The Highs? Riding the Aiguille du Midi cable car to 12,605 feet in Chamonix, France. The Lows? 11 trains, 4 buses, 3 connections under 6 minutes, 1 missed connection, 1 complete change of route due to closer – 3 different languages and 2 different currencies – in 6 days!!
I arrived in Geneva to freezing temperatures and rain. Such a shock after being in sunny Barcelona and southern France! I checked into my first dorm style hostel and immediately had 5 roommates from 5 different countries! It was so fun getting to know these women and their stories – a student from Canada, a geologist from Mongolia, a pastor from Slovakia, an elderly lady from Russia and an retired interpretive dance teacher from UK. All I can say is thank goodness I got a bottom bunk and that there was quiet hour for the groups of high school students traveling through! The next day the sun came out and I walked the streets of Geneva for about 4 hours – what an intriguing city! I visited the United Nations and the Broken Chair – truly a City wanting the world to be a better place for all!
From Geneva I headed over the top of Lake Geneva – to Morges, through Lausanne, and up and over the Auvergne Rhone Alps Region into France and through some of the most beautiful snow I’ve ever seen! As if the fast connections didn’t have my nerves on edge – the train that literally clings to the side of the mountain as it goes up and over the mountain, depositing skiers and hikers at different resorts, definitely did the trick! The view arriving in in Chamonix, France, the home of the first Winter Olympics in 1924, definitely is on a post card somewhere. I was able to walk around town and photograph some before the sun came out and the gave a clear view of the mountains all around me! I would love to say that I had an amazing dinner of fine french cuisine my last night in France, but I have to admit a hamburger and fries was my choice!
The next morning my sense of adventure was put into perspective as I stood in line for the Aiguille du Midi cable car – a series of 2 cable cars that take you 12,605 feet up – giving you an amazing view of the peak of Mont Blanc. I’m admiring how brave I am – until I get to the top, trying to adjust to the altitude and the 3 degree temperatures, and watch a helicopter pick up a group of men to be dropped off the side of the mountain to make their way down! Somehow making a 6 minute connection didn’t seem like such a thrill ride after all! Lol! The rest of the day was spent on two buses and a train – crossing over to Italy to the beautiful old town of Aosta.
What a pleasant surprise this town was – selected just as a stop before moving on to Venice. With Roman ruins from 25 BC still intact – it was magical to walk the cobblestone streets and just imagine a different time! In the middle of the town are the ruins of a Roman theater with the seating still recognizable! Around this was a lively town full of energy and excitement, music and amazing food and wine! Since it was my first night in Italy, I HAD to have an authentic Italian meal. Well, was I surprised when they brought Carbona con polenta and not spaghetti! I stayed at the home of a high school psychology teacher right off the main square which made it feel like I lived there! The next morning she brought me the tiniest little cup – my first Italian Coffee!!
This past week has pushed me harder than I imagined both physically and mentally – having to change travel routes at the last minute, running from train platforms down stairs to a train with 3 minutes to spare, trying to find a way to book a bus ticket when the office is closed, extreme changes in weather and adapting to new languages – has at times made me think couldn’t do it. But – it has never failed – every time I got that feeling – I would find help from everyone around me! I have never been denied help from anyone! And just about the time I start to feel sad, someone will speak to me, ask my story and give me words of encouragement! A lady from Jamaica asked the train conductor to fix the station arrival system on the train because I was confused! A woman from Poland saw me looking at my train ticket trying to figure out the quick connection and said ‘follow me’. A woman from Italy told me that traveling in Italy by rail/bus is not as easy as other countries and that I was doing a great job. So the highs and lows are going to happen – but it’s what I’m taking from the middle that is making this such an amazing journey.
I’m now in Venice – and was just told that I just needed to ‘get lost’ in Venice! I can’t wait!
I continue to appreciate the words of encouragement and hellos I get from home! For now – Adeu – Au Revoir – Addio!