My dream of a white Christmas became a reality last year, we embarked on a road trip across the country and spent a few days surrounded by snow and the incredible Mont Blanc as a backdrop. It definitely was the best Christmas I’ve ever had, I couldn’t have asked for more and it’s all thanks to The Greek Mister for making it happen.
While I was on a business trip in Australia, the Greek Mister solely and painstakingly planned our Christmas holiday down to a tee. I plan holidays of other people for a living and not having to do it for our own holidays is a break I’d really want to have. Thankfully, The Greek Mister’s a great travel agent and I trust him completely to do all the planning for both of us.
There are a lot of ways to go to France from London, by a flight, by train, by ferry or by car. The Greek Mister chose to drive because he does love driving, so much so that he is actually considering driving from London to Greece next June for our summer holidays. He included two stops in our itinerary, one stop on the way to Chamonix and another stop on our way back to London. The plan was perfect as I loved the stops that he chose for us to have.
We left home on the 24th of December at 10am and arrived just in time for our 12:30pm booked departure time in Eurotunnel. It was my first time to take the Eurotunnel and the experience wasn’t as nerve-wracking as I thought it would be. I’m a bit claustrophobic and the thought of being inside our car on a train crossing the English Channel isn’t very comforting. Thankfully, they don’t turn off the lights in the train so it was actually bearable.
The Eurotunnel crosses from Folkestone, England to Calais, France and as soon as we arrived in Calais, we started our 5-hour drive to Dijon. Five hours isn’t really long for The Greek Mister and I now, we’ve had roadtrips longer than that so it was an easy journey for us. What do we do during long drives? We listen to podcasts and I highly recommend Casefile which you can listen to on Spotify. It’s a podcast about real crimes, The Greek Mister and I were trying to guess who the killer was before the end of each episodes – definitely a great way to pass time. Lol.
We arrived in Dijon at around 7 in the evening, most of the restaurants were already closed as it was Christmas Eve and those that were open were no longer accepting new customers as they’re about to close. Having had a similar experience last Christmas in Bath, England – I already knew that it was going to happen so I had a burger on our last stop before arriving in Dijon. The Greek Mister wasn’t too clever though so he was hangry the entire night. :p
We walked around the beautiful city of Dijon which was practically empty at that time, the city was all dressed up for Christmas with all the lights and the Christmas market in the town centre which was of course already closed. We had a few drinks in our hotel before calling it a night.
I woke up early the next day to walk around Dijon before our drive to Chamonix. Once again, I had the place to myself as I guess it was still too early for everyone else who had a Christmas revelry the previous night. It was more beautiful during daytime and I enjoyed getting lost in the small alleyways. It’s a very interesting place with the owl as its icon. There is a self-guided walk that you can do in Dijon if you follow the owl arrows and owl plates on the ground. There’s an owl sculpted on the side of the Notre-Dame church and it’s believed to grant your wish if you touch it with your left hand when passing it from the left.
Note: There are 22 interesting stops in this self-guided walk and you can purchase a book with a description of each stops from the tourist office which is only EUR3.50.
The drive from Dijon to Chamonix is 3 hours and as soon as I saw the magnificent Mont Blanc in front of us, I squealed in the car! To be quite honest, I didn’t really know what I was expecting to see but the sight of the beautiful snowcapped mountain with the pine trees covered in snow along the road is something new and so beautiful to my eyes. The scenery just became better and better from there and by the time we reached our hotel and saw what our view was from our room’s balcony – I was over the moon, I must’ve thanked The Greek Mister a thousand times for bringing me there.
We didn’t waste any more time and ventured out to the town centre of Chamonix. There’s no perfect adjective to describe it other than perfection, it was so beautiful that I decided I’m not going to update my instastories anymore as it’s taking too much of my time when I could be enjoying what’s in front of my eyes. For the very first time, I actually let go of my phone while I bask on the scenery around me. I thought all along that my phone’s surgically attached to my hand until I went to Chamonix.
We had a Christmas dinner in a restaurant booked in advance by the Greek Mister. Dinner started quite late so we had a lot of time waiting at the restaurant’s bar having a drink. Needless to say, we were a tad bit drunk already by the time dinner started so as soon as the food was served, we basically gobbled it all up faster than anyone else.
It was snowing when we woke up the next day which was another incredible experience for me. I’ve only seen snowfall once in the US but I have to say that the snowfall in Chamonix is far more superior that what I’ve witnessed before. I think it’s the place itself which made everything so spectacular, the whole town centre looked like a cardboard cutout with the blanket of fresh snow covering it. I was smitten!
We went to the Tourist Office of Chamonix to check for some activities that we can do that day. They recommended that we take a train to Mer de Glace, the largest glacier in France. The train ride alone was an experience on its own, we passed by a ski slope and the panoramic view as we went higher up in the mountains was outstanding. We had a low visibility though because of the snowfall but even then, it was still beautiful.
Up in the mountain, we couldn’t appreciate the view as much because of the low visibility so we decided to take the cable car down to the Ice Caves. I thought that as soon as we arrive by cable car, the Ice Caves would be nearby and didn’t expect that it will involve thousands of downward steps to reach it. I wasn’t prepared for it (not that I’ll ever be prepared with the inactive lifestyle that I live) but I pushed myself to do it even if I knew that coming back up to the cable car station would kill me.
The Ice Cave is situated right in the middle of the glacier and it’s re-sculpted annually since the glacier moves about 70m every year. It’s a sureal world inside the cave which was done to showcase how mountain people lived in the 19th century. It was surprisingly warmer inside but not warm enough for us to take off our thick winter jackets. Tables and chairs were carved out of ice and there’s a bar in the middle of it all where I suppose was used for entertaining guests, maybe a neighbor from a different ice cave. The cave’s lit with blue and pink lights and had a soggy carpet on the hallway. There were little rooms inside the cave and I hinted to the Greek Mister that it’s probably the same as the Ice Hotel in Norway. I’ve told him about it several times as I would love to stay there but he was a bit adamant about it since he thought it wasn’t practical and it would be too cold in the room. Hopefully, this Ice Cave changed his mind about it and I’ll discover next year that he booked the Ice Hotel as a surprise. * wishful thinking *
As expected, the hike back up to the cable car was a disaster! It’s actually harder to do a hike in a place on a high altitude, I also had to struggle with the gust of wind slapping my face with bits of snow. I thought I was going to have a heart attack and by the time we reached the cable car station, I was sweating and removed my gloves, hat and jacket. It was horrendous but totally worth it.
We had lunch and some drinks afterwards before heading back to the hotel to freshen up. After that hike, we sure needed a hot shower. The Greek Mister realized then that he was sunburnt during the hike, it was too cold up in the mountains that he didn’t realize the sun was still working its wonders, beneath the sheet of snow.
For dinner, I’ve made up my mind that I’ll have escargot so we walked around town looking at restaurant menus to make sure that they do serve this dish. We were lucky with my choice as it not only serves escargot but it’s also a very typical French restaurant with its traditional food served. The Greek Mister decided to have fondue (with all the trimmings) to embrace the typical French dining experience that I wanted to have. The fondue was too much for both of us though and the waitress was surprised that we weren’t able to finish it. How are French people so skinny with all the cheese and bread they eat? Seriously?
The next day after breakfast, it was time to bid farewell to Chamonix. I honestly didn’t want to leave this place but I guess it’s better to leave longing for it rather than getting sick and tired of it that you can’t wait to leave. It was a good number of days stay if you’re not skiing but the Greek Mister apparently also fell in love with it and told me that he might go skiing next time and we may have to stay longer. I secretly smiled inside knowing that he’s also thinking of a next time.
We drove to Reims which is the unofficial capital of the Champagne region of France. The drive was about 6 hours and it will be our base for the night before heading back to London the next day. It was so cold and windy in Reims, colder than Chamonix. I wasn’t able to take photos since I can’t handle the cold and wind when I remove my gloves to hold my camera steady. Chamonix also ruined it for us, any place that we’ll go to immediately after staying in Chamonix would be a disappointment and it’s one of the reasons why I didn’t even bother taking photos of Reims.
We went to a restaurant/bar for dinner where we were completely ignored for 20 whole minutes. Waiters were just passing by our table like we’re invisible. We probably didn’t give them a good first impression when we walked in because we didn’t speak French. Lol. So we went to another restaurant and thankfully, the staff was nicer and more accommodating for the uncultured people who don’t speak French like us. We went straight back to our hotel after dinner without even giving Reims a chance. Sorry Reims, I know you’re pretty just like any other French cities but I’ll be back to see you again I promise.
After breakfast the next day, we started our drive back to London. We arrived 3 hours earlier than our booked Eurotunnel time and The Greek Mister decided not to wait any longer for our booked time and paid EUR30 more for us to be able to take the next departure to England. We arrived back home at 3pm still with Chamonix in my mind and the best Christmas I’ve ever had. This is definitely the highlight of my 2017, all thanks to the Greek Mister. 🙂
Now let’s get down to business, how much did we spend on this trip? The Greek Mister’s decision to drive was not very well-thought when it comes to the budget. He didn’t check if it’s cheaper or more expensive to drive, he just basically wanted to drive that’s why we did it. Although I’m not sure how much we could’ve saved with a flight because it was Christmas season so to settle this issue, I listed all of our expenses below. I failed to take a note of the parking fees though but we didn’t pay more than EUR10 per night for it.
EUR165 – EUROTUNNEL RETURN TICKET
EUR27 – FIRST TOLL FEE
EUR25 – SECOND TOLL FEE
EUR106 – ONE NIGHT STAY IN IBIS STYLES DIJON CENTRAL
EUR30 – CHAIN TIRES
EUR25 – THIRD TOLL FEE
EUR2 – FOURTH TOLL FEE
EUR4 – FIFTH TOLL FEE
EUR486 – TWO NIGHTS STAY IN CHALET HOTEL LE PRIEURE
EUR140 – CHRISTMAS DINNER FOR TWO
EUR30 – BREAKFAST FOR TWO
EUR65 – MER DE GLACE TRAIN TICKET + ENTRANCE FEES FOR 2
EUR44 – LUNCH FOR TWO
EUR84 – DINNER FOR TWO
EUR27 – BREAKFAST FOR TWO
EUR4 – SIXTH TOLL FEE
EUR2 – SEVENTH TOLL FEE
EUR5 – EIGHTH TOLL FEE
EUR60 – ONE NIGHT STAY IN IBIS REIMS CENTRE GARE
EUR65 – DINNER FOR TWO
On the 28th of December, we spent EUR22 for the ninth toll and EUR31 for the change of departure time in Eurotunnel. So in total, we spent EUR1449 with EUR312 of it spent on toll fees and Eurotunnel tickets. Having now seen this, I think it would’ve been the same if we took a flight but bear in mind that we would’ve taken a flight to Geneva and then a land transfer from there to Chamonix. We would’ve also missed out on the stops that we did along the way and the comfort of having your own transportation anywhere you want to go. Lastly, it doesn’t include waiting at the airport, checking-in and having limited weight on your luggage. 🙂
As for the hotels, we’re not really very fussy with our accommodations. The most important things for us are location and cleanliness and the Greek Mister did a very good job choosing the hotels for us. Ibis Styles Dijon Central is centrally located and opposite the parking area so it was easy for us to park our car. The room’s also of a good size, very clean and overlooks the square which was a good treat for us.
Chalet Hotel Le Prieure in Chamonix was amazing! I couldn’t find any faults on it at all. It’s also centrally located and very near to a parking area. The room’s clean, good size and the view from our balcony is breathtaking! I’d stay here again if and when we go back to Chamonix.
I wasn’t a big fan of Ibis Reims Centre Gare, although the location is central and in front of a car park the room was very small and the bathroom stinks. Thankfully, we were only staying for a night so the next day we couldn’t have gotten out of there quickly enough. Lol.
It definitely was the best Christmas I’ve ever had and hopefully, I was able to convince you to go to Chamonix for Christmas next year. 🙂
Happy New Year!
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