Contos & Perrengues: The Day I Slept On The Street At -12ºc In The French Alps

The first time a Brazilian in the snow is always a great emotion, and mine was no different: I liked it so much that I ended up needing to sleep on the street in Chamonix Mont Blanc. Meet The Chamonix Homeless saga in Contos & Perrengues.

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Have you planned or needed to sleep on the street? I remember once that I was enjoying with a friend the handcrafted beers of Nova Friburgo / RJ, in one of the main squares of the city, when we were approached by a street artist who sold poetry. He sat down with us and told us a bit about his history: he had finished his master’s degree in history and traveled as a nomad in Latin America. Going brejas, brejas next, he asked:

-Is it safe to sleep in the city cable car? My hotel is down the street and my bed is my sleeping bag!

I recommended to him very accessible hostels of the city, but nevertheless preferred to venture in one of the main attractions of the city. And I thought I’d never go through this…

Years later, backpacking in Europe…

It was the summit of winter and, along with the Portuguese-Brazilian brother Rafael Telles, we left Porto-Portugal for the top of Western Europe: the mystic Mont Blanc in Chamonix, on the triple border between France, Italy and Switzerland. We traveled in the art of Couchsurfing, staying in Brazilian exchange houses and, when necessary, spending the night in airports or in very nice hostels. It is, my friends, that was when the Euro hit $ 4.85 … but everything coldly calculated, planned and mapped. We were saving on lodging to enjoy ski slopes and other epic attractions as much as possible.

We left Paris for Geneva, the best gateway to Chamonix. We would spend only one night in Switzerland and then arrive in the French Alps. It was then that the saga began…

Geneva is expensive that breaks us
In Paris, Rome and Berlin everything was correct as to the lodging in the base of the Couchsurfing. In Geneva, we would stay at Raphael’s relatives’ house and in Chamonix at Hostel Le Chamoniard Volant. On the eve of the trip, our Swiss “couch” mellowed, and knowing fromSleeping In Airports that the Geneva International Airport closed at 10 pm, we knew that the mission would not be easy. It was impossible to sleep in Geneva. The cheapest hostels cost 50.00 Swiss francs, almost equivalent to the euro and exactly what we paid for three nights in Chamonix. We were accustomed to the prices in Portugal, where the fast food combo cost € 3.85. And in Geneva? The Burger King combo was out for 16.00 Swiss francs. After waiting a long time, we were able to buy a shuttle for

EasyBus for € 25.00, an amount we had already paid for the round trips between Geneva and Chamonix. We were anticipating our arrival at the mystic Mont Blanc.

Snow for the first time A La Grylls Bear
Coming to Chamonix at midnight, total ecstasy. Eat snow, make snowman in the snow, play snowball in the other … we were free of the exorbitant prices of Geneva and happy to get to the long-dreamed village of the French Alps. You would only have to walk to our hostel, pay for one more night and be happy, right? Wrong!

Seeing us jumping from the bus terminal late at night, already altered mountaineers shouted and waved us over for a beer at the Monkey Bar , and it was there that we discovered that the check-in in Chamonix was until 10 pm , except for the coolest hotels in the area . We did not give up, and as the village was very safe, nice and beautiful, we ran around in all corners hoping to get any bed and shower to renew the energies. And really, the check-in ended at 10pm, not getting a single employee at the receptions. It was then that we decided to accept that the night would be long and that we would have to find some way to spend the night in a warm and discreet way. The restaurants closed at 1 am, and we were the only souls who wandered through the Rhône-Alpes Region . I remembered the nights of Discovery Channel with my father, thinking of following the teachings of Bear Grylls: digging a ditch in the snow to protect himself from the cold. Of course, an insane act in a small town. But since he was a child in a feature film about the Andes, Alaska and Himalayas, I was feeling challenged. I confess it was funny!

The nomad of Freiburg inspired the night in Chamonix

When I convinced Rafael to make the trip to Mont Blanc, one of the main tourist attractions that I emphasized to convince him was the cable car of Aiguille du Midi, which takes us to 3,777 meters of altitude, facing the absolute Mont Blanc. What he did not expect was that he would get to know the cable car before the time… Looking for houses with open yards and building marquees, we came across the cable car: wide, covered, shoes, protected from the wind and open to anyone who wanted Transit through its facilities. Have you ever imagined children’s happiness? The backpacks were comfortable pillows. However, the sleeping bags, used to sleep on the floor of those who gave us couchsurfing, were inefficient for the cold. From the Himalayan films to the Western movies: while one sleeps, the other watches the “camp”.

It was-12ºC, a climate that was not inviting to those who had nowhere to sleep. It was difficult to sleep with ice-cold feet, as no super-mega-ultra-power Snow White promised by Decathlon was able to hold the wave. We woke up scared three times in the evening , when tourists went to use the 24h carton of the cable car-and to be honest, they did not notice the two “beggars” of Chamonix, or at least they were as discreet as possible.Everything took us to appreciate that night, to accept the challenges of the trip, to enjoy the climate of travel to talk, tell stories and jokes until at seven o’clock opened the first bakery in Chamonix. To be honest, we laughed at the situation and came to the conclusion that sleeping at the Aiguille du Midi station was a far better experience than it would have been if we had spent the night in Geneva.

Moral of history
The lifestyle of Freiburg’s nomad, of which I never thought to inspire myself, ended up comforting me on that cold night in the French Alps. In Chamonix pubs, chatting with American, English and Norwegian skiers, we became known as ” The Chamonix Homeless “. An experience of living, of good humor and of knowing how to act in the face of controversial situations. Always plan your trips to the fullest, especially when it comes to international trips. Also, I do not recommend the experience – even if it is accurate-in global cities. Days later, in Rome, we asked ourselves if we would do the same in the Italian capital, if necessary. We know that it is not safe and, in addition, big cities are hotels, with options of (good) hostels from € 5.00 a day.

Your turn: have you ever been in any controversial situation? Submit your Tales & Perrenguesand leave your comments about The Saga The Chamonix Homeless. We also take care of the doubts and tips on our trip=).