10:41PM | Chamonix-Mont-Blanc | France
For our last day in the Alps we board a cog railway up the south wall of the Mont Blanc Valley. The 20 minute ride brings us from the valley floor up to the base of the Mer de Glace glacier at 6100 feet. The giant “sea of ice” is 220 feet deep and over 4 miles long, snaking between towering jagged peaks. After a nerve racking gondola ride down the steep side of the gorge, we begin the 430 step climb down to the surface.
The Mer de Glace has been a popular tourist attraction since the early 1800s, and now hosts hundreds of visitors every day, ranging from small children to serious ice climbers. Today its most popular feature is an ice cave carved anew each year into the glacier’s surface. Amid the dim lighting we pass tiny bubbles of air and small rocks frozen into the surface of the ice — an otherworldly vision of the passage of time.
We pass the afternoon with a bit of shopping and cocktails in the square, as a cloud-draped Mont Blanc looms above the town; at dinner we realize we’ve eaten 8 of 9 dinners en plein air. Tomorrow we leave the mountains for the warmer plains of Provence.