Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Visiting friends

We've spent the past 10 days visiting friends we met through International Students Inc. in Albuquerque. Jean-Marc picked us up in Montpellier and we spent a few days seeing the area with him before driving to Chamonix. 

The aquarium in Montpellier is designed particularly well and was quite engaging. I didn't take too many photos though, I think this is one of Corries. 
Jean-Marc's favorite sea side restaurant with all you can eat mussels. 
Hiking north of Montpellier in St.-Guilhem-le-Desert.
The church in St.-Guilhem is part of one of the extended Camino routes with a trail connecting it to St.-Jean along the Pyrenees. It's probably a very nice walk, but we elected to go hike the Alps with Jean-Marc instead...
We didn't realize it at the time, but we had a nice view of Mont Blanc almost as soon as we arrived in Chamonix. I was just photographing the view of the glacier from the apartment. 
From the kitchen window. There are more icy peaks hiding in the clouds.
We spent two days hiking around Chamonix. I'm convinced mountains are my natural habitat. I particularly like hiking up.
Jean-Marc looking up the mountain as we climbed above the trees. 
Hiking in the Alaska and the Rockies has always meant wilderness. Hiking I n the Brooks Range my brother and I didn't see anyone else for a week... The Alps feel a bit like a well maintained mountain garden in comparison. It is definitely a different kind of hiking but the peaks remain majestic and the coffee was excellent.

It's a little hard to see, but there is a tram running to the top of the peak. Maybe someday I'll have a chance to climb up there and ride it back down... 
Our lunch stop by Lac Blu. 
Mer-de-GlacĂ© from out second high point of the day. 
There's some impressive engineering in building a railroad up the side of a mountain. They wanted almost as much for a ticket down as a round trip though, so we walked back to Chamonix. 
We hiked up the other side of the valley the second day and saw a lot of mountain goats. Although they are wild they seem pretty comfortable with people and even followed us down the trail later in the hike. 
Their were a number of very helpful ladders installed along the trail which makes the trail much easier to navigate.
 This is a pretty good view of the traverse we did between the two glaciers the first day.
Looking up the mountain from the top of the hike at Lac Blanc.
Looking the other way out over the valley. I don't know it its Lac Blanc because the upper side is still frozen and white at the end of July or if it's for the view of Mont Blanc. 
A pot of melted cheese is an excellent way to end a good day of hiking even if it is traditionally a winter meal.

I could easily have spent another week in the Alps but we had tickets to Germany to see a couple more friends we made through ISI and Jean-Marc had a hiking trip in the Southern Alps scheduled. So, after an exciting construction reroute we caught the train in Grenoble with at least two minutes to spare. We stayed in Ulm for three days with our friend Basti and his family. Simon, and his wife Caecilia were able to join us for a day as well making for an excellent reunion of old friends despite major changes in all our lives. 
Ulm claims the tallest church spire in the world. Forty floors isn't so bad after hiking in the Alps though.
The spire is pretty impressive from the ground too. 
Basti with his daughter Rosalie.
There is another blue lake near Ulm. It's fed from a major underground river and has no relation to the one above...
Downtown Ulm. I'd really like to know the story behind this house. 
Basti also gave me a tour of the solar and biomass heating system he installed this summer. Probably not something normal people ask to tour on vacation, but it's a facinating do it yourself project...
Saying goodbye to Simon and Caecilia. We were running a bit late and didn't get a photo with Basti, Susann, and Rosalie.