France Day 29 & 30: Mer de Glace Glacier (Or Lack Thereof...)
Day 29 There are no pictures. This is the day Geoff returned safely from Mont Blanc. He'd made it to the summit, and safely back! Incredible! I was so proud of him and so relieved. I knew he would do it. Geoff is a rock star climber. He is always cautious, and often summits. I spent the day with him and the children, no camera. In the afternoon, we walked down to the municipal pool, which is nothing like a municipal pool in the United States. They really know how to do public pools right in France. The only odd rule was that men could not wear regular, loose trunks; they had to wear a Speedo. Geoff, of course, did not have one, but you can rent a sanitized one from the desk or buy an inexpensive one from a vending machine! We rented one each for both the guys. Next, you go down a big stairwell in the middle of the sunny atrium and enter the locker room, not yet divided by men's or women's. Here you have mirrors and dryers and rows and rows of changing stalls. After you change, you continue on down the row out the other side, where you see groups of lockers. From this room, you exit either to the men's on the left or women's on the right side. The corridor to each side is lined with more lockers and benches. You turn a corner and enter a completely tiled space. This room is stalls of toilets, with some sinks on the side, and then as you continue down, the tiles slope down a bit and there are open showers next to each other along each side of the wall. Past the showers, the tiles dip down lower until you are standing in a shallow pool of water, then up out of the water and up a beautiful tiled spiral stairwell into the big, glass-topped indoor pool area. The whole process really was quite seamless and nice. It was the only time I've ever taken children to the pool that it did not feel cramped, rushed, stressful, or lacking a place to put stuff or separate wet from dry. I wish we had a pool setup like this where we live.
I didn't take the camera to the pool because it would have been too much to get up and down and up and down and put the camera away and take it out...plus around water, we really need that 1:1 ratio with the children for safety reasons. And I'm glad I didn't bring it, because we had lots and lots of fun playing and splashing and swimming, and even with the heated pool, little teeny ones just can't last. They get cold. So you have to make the most of the time they have in the pool.
There was a wonderful heated pool with little table-height shallow ends, so you could let your small child play in shallow water in front of you while you stood. One area was a small wave pool, one area blew bubbles. It was mostly a rather open play pool with a few features here and there, and, for wintertime, a hot tub that you could crawl into from this pool that had its own lowered roof and lights over it for coziness. There was a big lap pool, and lovely areas that curved around the pools with pretty trees and plants. Plenty of people had left shoes and bags along these areas, and I agree with their decision; I definitely didn't worry about leaving anything behind here.
Outdoors was another large pool, and two other play area pools. There was a triple waterslide that whooshed you into a small pool of sun-warmed water. From the top of that slide, you could have continued down a long wooden bridge-like walkway that led to a little space-age lookout tower. Underneath that walkway was a sauna. And back toward the building again was the coolest rocket-ship tube slide I've ever seen. This thing went up and up and up and up, and yes, you were allowed to take very small children on it. I even took Bittykins! Three times! And once by myself. So, I guess more accurately, I took TWO babies down the slide! It was 68 stairs of climbing each time.
We had amazing fondue for dinner on the terrace outside a little alpine house. While we waited on the check, I took Bittykins inside to look at the bric-a-brack on the walls, and they had old telephones and wooden shoes and snow shoes, and even an old scale. She was most fascinated, though, by the beads on the antique high chairs! One day, I will miss their squirmy-ness that makes me get up and walk around with them while the check comes. I'll miss the smiles they bring to people at restaurants and all the sweet comments about how precious they are. I feel like everywhere we go is our own little parade. And then we paraded on home. What a wonderful night.
I'll add a few unedited iPhone photos Geoff took from his trip. The building perched precariously on top of a mountain is where climbers stay the night...except Geoff and his climbing partner, who didn't make reservations here and stayed in a tent, because they were going to try to go a different route that didn't work out. Isn't he incredible? I'm so proud of him and happy he made it to the summit, too.
The Mer de Glace Glacier. We'd waited all week to go on this incredible train ride with Geoff. The train cars are mounted on angles so that they go up and down mountains, but stay upright and never have to turn around. Very cool indeed. The view was very wooded with beautiful views that would periodically reveal themselves when the trees cleared. Just enough to get excited about the view, not visible for long enough to feel anxious about heights.
But when we got to the top of the mountain, the glacier was much smaller than you might expect. That said, it's still big enough that you can walk all over and inside it; someone had carved little rooms in the glacier so you could experience walking inside a glacier. But so much of it is missing. If you look closely at the mountain valley pictures that look like a dryish grey river is running through them - that's the glacier. The glacier used to extend all the way up to the treeline there, as late as the 2000's. Major changes are on the way