September 4, 2014 – We decided that, as nice as hour hotel was, the breakfast buffet price was a little more than we wanted to pay. So we walked a few doors down to a little bakery and got coffee and a sugared pastry and quiche for breakfast. Everything was fantastic, and we enjoyed eating at the little counter in the corner of the store. This place is also very popular with mountaineers, who stop in to buy sandwiches before heading up into the mountains.
First up was another trip up the Aiguille du Midi. There really wasn’t much of a line, though we imagine that it would get quite crowded during the summer months. This morning was much cooler and cloudier on the mountain than yesterday. We still had great views, but definitely took advantage of the cave area where the mountaineers stage their gear to warm up a bit before venturing back out to the exposed areas. Once we’re at the top we also like to take the elevator to the top observation platform first, just in case there’s a line later.
The pass we bought also let us take the Brevent Cable Car, on the other side of the narrow valley. We hiked through town and up a rather steep hill to the little cable cars, which we shared with a paraglider. Once at the top we grabbed a bench with a view over the valley and enjoyed the quiche and long flatbread pizza we’d bought that morning for lunch.
As much as we enjoyed the view from our picnic spot, we were looking forward to the other aerial part of the journey to the top of the peak. The ride was fairly quick, about a minute long, and the views from the top were fantastic. We were pleasantly surprised to find a heard of goats on top of the mountain, as well as a small mountain pond.
There’s a nice hike down from the peak to the saddle area where we ate lunch. Fortunately the weather cooperated, and we had mostly clear skies for our hike down. The hike is a bit rocky, with loose gravel over much of the path, and is a trifle steep at spots. If you happen to have sore knees, it’s still totally doable, just maybe a bit slower than anticipated. We enjoyed having the lift to ourselves on the way back to the valley floor. A few people were hiking up the mountain from the valley – we much preferred riding in our little bubble.
Since it was early afternoon we knew it was time for a snack. Cue our favorite bakery, two pastries and our hotel balcony. We tried a dark chocolate covered mini sponge cake thinly filled with pastry cream, and an amazing sponge cake with pastry cream filling and raspberry filling and frosting. The combination of moist vanilla cake, cream and berries was fantastic, and might be our new favorite dessert combination. France has the market cornered on pastries… yes, we had good ones in Switzerland too (including a wonderful cheesecake), but overall all the pastries we had in France were incredibly good.
We took a long walk through town trying to find a little spot for dinner. Along the way we ventured through the already-crowded main pedestrian section, and found a little park with an abandoned tower while looping back towards the hotel. We eventually settled on a restaurant a few blocks from our hotel and got two seats outside. Unfortunately for us, the tables were quite close together (about 6″) and the couple next to us was smoking. Despite their best efforts, the strong wind picked up their cigarette smoke and sent it right into Tony’s face. Since this wasn’t going to work for the next few hours, we left and headed to a restaurant called Le Boccalatte a few doors down.
The meal started with a nice bottle of wine (this was one of the best reds we tried on the trip), and then we both ordered escargot to start the meal. The six escargot came de-shelled, sitting in a little cast iron pan with six individual spots full of melted butter and garlic. We both really enjoyed our appetizers, particularly when we dipped some bread in the garlic butter. Tony tried a steak for his main course, while Louisa tried reblochon fondue, served with boiled potatoes and charcuterie. The steak was cooked perfectly medium rare, but again didn’t have much seasoning. We figured this just must be the way the French like their steak – all beef, no salt. The reblochon, well… it’s very earthy. Very, very earthy. Louisa made a good showing of eating the vast majority of it thought. We both really enjoyed dessert – creme brulee and tiramisu, both of which were fantastic and made a great end to the meal.