While Foxy, Em and Pav hunting for a pharmacy to get Em some tablets, Geoff and I ordered a hot chocolate at the restaurant. When they got back some fifteen minutes later, they ordered some drinks too and then we planned to head over to the Funicular up to the top of Grande Motte. We headed over but Em got lost on the way and Pav had to rush back to get her as she could not see us throwing our arms and poles into the air to attract her attention. We had been told that train could carry three hundred people but I was not too sure if that was an exaggeration. We got on and it was rather strange to get into a carriage that was facing up hill. The journey took ten minutes and the engine made a great deal of noise but when we got onto the top, I noticed the temperature drop a heap. I think I remember noticed minus seven on the screen next to the station entrance. I was now some 3082 metres above sea level, the time was 12:48pm. It was a clock stopping moment in our holiday. I was near the top of the French Alps, looking out across at the most beautiful mountain range in Europe (if not the world!) and the sky was bright clear and blue. I got my camera out and starting snapping those pictures.
The rest of the group headed down the blue run but I decided to wait and meet them when they came back up and grab some lunch in the restaurant. I spent the time taking photographs and taking in the scene. It was amazing, cold but still amazing. Check out the rest of the photographs in my FlickR set. I was just not confident I could make it down the blue run but was told later that I would have been okay. The guys went down and came back up at around 2.15pm. We checked out the restaurant but there was not much on worth eating. We decided we would get something back in Val Claret before heading back to Le Lac. We caught the train down. As I got off, I was held up the waiting commuters, because of the wind tunnel that had built up at the bottom made it very difficult for my suple frame to make it down the steps. From here, we headed back to the same restaurant as before and everyone had mulled wine (apart from myself) as I had taken so long to get there. I had been unable to climb over a heap of snow so opted to walk the long way around into the village. It was at this point the group split up. Geoff and Pav headed back up Grande Motte to do the red run down, while Em, Foxy and myself headed for the bus stop. We were going to catch the bus back to Le Lac. From here we broke up again. I caught the bus to Les Bossies while Foxy and Em boarded back down to the chalet. It was a good fifteen minute wait for the bus. I did the typical, Englishman abroad moment when I responded to a French man with “I don’t speak English”. Obviously I had meant I do not speak French but I had got my tongue all mixed up. This went down very well with an English woman also standing by the bus stop and within listening distance. As I waited on board the bus, Geoff and Pav joined me. In the time it had taken me to wait, they had gone up the mountain, skiied down the red and then caught the bus across. We then skied down to the chalet, on a pleasantly sunny afternoon. We arrived to some breaking news from Mr. Stevens.
He had managed to secure a minor gig for both himself and Pav up at the top of the mountain. At the top of the Chaudannes chairlift to be precise. He was now a man on a mission and I was to be his sidekick. He had to burn some music from his iPod onto CD. I explained that Sherpa sold blank CDRs. I had noticed them while hunting for batteries on Sunday. He had the media, he just now needed a laptop to burn the music. He somehow, do not ask me how, managed to borrow a brand new laptop from the chef at La Bouida restaurant. for the night. Although he forgot to get the password and had to call up the owner for it. The spec of this Acer machine was awesome. Vista Premium edition, blu-ray player, surround sound and HD graphics. If I had half a brain cell, there was no way I was going to lend this laptop over to some English guy on holiday. With or without a credit card as a deposit. Then was the next problem, changing the language from French to English and using the French keyboard as if it was English. That was only the start of the problems, we then had to transfer the music from the iPod onto the laptop and then eventually burn the CD. It was not going to be easy, but we would get there I was confident. We watched some quiz shows. Wheel Of Fortune or as translated La Roue de la Fortune and Deal or No Deal on TFI. The Wheel had changed a great deal since I had watched it back in the early 1990s, with Nicky Campbell presenting and Jenny Powell on the letters. the 2006 French revival had supermodel Victoria Silvesdt. We then headed over to the bar. While using the wireless facility in Vincents, I finally went online for the first time of our holiday and updated my Twitter status. I even showed Pav the very short pre-blog entry I had written and the photograph uploaded to fill the gap. Back to the task at hand, a bit of Googling revealed how we could get access to the music on the iPod directly from the device rather than using iTunes. Paul meanwhile downloaded some of his music from online sources and put them ready on the laptop to burn later. We left him on his own at Vincents while we went to a local restaurant to get some food. It was a quiet cosy local restaurant which felt perfectly part of the village. The food was very good and afterwards we went back to Vincents to see how Paul was getting on. They were showing the FA Cup replay between Southend and Chelsea (final score 1 – 4) while Paul completed his work. After a drink we headed back to the chalet, when Paul started burning the CDs. I thought the job was done and dusted but it was not.
I woke up at 9am sharp, Paul was already awake and still worried about his set. He got onto the loan laptop straight away and using the Google tip, to view the data on the device. To this you have to amend the Explorer settings for viewing system and hidden files, not easy to do in French. I got the data off both iPods and onto the laptop, to a chorus of thanks from Paul. The iPod uses a folder based storage system, with each folder containing only a few tracks. They were labelled F00 all the way up to F49 on one music device. Thankfully you could view the genre and artist to make it easy to search and pick the correct song. The CDs was being burnt as I went to jump in the shower and get ready. We were heading out with Em, Foxy, Geoff and Pav. Ben’s holiday was over and I think he returned his equipment at somepoint during the day. We took the main gondola up, I remember noting the time, it was exactly 11am. I was in Tignes-Le-Lac some fifty minutes later. By the time I got to the village, my friends had already made tracks. I text Pav to explain I had decided to stay and do the green and blue runs in the beginner area, to build up my confidence. That is what I spent the majority of the time doing, although I never got a chance to practice or actually begin to learn a parrellel technique due to the sheer amount of traffic on the slope. At one point there was a long group of skateboarders just idly sitting on their backsides on the snow.
Em was going to come down and join me for lunch at 2.15pm, so I waited by the bus stop a few minutes before hand. We went back to grab some food at the same restaurant we had been to on Monday. The boys joined us a few minutes later but there was not really enough time to get food and drink. We had to make tracks up the mountain for the set. I skied down to the lift but the boarders all decided to walk around. Not sure why, skiing or boarding was easily the best and fastest option. In the end we had to wait for Emily to make her way down and eventually made our way up (Foxy and Paul going ahead). We made our way up the lift and watched a great crash. A skier went and hit the edge of a boarder who had been just standing chatting to his friend. The skier did not look hurt but had just taken a minor tumble, he was back up on his skis, in what seemed just like a few seconds. Then as we went up higher, I saw once again the death trap that was the bluet red run, I still could not believe I had made it down such a steep incline in one piece.
By the time we got to the restaurant, Stevens was already on the set and his music was the sound track for skiers and snowboarders alike, streaming down the slopes. It was an amazing scene, even if it was bitterly cold. How cold I dare you ask? Well Foxy’s beer started freezing, the froth on top that is, seconds after pouring it into his large glass.
After talking a look around and taking quite a few photos, I was going to head down to the main gondola. I knew it was going to be a bit of a trek for me skiing and did not want to miss the last lift down. I was going to go but Pav offered drinks, so I took him up on what I thought would be just a quick hot chocolate. It turned out to be cream with a side order of hot chocolate.
Afterwards I headed down to the slopes, but was soon followed by everyone else about ten minutes later. In fact they beat me to the gondola and got into the next carriage along. I had to make room for some experienced French skiers. Geoff had hurt himself earlier in the afternoon and headed back to the chalet, he and Ben were now in Vicents. Geoff pursuing Sophie no doubt. They had been there since 3pm and we were going to join them from 5pm for some Apres ski. This was the first time I was actually taking part in this past-time. Although as Pav quickly pointed out to me, it was hardly apres ski, as I did not have my boots or ski gear still on! The draw at Vincents was George the one man band! Sophie had recommended him the previous night and told us how riotous the bar gets later in the evening. Some of the songs I remember being played are, Stairway to Heaven, Country Roads, Wonderwall and some 1950s classic which I could not name, way before my time you see. Overall it was a great night, the place was packed and it really did turn into a party. Sophie got the colour wigs out and inflatable instruments and handed them out. Unfortunately there are no photographs from me, as I left my camera back at the chalet, but Geoff and Pav took some great photographs of me in the purple wig (which I wore most of the time we were in there) which you will find now on Facebook. After a light snack for dinnerm we headed to The Underground, which was in terms of proximaty, our ‘local’. It was rammed, mainly with students from Manchester who were actually staying over in Val d’Isere. It is always tragic to hear about a death while on holiday but a young student to die down the road, came as bit of shock, when I read the newspaper the previous morning. Her colleage friends were now being bused in and out anywhere and being escorted in big groups. After a few in The Underground, Paul and I decided to call it a night. Pav, Foxy and Ben meanwhile stayed a little while longer and got into a little bit of bother with a guy in the bar. Even though he did talk a great deal about going back in there and giving him a piece of his mind he did not. No need for you to come down to their level Foxy. Plus, perhaps just sometimes you should act your twenty five years and not your shoe size.
I remember getting into bed around midnight. I know by my standards that must sound early but we had been out for some seven hours non-stop. Before I could actually get any sleep, I was interrupted by t_chien, not once but twice. What he did, I perhaps will never be able to explain.
It was a very late start, if a start at all this morning. I was semi-conscious from around 9am, but did not get myself out of bed until 10.35am. This is perhaps the perfect moment to describe the sound. We had a grandfather clock in our chalet, right up the television in the lounge. It tolls at the hour every hour but also at every half hour. Also, we have the church bells tolling at the hour (during the day until early evening). So as you can imagine, a great deal of noise and difficult to sleep, particularly if you intend to sleep most of the day. I did not feel good but somehow, got ready and had breakfast. It was 11am. We sat watching television while deciding what to do. Pav had already gone out with Emily. Hold on let me rephrase that, Emily had kicked Pav out onto the slopes first thing, there was no where for him to escape. . Ben had gone back to bed after breakfast, Geoff was working through his Sunday Times Sudoku book, while Foxy and I watched television. There was not much on this late in the morning as you can imagine and I had to settle for an entertainment show. The celebrity show on M6 was co-presented by Karin Kerri. Followed by the comedy show Star In The Family starring Megan Fox. I was still not feeling that great, so decided to crash out for a while. My plan was to get up in an hour, see how I felt and then perhaps just hit the local blue run for a few hours. Paul decided to do pretty much the same.
It did not happen, I woke up at 3pm with a text from Pav, “Mountain 1, Terry 0”. True for the battle on that day but not for the war. Looking back now, I coped with most of what the French Alps through at me and it was nice to have a break from the action. Yes, most people will consider this to be a waste, to not make the most of the time out on the white stuff but I disagree. It is above everything else, a holiday, a time for rest and relaxtion. It is not fun to be rushing around all over the place and trying to keep up with your friends whom are far more experienced at winter sports. Do not get me wrong, I hope to one day reach an ability where I can view the piste map as a challenge to be conquered and not just a major obstacle in my holiday enjoyment.
What few hours remained before the others got back, I decided to put to good use. I packed most of my bits and pieces and arranged what I needed to keep for the last day of skiing. It was a shame that we had to check out some eleven hours before our flight departs Chambéry. In the end we were allowed to keep our luggage in the boot room during the day, which helped. At 4pm, I was all alone in the chalet, writing my blog notes. I decided to get a few pictures. I put on the television while I waited for my friends to arrive. When they did eventually turn up, Emily and I watched Deal Or No Dea. The contestent, Sibone, exchanged her box right at the death. Going from €250,000 down to €100,000. What a complete fool, particularly as she had played headstrong for the whole game up to that point refusing to budge. We then got together and headed out for our last evening meal in the village. It was going to be an entertaining finally evening for various reasons.
We headed to Vincents first for a drink and then headed to the local French restaurant, which was in fact, directly behind (or infront – depending on your perspective) our chalet. We walked past the terrace everyday when heading to the slopes. It was called the Le Sachette and was dead. Funnily enough, the waiter / barman asked if we had a booking (there being so many of us). We were taking up the stairs to the table area at the back. A group of three French people were just finishing their meal and made a swift exit. (Oh no, the English are here!). We went ahead and ordered some drinks (regretably) but found the menu uninpiring. The boys (not the girl I might hasten to triple underline) were hitting the red wine tonight. I better qualify those boys to be, Ben, Geoff, Paul and t_chien. Stupidly they ordered two bottles of the same red when they should have just ordered one, or a white. By all accounts it was rank. It was quite obvious we were not going to be staying here for food. However, being the democractic friends that we are, it was put to the vote and I think it was five to two for leaving. We had to finish the wine and leave, it was just how we were going to make our exit. When the waitress appeared to take our order, Emily just explained (in English) we were not ordering food. I felt very uncomfortable in the restaurant and just wanted to get out of there. We were only there for a few more minutes, only perhaps as much as ten, but the time took forever to pass. We then left and I felt much better being out on the street. It was a really bad restaurant and perhaps the place the locals and French people go to. They did not make us feel very welcoming. We headed back down the road, in search of a new place to eat.
Les Brieveres being such a small village does not have a big variety of eating establishments. We were therefore in a choice between two. La Bouida or the L’ Almarry opposite. We chose the later, perhaps because there was more choice on the menu and the prices were more reasonable. We went in, it was very busy but somehow they found us a table at the back. We looked at the menu and were impressed. Foxy had to ask the waiter, the standard, “Is it good?” in a mixed French come Dutch accent. The waiter spoke fantastic English and replied, “It’s ALL good”. We thought it was just the standard line but a little later we were talking it all back. I do not think I have ever been to a restaurant and the people I am with have gone on about the food from the moment it was served until we land back at Gatwick some twenty four hours later. Yes the restaurant was good, service was quick, the staff courtieous but there was no debate about a any Michelin stars. What people fail to appreciate is that these gradings are giving for attention to detail. We had to ask three times for water to be provided and our glasses were allowed to go empty. These are the aspects which take a restaurant from great to exceptional. Nevertheless, a gem of a place and I would highly recommend. However, t_chien was right. It was a good thing we discovered the place on the last night and not on the first. Otherwise it would have been €30 per a head meals every night!
I cannot remember the rest of the night very well. We headed back to the chalet, Geoff headed over to Vincents to say goodbye to Sophie. Foxy estimated that he would be back around 11pm and on queue, he appeared just after the clock had chimed. I remember we were watching television for a while but all opted for an early night. It was the last day on the slopes. Well only for five of us and I was the last skier standing. I was keen to make the most of my last day on the slopes, particularly after the waste of Friday.
It was the earliest start of the holiday and rightly so. At 8.15am I was out of bed, getting ready and had breakfast and was pretty much ready to go. I perhaps selfishly took my suitcase, put it in the boot room, got my gear on and waited outside the chalet. Meanwhile everyone else was rushing around cleaning the place before the prompt inspection at 10am. Em had a go at me for standing outside loitering when there was still cleaning to be done. However, as I began to take my boots off, Ben said that most of it had been done and not to bother. Geoff came out with my Arsenal wooly hat, which I had left on the sofa the previous evening. I was pretty sure I had not left anything else, so much so I did not bother going back in to the chalet to check. At 10am sharp, the inspection began military style. The chalet owner went around each room and checked everything opened windows. She was not happy with all the foam in the dish washer but apart from that, we all got our deposits back! Pav came around with the euros. I was €70 back in the black. It was the last day so we were going off to do our own thing. I headed into Tignes-Le-Lac. I was with the others, until we got up to the chairlift and I took the blue run and they took the red run down. I would not seen them again until they returned to the chalet just before 4pm. I must describe my ski run into Tignes.
It was going very well until I got to the last major incline. The rest of the run is easy as it is flat around the mountain and then into the village. However, I was struggling and came to a stop. When I started to go again, I felt I was going fine but then heard a snowmobile behind me and then lost my concentration, followed closely by my balance and then both my skis. It was quite a funny crash really. A couple of Spanish guys had been skiing behind me and one of them came to my assistance. He grabbed my pole, which had gone down the slope and retrieve my ski and helped me get back locked in. However it was near impossible at such a steep and awkward spot. So in the end I had to thank the stranger for his help but decided to slide down to the clearing before putting on my skis. Then I carried on to the village. It had been a difficult trip.
I headed up the Aero Ski lift up to the top of the mountain that over looks Val D’Isere. Pav and Em had recommended I take the blue run down to the town but I chickened out by the time I got to the top. It was extremely busy and with time not on my side I decieded to just take some snaps before heading back down. A cop out I know but I just did not want to take a leap into the unknown on my last day. I wanted to play it safe and I wanted to make sure I got back before the others to change, sort out my gear before the long journey back to the airport. I then went across to the bus stop to get the bus back to Les Boisses, from there I would ski down to Les Brevieres. However, it was a Saturday. The importance of the day did not dawn on me until a bit later. A young French guy was at the bus stop waiting talking to some skiers. When they disappeared he approached me to inform me that the next bus was not until 1.15pm, an hour and forty-five minutes wait away. The reason? The bus service was heavily reduced on the weekend. Perhaps because this is the day that most people get to the resort and there is not the demand as there is later in the week. I looked at my options, I could try and ski down (I had done it before) or get a taxi or just wait. I waited for a while. Then an English girl, who had just arrived the previous night got talking to me. As we realised it was going to be a long wait, (it was just coming up to midday) we looked at the option of getting a taxi. There were none at stand, so we asked one of the reps and they advised us to go inside the tourist centre and order one. When we went inside, but the kiosk was closed (for lunch?) so Sarah-Jane went to the other desk and was just given a pamphlet and a list of phone numbers. I did not feel comfortable calling up for a taxi, so just decided to wait. Sarah-Jane then went to meet up with her friends for lunch. I decided to go out to the bus stop around quarter past one. A few minutes later the bus arrived and on I hoped with two other people. I was heading back, just one more run before I could go.
It was quite busy on the slopes as I made it down. It was a good final run and I think I must have hit a personal best. I met up with Ben, they were in the same restaurant we had been to last night. I called him and he came out to give me key to the store room. I headed over, got changed, took off my gear. I then had to return it to the rental shop and see what the damage was. Afterwards I headed back to the restaurant and caught up with Ben and Geoff. They had had a lazy Saturday morning, pretty similar to a weekend back home in England, just with the backdrop of the French Alps out of the window. I ordered a pizza and afterwards read the paper to catch up on the latest football news, particularly transfers.. Afterwards, we headed to Vincents. Ben wanted to go on the net and as the second machine in there still had ten minutes, I went online to update my Twitter status but bear in mind the time of the update is GMT, so it was in fact 3:45pm local time. We left Ben online, as we headed back to the chalet to wait for the others. They arrived eventually but were cutting it very fine. It was just about to hit 4pm. While they gathered their luggage, we headed back down the main road in the village to see if Jack, our taxi driver had arrived with our ride. He had already driven his Mercedes down to La Bouida and turned around and parked up just opposite the church when he recognised us coming down the road with our luggage. He stopped and parked up. We loaded our luggage on board, as the rest of the gang turned up. We had to put the boards in the rack box. Even though we took them out of the bag, it was not neccesary as it would have fitted in the box as it was. Never mind, we got on board. Geoff, Foxy, Ben sat in the back row. It was Pav, me and Paul in the second eisle with Em upfront. Jack, was a big Tracy Chapman playing a selection from her greatest hits on the stereo. He also played some Radiohead, John Lennon and even randomly Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Doughlas. I feel asleep as soon as we hit the motorway and woke up while we were about twenty minutes from the airport. I was so glad to be back and prayed that it would be an simple unevent flight back home.
Foxy went into the terminal to check which desks we had to use. There was a big queue at the new checkin desks leading right out of the main door. However, our desks were one to four at the back. Thankfully we could go in through the other double doors and queue when our flight was called. We got into the queue just in time, as behind us a big queue joined right up to the main entrance. As we were in the queue, I scribbled down my final blog notes of the holiday. Looking back at them, they are such a message because I had nothing but my own thighs to lean on. When we got to the desk, Emily was taken to a side room and her luggage inspected. As you can imagine, she was not a happy bunny after this. Foxy of course, thought it should have been him if he had moved ahead of Emily in the queue to check in. We then had a few hours to kill before we would have to go through immigration, customs security and then finally onto the plane.
We firstly went to the souvenir shop and I bought some chocolates before heading up to the restaurant. The place was rammed with many people just sitting on the floor. We found a table on the terrace. (Yes, strange concept but a terrace bar at an airport!) From here we could see the planes heading for the runway and some landing in the background. As we had time to kill we played Queenie. A shredding card game, but I cannot remember who lost. It could have been Foxy or I could be gravely mistaken. After chilling out for a while, our flight was called and we joined the long queue to passport control. Being such a small regional airport, they just had two people in the both checking documents. Then we were through to security. My bag was checked in detail and then we took a seat in the chairs, waiting for our flight to be called and to board the coach that would take us there. The group of us gathered together, some buying food and drinks for the next leg of the journey. We boarded the coaches when they arrive and were taking to the plane, we walked outside in the cold French air for the last time and boarded the plane from the rear stairs. We found our seats and sat down. With my Zen dead, I was looking forward to perhaps drifting off and getting some rest. The weather was not going to be so kind.
The flight left on time and we were on schedule for our arrival in Gatwick. It was a landing that was a bit hairy. Now I was sitting next to Paul, who is not a great flyer. However, after a few red wines, he was content. I ordered a tea, to wake me up a little, knowing I had a long drive ahead of me before I could get back to Wycombe. The weather in England was just terrible but I would find that out later. As we came into the land, the plane was all over the place with the wings tilting up and down. Just as we came in for the final approach the captain levelled her off and we made a perfect landing. To much applause from many of the passengers. It had been a turbulent ride but we had made it. It was 8pm local time, I was looking forward to getting home.
We had a long wait for our luggage and as usual my suitcase was the last off the carousel. We then had to catch the coach back to APH and finally get into my car. I grabbed the car and brought it to the front of the car park. We loaded the car and then I said my sentimental goodbyes to Ben, Geoff and Foxy. Then we hit the road. It was raining quite heavily and windy but I did not realise how badly until I hit the motorway. It was crazy, I could only see metres ahead and the wind and rain made for storm like conditions. I battled through, even though I had expected a nice relaxing drive back to Slough, Reading and then eventually back home to Wycombe. The most difficult part was the conditions on the M25 when I hit a maximum speed of 50mph and even with wipers on full load, could hardly see much ahead of me for all the spray. If I had not been a super hero on the slope, I was making up for it now. I headed over to Slough first, dropped off Paul, then Reading to drop off Pav and Em. I then drove to the BP garage to deflate my tyres (in the rain) and then headed home. I got in around midnight, to see the warm and glowing faces of my family. It was a great feeling to be home, the adventure was over. However, I suddenly realised that I have to write every moment up for my blog. That could wait until tomorrow.