(High, Higher, Highest)
Today we woke to find clouds evaporating and blue sky revealing. We drove to Chamonix, and the plan was to park in Chamonix at the Gare de Montenvers and catch the Funicular (train) Mer De Glace to Montenvers.
I say "that was the plan" because I had decided in October that I was going to go way higher than the meagre 1900metres that my party were going. I almost ran off the bus as it halted in cruelly crisp Chamonix where even the finest twig or line was white coated and clearly frozen.
My memory almost took me directly to la Station Telepherique l'Aiguille du Midi, which I had been to at least 8 times in my life. 42.50 Euros saw me ticketed Aller-Retour (return ticket) to the very top of the small pinnacle that faces the Giant White Mountain (Mont Blanc). As we rose towards our heavenly destination I knew nothing was going to get in the way of the finest views anywhere in Europe. I resisted the temptation to unbuckle my camera; you can't get good views through the dirty scratched perspex of the Telecabine and I knew my camera would be unobstructed at the top.
Change Telecabines at Plan du Midi, and then arrive at l'Aiguille du Midi ('The needle in the Middle') at about 3800metres. But I'm not done yet, and now there is the Piton which is climbed using l'ascenseur (lift) to attain 3842metres (or 12600feet). There's not much higher than us around this spot, although Mont Blanc does top us by almost a full thousand metres. You cannot get higher than this in Europe when using publicly accessible transport systems.
The camera clicked and my eyes nearly popped out of my head because I didn't know what to look at, or to photograph, next. Of course I've been here many times before, and I just add to the hundreds of previous images, but I CANNOT get enough of this place. I was able to see Le Cervin (Matterhorn) which is 60Km distant, so clear was the view.
However, the air temperature was below -10degrees and the air was so thin that I was getting light headed. So after an hour I decided to retrace my cable car links down to the valley. Overwhelmed by all this, I was reminded of the French word "Incroyable" to describe such beauty, made even more perfect by all the snow and the frosty air. I became emotional, and as I descended and thought how could such beauty exist, I came to remember a photograph my mother took of my father by the very same height sign (12,602ft), and suddenly both my parents were with me at the highest place in Europe.
I took a Pizza in the valley and rejoined the train goers for our return to Annecy, where again I explored this lovely town before our Boxing day meal.
As to our fellow passengers, I haven't told you about Shirley, a girl unlikely to have close male friends and certainly not me. On seeing my first photos she declared that I should do this and that and then that to a certain image, and I looked into her pale grey eyes beneath her freakish maroon hair and thought to myself: "what the feck do you know?" Then she declared she was head of photography at some school or other, but she didn't actually do photography. Exactly!
You'll remember Samuel the Macabre; well he turned up at Christmas Eve dinner wearing a daft Santa hat with flashing lights. On Christmas Day his need to get attention saw him drape multicoloured Christmas lights that flashed on and off over his jacket beneath his flashing hat, Oh Dear!.
Meredith the farmer confessed tonight that he had "helped out" a long held man friend. This friend has been castrated due to testicular cancer and called Meredith to "service his wife" due to his inability. Meredith obliged for 4months until the man's wife turned up one day with her clothes and Meredith decided to end the arrangement.
That's about it really. we've ended on a high - an even bigger high for me. Tomorrow we return with a stop over on the outskirts of Paris. Not sure whether i will be able to do any pictures or report from Paris. Then we make our way back via Calais, Dover and reach Bradford 01:15 on Wednesday.
This Blog continues after the photos.