It’s Saturday, Sunshine and Snowshoes (but not necessarily in that order!)

Saturday 10th March 2018

Where have the last three days gone?

Thursday morning came early with a 0330 alarm and a 0400 depart. Our dash down the M1 was uneventful until a crash on the M25 meant we had to weave our way through the back streets of East London resulting in arriving at the Channel Tunnel with only just enough time to meet up with Andy and Lesley, give Alf a quick run and grab a bacon sandwich before we were whisked under the sea to Calais.

En France we headed off in convoy, French Alps bound. The bright sunshine we set off in soon became torrential rain, which made our drive south east an adrenalin fuelled sleigh ride as we overtook lorries in a cloud of spray and zero visibility.

As the skies cleared Wendy volunteered to take a stint behind the wheel and in no time at all we rolled into Beaune. Beaune is the provincial capital of the ancient duchy of Burgundy and a very pretty walled town it is too. Around every corner there was a new view with fascinating buildings dating from the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries. They have cornered the market in mosaic roof tiles, especially on the splendid Hospice de Beaune.

 

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A leg-stretching tour of the town walls and a restorative beer at a very pretty bar set us up for a search for a bite to eat. Andy, armed with a number of Trip Advisor recommendations on his phone, led us on a sinuous trail through the old town. After a couple of disappointments (not open on Thursday in March, too bright, or too empty) we found the Cave Madeleine; a cosy, bijou little place that had one wall lined with bottles of wine and managed to squeeze the four us and two dogs in just by the counter. The three or four blokes that ran the restaurant were extremely welcoming and explained the menu in perfect English; ending with the fateful words, “And we do a tasting menu of three starters, two mains and one dessert.” Before we knew it, all four of us had signed up for the tasting menu and ordered one of the only bottles of wine we could find whose price was in two digits out of the hundreds on the list.

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The meal was magnificent. We began with a divine steak tartare and each subsequent course just got better and better. It was a memorable way to begin our week in France. It must only be a matter of time before they get their first Michelin star.

(By the way the two dogs were not only allowed in the restaurant, they were positively welcomed by the staff and other diners. This was also the case at our hotel. The UK hospitality industry has got a lot to learn from our French friends.)

Beaune is definitely worth another visit and we have put it on the itinerary of our European tour later in the summer.

Yesterday we had an easy drive through increasingly impressive landscapes until we reached Andy and Lesley’s chalet in the alpine village of Les Gets. Even though it is fairly low for the Alps (1200m) there was an impressive amount of snow, four or five foot, but no need for me to demonstrate my new found skill in fitting snow chains, thanks to the efforts of the local council the roads were completely clear. We dumped our stuff in the garage, got our walking kit on, bought our lift passes and set off up and down Mont Chery. By 1630 we were sitting at a bar in the village with Steph, Phil, Mary and Tom who had spent the week in the Chalet and had just had their last ski of the week.

A very sociable beer led to the eight of us having an even more sociable evening back at the chalet, fuelled by Lesley’s chilli and some good bottles of pinot noir.

This morning we awoke to a light drizzle, which by the time we had said our good-byes to the four returning to the UK and set off for the ski lift had become steadily heavier. There was a big queue at the lift as today was the day of the ‘Colour Ski’. This was like the colour runs in the UK. All the skiers were to wear white oversuits and as they made their way down the mountain they would be splattered with coloured powder. Earlier we had seen coach after coach of excited participants arrive in the car park. Now they were queuing because the lift was broken! The word from the office was that it was unlikely to be fixed today.

We changed our plan and headed off to the other side of the village for the Mont Chevanne lift. For the organisers of the ‘Colour Ski’ finding a solution was not going to be so easy.

At the top of the mountain it was raining even heavier, but undaunted it was hoods up and off we set. As a winter Alps novice, I was easy to spot. I was the one walking along with my mouth open at the utter loveliness of it all. For me it was quite a testing walk, as my complete lack of balance (despite the best efforts of 5 months at David Lloyd) and a pair of boots that seemed to have developed the grip of a non-stick frying pan meant that I slipped and slid my way through the snow.

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Over a coffee by the side of the frozen swimming lake we developed a plan for the rest of the day, which led us to stopping by the chalet for a spot of lunch, hiring some snow shoes and catching the bus to Morzine. Here we caught the lift up to the top of the mountain and then spent an hour and a half snowshoeing our way back to Les Gets. Snowshoes are the way to go! Compared to my efforts in the morning I had become a 21st century Nureyev! In recognition of my poise, grace and athleticism even the skies started to clear. By the time we got to a bar at the bottom of the slopes the sun was out and shining brightly.

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The Colour Ski organisers had also had a stroke of good fortune, they had begun to ferry the participants up the mountain on snowmobiles and then the lift had begun working again. However the paint spattered skiers we saw didn’t look as happy as us!

There have been far worse wet days!

 

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