Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Terri's Big Ski Adventure - Part 1

Since this is likely to turn into one of my marathon-length posts I think I will split it over a few installments. So get comfy, make sure you have a cup of coffee / hot chocolate / vodka (whatever floats your boat) and enjoy.

Friday 13 Jan:
The alarm didn't go off so we woke up in panic 23 mins late and squished everything into our bags - the taxi only had to wait 5 minutes for me to check I had everything. Well, everything except the washing powder and a spare pair of shoes, which just wouldn't fit no matter how much I squished. Oh well, at least there was no queue at the check-in counter at the airport so we had time to eat breakfast before boarding our flight. We are scheduled for lift-off at 08h10. It is now 08h15. Maybe they'll fly real fast so they can maintain their 97% on-time record (?!). Hubby figured out his MP3 player despite the manual and is happily bopping away in his seat. I keep talking to him, making comments and such but of course he can't hear me. It's like travelling with a zombie. Maybe I'll take advantage of this..."You'll be happy enough if I go buy a new pair of shoes when we get there, won't you?"
He's nodding his head anyway - that means "Yes" doesn't it?

... still Friday, at Stanstead Airport, London:
I just saw the ugliest piece of luggage on the planet, in the possession of a middle-aged couple wearing football supporters gear, their jeans rolled up to reveal their lace-up boots, very Fonze-like. Their soft holdall - massive hideous turquoise flowers on a black background - was stalking them from behind on loud squeaky wheels. They must've been on acid when they bought it!

... later that evening, Dinard in Brittany, France:
We're sitting in Le Davy's Cafe where I'm enjoying my first decent cup of coffee today. Colourful lights cast a red glow inside this warm place, a haven from the cold air outside in this sleepy seaside village - which, for the record, looks like it really rocks in Summer. Karma Chamelion is playing from the ceiling-mounted speakers and a pair of Madonna's knickers are looking over my shoulder from where they are mounted in a display cabinet on the wall, right next to the moped.

Madonna's Knickers and a Moped
There's a pool table in the corner nearest us; no doubt Hubby and I will have a couple of games while we are relaxing in this pub, which wouldn't be out of place on a beach in California. Not that I've ever been to California, but I've seen it in the movies ;-)

Saturday 14 Jan - St Malo Ferry Terminal, Brittany, France:
I slept like a baby last night after a good pizza-and-wine dinner in an almost empty restaurant. According to our Taxi driver, Dinard is like a retirement village in winter and a beach resort in summer. We had a breakfast of fresh croissants and stand-up coffee [i.e. it will make you stand up in a hurry!] then Joseph the Taxi Driver [who drove us from the airport yesterday too] piloted us across the bridge to St Malo, where our friends will be arriving shortly on the Ferry from Jersey. Driving through St Malo, I was enchanted by the stone houses with their steep pitched roofs, white shutters and frilly woodwork, but mostly I wanted to dive out the taxi and go shopping - they have January Sales here too!!! And the shops all look so pretty and inviting... {sigh}... what's a girl to do...?

I'm sitting in the pub in the ferry terminal now, and for once I cannot face another coffee but instead am drinking a gorgeous hot chocolate, served to me by a faded beauty behind the counter who has just fed some huge scavenging seagulls, and is now being kept company by three rough-looking Frenchmen chain-smoking Gouloisses.
I love this country - you can smoke anywhere!!!

... still Saturday, in the Walled City of St Malo:
We're in a Pizzeria at a long table littered with bottles, drinks and empty plates. There are 10 of us together now, all talking and laughing and ready to embark on our Ski Adventure... This is what life is about!

... still later in a pub (again) in St Malo:
This pub is amazing. There are hundreds of dolls all over the place - the walls, ceilings and bar are all cluttered with different dolls, stuffed wildlife and all manner of knick-knacks. The floor feels like it is ready to collapse and you have to walk through and old elevator that looks like a confessional to get to the unisex loo. I can't believe places like this exist!

Dolls Everywhere!

Scary Doll on the wall above Hubby's head
... Sunday Morning 15 Jan, somewhere in France:
Happy Birthday to Me!
We've been on the coach for about 16 hours now, but with regular snack and loo stops thank goodness 'cos the on-board bog is a little manky. While we were eating supper last night the seats on the coach were converted into bunk beds - very clever indeed! After sucking on some antacid to settle the horse-burger I had for supper, I slept like a baby. When we stopped here around 7am it was still dark. We had breakfast then re-settled ourselves in the coach (once again in sitting-mode) and now we've been waiting here for another bus to arrive so we can get going again. We're surrounded by mountains, and the rising sun is painting the snowy caps orange. The grass underfoot crunches with ice when I walk. Note to self: Next time keep ski gloves close by in hand-luggage... I just went out for a smoke-and-photo session and it is DAMN COLD out there!
But really pretty :-)
Sunrise on the mountain near Chambery
...Sunday night - Saint Sorlins d'Arves, French Alps:
Well despite the 2-hour delay we arrived around midday at our resort, Les Sybelles, after climbing the winding roads that hug snow-covered mountains in a bus the size of which has no business being on roads that narrow! Unbelievably, the mountainsides were well populated with trees - leafless now in the dead of winter - clinging determinedly to near-vertical slopes, some growing at 45-degree angles. I was happy enough to be sitting on the mountain-side of the coach; others on the cliff-side weren't so happy to be staring straight out over a thousand foot drop, hehe.
I trusted our driver though, a friendly guy with great hair, and he didn't seem too concerned if one of the wheels wasn't quite on the road going around the corners. The youngest member of our party, J, had us all laughing because she was compulsively holding her breath while we were going through the tunnels... thanks to yet another father (hers) improvising new ways to shut the kids up on road trips when she was younger.

Now we're at the place that will be our home for the next week. Our chalet is the one at the end, right at the top end of the village, with a view of a mountain peak and steep ski slopes which are dotted with bundles of energy swooshing along on flat sticks.

View from our Chalet balcony

Hm, this afternoon I was one of those bundles of energy. Well, almost...
You'll be pleased to hear I lived up to my reputation.
Of the four of us taking the ski lesson today, I was the only one who fell over... several times. The first fall was spectacular - as I gathered momentum for the first time I panicked, turned around to look at Hubby for help and promptly fell flat on my face. Talk about a Kodak moment... but Hubby wasn't sure how pleased I would be at being photographed with a face full of snow, so sorry, there is no picture of that one. I, of course, was laughing hysterically as I raised my face from the powdery ground, spitting out a mouthful of snow as I did so and wiping yet more from my eyebrows.

Sadly for me, things didn't improve much from there. I hit panic every time I started to pick up speed, preferring to fall over rather than end up careening down the mountainside out of control. At one point I sat down, plonk, in an attempt to stop, but I kept going on my ass, heading for what looked like a cliff from my point of view, so I simply changed direction and ran straight into the ski instructor to stop. She didn't seem to mind but I felt like a right eejit. Everyone else was doing just fine!
But I had a lovely moment, when I almost got the hang of it going down the slope, and suddenly our entire group who were on the travellator going upwards, burst into a chorus of "Happy Birthday Dear Terri"which echoed across the slopes. That was very cool!!!
But I was really ready to leave when the hour was up.
Heaven knows what tomorrow will hold!
But never mind that. Tonight we bought some groceries and D and R made a lovely pasta for dinner which we ate while drinking champagne in honor of my birthday. Hubby paid €50 for the bottle at a truck-stop last night after arguing with the manageress, aw sweet! I would love to have seen that conversation - he speaking English, she French, and not a word understood between them!
I'll sleep well tonight. I've had some OB's, some coffee, some champagne and even dessert, and all in good company.
A very memorable birthday indeed :-)

On to Part 2


Jeff said...

Sounds like you had a great time! The photos are gorgeous.
Glad to have you back. You were missed here in blogland. And Happy Birthday!!! :)

beadinggalinMS said...

Beautiful photos!! Happy Birthday Terri!! Sounds like you had an awesome time!!

beadinggalinMS said...

Luv it that you was sitting so close to Madonna's undies. LOL :)

anne said...

Happy belated birthday!
(A friend and me have vowed that if we're ever going on a ski vacation again, we'll be at the resort café sipping mulled wine. All day. I'm in awe of you.)

LiVEwiRe said...

Happy birthday! Sounds like a great way to spend it, too. I like your skiing style; just let gravity assist you! The little pub with all the stuff in it seems pretty cool with the exception that I hate dolls. I would have been trying to turn every one of them around! =) Oh, very sneaky way to get new shoes, by the way. I like it!

BUDDESS said...

A belated very happy birthday Terri. You celebrated it in style. I still hate you lots!!(read envy, jealous as hell, wish I was there) A girl can only dream. So glad you had a lovely time.

banquo said...

happy birthday!! (sigh) sounds so wonderful. (sigh) I can but only dream. I am SO jealous. Good to have you back. Cant wait to read more of your holiday - which you probably never wanted to end, right. (sigh)

Ben O. said...

Happy Birthday Terri - Don't hit my site if you want to remain happy.

Missed ya, Girlie.

Great pictures, btw. I love the ones of the Alps. Gotta get over there before I die, that's for sure.

Ben O.

Terri said...

Thanks for all the birthday wishes ppl!

Jeff: Glad u like the pics - there are lots more where those came from

Beadinggal: I thought the whole undies thing was a tad odd, but yes, very amusing!

Anne: Substitute chocolat chaud for mulled wine, and you know how much of my time there was spent ;-)

LiVEwIRe: The dolls were a little freaky, sparking plenty of comments involving 'Chucky'...
You would've been there for days trying to turn them around, there were hundreds of them. And then, what about the ones in the middle of the room - no matter which way they are facing they are facing someone...!

Buddess: I like to celebrate my birthdays either in style or not at all :-)

Banquo: sigh I could've stayed there forever. More stories to follow shortly - so much writing to do, so little time!

Ben: Sounds ominous. I'll leave yours till I get home tonight then. And yes, you have to get to the Alps, it is unbelievably stunning.

Missed you all too!

jason evans said...

Wow, Terri! Sounds like a blast! Thanks for sharing, and great to see you back.

ChittyChittyBangBang! said...

She's back! and not a moment too soon.
From the sounds of it you had a great holiday and a wonderful b-day.
Will we be seeing you in the Winter Olympics anytime soon?

kyknoord said...

I can certainly think of worse ways to spend a birthday. Love the photos, btw.

banquo said...

OH, BTW Terri, we have been having an awesome storm here today, one time the lightning was so close to our building - I could literally feel the static in my hair - and boy did I jump with the thunder! You know when the lightning and thunder are so close they are almost simultaneous - like that!!
And I always know there is going to be loud thunder - and I ALWAYS jump - and what ever I am holding spills or gets dropped or something - hee hee. It's SUCH a thrill!!! I live for these big storms.

Terri said...

Jason: And I haven't finished sharing... more to follow as soon as I have some time to write it all up ;-)

Chitty: er.... No.

Kyknoord: Me too - I actually hate having birthdays, but this one was good. Glad u like the pics - there are around 200 for me to choose from, quite difficult deciding which ones get the nod.

Banquo: Now I'm the jealous one!!! Those storms are one of the things I miss most about SA. Enjoy! But don't get hit by lightning ok?!