As someone who comes from a flat desert like Texas, I've always been drawn to the mountains and smitten with snow. At this point in my life, I've done my fair share of mountain trips but I must admit I've never seen anything as vast or steep as in Chamonix. You know that scene in the movie Inception when the city starts to cave in? You get that feeling, except for with mountains that seem as if they could swallow you up at any given moment. It's terrifying and breathtaking all at the same time.
We took the historic Montenvers red train up from Chamonix to the Terminal Neige - Refuge du Montenvers hotel for a few days of relaxing and views of the Mer de Glace glacier. The pioneer hotel dates back to 1880 when it was first built for mountaineers and explorers hailing from far away lands to gaze upon the Mer de Glace, also known as the "Sea of Ice." The hotel resides on a cliffside at a whopping 1913m high (over 6,000 feet!) The cozy hotel welcomes you with a warm atmosphere, dark woods, pops of red, and rustic decor mixed with modern comforts. There is 17 rooms here- all with an old fashion cabin like flair. There are cozy rooms for couples, suites for families, and dormitories if you're traveling with friends. They're equipped with leather trunks for nightstands, miner's lamps to read at night, and in some rooms a free standing footed bathtub. Thick winter curtains preserve the intimate and warm ambience with mind boggling views behind them. Upon booking you receive "half board" on top of accommodation which includes a breakfast buffet and 3 course dinner. We got to try delicious local dishes paired with French wines and even fondue on our last evening!
There is plenty to do and see around this region at any time of year. We took the gondola down and then the 480 steps even further (which was definitely a work out coming up) to explore the "Grotte de Glace, a fascinating Ice Cave right in the middle of the glacier. There is also a new exhibition at the top of Montenvers called The Glaciorium, where you learn all about the evolution of the glacier over the centuries. Of course there is plenty of hikes around the region amongst some of the steepest mountains in the world. Our brave ancestors were mountain pioneers and through their exploration they discovered this beautiful region for us to enjoy. Food-wise there is plenty to choose from on the mountain. In the summer you can lounge on the terrace at The Panoramique Mer de Glace which offers a modern and industrial feel with the craziest views that you will ever eat in front of. You can also eat at the hotels Montenvers Restaurant for some authentic alpine cuisine in a true mountainside dream setting. Lastly you can grab a snack, or 5 like we did, at the Glacier Bar which offers beer on tap, ice cream, sandwiches, and French pastries.