|Still having frustrations with pictures especially since we have some amazing pictures to share, especially after yesterday. I apologize for no blog yesterday, but we were absolutely hammered after our day. We started our day on Monday after a night of thunder, lightning and lots of rain. We were glad that it chose to precipitate at night and not intrude on our day! We awoke to sun shining on Mont Blanc, but low hanging clouds on both sides of the valley. It made for a slow, but productive start. Our hiking plan was to take the Le Flegere tram then hike to Le Brevent. But a bit of research had us switch it up a bit and take the L'Index lift at the top of Le Flegere and hike to Lac Blanc. The clouds rolled in and out, but never really wanted to just disappear. The hike was nice, a bit challenging in spots. Occasionally we would get a glimpse of the gorgeou s peaks across the valley, but it was just a tease. We arrived at Lac Blanc around 2:00 and had a little lunch. I proved my complete lack of French when we ordered the assiette du berger thinking that it might actually be a burger, but alas, it was an interesting plate including cheese, prosciutto, bread and salad. Very tasty, but different. The little refuge was run by a bunch of Nepalis. We felt it was an appropriate place for them to be since it appeared that anything that was there had to have been packed in! While we were eating on the deck, the clouds completely disappeared and we were treated to the most amazing views for 360 degrees! WOW! We were told that the views from Lac Blanc were amazing, but we were not prepared for what we saw. Glaciers and mountain peaks for miles! Everyone was awed by the views.
After lunch, we hiked up to see the second lake which was beautiful with the sun shining on it. We debated hiking back the way we had come, but I wanted to mix it up a bit so we returned directly to the top of Le Flegere. It was WAY too much down. And although the views were amazing, it was very hard on the knees. Our original plan had been to hike to Lac Blanc, then hike from Le Flegere to Le Brevent, but we did not get back to Le Flegere until after 4:00 - not nearly enough time to get to Le Brevent before the tram closed. So we took Le Flegere back to the valley along with 53 other people packed into that tram like sardines. After our energetic hike, we'd hoped to take the bus back into town, but alas we missed it by about 5 minutes and they only run every half hour, so off we went walking back to town. It was along the river, so it was a pleasant walk even on very tired legs/feet.
We've sort of adapted to the late eating habits of the French - well, not quite as late as the French, but we haven't typically headed to dinner until 7:00 or so. We chose one of Rick Steve's suggestions and had an ok meal. We both stuck with the carbo load of pasta. I had a quarter liter of house wine - they seem to miss that quarter liter line on the bottle - we are not in Utah! Perhaps the food was just ok, but the view of the sun setting on Mt. Blanc made the meal amazing!
Today we awoke with a new plan to take the bus to Courmayeur. We had originally planned to take the tram/gondolas, etc. but determined that it would be difficult to do with luggage. So we purchased tickets for the 8:45 bus. It's a 17 km trip to Courmayeur, through the Mt. Blanc tunnel, but they allow 45 minutes due to traffic getting thru the tunnel which is 11.6 km long. The regulations thru the tunnel are quite strict resulting from a deadly truck fire in 1999. The distance between vehicles is strictly regulated as is everyone's speed. But the amount of traffic thru it is amazing. Our hotel is in La Palud just on the Italian side of the tunnel. We can see the approach to the tunnel from our balcony and for several hours, the semis were lined up and moving quite slowly.
Our hotel is also at the base of the La Palud gondola that goes up the Italian side of Monte Bianco. We went up today and enjoyed the 360 degree views there are at the top on a crystal clear day like today, unlike our trip to the Italian side on Sunday. After a bit of hiking at the second station from the top, we descended to our hotel and took a LONG walk into town. So much for day of no hiking. Tomorrow we hope to hike to one of the most spectacular sections of the Tour du Mont Blanc. The owner of our hotel has given some clues about how to take the bus for a portion of the way! We'll let you know all about it tomorrow!