Tag Archives: chamonix

A personal reflection on flags for #FriFotos

The theme for the photo sharing day on Twitter on Friday 18 November 2011 was Flags. If you look at my Twitter profile you will see that I tend to spend time between three locations. In this piece, I will include photos, including flags from each of these places.
Wales
Welsh flag at Llangollen
Starting with my birthplace. This photo was taken while looking for new angles to take photographs from. The castle on the skyline is Dinas Bran. It was built by the Welsh sometime in the 1260’s but fell to King Edward 1 of England.

Belgium
Belgian flag
Taken while at Fete de la Musique in place des Palais. This photo was used by the Belgian French language Radio and TV broadcaster to illustrate how far Belgium was from forming a government. Belgium went to the polls on 13 June 2010 and didn’t agree on a workable coalition until 11 October this year. The country now holds the world record for the time taken to form a democratically elected government. The article can be found here. You may need to use Google Translate. They did accredit me as the copyright holder but did not link to my Flickr page or give me a link back, but I was humbled to have it included.

France
French flag at Chamonix
Finally a photo of the French Flag from outside the Peloton de Gendarmerie de Haute Montagne (PGHM), Chamonix’s High Moutain Police. They operate a professional mountain rescue service. I end up at Chamonix at some time each winter, even if I don’t always spend the season there. I for one am glad that these brave policemen are there to rescue anyone in distress high in the Alps. The memorial plaque outside is sobering, as it records a the death of at least one policeman each year for nearly all the time it has been in existence.

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.

Daily Photo: Blue tram on the Mont Blanc Tramway

Blue tram on Mont Blanc Tramway

Tramway Mont Blanc
Today on #FriFotos on Twitter, the theme is ‘Blue’ so I will be posting a number of photographs on the theme. The problem is choosing just one to represent my feelings on the subject. This photo comes closest. The Tramway Mont Blanc runs from La Fayet, St Gervais to just above Col de Vorza above Les Houches in the Chamonix valley. The intention was to take the tramway to the top of Mont Blanc and I’m guessing would have involved a lot of tunneling under glaciers to reach the summit.

The photo was taken while I was snowboarding at Les Houches, which is included on the Mont Blanc Unlimited Lift Pass along with the tramway.

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.

Daily Photo: Chamonix Railway station

One of the plus points for Chamonix is that it has links to the French Autoroute system, is served by the Inter City European bus network, as well as the national rail network. Unfortunately TGV’s and sleeper trains terminate at St Gevais / La Fayet. You must then take the Mont Blanc Express to get to Chamonix. You can go all the way to Martigny in Switzerland if you like (another change of trains at Vallorcine may be required).
Chamonix Station

The station is one of my favourites both in terms of its architecture and that backdrop!

This is an HDR rendition, putting it in the ‘Around Europe with ghosts‘ series of posts.

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.

Delightful decimal serendipity

Florentine piazza
My most memorable travel moments were unplanned and beautifully unexpected.

1. Arriving in an Irish village, wet, hungry and thirsty after a day’s walking. Entering the first pub, to find it was Paddy Burke’s.

2. Relaxing on a balmy June day, in a Florentine Piazza, watching a man wash his clothes under the drinking fountain, then draping them on the railings to dry.

3. Giving a student a lift to his home in Chamonix, then sharing tea, meringues and Gruyère cream with his family.

4. Discovering Annecy, when my sleeper train to Chamonix was cancelled due to a strike. The rescheduled itinerary involved a wait there.

5. Staying in a Swiss family’s Martigny apartment, later enjoying a locally sourced banquet at a 50th birthday celebration.

6. Ignoring rain and fog at Chamonix to experience one of the best days of my life riding fresh powder snow high up in the mountains.

7. Climbing Scafell through snow laden clouds, following a Saturday morning working away from home. Summiting in zero visibility, the clouds parted for the sun to illuminate the magnificent Lake District vista.

8. Seeking somewhere to eat in Rauentahl, Germany when all the restaurants were closed. Invited by locals into a garage behind a house, to join the community feasting.

9. Singing along to an Oompah Band playing “Smoke on the Water”, while standing on trestle tables and benches at Oktoberfest.

10. Finding Telč a UNESCO listed town, tourist free, on a sunny July afternoon.

This post has been entered into the Grantourismo HomeAway Holiday-Rentals travel blogging competition.

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.

10 Tips for saving money on a Winter Sports Holiday

Winter sports vacations can be expensive, so I thought I’d post ten of my favourite money saving tips.

Winter Sports
  1. Book in advance, you can often get a good discount. If staying more than 3 weeks in a ski area it can sometimes work out cheaper to buy a season pass with a substantial pre season discount.
  2. If you don’t want to book in advance, then why not leave it until the last minute and get some late booking offers.
    Snowtrex, Holiday homes Interhome and others sell off their unsold accommodation with up to 30% discount in the last 2 weeks. Be flexible and if you are wanting to travel at school holidays don’t even bother trying this method.

  3. Book your transport well in advance. You will get the cheapest rail, bus, ferry and air fares.

  4. Do a big shop away from the resort at a supermarket or better still a Farmers market. The price of food and goods at Winter Resorts has a massive mark up.

  5. Take sandwiches and a stainless steel flask for food / drink while out on the piste. You can even save time by eating on the long gondola (telecabin) rides. That way you save by not eating in expensive restaurants in the resort and have more time to ride.
  6. Look at buying second hand skis or snowboards on ebay, SCUK or the SkiClub web sites. It will be cheaper than hiring at the resort.
  7. You can buy last season’s Ski Snowboard clothes cheaply at TK Maxx (between September and December) or sometimes ebay.

  8. Have a look at Annual Travel Insurance including Winter Sports, it can often work out cheaper. However whichever insurance you plan on buying, check the small print to ensure it covers the activities you intend carrying out.

  9. In many French resorts the Supermarket chain Sherpa has a number of schemes to help you save money. Firstly they will buy back unused, undamaged boxed, tinned food at the end of your week. Secondly they offer free hire of fondu and raclette equipment, all they need is a deposit.

  10. If you are travelling by car, you will find that snow chains are cheaper at the large supermarkets near the Alps than back home.

Coming next. 10 ways to spend a more sustainable Winter Sports break.

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.

Brussels to Chamonix via Eurolines

To travel to Chamonix, from Brussels, I booked a seat on a Eurolines coach, boarding by Gare du Nord. One of the main advantages of travelling by bus, is the low carbon footprint. Buses are generally light and do not use much fuel per person. They can also be quite cheap. I noted that the tickets from Brussels to Chamonix start at 9 Euros one way, shame mine wasn’t quite that cheap. I actually paid 90 Euros return, but had no extra fees for baggage etc.

Eurolines coach

I departed the Euro lines bus station at 18h00 on Sunday, after checking in a good sized bag with another in a snowboard bag. From what I read on the website for Eurolines Belgium, they don’t accept skis and snowboards, but the crew stowed mine in the baggage locker. Just don’t go turning up expecting them to accept your winter sports equipment in Belgium. If you are travelling from the UK then it is no problem. It all boils down to the fact that each country has a different coach operator badged as Eurolines operating their part of Europe. The journey was uneventful. We drove out of Brussels and on to Lille in France, a DVD was shown as we left Brussels, then another DVD on the leg from Lille to Paris.
Most of the passengers alighted at Paris and new passengers boarded, some with skis in carry bags. It was now about 11h00, so no more DVD’s were played. The coach then travelled down the Autoroutes headed for Geneva, but stopping for a break every two hours or so. Fortunately the coach was half empty so everyone had two seats each to try top get comfortable on for the night. I did manage to sleep in a number of unusual positions before waking after about half an hour each time.
As we went through the Jura, I noticed that the scenery looked very white, I was having difficulty making out why as I had removed my contact lenses for the night. It soon became apparent that it was snowing heavily. The bus stopped at the border at Switzerland and all passports were checked. There was a short stop at Geneva and then we headed back for France and Chamonix.

Chamonix, my destination
Chamonix, my destination

It was just getting light as we entered the Chamonix valley. It looked magnificent with its new covering of fresh snow. The coach had difficulty with the build up of snow on the streets of Chamonix, but managed to get to the bus stop outside the railway station.

I was tired most of Monday and slept really well on Monday night. Would I travel by coach again? Yes, in fact I have to on my return leg. It would be good to find some of those 9 euro seats and may well look out for them.

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.