French Alps - WHAT AN EXPERIENCE!
Aussie Pete, a Father gets dragged out here to check on his little girl.....
Pete on his first night with daughter Jayne - we think he fitted in rather well...
It's just two weeks since I arrived back from my French/Jap jolly. It seems like a lifetime ago. I wrote a short screed on my time with Kate in Japan and apparently it has been receiving rave reviews. Mainly by Sue. Who just loves everything about the three week experience that I was fortunate enough to be able to do. In fact you'd think that she'd been on the jolly, not me !
I had great difficulty writing about the French Alp experience. Anything that I write could not describe how awesome that place really is. I could definitely live there. Winter only of course. Would love to really master the art of skiing and the ultimate would be to learn how to snowboard. But doubt whether my body could taken the pounding of coming off for those first two or three learning weeks.
Sue, having spent a couple of weeks last summer there, is also totally totalled on the place. Have some great photos and two videos that really tell the story but here goes anyway: Took me 40 hours to get to La Tania from Noosaville. Noosa to Brisbane 2.5 hours. Hang around airport 2.5 hours. Bris to Singapore 8 hours. Hang around airport 3 hours. Singapore to Heathrow 14 hours. Hang around airport 3 hours. Heathrow to Geneva 2.5 hours. Geneva to La Tania 2.5 hours. Adds up to 38 hours actually. Long way though.
Collected from airport by a couple of dudes ( really nice people..hi Dave and Sue hope all's well at Niddri) (Sue's a noisy one but more about her later !!! ) and headed towards La Tania. Winding narrow roads heading up, always up, from Geneva through sleet/snow flakes/wind and grey skies. But when we got to La Tania, 1450 metres up, it was blue skis and powder snow everywhere. Jayne and Ben were waiting for me. All smiles and expectations.
Straight to my unit that I had for 10 days before I had to share the last 4 days in Ben and Jayne's apartment. I had a few jobs to knock over as Sue had given me a list of 'must does' whilst there. Unpacked, 10 secs, ( I was travelling light ) and 'must do' number one = Have a drink at the Taiga Bar.
Had a few there starting with local suggested cocktail and a range of other very chique bevi's. Si was the barman. Also Lol ( what's his tall girl friends name again ? She was German came from Cologne but had a pommy accent ! weird eh!), little french barmaid with rosy cheeks (her name alludes me) and of course Jayne's mate Kate (cute little space between middle teeth).There was also a manager there from Belgium Congo, Jeremy...gettay mate. Si was a nice guy (couldn't ski due to an early season injury so had turned into a computer geek), Sue had met him in the summer and apparently had spent sometime in his Kombie van. There's another story there too, better ask Sue about it sometime. Also met a couple of drinkers there. Big Gaz, the almost pommy ski instructor (failed his course by a couple of points!!). Met Jilly of course who pointed me in the right direction re ski lessons wise (ie Jaque the Tabac man, doubled as a ski instructor. He also sells expensive T-shirts 28euro, thanks for sending me there Col !!)
Eventually left there and headed to the Ski Lodge Bar owned by the same guy who owns Taiga Bar. Tim's his name . Quite a lad. Tim looked after me because of my Jayne /Ben connection....let me set up a bar tab...thanks Twall most appreciated. Ben had spent the previous five seasons managing the Ski Lodge for him. Anyway back to Ski Lodge things, Jayne spent all night introducing me to the staff and other miscellaneous odd bods. It was Tuesday night and at La Tania that is theme night. Pirates night, so 'ahh me hearties' were everywhere. Behind the jump were a range of Jayne's mates who didn't seem to mind sampling the product!! Apparently Tim encourages this so that they all get in the mood for the night!! They were Megan (as in Rosco's fiance), Megan ( as in Si's bird. Met her mom, Robyn, I think, and sis, Kylie, whilst I was there ), Holly (Ben's sister/Col's girl....'ullo 'olley!!), Marie (Aaron's GF), Kirsten (dreads), Rosco (getting moola together for haircut and shave, great skier...go man go), Lisa ( had a birthday ski whilst I was there) Aaron ( kiwi, long red hair), Rachel (Aaron's sister), Jacki (I think, Matt the ski instructor was trying to crack onto her) and in the kitchen Tom (laid back), Neil(enjoys a jar) and Phil (nice quiet guy, good cook, can cut loose if required!). Other dudes met (non staff) that night were Forest (as in Gump), Matt (from Perth), Col ( Ben's mate, Holley's guy and soon to become my mate!! he didn't know that at the time!!) Matt and Pat ( a couple of real cool dude French ski instructors), Bella (friend of Jayne and Ben's, nice easy going ) Georgia ( Italian I think) and her boyfriend....what was his name again?
Also tumbled into a whole lot of F&F guys. That's Fathers and Farts. A very special society of dudes ( Twall, Ian...the pres, Dave, Billy... the guru...ski...board...hang glide...50 ft drops, you name it. I never met his wife but believe that her name was Sarah. Apparently she wasn't that happy with him after the F&F day/night!!! Rowin/ronin or some such name......... thanks for the skis, most appreciated ..I owe you and won't forget !! and Stan of course, retired copper. There were probably others that I met but heh it was getting late by now.). Apparently you've got to live at La Tania most of the time, be over forty, be male or have a kid to be an F&F. They ski to a far away different mountain top restaurant every Thursday and the coming Thursday, as a one off, because it was Dave's ( the vice pres.) birthday they let a female ( Sue, oooh oooh Davey Davey!!) attend as well as the Leicester connection ( Brian.... band leader and teller of anti french jokes....... "did you jump?.......uhm... at first a little beet" ALSO... "I like to go down in flames" ..nice one Bri!!!, Toffa.... great website I've enjoyed checking it out..., Chucky and probably a few other dudes whose names momentarily allude me ) and yours truly was also allowed to attend (I'm over forty and of course am Jayne's dad, so I was in for the day!!) By the way I'll see you guys in Leicester sometime this year, Yahoo!! Anyway's it's getting late in the Ski Lodge by now and the live band have done there thing, I've learnt a fair bit about Genipi and toffee vodka shooters by now and it is only day one so I head to bed .Goodnight, see you in the morning.
Hit the slopes. Got all decked out at the ski shop. Really looked the part. Even had a big red jacket that had sponsors names all over it. No one knew that I won it in a raffle six years earlier and had never actually worn it before. Anyway, long and short of it is, I've come out of the ski shop actually looking like a ski instructor!! This appearance lull's my brand new ski buddies into a false impression of my prowess. I've never even being skiing before!!!
Ben, Jayne, Holley and Col totally misread my body language. Like, do you want to do Troika or whatever the other run is called ( can't remember). At this stage I had no idea that the answer to that question should have been Troika! So they have looked at my impressive set of ski gear and said he'll be ok on such and such a run. So of we go. 38 euro for the old day pass, into the bubble and up we go. Get out up top somewhere, click into skis and fall over. Can't even get up! Takes three of my skiing mates to get me upright again and then I start moving involuntary in a direction that I don't want to go. I'm out of control...put the snow plough on they're all shouting!!...what are they talking about?...luckily I fall off again....this fall actually saves my life 'cos I was heading towards an edge with no end to it!!. The troops pick me up, pack me into the bubble and send me down hill, suggesting that I may need a lesson. I reckon that the 38euros probably could have gone towards that eh! That night. A few beers at ski lodge ('til stumps!), chat to the Leicester boys about the next days F&F lunch at Belair, had dinner ( nice job Phil..he came out to see if my ribs were ok...not the ones in my shirt!!....although people did start asking after those ones after my next attempt at skiing ) and was in bed by three!
I heard that the F&F's all ski to a place called 1650 where this Belair restaurant is. So I get out of bed early and get Col, Ben and Jayne to give me a quick ski lesson so that I can go with them. They lead me towards Troika. I now know that this is where real dud punters spend their time falling over and being jumped over by two and three year old kids! Any way Jayne's got the video camera with her and says dad get on the drag thing. So I somehow get into position without falling over and with great difficulty grab this drag thing and try to stick it up my kyber. It keeps going, I fall over, and then, yes then, they tell me that it's supposed to tuck in at the the front!! Who would have thought! Anyhow eventually this thing starts towing me up and Jayne's on the one behind with the video camera in full swing and would you believe it, half way up I fall off the thing!! And then I can't get up. Every time I try to, another drag thing smacks into me and down I go again!! This skiing is definitely harder than I thought. It's starting to dawn on me that I probably won't be able to ski to lunch with the F&F's that day.
Anyway Ben eventually drags me along the snow out of harms way onto the edge of Troika. Jayne can't keep the cam still she's laughing that much. Ben's taken his skis off and is assisting me with getting all organised again. Then he bends over to sort his own skis out and that involuntary movement happens again and I slowly slide straight into Ben's kyber. Jayne of course catches this on tape and it all looks pretty disgusting!! Eventually Ben shows me what a plough is, tells me how to turn left and right in a plough position and a parallel position. I say yes I understand all that, so he says follow me. He goes slowly across the slope. I try and follow him but go straight down the slope at break neck speed, totally out of control, can't stop, and then spot a whole lot of little pre-school kids lined up at the bottom of Troika. What to do? How does that plough work again? I don't know, so I decide to take a dive. A couple of 360's, one in the air and one or two across the snow and the skis are flying through the air without me attached to them. Everything comes to a halt and no one loses a kid. I reckon that I've got a shirt full of broken ribs though.
Meanwhile , my mate Col who is a gun snowboarder decides to have a crack at the skis. Seems that they are quite different disciplines as Col goes from being gun boarder to mug punter on skis. He has multiple tumbles. However he eventually runs into his mate, Matt ( French Ski instructor) who tells him that the best way to learn how to ski is to throw the poles away, put your hands on your hips and slowly sneak down the slope from side to side transferring your body weight from side to side whilst holding your hands on your hips. Col spent the rest of the afternoon looking very gay. All caught on camera by Jayne. He didn't fall off any more though.
Time to work out how to get to the F&F lunch at Belair. Luckily I discover that Ian, the pres., is driving there and he's also giving 'oooh oooh Davey Davey' a lift so I jump in with them. Actually I get in the car before Ian and get in the wrong side. Like the steering wheel's in front of me without me realising it. Ian says "get out of there you're not driving". I'm having a shocker.
We get up to the Belair restaurant via the bubble and the other guys have arrived via mountain top piste runs. Twelve of us all together. Food good, jokes real good, rose wine (15 bottles exceptional) and then it's time to head back . Not to La Tania but to Lodge du Village at Méribel Village (The third of Tim's monopoly on food and alcohol in the La Tania area ). The boys fall off their skis several times before they sort out where their equilibrium is and off they go.
They all make it to Village except Chucky who gets lost by following the wrong skier. He ends up at the Ski Lodge at La Tania. Chucky's lucky that we have put our head in the door there to collect Jayne, Ben, Holly and Col, as we are able give him a lift to Village. At Village, Bring Your Sisters are playing. Very talented guys ( there's only two of them and they're not sisters!). First Brian....to a fair bit of booing at first ( Toffa's idea) and then Billy, have a go at singing the lights out. They weren't bad either!! Have a huge sing song there with Twall pouring Genepi and Toffee vodka down everyone's throat. A couple of hours there then back to the Ski Lodge. Ben drives Twall's van. Does a very risque 360 degree handbrake spin on the way back. Col and I do our own 360's in the back of the van as a result. All's well we eventually make it back.
What's on at the Ski Lodge ? You guessed it. Live band. So big night had by all. In bed by three.
DAY FOUR TO DAY FOURTEEN:
All days are much the same now. Ski in the morning, ski in the afternoon, aprés at five then a variation of restaurant , home cooked roast, eat out at different restaurant/ bar or live band!. One night Col used his culinary skills to cook up a storm at Dave and Sues place. Piggy's was expensive 42 euro for three Genepi's! That hurt! We only had one there ! Crepes at the Grand Marnier Méribel was a real find. Great value crepes, extensive selection and always accompanied by a Grand Marnier of your choice. Col didn't like his. He reckoned it tasted like the medicine that his mum used to give him when he was a kid. That was ok. Ben drank Col's!!
On days when weather was wet and no good for skiing then that becomes a video day. Loved... 'A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen'. The ski bug has got me by now, so I start attending lessons each morning for the next five days. I progress to be able to come down some of the lesser slopes such as Jardin D'Alpine at Courchevel 1850 and even successfully negotiate Verdons. Out of control in some parts but no tumbles, which is lucky because I've been nursing some badly bruised ribs ( had previously fallen, at pace, on them three times now and I just was so scared of falling off and hurting myself again ).
We ( Ben, Jayne, Holly, Col and moi) did fit in a superb day at Annecy. Fabulous markets. Exotic narrow lanes, streets and village squares. The a la Venice waterways that wound through the Annecy streets were powering with water as the snow had started to melt from some of the peaks. Fabulous fashions worn by both men and women. I really had a 'great to be alive feel' in this place. Wonderful blue skis. A really great al fresco lunch with the best range of salads. A top day.
Also had to knock off all of Sue's 'must does'. Go to Le Praz. Meet Crab and Bellina, we did that several times at Village and the Ski lodge. They've got the husky teams. We didn't get to go on them. Just couldn't fit it in. Had to meet Ian ( the pres ) did that also his wife Ronny. Caught up with her on our last night at the Telemark ( nice restaurant.....lobster profiteroles are their specialty ). Also the bird who manages the Chalets. Can't quite remember her name ( Roxy isn't it?), recall having a couple of large gin & tonics with her though. She was nice , speaks nine languages!! That was on the last night at Telemark as well. On the last day it was Lisa's (Ski Lodge bar) birthday and she had arranged for all available to rendezvous at the Ski Lodge, for a ski to 1850 and then lunch and back again.
I'm thinking that I've got through two weeks of skiing without breaking any bones. Some of the good boarders ( three of them ) had taken spills that week and the casualty list was: broken arm, broken collar bone, cracked ribs, broken leg and broken arm. Now these boys could really board, so I figure that so far I've been dead lucky. About twenty turned up to ski over to 1850. I figure if I can just get through this last ski then I've had a really successful little two week season. Anyway's we all get in the bubble and then transfer to the chair lift ( so that we can get up even higher than real high...........up here the next stop's heaven)
Anyway half way up the chair lift we hit a real 'pea-souper'. Can't see your hand in front of your face. When we get to the top it's seriously cold, can't see a thing and I've only done this run twice before ( and that was with an instructor ). The snow is like compact ice. My skis are slipping about just thinking about it. I am giving serious thought to not doing this as all confidence has drained out of me. But just getting back on the chair lift is a scary ordeal so I decide to GO FOR IT. I stay real close to everyone and we head off. Within ten seconds I've lost sight of everyone. They all know what they are doing and whooska have vanished before my very eyes!! I can't see my hand in front of me and I'm flying blind. I'm hitting little indentations in the snow that I can't see, so every now and then am actually air born!!! Help. I don't even know if this run swings to the left, right or straight ahead and the fog is getting thicker. At some point I can make out a huge, very steep downhill in front of me. I must have went down this when the instructor was with me, but in these conditions, to me it looks like instant death. I'm looking at it thinking how am I gonna get out of this mess. I'm lost on top of the French Alps, in the fog, can't see anyone and have lost all confidence.
Then, I spot a figure to my left. It's Ben. He's waited for me. He says "Are you alright Pete?" . I tell him that I've lost my confidence , and am dripping with fear. I also seemed to recollect an alternate piste ( less steep ) in parts to the cliff face that I am currently thinking that I'm going to die on. Ben knows that run. It's called Cretes. So I take my skis off, yes off!! and jump sideways half way down this vertical slope until I get to Ben. Skis back on and then slowly ski off through the fog to the left where we eventually come across Cretes. After negotiating Cretes the fog starts breaking and I can see what's ahead of me. It still looks daunting but less so now as I can actually see the ground. Luckily Ben can see that my confidence is at rock bottom and that fear has set in. He stays with me until I get my confidence back and eventually I'm back at full pelt and it's less icy down here. So skis are responding better to that!! All I want to do is get down asap, so last part of journey is fast ( for me that is !!) and when I see Courchevel 1850 in the distance I'm like a trail horse that just turned the last bend home. Stop me if you can. Fortunately I don't plough through any groups of small children, as I have over the past fortnight mastered the the left handed come to a halt kicking up as much snow on onlookers as possible a la down hill olympic speed skiers when they finish their run !!
Yahoo I made it. I thank Ben for staying with me and tell him that I've got jelly legs and will meet everyone in the restaurant at one o'clock. Ben gets in the bubble and heads up again. He deserves to go find his snowboarding mates and have a decent run before lunch. All the troops eventually turn up for lunch. Worst service ever seen. Two hours to get served. Time to go. Everyone's skiing back. "Are you coming Pete?" Not on your life mate. Where's the bus leave from ? I've made it with no breakages , yahoo !!!
That night Telemark for farewell dinner and fun. Another three o'clock job. Up at 5.30am for six o'clock departure to Geneva Airport. WOW, what an incredible experience. I'll be back next season. And you can put money on that one. You'll have to ask Holly or Col if you want to hear the story about 'Sue the noisy one' ( oooh oooh Davey Davey !! )
Cheers guys and gals Jayne's dad.......Poiter, love dad xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx