Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Europe Day 9 (Tuesday)

This was a day that Ryan was looking forward to regardless of the fact that it was set to be one of the more intense (length wise) driving days. The plan for the day was to head out of Italy into Niece to have lunch and then drive to Chamonix, France. In general distances in this area are covered faster than you would think because the traffic moves much much faster. It’s pretty normal to hold speeds between 90 and 100 miles an hour unless there is roadwork which we have definitely run into our fair share of. We drove the 2 hours into Niece which was a pretty uneventful experience. Lots of boring roads and some through the mountains that were more interesting.

Niece itself turned out to be a disappointment. This is supposed to be a resort town with a bunch of busy beaches but the weather was absolutely shit. Overcast and lightly raining every 10 minutes doesn’t tend to bring the most active of beach crowds. Beaches in France are also supposed to be an experience because there are no rules about attire so there is a strong lack of clothing tendency. The US‘ rules are much more socially conservative than France’s. We ended up not having the opportunity to observe. Empty beaches J.

We had lunch at a tiny shop in the downtown area where a Parfaits and sandwiches were had by all. Once finished we headed out of Niece back into Italy en route to Chamonix, France. We actually had to drive a good ways back into Italy to hit the highway that headed into the Alps. I did discover something here on the road north in Italy. Italy may be the one of the few countries in the world that can compete with California in terms of diversity of Geography. Beaches, grasslands, what can be called desert-ish areas (or very arid areas for lack of a better term), and the very high mountains (the Alps). Its absolutely amazing how fast the scenery changes. The far northern parts of Italy are amazing and the drive into the alps is breathtaking.

In order to get to Chamonix we had to drive through the Mt. Blanc tunnel. This is an absolutely enormous tunnel spanning almost 12km in length. If memory serves they had a huge fire in the tunnel a few years ago that claimed many lives so they have viscous speed cameras and very strict rules about how automobiles pass through the tunnel. The speed limits in the tunnel are about 70km (about 44mph). It’s a crazy experience considering that the tunnel basically goes underneath an enormous mountain with a glacier on top. Other than that, it’s a slow and pretty boring drive through a very straight tunnel. Not to mention it costs almost 50 dollars US to drive through it!

Our arrival in Chamonix was bittersweet. The city is a huge resort town in a clearing between Mt. Blanc and the rest of the Alps. The weather however was absolute rubbish. Rainy, windy, and cold. Given that the one thing we wanted to do here was take the Gondola up over the glacier/mountain top, the outlook was not good. We decided to check into the Hotel and find something to eat. We decided to have Fondu which was ultimately the heaviest meal we had had so far. Yum though. Given the crummyness of the weather we also began to investigate the possibility of using some of Dipper’s points to stay in a nice Hotel in France one day early. This was disappointing because the Gondola ride is supposed to be amazing.

However, given the quality of hotel Dipper was able to book for us, it is at least a minor silver lining. We are going to be staying at the Weston in Paris! We headed to bed early knowing that we had a ton of driving (a day early) to do in the AM!

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