Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Top of the World - Does life get any better than today?

Chamonix - French Alps

On  August 12th I landed in Zurich for  a unique tour - the 
300th Anniversary Swiss-German Mennonite Heritage Tour. I did not know anyone on the tour but this was a unique opportunity to visit the farms and hiding places of my ancestors who were persecuted as Anabaptists in the 1500's. It will take a while to filter through the photos and notes from this wonderful journey with author  John L. Ruth.

On August 24th the tour bus dropped us off at the Frankfurt Airport. Most flew home to the United States and Canada. I delayed my flight home for 4 days and flew to Geneva ALONE to learn more about John Calvin and the Protestant Reformation.  The truth is, I wanted to see if I could survive by myself in a strange place with a language I did not know.

A friend suggested I use the Viator website to look for day trips from Frankfurt or any other city in which I found myself. Viator offered a trip to Chamonix in the French Alps and I bought my ticket online.

These were my instructions:

Chamonix and Mont Blanc Day Trip from Geneva (2510KT001) 

Tour Option: Trip, Cable Car and Train 

Gare Routiere Bus Station
Place Dorcière, 1201 Geneva
Meet your guide at Keytours stand at Gare Routiere (Geneva bus station, near Square du Mont-Blanc)
Important Information
  • Your local contact is Keytours (Switzerland) on +41 22 731 4140.
  • Please be ready at least 10 minutes prior to departure time. 
  • Must bring valid passport. 
Tour Details
Tour Option Description:
Guided tour to Chamonix including the Aiguille du Midi cable car, Petit Train and Mer de Glace. Enjoy free time for lunch on your own. 
  • Transport by air-conditioned coach
  • Cable car ride to summit of Aiguille du Midi (not available from November 2 to December 18) (if option selected)

On Friday night I walked from Hotel Rousseau to Gare Routiere Bus Station, using Google Maps. (Carol taught me this in Italy -  to do a dry run - the  day before the appointment.) Okay, I found it easily.

Saturday morning I arrived almost 40 minutes before the bus was to leave. The bus wasn't even in the station. I walked around with the cup of coffee I found at the fancy Four Seasons Hotel. Starbucks does not open until 8am on Saturday in Geneva.  A porter asked if I had a room at the hotel. I said 'No, but I am desperate for coffee and Starbucks is not open '. He showed me how to operate the machine, smiled, and disappeared. 

The bus arrived and I was the first one on. It reeked of smoke. The tour guide, over 55, arrived on his bicycle with a white shirt and tie. The bus filled with people from all over the globe, speaking in their native tongue.  I had not spoken  to anyone for 2 full days and desperate for conversation and human interaction.

Neil handed out maps, explained our options, and gave us 3 important times to remember. He said we would see him only at the end of the day at Hotel Gustavia.

I listened so carefully to his instructions but suddenly I had no idea what I was to see or do before we met at Hotel Gustavia. A mother and daughter spoke English and I asked if I could join them for the day. They graciously said yes and THEY made the day! Louise and daughter Sarah  were from Dundee, Scotland and delightful in every way. Plus them understood Neil's instructions.

We took the cable cars to the top of the mountain, took a train to the stairs down to the glacier.