After turning over a new leaf in my world of physical fitness by embarking on a hiking trip to Chamonix, France, I found myself in a much needed yoga class. Lying on my back, I listened to the woman guiding the practice as she talked about how when we are children things are magical. In our youth, our minds are untainted and open to magical moments. As we become adults, magic seems to be harder to believe in, and our minds become more closed. As a tear trickled down the side of my cheek, my being was filled with happiness, and I was overcome with the realization that my magical moments began in my adult life.
After a long journey, our first steps through the town of Chamonix, France, were nothing less than magical for me. It had been a while since we had ventured to a European mountain town, and I was just as awe struck as the first time.
The town is literally engulfed in mountains. Every where you look you are drawn into the spectacular view of snow capped mountain peaks. The heart of the town consists of a few blocks dotted with patios, cheese and charcuterie shops and patisseries. The only signs of modern day living are a Subway and a McDonalds. The streets are filled with people meandering about peering into shop windows and walking dogs of all types and sizes. People sip café on outdoor patios, rain or shine, chatting away. Even the most skeptical personality would have a hard time resisting the charm and romanticism that engulfs the air. I felt like I had stepped back in time.
Jet lagged and dazed, we wandered through the town and found a covered patio to shelter ourselves and watch the rain fall. As I sipped red wine, I found myself watching all the people milling about and was quickly and completely lost in the moment.
In a place like this, daily life takes on a new meaning. I loved being able to stroll leisurely through the town and carefully select items to compose a perfect picnic. The fromage et charcuterie shops provide walls of cheese, hanging legs of prosciutto, and baskets of sausages infused with a multitude of herbs and spices. The patisseries offer glass cases brimming with edible works of art including macaroons, chocolates, croissants, and tarts. A carefully composed picnic of such fresh ingredients is a very rewarding experience. Even more so if you are able to enjoy it on a peak where you have both earned your picnic and the view.
During the course of our stay, we enjoyed an abundance of French culinary delights. I am quite certain that I ate at least my own weight in cheese. French cheese may be one of the most spectacular things on earth. After our first big hike, we found ourselves at a cozy little table decked out with a miniature heating lamp, an enormous block of raclette, and a platter of charcuterie. The raclette is perched on the device directly beneath the heater. The idea is to scrape off the cheese as is melts and to pair it with meat, bread and potatoes. Then of course, there is the fondue, which is simply another form of dousing everything into melted cheese. I think my favorite fondue of this trip was the Fondue Royale, which was an enormous pot of melted cheese mixed with champagne. Needless to say, we quickly found ourselves enjoying many forms of the most amazing fromage. A new discovery for me was the dessert which consists of a soft, white cheese and either local honey (in this case, miel de la montagne) or fruit sauce. It was nothing less than amazing that I came back home the same weight as when I left. I think the hiking saved me.
Of course, all of this dining must be accompanied with the appropriate beverage. I relied on James who has become increasingly good at selecting red wines. We also enjoyed the local beer and the strong and robust café. For me, the most enjoyable part of partaking in a beverage in a French mountain town is the aspect of human interaction that always accompanies it. Weather it be vino, beer, café, or any other liquid in a glass, the social interaction around the taking of a beverage is very strong. The patios are occupied seven days a week, and especially around the time of happy hour. It is a part of every day for people to meet up and catch up. In a place like this, I always find that my internal being simply slows down. It becomes natural to take meals slower, to sip drinks slower, to sit on a patio and people watch, and to socialize more both with the people that I am with, and with other patio goers. In a place like this, you would never be rushed out of a restaurant or a café. A single beverage could take hours.
Part of the magic in place like this is the complete lack of feeling rushed. As my soul is infused with fresh mountain air, and my being finds a slower pace, I find a deeper connection with myself. Naturally this results in some very valuable reflection, and a deeper connection with James. Sitting on a patio, or listening to music in our room with a mountain view, topics would surface out of the wood work. We would find ourselves reflecting on our life together, and how we got to this point. It is so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of business life back home. In a place like Chamonix, all thoughts of a schedule vanish, and my entire being is allowed to move into a completely different space.
Another ingredient in the magical atmosphere is the architecture. Typical of Europe, things don’t have to be new. Everything doesn’t have to look the same. The architecture is interesting, quaint and beautiful. I found myself walking through the same street many times and seeing something new each time.
This interesting blend of culture, and the general romanticism of the town naturally results in very unique places and experiences. Chamonix is a particularly busy hub that is host to many different people and cultures. Thus, we experienced a host of wildly different spots. We frequented The Pub, which did attempt to look like a typical pub, but was still lost in the French quaintness of Chamonix. This was the place where people gathered to watch football (soccer) matches. As we happened to be there during Euro Cup, this was a busy spot. After dinner one evening and in search of a digestif, we wandered into The Social Club. This place is almost beyond description. Tall, elegant candles were the main source of lighting, creating a cozy and warm setting. The place was decorated with old, beautiful antiques. The service was classy and of the upmost quality. As I sipped a cognac based cocktail from a silver goblet, and James enjoyed an old fashioned infused with local Genepi, we were engulfed in a tiny world all its own. One evening we dined in a lovely restaurant, decorated like an old cottage with rows of hanging copper pots, strings of cow bells, pictures of snow capped mountains, and old newspaper clippings of mountaineers achieving great summits. Places like this are almost indescribable.
Being swept away by the romanticism of this gem of a town, I was reminded that my magical moments started in my adult life. The magic for me came when I got married and my husband introduced me to little European mountain towns. After all these years, it was even more magical to feel as swept away as I did the first time I saw such a place.
All I’ve ever known of Chamonix is from ice racing in Gran Turismo 6. It’s desperately pretty, got to say.
Thanks for reading!!! Ice racing! Wow, I am going to have to look that up.
The French seem to have this thing about racing powerful cars (not bikes…that I know of) on icy mountain tracks.
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Being one who grew up in the city, when I first went to Europe and stayed at the suburb? I had a literal culture shock- As you’ve mentioned in your post, everything slowed down lol!
Time seem to have extended as things got quieter and people seem friendlier somehow from the lack of rush hour, perhaps lol. Aside from the pace which you finish your food and drinks, even the pace of walking is affected hah! Everything is just so chillax and cultural that you gotta sometimes, force an even slower pace out of yourself to truly enjoy the scenery and atmosphere around you. I remember taking a walk around a little town then and seriously, it was one of the best experience ever. Especially if you are walking with a sweetheart. Heck, it’s an unforgettable experience even if you’re walking by yourself hah!
What you wrote here is a very interesting perspective on the magical moments beginning during most people’s youth and slowly disappearing as we enter into adulthood. Tis’ true that lots of people gave up the idea of “Fantastical” living because of the pressures in life but unknown to most of us, we actually chose to let it go. It’s pretty elusive and one would likely miss it if one is not careful- But fact is most of us are actually fortunate enough to have the option of whether to allow such “Fantasies” into our lives or not!
For example, talk about “Finding true love”-Finding a parter who, in my opinion, loves and commits to you and only you as a life partner. It’s a magical thing and likely to be in the minds of lots of people who’ve brought the idea from their young age into their adulthood until SOMETHING happens along the way which forced them to rethink the idea of a “True Love”.
Let’s say Sally is one of these individuals who believes in true love. She found someone who showed her what true love is and was the happiest girl alive- Until one day, the partner told her that there’s no feelings left in the relationship and it has to end.
When that happens, TWO things can happen here:
1. Sally can wallow in despair and destroy the idea of “True love” because she HAD IT and now it’s gone, which to her, kinda proves that if the most purest form of love can be destroyed just like that- With such a reason, how can true love be a REAL thing? Or;
2. Sally can surrender to the pain of loss, feeling sad and unhappy for months and maybe years BUT she can hang onto the idea of true love, believing that what she had was real but it wasn’t the perfect one. The perfect one is still out there to be discovered. She doesn’t have to let go of the idea! Most people lose their “Magic Mojo” or “Magic Sense” because at one point of their life, they simply chose to let it go for reasons of their own which I’m guessing, is mainly due to peer pressure like people condemning them citing that “It’s so childish and immature!”
It’s rare but I’m sure you’ve heard or met some adults who behaves like a kid when it’s time to have fun but is totally a cool headed boss when the time calls for it. They seem happy don’t they? Probably because their life seem to have an extra dose of “Magic” 😉
Yup, if you want some magic in your life? Believe in it and you might just get what you wished for!
Awesome article here bud, thanks for sharing your experiences and perspectives!
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Thank you so much for the kind words and the interesting perspective! I am really happy that you enjoyed my post 🙂
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