CHAMONIX, France, July 23 (Reuters) - Former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, still recovering from wounds after being shot last year, traveled high up into the French Alps on Monday with her astronaut husband Mark Kelly.
Giffords, who still uses a wheelchair much of the time, was on her first trip outside the United States since she was shot in the head by a gunman in January 2011 as she met local people outside a Tucson supermarket.
She rode the two-stage cable car to a station with spectacular views o f Mont Blanc and other peaks in France, Italy and Switzerland.
In bright sunshine but sub-zero temperatures at an altitude of 3,842 meters (12,605 feet) at the cable-car station on the Aiguille du Midi peak, Giffords smiled as she stood with her husband's arm around her shoulders.
"Gaby is really enjoying this visit," Kelly told friends and reporters. "This is a great day for us."
Kelly, accompanied by other U.S. astronauts, then visited a nearby mountain research station to install a plaque recalling the last U.S. space shuttle mission.
The trip was organized by Chamonix Tourist Office and the European Nuclear Research Centre, CERN, in Geneva, where the AMS particle detector, which Kelly and his Endeavour team took to the International Space Station in May 2011, was developed.
Giffords was a Democratic member of the House of Representatives but resigned her seat this January, saying her district deserved to have a representative "who can give 100 per cent to the job."
Six people were killed in last year's shooting, which was thought to have been an attempt to assassinate Giffords. She is undergoing intensive therapy and her speech is impaired. (Reporting by Robert Evans; Editing by David Storey and David Brunnstrom)
Open Your Eyes (Snow Patrol)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/12/obama-gabrielle-giffords-opens-eyes_n_808346.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(Jan. 8, 2011) --</strong></a> Four days after <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/08/gabrielle-giffords-shot-c_n_806211.html" target="_hplink">Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.)</a> was wounded in a grisly shooting, President Barack Obama informed memorial service members that she opened her eyes for the first time. "I can tell you this," Obama said. "She knows we're here and she knows we love her and she knows that we will be rooting for her throughout what will be a difficult journey." (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Stand (Rascal Flatts)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/19/gabrielle-giffords-stands-on-two-feet_n_811355.html" target="_hplink">(Jan. 19, 2011) --</a></strong> Outside the University of Arizona's Medical Center, a decorated paper plate offered well wishes for the Tucson shooting victims. With assistance from doctors, Giffords stood on her own two feet for the first time since the incident. The congresswoman was soon transferred to TIRR Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Hospital in Houston, one of the top-rated rehab facilities in the country. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)
Stand By Me (Ben E. King)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/16/gabrielle-giffords-shuttle-launch_n_862400.html" target="_hplink">(May 16, 2011) --</a></strong> In this Feb. 2011 file photo, Giffords' husband Mark Kelly held a wrist band decorated with a peace sign, heart and the word 'Gabby'. By mid-May, Giffords was watching Kelly fly off into space on NASA's Endeavour expedition. The couple exchanged their wedding rings before takeoff. (Photo by Eric Kayne/Getty Images)
Fighter (Christina Aguilera)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/28/gabrielle-giffords-public-appearance_n_885772.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(June 28, 2011) --</strong></a> Giffords made her first public appearance since being wounded in the Jan. 2011 shooting, attending a ceremony at Texas' Space Center Houston with Kelly. She received a standing ovation from the crowd. (AP Photo/southwestphotobank.com, P.K. Weis)
You're The Inspiration (Chicago)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/01/gabrielle-giffords-debt-ceiling-vote_n_915569.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(Aug. 1, 2011) --</strong></a> Giffords completed her first House floor appearance since the shooting, attending a vote on the debt ceiling. "The reaction in the chamber was the most enthusiastic, exuberant, exhilarating -- I mean we were all crying -- thrilled -- you know, we just knew she would make a triumphant return," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said. (AP Photo/House Television)
Don't Stop (Fleetwood Mac)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/30/gabrielle-giffords-walking-writing_n_941894.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(Aug. 30, 2011) --</strong></a> Via a Giffords spokesperson, the Associated Press learned that less than eight months after being wounded, the congresswoman was walking and writing on her own. (Photo by P.K. Weis/Giffords Campaign via Getty Images)
I Didn't Know My Own Strength (Whitney Houston)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/10/gabrielle-giffords-tv-interview_n_1087420.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(Nov. 10, 2011) --</strong></a> Giffords' first TV interview since the shooting went to ABC News. The congresswoman answered questions with a clear voice, telling host Diane Sawyer that she felt "pretty good." Giffords added that the recovery had been "difficult."
It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday (Boyz II Men)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/22/gabrielle-giffords-stepping-down_n_1222168.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(Jan. 22, 2012) --</strong></a> A little more than a year after the shooting, Giffords announced that she was leaving Congress. In a Facebook video, she cited her recovery as a primary concern, thanking her constituents for their support: "I don't remember much from that horrible day, but I will never forget the trust you placed in me to be your voice," Giffords said. (AP Photo/Office of Gabrielle Giffords)
I Can See Clearly Now (Johnny Nash)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/24/gabrielle-giffords-last-bill_n_1229309.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(Jan. 24, 2012) --</strong></a> Two days before exiting Congress, Giffords unveiled her final bill, aimed at stopping cross-border drug smugglers. "Congresswoman Giffords is committed to taking this crucial step that would help secure the border against drug smugglers," Giffords' chief of staff, Pia Carusone, said in a statement. "That's why she decided this would be the last bill she introduces before she steps down." (Photo by Jonathan Gibby/Getty Images)
Hero (Mariah Carey)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/25/gabrielle-giffords-state-of-the-union-appearance_n_1230480.html" target="_hplink"><strong>(Jan. 24, 2012) --</strong></a> Giffords made a moving appearance at Obama's 2012 State of the Union address. Her presence drew rousing applause, inspiring colleagues on both sides of the aisle. (Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images)