Chamonix is a wonderful place to visit in the summer! Our flat had a balcony that looked up at the Brevent lift & I when I opened our curtains on our first morning, I was treated to a view of the gondola traveling between two peaks, para gliders floating in the air, bicyclists riding by on the street below, and to top it off, an inflatable raft full of laughing river rafters floating by on the river that flows through town. I felt I’d woken up in an outdoorsy paradise!
RS’s hike #1 was absolutely amazing. I have hiked in several American national parks, but hike #1 is by far the most beautiful hike I have ever been on. You are surrounded by deep green grass and a huge variety of wildflowers for the entire hike. Several times, you cross an alpine stream. Then, once on the decline (as you approach Montveners), you come upon a restaurant and cafe, where you can grab a deck chair and enjoy a snack or ice cream, which is as perfect of a way to end a hike as I can think of.
Afterwards, you can descend to the ice cave. Please not that you need to be able to handle lots of steps up and down to get to the cave itself. One woman visiting while we were needed the help of paramedics on her way up.
We especially liked L’Omelleterie la Poelle: http://www.omeletterie.fr/. Like most Chamonix cafes, they have a comfortable patio. Their kir (cocktail), garlic bread (comes with an unadvertised green salad) and french onion soup were all super-delicious. Their soup was the best we tried on the trip.
Elevation 1904 offered decent food at reasonable prices; it was pleasant to sit out and nurse a beer & enjoy a low-key meal there.
Le Fournil Chamoniard pulls up their sign when not open, so it can be hard to find when not open, but they have excellent salads and pre-made sandwiches. They also take orders in advance (we needed to grab a picnic on the way to catch a train before they normally have their salads & sandwiches prepared). They are a patisserie & bakery (baguettes, etc.) as well.
204 Avenue de l'Aiguille du Midi 74400 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc France
On a less positive note, we were very unimpressed with Patisserie Richard, which gets rave reviews on Trip Advisor & Yelp. Our croissant was bland (our local grocery store sells tastier croissants), the baguette tasted par-baked & the tart was really nothing special. Lots of people seem to love it, but we struck out there.
Note the water sports available from Chamonix; I may have just missed it, but I am not sure whether RS mentions this option: http://www.chamonix.com/white-water-sports,52,en.html
Lifts: we were deeply impressed by the views on the Brevent side. I would strongly recommend purchasing enough pass time to get up to the Brevent side, even though it is not nearly as popular as the Midi lift. There were lots of restaurants and cafes at Brevent as well. The views of Chamonix itself were more dramatic on the Brevent side; you really got a great perspective on how steep this valley is from there.
We rode the Aguille di Midi lift twice - once in the morning and once in the afternoon. We were unpleasantly surprised to learn that we could only descend at an assigned time to get down in the afternoon - and it was for 2 hours after we arrived at the top! This was very disappointing as we only popped up to see if we could get better photos of the Swiss side of the view (better sun position than the morning), but most of the peaks were covered with clouds anyway. I was feeling a bit ill due to the elevation gain, so an attendant graciously let us descend about an hour earlier than our assigned time. Otherwise, we would have felt a bit at loose ends as we had taken ample time to explore all the viewpoints & cafes up there the day before.
One last note about the Midi lift; reservations seemed pointless as no one was checking any reservation times.If you had a lift ticket, everyone just got in the same line & got in the gondola in order of arrival.