Chilling in Chamonix
Of course, ‘chilling’ is all a matter of perspective. It was under 30 degrees C here, so compared to much of the rest of my journey, this location is the icecube in my drink.
Chamonix is a beautiful old skiing and hiking village nestled in the French Alps in the shadow of Mont Blanc. It plays a pivotal part in the story I’m working on, mainly as the location of a variety of disasters for my main character. I love having things go wrong in pristine settings — perfection framing disaster is so typical of life, at least in my experience. In a way, the sheer beauty of the world sometimes has to be reason enough for the character to push through.
While my adventure is not Romy’s, of course, perhaps something of her karma befell me here, in gorgeous Chamonix. My trains didn’t abandon me, –as hers will– but my good health did [just for a short while] and my good luck did, too. After shaking my fist at the air, I’ve landed on hoping that the person who now has my mobile phone and earphones needs them more than I do.
Chamonix electric l’autobus.
The loss of the mobile phone, of course, has proven the biggest problem, but it’s also opened my eyes to something I’ve missed. [Aside from learning the hard way to keep a closer eye on who’s got their hand in my pockets in Paris!] I’ve always relied on public wifi as a big part of my communication strategy when travelling, but over the past little while, the logging-on process has changed in many public places. Where it used to be a simple matter of finding the right provider and inputting the correct password, these days, there’s often [not always, but quite, quite often] another step. The provider, in exchange for the use of their services, not only wants your social media info and/or your email, but also your cell phone number. Once provided, they’ll SMS [text message] a verification code, and voila! You are online, [and usually on a few dozen new mailing lists…]
However — No cell number? No wifi.
The goggle-tan is the best part…
This system is in force in many public places — train and bus stations, and even in several of the libraries I’ve visited. It’s been a nuisance for me, but must be a much bigger problem for someone who can’t afford a cell phone. It’s not so much the technology that’s in the way here, as it it is the endless need to exploit the commercial possibilities. Discouraging.
As for Chamonix — it was filled with hikers and mountain bikers and breathtaking vistas. I live on a mountain, so this little break from the enormous cities that have mostly populated this journey has been very welcome. I took a research ride on the highest vertical ascent cable car in the world, which in its entirely scales the monumental Aiguille du Midi. At the top of the world it connects, via a gondola across the glacier at the top, on to the Point Helbronner Skyride, which makes its way down what becomes Monto Bianco and into Italy. An absolutely breathtaking trip. Magnificio!
Can you see the cable car?
It’s been an amazing visit in Chamonix, but it’s time to move on, as I follow this story’s absolutely eccentric route. On my way out of town, I noticed the jagged peaks above me were alight with bright, tiny butterflies. These turned out to be para-gliders, leaping off into the thin air above the village by the dozen.
So, while my characters will face literal mountain-sized challenges in this village, I’m just going to take the beauty of these snaggle- toothed peaks and their human butterflies along with me, and leave my [now safely-wiped from a distance] cell phone to its new home!