Aguille Du Midi
I’ve mentioned this mountain, Aiguille du Midi, several times already yet I have not emphasized how intimidatingly powerful it is. It is a city of craggy skyscrapers each hundreds feet high crammed together atop a massive “massif” equaling Mont Blanc in prominence. Two trams take you to the top climbing some 7,000 feet, the last bit is straight up a cliff. A complex of metal terraces, walkways, a restaurant and of course a gift shop was somehow built up here gosh knows when. A modern marvel like the Empire State Building. Apparently helicopters built this. Sounds dangerous, I’m thinking only aliens could construct something of this magnitude.
Once again I had to do something in France because I was there. I figured I might try and do a painting at the top of the castle. I kind of told Jeff and Virginia I’d do it once they pitched the idea so it was more of fulfilling a dare than straight up desire. It’s a tight space. There are hundreds of people shoving around for the best photo of a massive glacier that won’t turn out. The wind could be whipping. I actually brought some cord to tie my easel to the rail. I really didn’t know what was up there. “What the hell, just do it. I’m leaving tomorrow anyways. I’ll never see these people again.” This is a common thought throughout France, and my life.
I trammed up there, long line. People whooped as we went over the towers and the box swung. It was quite tight as to be expected, foreshadowing of conditions at the top. The tram reached the upper dock and we spilled out like a runny yoke. I was starting to feel optimistic about my chances. The people were spread out and the view was unreal. “I’m gonna do it.” The French lifty handed me a ticket once I walked out into the open. 14:40 was what it said. This was the time I must head down. At the moment it was 13:20. “Damn.” I lugged all that paint and a canvas taped to a piece of cardboard and for what? There was no way I was going back down with a blank canvas. I could do something in an hour.
I bought a new pen in Paris at a really cool art store for 14 euro. Deal! It’s like one of those Chinese paintbrushes for writing characters except the ink keeps pumping out and I don’t have to dip it, like all pens. This one was big and special though. I went up an elevator to an upper level to do a drawing on the canvas. Voila! The air was crisp, the sun was bright and the wind was light. Like the first ten seconds of chewing Dentyne Ice, it was cool and enjoyable.
“Swish, swish, excuse moi!” Although I was standing in a tiny corner sketching I was getting the camera man bumps and grinds. Quite fun though.
“C’est fini for now.” I decided I’d finish this later with a true blue sky and a few accents. It’s 14:30, I must get my ride down! Lots of people to weave through with elevators and stairs to navigate. This ink wouldn’t be dry for an hour so I had to be very strategic to avoid a day ruining smear. I hugged the wall of the elevator and I stuck to the far right on all walkways to protect my baby. I made it back by 14:40. “Phew!” What would happen if I didn’t get on? Would they keep me up there all night? I would love that. A true “Night At The Museum” situation. There were no statues to come alive up there so I headed down.
I got to finish up that afternoon at Jeff and Virginia’s. They got home and the Belgian and we all talked about our adventures over a potluck and some liqueur for sipping. We sipped and sipped until I banged my head on a low beam crawling into my annex bed. The headache the next day was from both events. I left on Friday for Provence. I got to do one last painting from a cow pasture before I left.
I already miss Chamonix. I miss the mountains. I had a snag getting back to Aix that night because our train was late which I thought wasn’t a thing. I spent another luxurious night in Lyon at the train station comped hotel. Now I’m back where I started the France Voyage. Im four days into the oil painting workshop and time is flying. So much sun. Only a week until I’ll be back in the states. Still, there are many miles before I sleep, many miles before I sleep.