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2018/01/12 Riding Vallee Blanche from the top of Chamonix's Aiguille du Midi back to town twice
π 2018-01-12 00:00 in Snow
Arturo had the great idea of doing Vallée Blanche while we were in France. This is a treacherous run (as in many ways to get seriously injured, or to die at the bottom of a crevice or killed by an avalanche or serac slide (big piece of ice/snow breaking off and falling on you), so we booked a guide, Frederic Drouet

Here is a description of the Vallée Blanche descent from his site.

We did 2 runs

  • #1 Petit Envers was 17km of skiing, 9500ft down (2900m) until we got back to the road in town (17km run, just over 10 miles). It took us 3h44 including hiking back up to a road where we could finally go back down again. It was pretty trivial snowboarding-wise but of course went around plenty of dicey terrain. The end was less fun (from the hike up) as the path down from the little rest stop after the hike up, got worse and worse as we got lower in altitude and warmer temps.
  • #2 Grand Envers is supposed to be more challenging, but honestly it was still easy on a snowboard, outside of a part where we had to cross an serac avalanche field filled with ice in different size blocks. On that 2nd run, we finished it in just over 1h, and stopped at the glacier ice tunnel for a quick visit, before walking up the stairs to the cable car to the cog train back to town.
  • Frederic was right that taking the train was not actually faster, from fork off point between the 2 points, both took just around 1h25, including waiting for the train 20mn, but honestly the train route was more fun that given day since boarding all the way back to the road on crappy icy snow at the bottom, was not fun enough to do twice (or even once that day). For comparison the 2nd time it took just 1h to get from the to of aiguille du midi to that forkoff point, close to the glacier, stairs and train.

    We met around 08:10, rented some crampons for the first walk out of top visitor center since it's a slippery and steep-ish ridge before you can bind in and ride down:


    We then went to Aiguille du midi's cable car and took it to the top. Thankfully there was no line:








    Time to put the crampons on and head down:





    Then, time to go down, we were not the only ones:







    lots of ice blocks and seracs that could detach and fall on us, our uide had to keep track of them
    lots of ice blocks and seracs that could detach and fall on us, our uide had to keep track of them



    pretty, but more stuff that could fall on us :)
    pretty, but more stuff that could fall on us :)


    sadly a bigger group had one person who strayed a bit, feel into a crevice and had to be pulled out and rescued
    sadly a bigger group had one person who strayed a bit, feel into a crevice and had to be pulled out and rescued



    Eventually we got to the bottom on top of the glacier. Easy, but more boring snowboarding :) (and some pushing with poles)







    some people walked up the glacier in snow shoes
    some people walked up the glacier in snow shoes



    Eventually the fun was over and we had to unbind and hike up for 15mn or so, up to a resting/lunch cabin





    It was then time to continue riding down all the way to town. Sadly it was less fun snow, even narrow and icy at the bottom:




    then we crossed the cog train
    then we crossed the cog train


    eventually we got to the end of a small ski resort, back to the road
    eventually we got to the end of a small ski resort, back to the road



    Short video of the first time down:

    Here are some pictures from Fred:












    Arturo was ok enough after one run, especially given that the bottom kind of sucked, but I was up for a 2nd run (Grand Envers):



    by then, it started getting tracked
    by then, it started getting tracked






    Grand Enver was more pristine though since it's harder for skiiers
    Grand Enver was more pristine though since it's harder for skiiers




    a piece of that fell earlier that day, and gave us an ice field to cross (kind of hard)
    a piece of that fell earlier that day, and gave us an ice field to cross (kind of hard)




    we finally got to the bottom, another track from the one earlier that day
    we finally got to the bottom, another track from the one earlier that day



    Before too long, we got to the ice cave, small cabins at the top of the stairs, and cig train:









    then time to climb up the stairs back to the train
    then time to climb up the stairs back to the train




    nice to have ridden down this
    nice to have ridden down this


    Now, the *very sad part* is that the glacier used to be as high as the top of those cabins, and now the bottom of those cabins is nowhere close and still requires a lot of stairs to get down to it, and it's getting worse every year with global warming :(







    Longer video of the second time down:

    And that was it, great 2nd run. We spent a bit of time in town to enjoy the sunset lights and dinner:





    A huge thanks to Frederic Drouet for keeping us safe and guiding us that day.

    2018/01/08 Day Visit to Annecy
    π 2018-01-08 00:00 in Trips
    Due to horrible ski conditions in Bourg Saint Maurice, Arturo and I rented a stupidly expensive compact car for just over 100 euros and drove to Annecy for the day.


    We first stop was at Paccard museum, next to one of the 2 factories in the world that makes giant bells. Cool place:







    keyboard to play static bells
    keyboard to play static bells



    You can listen to the video from the bells:

    We then drove around the lake to the north part where Annecy lies:




    Annecy old town is very nice, almost a small venice:







    lots of water due to recent rains :)
    lots of water due to recent rains :)






    We then went to the local castle which wasn't much, but had reasonably interesting displays in some rooms:




    old town
    old town


    Eventually it was time to walk back to the car and go home after stopping by a nice local cathedral:







    While Annecey is not a must do in France, it was a nice little day tour for a day we otherwise couldn't ski. Thanks to Arturo for the driving there and back.

    See more images for Day Visit to Annecy
    2017/12/30 Paris' Cluny Museum and remains of Roman Baths
    π 2017-12-30 00:00 in Museums, Paris
    So, Cluny aka the medieval museum, has quite a good collection of medieval artifacts, including exquisite books. However, it's known specifically for the "dame á la licorne" and other beautiful tapestries. We had done a quick tour in the past, but it was worth going back for a better look, and a special guided visit to the roman baths in that same building.

















    just like the Bayeux Tapestry, they have a long colorful tapestry telling a full story
    just like the Bayeux Tapestry, they have a long colorful tapestry telling a full story







    The museum's building has a colorful history, but its older parts go all the way back to much bigger roman baths that were 3 times bigger than the footprint that is left, as well as an old castle/hotel that was build next to what was left, re-using some of the walls. However, underground, you can still see what is left of the baths, and while it doesn't rival Bath, UK, or Baden Baden, Germany, it's still interesting to see that in the middle of Paris:











    some bits were clearly built later
    some bits were clearly built later

    Cool little visit.

    2017/12/29 Opera Bastille Backstage
    π 2017-12-29 00:00 in Museums, Paris
    Paris has 2 Opéras. The newer one, bastille, doesn't look as fancy from the outside, but has a one of a kind stage moving system that allows them to have multiple stages ready and they can be moved from center stage to underground for building or rehearsals. This allows them to play different operas on different nights.

    While it may seem overkill (no other theatre in the world has this capability to that scale, this theatre can almost host a couple of 747s hidden underground), it was super cool to see this on their backstage tour. Most of the pictures were underground up to 22m (many stories) below ground level:













    The tour finally ended up in the main stage that was going to be used that evening after our tour:







    See more images for Opera Bastille Backstage
    2017/12/28 Paris' Citée de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine
    π 2017-12-28 00:00 in Museums, Paris
    La citée de l'architecture et du patrimoine is an interesting museum just across fom the eiffel tower. They have one floor dedicated to architecture and modern building design, while the other one has a good collection of replicas of famous buildings for study and backup.

    A few pictures:















    2017/12/28 Les Invalides Monuments and Museums in Paris
    π 2017-12-28 00:00 in Museums, Paris
    Les Invalides is actually a museum complex, including a church and tombs for Napoleon and related people. Last time I went with Jennifer, we didn't have a lot of time, and we breezed through it quickly. This time, we spent almost 5h and had to hurry a little bit at the end.






















    inflatable decoy tank, awesome
    inflatable decoy tank, awesome













    2017/12/28 Quai Branli Museum in Paris
    π 2017-12-28 00:00 in Museums, Paris
    The Quai Branly Museum collects first nations art from around the world, and it's a pretty thorough collection that is worth multiple hours, although I'll be honest that I overdozed a bit after a while, probably because I was getting tired...

    A few pictures:














    nice lighting outside the building
    nice lighting outside the building

    See more images for Quai Branli Museum in Paris
    2017/12/28 Paris Rodin Museum
    π 2017-12-28 00:00 in Museums, Paris
    The Rodin Museum is not huge, but once you add the tour of the gardens with statues, it's worth a good 1.5 to 2h, especially with the movies that show how the bronze statues are made.

    Turns out Rodin actually made the plaster models and others went through the complicated process of making the bronze statues:

    A few pictures:













    See more images for Paris Rodin Museum
    2017/12/27 A few pictures from Paris
    π 2017-12-27 00:00 in Paris, Trips
    Every year, I try to go see a few things in Paris, and we didn't run out of museums yet: Paris Rodin Museum Quai Branli Museum in Paris Citée de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine Opera Bastille Backstage Cluny Museum and remains of Roman Baths

    Otherwise, I also have a few pictures of Paris proper:






    the street that used to be for cars to get out of Paris more quickly is now pedestrian. Not everyone loves this...
    the street that used to be for cars to get out of Paris more quickly is now pedestrian. Not everyone loves this...



    the worst part is how the effeil tower is now behind airport gates and bad looking temporary roof covers as gates :(
    the worst part is how the effeil tower is now behind airport gates and bad looking temporary roof covers as gates :(





    Another day, close to Opéra Bastille







    don't get conned, that's a different church, I don't like lines :)
    don't get conned, that's a different church, I don't like lines :)


    After arriving at Les Halles we went to see the small Xmas market, given that the big one at Champs Elysées was cancelled this year due to suckage of the new Paris mayor:








    After too long, Les Halles was finally re-opened:





    Nearby St Sulpice Church:




    Quick stop at Google and the grand magasins and their displays:



























    See more images for A few pictures from Paris
    2017/12/16 Great December Drive
    π 2017-12-16 00:00 in Cars
    Great weather, good temperature, good roads, great cars. Thanks all.

























    See more images for Great December Drive

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