Heading south (until the icicles melt)

Monday 25th February 2013

Back in the 80’s as we sat on the quayside on the tiny island of La Gomera in the Canaries about to set sail across the Atlantic Dave and I got talking to another yachtie. He was an old salty sea-dog type and, amongst other things, we discussed provisioning, expected passage timings and ‘routes’. To this day I remember him saying that he would head south until the butter melted….. (then presumably he intended heading west!)

Well today we came as far south as it took for the remaining icicles on the front of the van to melt! It’s been a long cold 3 months in Les Carroz and the van has had tons of snow fall on it’s roof (which Dave has had to brush off on a regular basis) and icicles formed on any overhanging piece of bodywork. Leaving yesterday we headed south for Chambrey but found ourselves heading into yet more snow showers. By about 3.30pm the roads were becoming quite tricky so we parked up in St Laurent du Pont. Overnight the temperature dropped to minus 7 but by the morning the roads had been cleared and we continued on our route.

Avoiding the toll roads has saved us quite a bit of money but local French roads signs are very small and you don’t get much advance warning on junctions. Our Sat Nav is also very old and there are a lot of new roads ‘she’ doesn’t know about. We have ‘her’ on mute so god knows what she is saying as we drive off across what ‘she’ probably thinks are fields . We have made a few wrong turns but generally manage to get back on track – even if it takes us a bit longer we are loving the French countryside, villages and towns, you miss so much on the motorways.

Our route today took us along the Isere river valley and then along the mighty Rhone and through miles of vineyard country. With beautiful blue skies and a warm sun at about 3pm the final icicles fell down off the bodywork above the cab area!! Time for celebration!

Tourist barge on the Rhone at Tournon (vines on the hillside)
We didn’t find an Aire in Pont St Espirit but parked up on the road alongside the Rhone. As darkness fell a beautiful golden full moon rose above the river.

Pont St Esprit (Rhone)

Moving on........

Saturday 23rd February 2013

So we are back on the road again - a little sooner than expected! We've been in the Alps for just under 3 months.

The hours were very long and the work was hard but no worse than we expected. The chalet and workload was big but we introduced a system to ensure all the work was covered and we were assisted by a lovely young Scottish girl who worked between the two chalets. The turnarounds were almost always back to back with new clients often arriving before the previous clients had left! We had great feedback from all our clients, they liked us and they liked the meals and cakes I made. But not everything ran smoothly and we've decided to move on.

On a positive note we have learnt a lot and had a great time, we have had lots of lovely clients, I have learnt to ski (well sort of!) and……...I have lost over a stone in weight (so much for CGB – Chalet Girls Bum).

Watch this space as we set off down the hill for the last time. We are heading first for the south of France to meet up with Gareth, then up to Geneva to spend some time with Owen and then meeting Mum & Sue in April. Can’t wait…..

It's a beautiful day...

Wednesday 20th February 2013

We haven’t had many days off which have been beautiful and sunny. Today was different and instead of driving off down the valley we stayed local and walked for a few hours from Les Carroz to Araches through the woods along pisted paths used by sledgers, dog walkers, cross country skiers and people walking using racquettes.

It was a beautiful walk with stunning views down to the river bed below and across to the mountain range on the opposite side of the valley. Subtle information signs tell of the local flora and fauna and the rock formations, all in French though! 

Fresh snow hasn’t fallen since Sunday so the paths were really easy to walk on. Off the paths though the snow is very deep and there are beautiful crystal formations glistening in the sun.  

Back at our studio we ate our lunch al-fresco on our balcony after which Dave went out boarding. I started packing up our belongings as we will soon be leaving Les Carroz - it will be good to get on the road again.

Back on the slopes...

There hasn’t been much to report on the blog really over the past 2 weeks. We’ve worked very hard in the chalet – averaging 11 hours a day 6 days a week. I could write some interesting comments on ‘Life as a Chalet Girl’ but they would probably have to be written anonymously!

Plans to get away on our day off have been scuppered by poor weather for the past 3 weeks making it very difficult to get away in the van with the amount of snow and ice on the road. Dave promised the weather would be sunny today but peeking out of the door of our studio at 9am in my PJ’s all I could see was low cloud, wind and snow falling AGAIN! We both went back to bed/sleep to consider what we should do on our day off zzzzzzzz

Later on that morning….

The wind eased, the snow stopped and the low cloud thinned out. Dave decided there may be blue sky up above the cloud so we get all our gear on and set off. It’s French half-term and it’s very busy here at the moment – lunch time is always a good time to get on the lifts as the queues are much shorter. The fall a few weeks ago knocked my confidence a little and if I could live my life on the green runs I would be a happy girl. Some of the blue’s are within my comfort-zone until a steep section appears from nowhere or things get all bumpy or icy. I usually end up being unable to make the turn in time or career off down the slope totally out of control – my Bridget Jones nightmare scenario!

Dave boarding - Mont Blanc in the background

We took a number of chair lifts up through the cold cloud and eventually found the sun and beautiful blue sky at a height of 2500m at the top of the Grand Vans chairlift which comes up from Flaine. In the distance was Mont Blanc and a stunning range of mountains. I managed the blue run down from here – even going off-piste (unintentionally!!) for a short distance. My favourite run of the day was a long green run called Marvel which is 5 km long and finishes in Morillon. Happy girl….