Part 1 = Getting to the start of Tour Du Mont Blanc
I decided it was time for me to do some backpacking in Europe; However, I could NOT decide if I wanted to do the Camino de Santiago or Tour Du Mont Blanc…..so I decided to try and do sections of both in June/July of 2019 🙂
My plan was to do 3-4 days on the Tour Du Mont Blanc, visit Avignon to scratch my history itch, move across France to begin the Camino, Run with the bulls in Pamplona, and continue walking across northern Spain for as long as possible — easy enough right?
I chose the French side of the tour because most other hikers move counterclockwise and I wanted to start with the “herd.” The TMD crosses through the corners of Switzerland, France, and Italy. I thought one country at a time made the most sense for a partial trip on this amazing hike.
I began my journey by flying into Geneva.
Funny Travel Note:
My planned flight left Columbus, stopped briefly in Toronto, landed in Montreal to refuel, and then off to Geneva, Switzerland.
My flight between Toronto and Montreal was slightly delayed, but from my understanding — I would be staying on the airplane which would continue onwards to Geneva. However, upon landing I was notified that the plan had changed and I would need to disembark the aircraft and go to a different gate to make my international flight.
I went to the desk after hustling off the airplane and asked which gate my next flight was leaving from. The women typed some details into her computer, looked up and said “The Geneva flight is going to be leaving from Gate 56 in 5 minutes, and we are currently at Gate 1.” I stared at her trying to grasp the small window I was being provided, and she looked back to say “I don’t need you to walk fast….I need you to run!”
This was my first time ever sprinting through an airport. And oh boy did I sprint. I would be damned if I would miss my flight to Europe and postpone my trip. I dodged, and shoved, and ducked between confused fellow airport travelers. The intercom spurred me faster — “THE GENEVA GATE WILL BE CLOSING IN 2 MINUTES — ALL PASSENGERS MUST BOARD IMMEDIATELY.”
During my stampede through the crowded airport, I thought that this was ironic that I would be running with the bulls in Pamplona within the next 2 weeks. For in this airport in Montreal, I was the bull. Parting the crowed and slamming through with no consideration other making my connecting flight.
I arrived at the Gate with a few other sweating and frazzled passengers. The shut and locked the gate behind me as we boarded and took our seats. I made it 🙂
Upon arriving in the Geneva airport, I had planned to explore the city and begin my European adventure with a day walking the streets of Switzerland. However, upon landing, I could feel the mountains pulling me and the hustle bustle of the city immediately disenchant me.
I had discovered the OMNI app before heading to Europe. This amazing little phone application will show you the time & costs for buses, trains, and flights between any two locations in Europe on any given day. Pretty nifty for getting last minute connections around the continent.
OMNI was nice enough to find me a bus from Geneva to Chamonix, France — leaving the airport within 2 hours. The bus pickup location is a little difficult to locate; it is directly across from the main terminal exit, but you need to cross the taxi/pickup lanes to get to the bus pickup area.
Phone Apps for Traversing Europe:
OMNI (Bus, Train, Ride Share, Plane)
Hotels.com (Private Rooms and Some Hostels) *Free night every 10 nights booked
Hostel World (Hostel booking)
Hiking Project (Trail Maps and Topo maps with GPS location tracking)
After a couple hours on the bus, I finally arrived in Chamonix and was soooo happy to finally see mountains surrounding me. Mountains and raw nature always provide a calming effect on my soul.
Using the Hotels.com App, I found an adorable little hotel with a private balcony in downtown Chamonix within a 10 minute walk from the bus stop. I decided against a hostel knowing that I would be staying in hostels for the foreseeable future and wanting some luxury for my first night in Europe.
After checking in and assembling my pack in preparation for beginning the hike the next day; I ventured out to explore this quaint mountain town. Chamonix France is an outdoor lovers paradise. A ski town in the winter and a mountain adventure in the summer. I passed many shops selling ski/snowboard equipment, hiking gear, and mountain bikes. The streets were a hodgepodge of unique French countryside architecture, small cafes with outdoor patios, and restaurants. I was reminded closely of another town in the United States that I like to visit — Chamonix is comparable to Steamboat Springs in Colorado.
Overall, I’m glad that I made it to Chamonix and spent a day exploring the town and preparing to begin this section of the Tour Du Mont blanc. The following morning I would need to find my way to the trail head.