still draws the visitors to the loch and especially Drumnadrochit. Fort Augustus Fort Augustus has the biggest choice of accommodation between Inverness and Fort William. There is also a good choice of shops, restaurants and Takeaways. When staying at the various B&B’s and hostels, the question went through my mind that how ethical did the various family source their supplies? The hotel chains are now looking at this issue. In the old days it didn’t matter so much as most produce was local, but now it is easy for a B&B owner to pop into a supermarket and source some goods with a high carbon footprint or buy linen produced in a sweat shop somewhere. All questions that got me thinking. How do you address these subjects? Caledonian Canal The Caledonian canal is now busy with holiday traffic. It never really fullfilled its expectations for commercial traffic. Caledonian canal The views improve as you hike towards Fort William. General Wade's Military Road Originally built to subjugate the Scots. General Wade’s Military roads were used effectively by the Jacobites in the uprisings at the start of the 18 th century. This is just the type of path that the Scottish midges love. Fortunately I had a net over my cowboy hat and furthermore the weather was either too windy, too sunny or too wet to suit the midges. I was using a Deet based repellent purely because we have a supply to use up. Future expeditions will probably use Mozzy Off made from bog myrtle or will research the Avon Skin So soft that also receives a lot of praise. Other options include visiting in May or September. At least by visiting Scotland twice in August we know that we can get by comfortably. Invergarry Castle After hiking down the paths on the far side of Loch Oich we back tracked up to Invergarry to stay at the Invergarry Lodge, easily the best hostel we stayed at on our week hiking the Great Glen Way. Hand operated swing bridge   Most of my photographs have rain clouds and we had a fair share of rain on our journey.  Not sure who said it originally, but the saying “No such thing as bad weather; only inappropriate clothing” held true.

Further information for Slow Scottish Travel

Look up the website of the Great Glen Way or the Wikipedia page.

About John Williams

John Williams looks at travel from a responsible consumer's perspective. He is doesn't accept hosted trips, so don't expect gushing reports of experiences that neither he, you, nor our planet can afford. He, is the first to acknowledge that when it comes to sustainable travel, he has a lot to learn. TravelCrunch is a platform for sharing his learning, but if you have any tips or disagreements feel free to air them in the comments.

EU Cookie Law

CameraYou shouldn’t have failed to notice, that when you visit this site now you get a message regarding cookies and your privacy. This is to comply with the The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003, that were amended in 2011 to change the requirement for individuals browsing websites. The amendment now requires individuals to give their consent for certain web tracking technologies to be used. The most common being cookies.

What are cookies?

Cookies are tiny files made up of numbers and text that are placed on an individual’s computer when surfing web sites. They are not used to put spyware, trojans or other nasties on your computer.  Other technologies are also used such as tiny transparent image files known as web beacons or bugs, Flash Cookies and HTML5 all store information on your computer. Over 90% of websites use cookies .

They are used to remember which individual is visiting the site by reading the cookie file stored on an individual’s computer. In nearly all cases the information stored in cookie is just a code that cannot be used to identify the individual visiting the site.

Are all cookies equal?

The simple answer is no. Some cookies are exempt from the law such as those used to remember to keep you logged in to a site or remember the items in your shopping basket. Others such as Google Analytics are used by webmasters to see how the site is visited, which pages are popular and unpopular, which sites they came from and which page they left from. This enables the site to be tweaked so that it caters for user’s needs. Finally there are the Performance Cookies. These are generally used to serve adverts such as GoogleAds but ever increasingly Social Media buttons, such as Facebook ‘Like’ buttons, Google ‘+1’ buttons and all of those ‘Share’ buttons.  These gather the most information and for the longest timescale. Without them them Facebook and other social media sites would have to change their business models.
In the process of assessing the cookies set by WordPress and its plugins, I learnt that there are some quite intrusive cookies set. I will be looking to eliminate these is possible. WordPress makes web publishing easy but the downside is that we have less control over the coding.

What should you do?

The best thing would be to read up more on the subject. You can’t know enough about internet security and privacy. Look at some of the social media provider’s Privacy and cookie policies. See if you are happy with what they are doing. Some sites have implemented a scheme that allows individuals to set the level of security that suits them on their site. So you can block cookies for advertising but this also means that the social media share buttons are disabled as well.

Take a look at Add Ons such as NoScript for Firefox which is very effective at blocking malicious code and if you trust a site then you can temporarily or permanently allow it to get full functionality.

What do you think?

You must have come across other sites taking action as a result of this European Directive, which ones impressed you? How much did you know about cookies before and how much has your understanding improved as a result of the implementation of the directive? What further information are you personally looking for?

 

 

 

About John Williams

John Williams looks at travel from a responsible consumer's perspective. He is doesn't accept hosted trips, so don't expect gushing reports of experiences that neither he, you, nor our planet can afford. He, is the first to acknowledge that when it comes to sustainable travel, he has a lot to learn. TravelCrunch is a platform for sharing his learning, but if you have any tips or disagreements feel free to air them in the comments.

Some thoughts about travel for Earth Day 2012

Today is Earth Day.

My personal wish for Earth Day is for transparent, understandable sustainability metrics introduced for the travel industry. It would allow me, or any other like minded consumer to assess the full ecological, cultural and socio-economic impact of our travel plans before we commit to buying. I am glad there are companies out there selling responsible travel. However, when some of these companies are pushed to supply carbon and water footprints, or the percentage of the travel spend that stays in the local community the information supplied is often lacking.
River and snow covered mountain

Some commentators, including some working in the responsible travel sector say that travel is a diverse complicated product and imply that it would be nearly impossible to produce metrics.

It would be wrong to say that it that the metrics are impossible to produce. I quote Clarke’s First and Second Laws:

Clarke’s First Law: When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

Clarke’s Second Law: The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

Arthur C Clarke

Like any scientific challenge the it is possible to calculate the figures. True, carbon and ecological footprints have not been calculated for every service and product. However, homes now have energy ratings. The apartment I am living in while on vacation in Chamonix has energy ratings displayed in traffic light format from A – G. The offset companies seem to have no problems working out carbon footprints, when they feel they can benefit financially. If one travel company set the standard, others would follow.  Why not start with some of the easily measured metrics like energy, water consumption and then move on to food? Assessing the carbon footprint of a flight is not difficult, just look at any carbon offsetting company’s websites for information. Ferry and cruise companies don’t publish their figures.  If their carbon footprint figures were good, wouldn’t they be using them to promote sales in the same was as railways and buses?

The task will be most difficult when carried out for the first time, but afterwards producing the metrics will be no more onerous than producing the annual report and accounts.

A good example of a carbon footprint study is SNCF’s study for the construction and operation of the TGV Rhin-Rhône line. It is an excellent case study that  clearly demonstrates how the carbon footprint is calculated for an extremely complex operation.  IC Hotels publish the average carbon footprint of their rooms in their CSR report. I expect to see more reporting like this in the future. Not only will it help consumers decide which travel products they will spend their money on, but it will be a massive driver for improvement across the industry.

Beware of the supermarket plastic bag distraction ploy, they make a massive show of phasing out single use plastic carrier bags.  The ecological footprint of a single use plastic bag is one thousandth of that of the goods that they carry. So millions of consumers feel they are making a big impact by using reusable carrier bags. I’m in agreement that they should be phased out, as they cause a catalogue of misery in the environment, but if we forget the other nine hundred and ninety-nine thousandths, the impact is almost negligible. But the way we look at the “throwaway culture” may be changed far more significantly.  Phasing them out has benefited supermarkets financially, this was also a driver.

Likewise, some travel companies point to one aspect of their services giving it a huge significantce.  Of course it probably does make a difference, but is it just a thousandth of the total impact of that travel package?

Isn’t it about time we were all a bit more ambitious when setting our goals for the future, to make sure that we have one at least as good as the present? We need to look at the other nine hundred and ninety-nine thousandths.  But to do that we need more facts we can relate to, as opposed to publicity stunts.

Food for thought.

 

About John Williams

John Williams looks at travel from a responsible consumer's perspective. He is doesn't accept hosted trips, so don't expect gushing reports of experiences that neither he, you, nor our planet can afford. He, is the first to acknowledge that when it comes to sustainable travel, he has a lot to learn. TravelCrunch is a platform for sharing his learning, but if you have any tips or disagreements feel free to air them in the comments.

World Water Day 2012

Just before Christmas 2011, there was a series of posts by Travel Bloggers on the theme “Travel Bloggers Give Back”. I’m not sure what they take in the first place. That aside, anyone who has scanned through these posts will find the water plays a big role. My favourite type of water is in the form of snow crystals, but water is way, way more important than that. We are comprised around 60% water. So this is my post in the same vein as “Travel Bloggers Give Back”, but if you know anything about me then you’ll realise that I don’t like riding on bandwagons, but prefer take the hard route and walk.Glass of water
Thought for the Day on BBC Radio Four was a programme I used to listen to before going to work. I remember one speaker relating the story of him giving a glass of water to a thirsty woman in Kenya. The woman took the glass and instead of drinking it immediately, she seemed to pause for reflection. Then it dawned upon the speaker that the woman was giving thanks to God for the glass of water. In the Developed World we don’t consider a glass of water to be precious. But it is. It seems likely that “Peak Water” has already gone. We sustain our present consumption by extracting water from aquifers that took thousands, sometimes millions to be filled. Glaciers are also retreating, they are another source of fresh water in summer. Even diminishing snowfall affects the water supply from the spring melts.
The real shocking thing is this; that something looked on as worthless and wasted by most of the developed world isn’t available to one in eight on our planet. This page of statistics gives an idea of the scale of the problem. I’ll add include one statistic from the page, namely that one child dies every twenty seconds due to diarrhoea caused by unclean water and poor sanitation. That’s more than deaths due to AIDS, Malaria and Measles combined.
My favourite charity is WaterAid as it is dedicated to raising the issue of clean water and providing support and resources to give clean water and toilet facilities to those lacking these basic necessities.  They also run some pretty excellent campaigns such as providing water and toilets at music festivals like Glastonbury. They also organise the WaterAid200 event where they a team of 4 – 7 people on 200 mountains in the UK and Ireland between 11am and 3pm. This year’s event takes place on Saturday June 16. There are mountains left if you want to join a team. Each team must raise a minimum of £400.

You can obviously support WaterAid financially by direct donations or fund-raising. But now you can also support the WaterWorks campaign. Take a photo to demonstrate how important water and toilets are to you and upload it on the  WaterWorks site. The best photos will be used in presentations to World Leaders ahead of talks in Washington in April to discuss concerted action on water and sanitation.

About John Williams

John Williams looks at travel from a responsible consumer's perspective. He is doesn't accept hosted trips, so don't expect gushing reports of experiences that neither he, you, nor our planet can afford. He, is the first to acknowledge that when it comes to sustainable travel, he has a lot to learn. TravelCrunch is a platform for sharing his learning, but if you have any tips or disagreements feel free to air them in the comments.

A Welsh Day Trip in February

This is a short photo essay of part of a day trip to Llandudno and Anglesey on a Sunday in February. The first part of the day was spent walking around the Great Orme at Llandudno, but this post will concentrate on the afternoon spent in Anglesey. Crossing the Menai Straits on Stevenson’s Britannia Bridge we stopped for photos of his railway bridge and Telford’s Suspension bridge.

Menai bridge
One of Thomas Telford’s masterpieces

Telford’s bridge probably comes out in front in the elegance stakes, but I am impressed by Stevenson’s Britannia bridge. Originally a tubular rail bridge, it burnt down in the Seventies, to be recycled into both a rail and road bridge, using Stevenson’s original piers. Something sustainable in that approach appeals to me.

Brittania Bridge
Stevenson’s Britannia Bridge now carries road and rail traffic

On Anglesey we headed for Newborough Beach mainly because I hadn’t been there since I was a child. Back then it involved a trek across a track only passable in something like our farm Mk 1 Landrover. A TV programme on the geology of Llanddwyn Island had also stirred my interest.

Celtic cross on Llanddwyn
Newborough beach with Snowdonia in the background

Newborough beach is a expanse of clean sandy beach, behind which sand dunes and the red squirrel inhabited Newborough Forest rise up majestically. Walking North we came to the island and read the information panel on both the island’s significance as a place of pilgrimage and the Pre Cambrian geology. Then venturing onto the island passing the well used by lovers to check on the fidelity of their lovers, we came to a Celtic Cross. This is one of two crosses commemorating St Dwynwen on the Island. Llanddwyn and St Dynwen's Cross Her original cross can be found inland from the old lighthouse. The lighthouse was where a lot of the filming for “Half light” starring Demi Moore was filmed. The island also supplies locations for some scenes from the 2009 “Clash of the Titans” movie.

Pony on Llanddwyn
Pony on Llanddwyn

Llandwyn Island was Wales’ first bird reserve and the Newborough Warren National Nature Reserve is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The isle is grazed by ponies and sheep which maintains its present look.

Further reading for a Welsh Day Trip

This post is a companion post to Ynys Llanddwyn a place of pilgrimage for Welsh Lovers on the VisitBritain SuperBlog. Ynys Llanddwyn on Wikipedia.

About John Williams

John Williams looks at travel from a responsible consumer's perspective. He is doesn't accept hosted trips, so don't expect gushing reports of experiences that neither he, you, nor our planet can afford. He, is the first to acknowledge that when it comes to sustainable travel, he has a lot to learn. TravelCrunch is a platform for sharing his learning, but if you have any tips or disagreements feel free to air them in the comments.

Discovering Evasion Mont Blanc and evasive buses

One of the added bonuses of a Chamonix Season Lift Pass, is the chance to discover three other winter resorts in Haute-Savoie. The next big winter station down the valley is  Evasion Mont Blanc, a series of linked resorts including St Gervais, Megeve, Combloux and La Giettaz. In all 445 km of pistes. This is a photo essay of Evasion Mont Blanc. The photos are all from the ski area, not the story of the journey there and back. If you are not interested in bus journeys that don’t turn out as planned, just skip the text and enjoy the photos. I will be submitting this post for #MonPics on Twitter as they were all taken this weekend.

At the booking office in Chamonix, I booked a return bus ticket to Megeve, leaving Chamonix station at 7am the following day. Unfortunately the girl who issued my ticket got a lot of things wrong, as I would find out as the discovery day progressed.

Panorama from Mont Joux
Panorama from Mont Joux

Amazingly, I managed to get up at 6am and drag myself to the station for 6h45. Boarding the bus for Chamonix, I was told that I’d have to change at Le Fayet which sounded reasonable, as the destination matrix on the bus indicated that it was bound for Geneva Airport.  The bus departed on time and 5 minutes later, stopped at the Bus Stop outside my apartment. I could have saved a 15 minute walk if only I’d asked!

Piste with Mont Blanc backdrop
Piste with Mont Blanc backdrop

Arriving at Le Fayet, the lady in the ticket office pointed out that there was no service to Megeve on Saturdays. I asked if the bus passed the Télécabine at St Gervais and was told no. She explained that I could get there though. So unconcerned, I boarded the 8h30 bus to Les Contamines. At St Gervais I caught the free ski bus to the lift. I presented my documentation at the cash desk and my  pass was activated for Evasion Mont Blanc, or so I thought.

Mont Blanc from Mont Joux
Mont Blanc from Mont Joux

I boarded the lift and started exploring the area. It was bitterly cold with tiny ice crystals floating in the air and glistening in the sun like diamonds. Certainly no hidden gems that day. Up on the top of the mountains the view over the cloud filled valleys was magnificent.

Mont Blanc from Mont Arbois
Mont Blanc from Mont Arbois

Throughout the day, I stopped more than is usual for me, to get some photos of the views. Many had Mont Blanc and the rest of the peak of the Mont Blanc Massif as a backdrop, but the Aravis and other mountain chains also figured. From here the lofty heights of the summit of Mont Blanc can be appreciated more than in Chamonix, where the closer, lower peaks look much taller  from the bottom of the Chamonix Valley.

Moguls at Megeve
Moguls at Megeve

Managing to time my lunch with my arrival at Megeve, so that I could eat it on the resort ski bus, I made my way to Jaillet.  At Jaillet Télécabine, the electronic pass reader rejected my pass and so I enquired at the cash desk about what the problem was. The cashier informed me that my pass had only been activated for the St Gervais ski area. She could do nothing about it as a different lift company operated this sector of Evasion Mont Blanc. I chose to return to Megeve and keep exploring the St Gervais area.

Mont Blanc from Mont Arbois
Mont Blanc from Mont Arbois

After a day of riding, I caught the 17h30 bus back to Le Fayet. This was exactly the time the bus to Chamonix called at Le Fayet. I managed by catching the train to Chamonix,  but had to pay 5.10 euros for a train ticket. Sometimes though, travel plans going wrong don’t spoil your day, or am I just speaking for myself?

There are more photos of Evasion Mont Blanc (minus Combloux and La Giettaz obviously) in the gallery. Some are 3D anaglyphs requiring Red / Cyan glasses to appreciate the 3D. Click on the thumbnails to see a larger photo size.

 

About John Williams

John Williams looks at travel from a responsible consumer's perspective. He is doesn't accept hosted trips, so don't expect gushing reports of experiences that neither he, you, nor our planet can afford. He, is the first to acknowledge that when it comes to sustainable travel, he has a lot to learn. TravelCrunch is a platform for sharing his learning, but if you have any tips or disagreements feel free to air them in the comments.

Deserted beaches, an ancient settlement and islands

This photo essay accompanies my latest post for the Visit Britain Superblog. “In the footsteps of Monty Halls on North Uist“. The Udal Peninsula was one of Monty Halls favourite spots in the Uists in Scotland’s magnificent Western Isles.

View from Udal Peninsula across Harris Sound

View across Harris Sound to the mountainous Isle of Harris.

boat

A boat moored a long way from the nearest habitation.

Pebbles on beach somewhere near elusive cross on wall

Pebbles on the beach near the elusive “Cross on the wall”.

Good sign. Yellow moss on rock

Yellow moss apparently only grows in unpolluted environments.

Ancient wheelhouse

One of the best examples of a wheelhouse in North Uist. This spot was occupied for over 5000 years.

Crop or wild flowers?

Never managed to find out if these were grown as a crop or were natural. They completely covered a crofter’s field.

All photos by author.

 

About John Williams

John Williams looks at travel from a responsible consumer's perspective. He is doesn't accept hosted trips, so don't expect gushing reports of experiences that neither he, you, nor our planet can afford. He, is the first to acknowledge that when it comes to sustainable travel, he has a lot to learn. TravelCrunch is a platform for sharing his learning, but if you have any tips or disagreements feel free to air them in the comments.