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A European Engagement: Geneva & Chamonix

The journey to Geneva was another scenic train ride from Zermatt (train has slowly become my preferred method of travel). Switzerland was the one place we decided our Global Eurail Pass was not a great deal and we would have needed the Swiss Pass to make it worth it. Switzerland was beautiful, but without a doubt the most expensive part of our journey, and I think if we were to do it over again, we would have budgeted through this country a little more extensively. 

 While on this train ride, we made a surprising discovery that I was not able to put together until it was too late for a picture.WE WENT RIGHT PAST PRINCE ERIC'S CASTLE! The castle Disney based Prince Eric's castle off of in "The Little Mermaid" is called Chateau de Chillon, located in Veytaux right off of Lake Geneva. When we went past the castle I literally said "wow that looks like Prince Eric's castle", and lo and behold, it was! I'm just sad we didn't get a better picture of it, so here is one from Google.

Below are the pictures we took at the time simply because we saw it was a beautiful castle on a lake.

Geneva was the first place on our European Adventure where we stayed in a hotel, the Starling Residence. It was beautiful, and sort of reminds me of the places they would house us in Hong Kong.

We were starving upon arrival, but in order to save a little money in very expensive Switzerland, and since we had a kitchen, we decided to head to the nearest grocery store and buy a few things to make a meal out of.

After dinner, we ventured out to explore Geneva a bit. Since it is just a stop over point for us, there wasn't much to see. We took the public tram to see Jet D'eau (or giant water jet) and the beautiful Jardin Angalis park it was surrounded by.

We took a boat taxi to the other side of the water and just relaxed a bit in the park. It was a very warm 90 degrees out, but the breeze from the water front cooled us down a bit.

The next day it was time for what Mike was most excited for on the whole trip, Aiguille du Midi at the top of Mount Blanc. In order to get there, we had to take the public tram to the train station, the train to the airport, and then a bus from the airport to get to the cable cars up to the 3842 meter peak in the Mont Blanc massif of the French Alps, so needless to say, it was quite the morning!

(I am pointing at the Aiguille du Midi sign and Mike is pointing to the actual cable car line)

I thought I was pretty used to cable cars from doing Big Buddha in Hong Kong so many times, however these cable cars were a bit different. It was one larger-sized car that everyone smooshed into, like riding the subway at rush hour, and stood during the whole 30 minute journey, and you have to take two separate cable car journeys just to make it to the top because that is how insanely high it is! Oh, I almost forgot to mention, the 
Aiguille du Midi cable car holds the world record for the highest vertical ascent: 2807m (from 1035m to 3842m, thats 13 meters per second).I am not going to lie, I had my eyes squeezed shut for the most part, and I was so terrified. 

Our end destination was that little, tiny needle you see at the top of the mountain in the picture below.

Once we got to the top, we were advised to do the Helbronner first (another set of cable cars that goes around the top of the mountains), before it became too cloudy and crowded. The journey was exceptionally beautiful, and not quite as steep or scary as the other one. We saw lots of hikers and rock climbers making their way through the snow and ice to the tops of mountains too.

(Look closely in the photo above to see the rock climbers)

Once we made it to the Italian Mountainside, we walked to the look out point where you could see Mount Blanc and even saw a glimpse of our good friend the Matterhorn off in the distance.

The other attraction we were very excited to experience here was "step into the void" attraction, where essentially you stand in this glass box and can see everything for miles in all directions!

The views from pretty much anywhere on top this mountain were incredible, and luckily it was not too cold because we did not bring very warm clothes on this trip. At its coldest it was probably close to 50 degrees at the top, but that didn't stop me from shivering through these cave-like hallways. 

With this trip we had officially visited three countries in one day, and never even had to crack a passport. We started our day in Switzerland, drove across the boarder to France, and cable car-ed there and back to Italy. It was an incredible part of our journey and I have a feeling Mike will be talking about this place for years to come.

Switzerland was the perfect combination of a sampling of many European countries all at the same time. I was never sure if someone was going to speak to us in English, Italian, French, or something entirely different. I'm glad we were able to experience this unique melting pot, but now it's off to Germany!

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