This is a very self indulgent account of Richard and Heather Knowles travels as they wander through Europe in search of a different way of life.
This is a very self indulgent account of Richard and Heather Knowles travels as they wander through Europe in search of a different way of life.
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23 December

Caught ferry across to Algeciras and drove down to Gibraltar. The intention was to have a bit of British Christmas Cheer in Gib, raid Safeway for last minute Christmas food bargains to stock the fridge. Gib has not improved its hospitality in our eyes. There is nowhere to park. We were instructed by the Tourist Information Office that we could not park a camper van overnight and would have to go back across the border to Spain. We did however discover that Return of the King was on at the flicks and decided to go and watch that. The nearby car park, which catered for the cable car to the Rock did not want us either, so we ignored the warnings of being towed away and and parked there anyway and stayed overnight after the film.

24 December

The one thing we knew we would miss about Christmas was not having a stocking of pressies to open. We had already had a no big pressie pact, but decided on giving each other £5 to buy as many stocking fillers as possible. We both set off separately with an hour and a half to do the deed.

Pressies bought we returned to Safeway to find food bargains. We had already been in in the morning and bought essentials and spied potentials. We lurked around the fresh meat and fish aisles. Unfortunately the guy whose job it was to reduce the short dated foods had spotted us and after the odd enquiry earlier on whether certain items were to be reduced he tried his hardest to reduce those last. Never mind, time was on our side, and we soon had a basket full of meals at cut prices. We had had enough of Gib and having queued to get out we decided to spend Christmas day in the snow. Sso we drove through Brit Spain to Granada and up the superb mountain road to the ski resort of Sierra Nevada. There was no-one about when we arrived in resort at about 9pm and a huge empty bus park next to the village centre. So we parked up.

25 December

Woke up early, to the sound of knocking on the door. It wasn’t Father Xmas wondering where the chimney was, but the parking attendant. “You can’t park here mate, you’ll have to go to the Camper Van park”, he explained to Richard, shivering in his Y fronts, in broad Catalan. So we followed the ski bus up to, what felt like the mountain top to a large flat parking space already inhabited by half a dozen Campers, which overlooked the whole ski area. We rearranged the rattled crockery, made a brew and opened our exciting Christmas Stockings. Heather had managed with her fiver to buy me a Father Xmas mug, a pack of cards to replace the ones we gave the nomad kids in the Sahara, a copy of the Beano, a Double Decker, a packet of chocolate eclairs and a brilliant snowboarding Santa Xmas decoration. My offerings were a pack of cards (but the Gibraltar souvenir edition) to replace the ones we gave the nomad kids in the Sahara, a stick of Gibraltar rock, a God loves you YoYo, a Bounty bar, a set of poker dice and a tin of sour cherry travel sweets to replace the ones given to some unexpecting Moroccan demanding bonbons, and which I now know were a flavour H didn’t like. So much for charity.

Xmas at Sierra Nevada

Xmas at Sierra Nevada

We skied all afternoon, in the sunshine, and finished off with hot chocolate, brandy and a plate of chips. We went back to the camper and H produced, God knows how in our restricted space a full Xmas dinner of Roast Chicken, mashed and roast spuds, bread sauce, stuffing, sprouts, carrots, apple sauce and gravy followed by chocolate muffins soaked in brandy and custard. My biggest disappointment with Gibraltar was that all the Xmas puddings and mince pies had already gone when we got there. I love stodgy puddings, as an ex-public schoolboy and have to fight H’s health conscious attitude to food.

26 December



Decided that my next book will be where to Ski by camper van. Decided to go north not up the boring coastal road to Barcelona. Instead we had a hard days driving to Madrid, Guadalahara and in difficult fog to near Lleida, where we stayed overnight in a motorway service station. 


27 December

Arrived in Andorra through the fog and mist of Spain. Expected cold and fog, greeted by sun and warmth but the traffic after arriving in Andorra was . F*****G Bedlam. Changeover day and New Year to boot. Couldn’t park in La Vella de Andorra our chosen parking spot for shopping so carried on to Pas de la Casa our preferred skiing resort. Took one hour of crawling to get into resort, Camping car site was so clogged with vehicles trying to get into normal parking we U-turned back up the hill into an exposed car park for the night. Still not sure whether we will get blown off the mountain or not. Wandered down into town to seek tax free purchases. It all seems very expensive to me. Designer gear at designer prices. We are seeking Designer gear at rock bottom prices. We actually want cheap snowboards and boots and bindings so we can learn to snowboard on free beginner lifts during the next few weeks. Bought last years quality Rossingol boards, bindings and good ex hire boots for 250 euros each. We will save that in hire charges and lift pass costs in a couple of weeks and they will last us all season.

28 December

Very snowy night and white-out conditions to get up to , so decided to give snowboarding a miss today. Snowed in to our car park, need to buy snow chains for our exit tomorrow and shovel to dig ourselves out. Horrendous queues down the mountain at night time, have decided to escape during daytime. Dug out van for first exercise of the day and then went to the excellent sports centre for the evening and spent an hour in the gym, swam in the state of the art pool and then lugubriated in the sauna and turkish bath. We knew that we were ready for a good hosing down, after rough camping for a number of days. But it is only when you are in mid adductor stretch and your nose is rather closer to your naughty bits than normal, that you realise how desperate the stuation really is. We returned to the camper somewhat shrivelled but clean.

The night was freezing, well below -7C, and blowing a gale. Neither of us slept soundly.

29 December

Frozen up

Frozen up

Got up ready to leave. Fitted the snow chains (with difficulty). The bloody van would not start. Well it would start but the diesel was frozen, so it only ran for 15 seconds before conking out. Who hadn’t put winter additive in when he filled up, here in Andorra ? where you would think that they used winter diesel, wouldn’t you ? Back to car accessory shop where we had bought the snow chains and acquired diesel antifreeze additive. Still did not work by mid afternoon. Found a manic mechanic, who was obviously a frustrated rally driver, who took negotiating the snow covered roads chocka with stranded or queueing cars as a personal affront. He insisted on charging at breakneck speeds at any gap in the traffic raising one finger and honking his horn with Catalan expletives at any vehicle that did not move out of his way quickly enough.  His magic liquid did not do the trick immediately either so we await the following morning to see if it has defrosted our juice given a bit more time.

30 December

 No such luck, but after more magic liquid, a hairy tow down the mountain to dry the truck out in the indoor municipal vehicle car park (and 190euro bill) we were moving by 1630hrs down the very snowy, windy mountain road towards France. We crawled down. At customs, we were stopped. Andorra is a principality with dirt cheap booze and cigs, but it is not Europe and hence has limited allowances. No we hadn’t bought any booze in Andorra. This seemed so ludicrous to the customs guy that he decided to get on and check. It was as well that we had kept the receipts for the 11 litres of gin, 4 litres of whisky, 4 litres of Brandy, 2 litres of Vodka, 2 litres of Bacardi, 2 litres of Pastis, 24 bottles of wine, 100 cans of beer and other bits and bats that we had bought in Spain and other ports of call. By 2245hrs we were parked up in a service area near Carcassonne and back on track to try to surprise skiing friends in Tignes on New Years Eve.


31 December

Weather horrendously windy. Soyez prudent Vents Violents. Heather has had violent winds for months. We drove hard and arrived in Bourg St Maurice just in time for the supermarket to close and stop me buying the Propane gas bottle we so badly need. We headed off up the hill towards Tignes, encountering no snow on the road until we arrived in Tignes itself. Through all the ascent the fir trees were laden with fresh snow, or covered in multicoloured electric lights for the Festive season. Much better than a cut tree in a pot.

New Year Tignes Le Lac

New Year Tignes Le Lac

We arrived in Tignes, and had to talk our way into the carpark at Val Claret, (No camper vans allowed) as we were going to stay with friends if we could find them. We parked up opposite the appartment block where we thought they were staying. People were milling around outside ready to go down to the firework display in Tignes le Lac. I saw a group of 8 people in fancy dress and a particularly distinctive wig which I recognised. “That’s Paul”,….” no it isn’t it’s a woman”. So we let them go. We searched all the bars in the resort and all the apartment blocks for our friends. The french Sim card I had just bought wouldn’t let us ring UK. The friendly advisor hadn’t set it up right but we could still text UK. We tried tortuous ways to contact our pals by text without giving the surprise away. All seemed to have failed.

We walked down to Le Lac for the fireworks scanning the crowds for the motley crew. We avoided a lively Conga snaking back and forth and we wandered in and out of the celebrating hordes, missing the fireworks because of our quest. Midnight came and went we hadn’t found them. The DJ would not make an announcement for us. A friendly Brit lent us his mobile to try to contact them but there was no network connection as the world and his brother was ringing home. We thought they would not stay late so with a final scan round the area we headed back to the cold camper, hoping to find them on the way back. Heather was severely dischuffed blaming me once more for the telephonic failure. The whisky bottle was some consolation..

1 January 2004

Awoke at 0730. Stinking head. First thoughts, “I’ve got to find them”. I went across to reception in the block of appartments that I was convinced that they were inhabiting. It was open. Which room were they in. I offered names, Ashton, Otway, Harker, Humphreys. All drew a blank. The receptionist was lovely and offered the use of the phone. Number unobtainable. I tried every other block. No receptions open. I perambulated up and down the front of the blocks looking for recognisable signs of life. Then, some 45 minutes later, appearing out of the gloom was the unmistakable sight of Rob Otway, in his blue ski jacket, coming back from the croissant run. He incredulously worked out who was shouting at him and a noisy reunion was had in the appartment. Heather was dragged across. And guess what ? It was them with the recognisable wig going down to the fireworks. It was them leading the Conga. The apartment had been booked, by Maureen, (McArthur). We had stood outside their room the night before. John had received our texts but had been too pissed to read them. They had stayed at the fireworks until 0130. Anyway we had found them now. 

Out on the slopes for 10am in the crisp January air on some excellent and, other, reasonable pistes.

2 January

Heather , here. I did not sleep well last night in the luxurious surroundings of the very nice 10 person apartment that John, Maureen, Rob, Lynne, Paul and girlfriend Polly and Chris and girlfriend Sue occupied. Too hot even though I slept with my head stuck through the balcony doors. A small price to pay for the opportunity to have 2 baths and enough space to do some sit ups and stretching for my poor neglected body without having to distort myself to fit into a 2 foot wide area avoiding either smelly discarded shoes or the now becoming very annoying generator. Anyway Rich and I really enjoyed the morning pottering, chatting to Sue who I forgot to say is Robs sister, lovely woman I really took to her. They come from a good mould (or is it mold) that family, Sue has a shoulder injury so she wasn’t skiing but was really enjoying her holiday resting reading books and enjoying the beautiful views. I used to think that holidays especially ski ones were wasted if you werent skiing but I have changed my views over the past few months. When you are chasing your tail all year, do what you want, even if it means relaxing all week. Do it. The McArthur party had a very early start the next day, so after a lunch of cheese and bread, we set off down the hill and even though snowing, the roads were clear. We headed for the supermarket car park down at Bourg St Maurice to spend a free night but not as cosy as the night before. As usual, whenever there is a supermarket nearby, we went shopping and found a large second hand top box for the camper, to house, some of the summer kit we don’t need at the moment. This will give us some spare room in the storage under the truck to house the snowboards, snowboard boots, generator which along with many provisions for the forthcoming Bentham trip to Avoriaz, were cluttering up our living space.


3 January Saturday

Fixed roof box to top of truck. Had to redrill the box to make it fit but quite happy with handy work.

Roof box only cost 120 euros for a 550 litre box, a bargain. Richard did make a dreadful mistake of not taking a Moroccan approach to the purchase though and haggling. The box was on offer here when we passed through in summer and we did hear the word “Champagne” when we agreed to buy it.

However It is amazing:-

  • 1. How much stuff we have got with us
  • 2. How much the top box will hold
  • 3. How little extra space we seem to have gained.

We filled the top box with:-

  • 1 Folding massage bed in case
  • 4 collapsible chairs, in bags
  • 1 collapsible table in bag
  • 1 barbecue
  • 1 empty 9K Calor Gas bottle
  • 2 squash rackets
  • 1 pair of roller boots
  • 1 bag of fishing tackle
  • 1 collapsible landing net

as you will agree all imperative stuff to have with us. The living space is still cluttered with provisions for the Bentham trip to Avoriaz at the end of January!!!

Weather forecast says that it will be good on Monday and Tuesday so that is when we intend to go and start the inevitably difficult job of learning to snowboard on the free beginners lift at Arcs 1600.

Went to the flicks at Bourg to see Calendar Girls. Told the ticket seller that it was filmed in our part of the world. A representative from the local branch of the French WI (if there is such a thing) had soon been informed and came to have a natter. We loved the film, having forgotten how beautiful North Yorkshire is. Mind you, it didn’t show any rain. Camped in supermarket car park again.

4 January

Bourg St Maurice

Bourg St Maurice

Booked into the local Caravan park 100yds away from the supermarkets. Luxury ! electricity, showers, a drying room, TV room mind we havent got that working yet must see the proprieter about it. We feel the need to watch some mindless French tele,must be desperate.Now on the subject of desperation tonight after we had been on a brisk walk in the freezing cold and a delicious tea ,fajitas and chilli we thought it would be great to watch a DVD on our sophisticated surround sound system in bed. Richard bought a load of very cheap DVD’s in Spain. I now know why they were cheap. They actually have good casts, well known actors, but the one we watched tonight was the biggest load of twaddle. If watching at home you would immediately turn over to News Hour. However, you have to remember we haven’t seen tele now for 5 months, so we stuck it out. The English actors were trying to be Irish, the Americans trying to be English, all of them with an unmistakable Lancashire accents and no point to the story at all., Richard was convinced it was a spoof but it was’nt or was that the bit I fell asleep in.

5 January

Awoke to a freezing cold van, that was after I managed to get from under my duvet, thick Morrocan blanket and artic-15 degree sleeping bag. Richard still hibernating under his, slid down from my bunk and dashed to the loo and sat watching the steam rise and mist up the mirror. There was Jack frost on the windows inside you remember how it was when you were a kid. Loo won’t flush, tap won’t run. “Rich were frozen up”. Put the kettle on and heater and climb back into bed. A couple of hours later things are beginning to thaw out we’ve had 4 cups of tea and snuggled up together to warm each others bits!

Arcs 1600 free camping

Arcs 1600 free camping

There is nothing we can do about it just leave everything to warm up in the sun.

Decided to go up to Arc 1600 with our new snowboards should get us warm.

Certainly did. We decided not to negotiate lifts until we could stand on the damn things, so we managed to get very warm walking up the hill to board down. I have actually mastered turning and stopping but only on my heels. Richard can only manage on his toes and has now decided he must be goofy not regular (boarding speak). I can feel my thighs beginning to stiffen as I’m writing this and may have difficulty climbing up to bed, so mad passionate love is out of the question, ,but we are going to have another go tomorrow.(boarding that is).

6 January Tuesday

Overcast, raining and snowing at altitude. Forecast says it will be better tomorrow. Just realised that in diary, more recently, I have not put down what day of the week it is. The reason being that I have not got a clue what day it is ! We put a notice on the campsite board for a lift to St Foy, a little resort up the hill towards Tignes. I have always wanted to visit St Foy, it only has 3 lifts, but is supposed to be a beautiful setting with loads of off piste.

We are hoping to get a ride with some of the Brits stopping for season staying on the campsite. It is a good way to do the season. The site is close to the funicular up to Arcs 1600 and benefits from free buses both there and to La Rosiere. The site is well appointed with heated shower blocks and drying rooms and is just across the road from the supermarkets and swimming pool. As far as we can make out it costs £50-£60 per week on seasonal stays and the Les Arcs lift pass is about £400 for the season. The cost per day for accommodation and skiing is much cheaper than on a short stay.

We had already realised that lift passes could cost us a fortune if buying them weekly, so we are on the look out for good deals. We do however have the choice of only skiing good days if we want. We have found one good deal already in the St Maurienne valley, over the hill from Val Thorens. There are lots of little resorts there such as Valloire, Valfrejus, Mont Cenis etc (all of which I want to see) with a deal price of 70 euros for five day lift pass to ski in any of the resorts. It certainly sounds like a visit for later in the season.

7 January Wednesday

Boarding Again

Boarding Again

Snowboarded again up at Arcs 1600. We bit the bullet and for the first time caught the lift. It is a precarious business. We needed help getting on and it was slowed for us as we got off . We still ended up in a heap of giggling arms and legs. Surprisingly we managed to descend the slope quicker than expected but only on heels. The big test, apart from the lift, is managing to turn on both heels and toes. Three ascents later we negotiate the lift without falling over. Still can’t turn both ways. Heather has taken preventative action against the inevitable bruises with knee pads and a scarf to cushion her bum. We were greatly encouraged by the end of the day that given the length of the season we will crack this snowboarding lark.

8 January Thursday

Speed Limits

Speed Limits

Our notice seeking a lift to St Foy brought results. As the snow conditions up there were poor, with only one lift working we went instead to La Rosiere and La Thuile with Merle and Mal. Merle and Mal are retired, from South Yorkshire (so we speak the same language), on their tenth winter season in the Alps. Conditions were not ideal, and despite a good day out we were glad that we hadn’t brought a group of Benthammers there for the week. Some of the excellent skiers that used to come along on Bentham Ski Trips would have found it a bit limited. We loved the speed limits we found at the Italian border on a gentle little run that turned out to be the Petite St Bernard pass, that is only open to vehicles in summer.

9 January Friday

We have been praying for snow but it is only snowing high up at 2000 metres and raining below. The camp site is becoming a swimming pool. Luckily it is well drained and the camper vans are parked on tarmac. Went to suss out prices in local supermarket for the chalet we are catering for end of month. Still raining but who cares we are going to the pictures again this time to see Master and Commander.

10 January Saturday

Guess what its still raining. Only consolation is we know its snowing up the hill, Spent the day doing, god knows what. What have we done all day ? Okay I know. You think we are bored. We were two very busy people who never had a minute. We are stuck in a tiny space and its raining. What do we do? We play cards, talk, read and more importantly have time to talk to other people, like Richard and Helen in the van next to ours. They ask if we want to join them in the communal room there is on site with some wine later that evening. So that is our evening planned. An early meal then off to the large lovely and warm room above the loo block. When we arrive we are not alone, there is a gang of Dutch and English celebrating. A Dutch woman is sporting an “I am 60” teashirt and apparently the English couple were celebrating their 46th wedding anniversary. It was a Jacobs Join and they brought us titbits. As we tried to hold a conversation they got louder and louder as the whisky began to flow. The music got louder and dancing began. It was great. Apparently they meet up in Bourg every year to ski. Richard said he would like to take me skiing on our 46th wedding anniversary but that would make us 95.

11 January Sunday

Still raining. Decided we are spending too much money being on a site, so today we will move on. We say our goodbyes to Richard and Helen with the promise to keep in touch. Richard is a policeman and Helen works for Barclays bank they are both taking a career break (or should it be brake … stop, we’ve had enough). After talking to them we think it will be hard to go back to the old life. Their next stop is Oz.

We go to the laundrette to wash sheets and towels then spend the night in the car park.

12 January Monday

Travel to Alpe d’Huez to see the Bentham lot that have come out on an arranged trip with Matthew Armstrong . Can’t believe it. Its raining at 1850 metres. Everywhere is slushy but the free camping car site is fab. It is right in the centre of resort. We go to try and find the motley crew and eventually locate most of them in a nearby pub (where else ?) kisses all round (from Heather) and arrange to meet them later after they have eaten.

13 January Tuesday

Richard is still in a panic over the Butane again. Because the weather is cold it keeps freezing up the regulator and will not work the blown air heating. If it stops the water pipes can freeze up inside and the hot water tank could automatically empty itself again.

We spend the day on our Snowboards on the beginners slopes and introduce Andrew (Wilks) Wheildon to snowblades. It was great for us to see an accomplished snowboarder struggling on blades as we struggled on boards.

14 January Wednesday

Overnight it snowed again, and we had to dig out the truck in preparation for leaving the resort, as we have decided to head off somewhere warmer. The hot water tank jettisons its load again as the heating system on butane fails again. Not only does it jettison its load but all over the inside of the truck as the overflow pipe has frozen up. As a so-called winterised van this has a few design faults.

We travel from Alpe d’Huez to Annecy only needing snowchains to get off the car park. The road down the mountain is clear, which is amazing really when you consider how steep and windy it is and how much snow there has been. We are pleased that the snow has come in time for the Bentham skiers. This hill climb is one of the major prestige stages in the tour de France, and each corner displays info on past winners and exhortations painted on the road to encourage the teams and their members.

It Snowed A Bit!

It Snowed A Bit!

We finally buy the much needed Propane bottle and relieved in the knowledge that we will have heating tonight that works. We pass through some lovely villages the Chambery side of Grenoble and you cannot help imagining what they would be like in Summer. Festooned in geraniums and other alpine flowers and surrounded by mountains with wonderful walking and parapenting.

We arrive at a previously spotted Camper van shop en route to Albertville to buy important things like water purification and loo bloo. Richard asks whether they sell the product he had read about an Anti-Freeze for fresh drinking water. The only similar anti-freeze the shop owner knew was “Pastis ”. We carried on to Annecy and parked up in a free Aire next to the lake. The views were ruined by strong winds and low clouds.

15 January Thursday

We took rather a circuitous route due to my bad navigation and confusing road signs from Annecy to Cluses through little rustic villages dusted with snow. We were desperately hunting for a launderette but no-one in Cluses had any real idea whether there was one or not. After several red herrings we set off for Sallanches further up the valley where we were assured there was one. We are not sure whether my french confused the issue or not but finally found a launderette after being directed firstly to several car washes !

We put the washing in and Richard was entrusted with the job of putting money in the driers while Heather cooked tea. To cut a long story short, Richard failed to get driers to work, which swallowed his money, the Launderette lights went out and automatic doors locked with clothes still wet.


16 January Friday

Rescued and dried clothes and visited various supermarkets in Cluses and environs to decide where to buy shopping for BOGGS (Bentham Old Gits go skiing) visit to Avoriaz. Returned to Sallanches to shop and park up for another night.

17 January Saturday

It’s Still Snowing

It’s Still Snowing

More supermarkets followed and then we were on the road up to Avoriaz intending to ski for a week prior to BOGGS arrival and park up in the car park near the Prodains telecabine. Arrived and it started snowing.

18 - 23 January Sunday - Friday

Here comes the sun        Avoriaz

Here comes the sun                                                                       Avoriaz

The whole week we hoped prepared the way for our friends arrival. There was more snow

nearly every day and from time to time the sun came out. We made the most of the skiing in lovely new snow and also joined the Avoriaz gym and hammam to get even more exercise and a good cleansing every night.

24 January Sat

We are pacing up and down waiting for them all to arrive. Phone calls from John keep us informed of their whereabouts which only make Heather more excited. By the time they arrive she is in tears and leaping up and down like a Kangaroo on speed. They look a bit shell-shocked on arrival having suffered an introduction to French taxi driving from Geneva Airport and particularly up the hill to the resort.

The week is best summed up by saying that it snowed nearly all week, the chalet was roomy and comfortable, the mountain of booze was demolished and we did our best to ensure that they didn’t go hungry. The highlights of the holiday are illustrated in a poem by, the Bentham equivalent of the bard, the great McGonnagal, Neil Taylor. This was delivered on the last night in a local restaurant. Firstly though for a glossary of names for the confused.

Loony nomads, Fanny and Jonny - Richard and Heather Knowles

Cag - Martin Cowgill

Sheila t’other one - Sheila Ormerod

Jill - Jill Taylor (Bardess)

Shaggy - Sheila Cowgill

Wendy - Wendy Thistlethwaite

Chris and Hils - Chris and Hilary Whalley

Thissy - John Thistlethwaite

Other members of BOGGS - Mick and Liz Brown and Angie Earnshaw

THE BOGGS EXPERIENCE  (Bentham Old Gits go Skiing)

By the Bentham Bard, Neil Taylor

Bentham Bard (Nice Beaver)

Bentham Bard (Nice Beaver)

Our journey up to Avoriaz,
Thrills it certainly didn’t lack,
Taxi went that bloody fast,
T’was like going down a black.

The loony nomads were waiting,
Kisses and handshakes a‘flowing,
But Wendy got special treatment,
The two dykes just stood there a’glowing.

Politically correct, I think not !

Politically correct, I think not !

I make no bones about it,
I’m a novice at the very least,
So it came as quite a shock,
As I sailed down the piste.

Minding my own business,
Was my plan of attack,
When out of the blue,
There was bloody Cag going back.

I followed Cag down a run,
But no, not never again,
His arse was flying up an down,
I decided to use t’other lane.

T’light was bad you know,
There was no other lane at all,
O shit !…. Here we go,
Another bloody big fall.

That there Sheila’s alright,
Not shaggy, t’other one,
She’s now one O’t’ lads,
Cos of noises from her bum.

Knowles’s gut it seems less,
Lads had a weight drop,
The answer’s quite simple,
Ts’months since he’s seen a pie shop.

His lifestyle’s so different,
He eats nowt but carrot,
He cant eat any old thing,
Cos Heather’s there like Long John’s parrot.

Take a good look at t’Knowlesy,
Be sure to remember him well,
After six months with Fanny,
He’ll be as nutty as hell.

That there gin was sure strong stuff,
Made Fanny and Jill take to the floor,
As the party got going,
The crowd roared for more.

The crowd roar        Surfing

The crowd roar                                                        Surfing   

They took to the chairs,
And performed cunning stunts,
Two past it old rockers,
 Looked a right pair of c---s.   ( sorry but I couldn’t resist slipping it in )

The conga it did meander,
Round Chris and Hil’s bed,
Chris sat in his jim-jams,
Just like he’d had a pre-med.

It was no good to our Hils
She cried with a cough,
The conga got the message,
Go on you lot ( bugger off ).

Went out ski-ing today,
With our Shaggy close by,
She’s a walking disaster,
You don’t want her nearby.

She’s been attacked in all ways,
Mostly boarders to blame,
Her groin’s taken some stick,
She’s every right to be lame.

You’ve done us all proud,
It’s been a right good deal,
So by popular demand,
We decided to buy you that meal.

We hope we’ve been a good test,
With our all too critical requests,
Whatever the future holds,
You won’t get a worse set of guests.

Thanks to Shaggy for t’apartment,
And Jill for t’bird in’t sky,
And Thissy for t’mountain transport,
But we didn’t really want t‘die.

We’ll be leaving so soon,
Co’s gins just about done,
We’ve had a bloody good time,
And it’s been plenty o’fun.

I think I speak for us all,
T’food you’ve done us all proud,
Please show your appreciation,
By clapping and cheering out loud.

So away off on thee travels,
You wine soaked old pair,
That there worlds a big place,
Waiting for you out there.

We’ll follow you on t’internet,
Watch news and things like that,
Co’s we all need to know,
Where the hell tha’s at ?

Arravaderchi or bonsoir,
Don’t sound right from us old gets,
Which leaves me only one phrase,
Auf Wiedersehen pets.


31 Jan Sat

Can’t believe a week can go so quickly. It’s perhaps a good job their departure was so early, 7 am. There wasn’t much time for tearful farewells The sky is a beautiful blue. We wanted so much for the weather to be good while they were here. We couldn’t believe how pale and tired they all looked when they arrived and unfortunately it snowed day after day until Friday when the sun came out to entice them back another year. Rich brought up the van from down the mountain it had about 1 metre of snow on top. We were told by police to clear it before we took it down hill because it was dangerous.

Beware of Avalanche

Beware of Avalanche

Once down the hill Rich decided we couldn’t face sleeping in the van till it had warmed up a bit so we booked into a little pub for a couple of nights. We went to the launderette and put all the bedding in the drier to air. Decided to have an early night. I was looking forward to a bed and a hot water bottle. The gang that came to the chalet had bought me belated 50th birthday presents, his and her hot water bottles, glucosamide tablets, DVD wallet and enough DVDs to keep me from having to learn chess for quite a while, including the excellent new Peter Kay DVD “Live at the Bolton Albert Hall”. So that was it, an early night with a hot water bottle, Peter Kay and a whisky ,Rich slept through it .

1 Feb Sun

After a brill nights sleep in a wonderfully comfortable double bed, we had breakfast of tinned fruit and yogurt, we had stored in our wardrobe (leftovers from the chalet). It was a lovely day so went for a long walk then looked around the shops some of which were open. Found a bargain shop a bit like Kens in Bentham and bought some great Tefal handle-less pans. We had bought cheap pans at the start of our trip but now half our food was left stuck to the bottom when we served it. Couldn’t wait to try them out its amazing the little things that are starting to please us.

2 Feb Mon



Decided to stay in nearby campsite, which at 14 euros a night we thought very reasonable for a very warm shower block and a view from our window of Mont Blanc. Richard very relieved to find everything in working order (on the camper as well) once we had filled up with water. After lunch realised that I had no washing up liquid so had to use Omo. I hope nobody spotted me so I decided to go and buy some, I left Rich snoring in the camper and made my way to the shops. Eventually found them after a
slight detour cos I lost my way. Had a smiley one way conversation with a very chatty French man and made my way back following the moon!

3 Feb Tuesday



Nice quiet campsite. We slept till 9.30, then drove up hill to a lovely little resort called Cordon. This beautiful little ski station faces Mont Blanc so the views are spectacular. There are only 6 runs but all pretty hard, not a Brit in sight. Well, actually, hardly anybody there at all until the school groups arrived. We had a hot chocolate in the only mountain restaurant on a very sunny terrace with spectacular views. Richard’s shoulders definitely started to come down, Dave our mate has kept asking me to tell him when that happened. I can’t count the times Rich said “well what a lovely day we are having this is wonderful! ”.

4 Feb Wednesday

Lance Armstrong lookalike        St Gervais

                                                Lance Armstrong lookalike                                                                 St Gervais

Another nice day. The sun has shone all week. We decided to go for a bike ride and headed off towards St Gervais to suss it out for future skiing. We must be getting fitter as we soon arrived in the pretty village centre despite the last 10K being up hill. We have decided to stay in this area for the rest of the season and buy the good value season lift pass of Evasion Mont Blanc which will give us unlimited skiing in St Gervais, Megeve, Les Contamines, Combloux, Rochbrune, St Nicholas and Jaillet. It also gives us 3 free days in Avoriaz, Flaine, Chamonix or a variety of other resorts. It makes skiing cost effective. The pass cost us about £250 the same as a 3 week pass but will be valid up until May.

5 Feb Thursday

We intended to ski today but met up with a couple of Brit musicians trying to fund a ski season by playing in Bars up in Chamonix. Introductions took until mid afternoon so skiing was snookered. Instead later we went off researching the two fitness clubs in town and joined a nice looking gym with sauna and hammam for £35 for the two of us for the month. Until Heather gets back to UK to transfer some money we are on a tight budget so we are having to restructure our spending a bit. Skiing and fitness are now paid for at the expense of camping. We had intended to wild camp for at least 2 nights per week. That now will probably be 3 nights minimum.

6 Feb Friday

Went skiing to Megeve with Tony and Irene, aka Two Way Street, Brit musicians. Weather lovely, snow good up top but losing it a bit lower down in South facing slopes. This is an occupational hazard of this area but there are plenty of north facing slopes too. Snow due this weekend as is an influx of French as their hols are due to start.

7 Feb Saturday

Had a lazy morning and serviced the van and made ourselves ready to go to Chamonix with Two Way Street as groupie and roadie on their regular Saturday night gig. Unfortunately there was a “cock up on the catering front” to their disadvantage as the French bar had double booked. We wandered bars in despondent mood trying to find work for them in this “dog eat dog” society of “up front” friendly but ruthless behind your back artistes. Leaving Chamonix, Tony demonstrated his motor racing background, pushing their knackered Renault Espace to the limit down the windy Autoroute. It was a good job it was a “One way street” ! White knuckled we ended up alive in Sallanches in a Country Bar with Heather and Irene cavorting about Line Dancing with drunken natives and Two Way Street nodding at each other “We do this” every time the proprieteur put on a new Country CD. Hopefully they will get a gig there soon but they need regular work to make their stay worthwhile and prevent an early return to their home in Limousin.

8 Feb Sunday

After a late night, commiserating over a bottle of wine, we got up late on a grey old day. Thankfully it will be snowing up the hill. We walked along the river and round the local lakes, planning next week’s activities, camping and menu. We saw a stoat in its winter ermine coat in the hedgerow. It must have known that we had never seen one before as it paraded itself in front of us for several minutes. We haven’t mentioned food much recently but I can assure you that these two nomads are eating extremely well and healthily. With the amount of regular but not excessive exercise we are getting we can eat anything we like ….. and we do!

We settled on next weeks menu to comprise of Picquant Chicken Livers and mashed sweet potatoes, Fried Fish, tartare sauce and fresh veg, Spaghetti Carbonara, Quiche Lorraine and baked spuds filled with cheese and ham, a Tex Mex of some kind, Chicken Paprika and Moules Marinieres. These main meals will be augmented by the obligatory cheese board and an occasional starter or pud. On the wine front “this week we have been mostly drinking” Cotes du Rhone reserve, a very nice Cotieres de Nimes an acceptable Bordeaux and some cost effective Spanish wine lake.

9 Feb Monday

Intended to leave campsite today but weather not brill first thing, so we decided to stay one more day. Interneted and went to gym for first time. We were made very welcome and know that joining has been a good move. The facilities are excellent and the steam room (hammam) and sauna warming and invigorating (and free).

10 Feb Tuesday



Vacated camp-site for a few nights wild camping to pay for gym membership and lift pass. Drove up past St Gervais to Les Contamines for a day’s skiing. Beautiful weather, good snow and nice quiet pistes, in this very French resort. About 10pm, back in Sallanches, we parked in the large car park opposite the cinema for the night.

11 Feb Wednesday

Woke up to hear workman type sounds on the car park besides us. Looked out through the blinds to see a truck, mini-digger and 2.2metre high barrier being erected in the entry/exit to car park. Not only are they trying to keep camper vans and other high vehicles off the car park in future, they are locking us in. Made a hasty exit while we still could. Heather remained in her bunk for a bumpy ride to safety. Still feel from time to time that Campervanners are a persecuted species. Mind you some deserve it.

Once reorganised we went off to Rochebrune, one of the areas at Megeve, and enjoyed skiing through tree runs. We promised to revisit when the sun is shining and also to have a closer look at Megeve town, which is very chic and originally the French answer to St Moritz. Elton John has or had a chalet here we believe. After skiing went back to the gym for exercise and relaxing hammam and sauna.

12 Feb Thursday

New Skis

New Skis

Spent a glorious day at Les Contamines. Heather been struggling in snow conditions on blades so she tried some skis for size and realised that after 4 years on blades that she can still ski. The snow and conditions were superb. Will return soon to do the runs we still haven’t done including a few interesting looking blacks above the hamlet of Colombaz. Bought Heather her new skis. A good Yorkshire purchase. This years model at knock down price. Heather attended her first proper step class for months at the gym. We are nearly locals now the number of times that we have been already.

13 Feb Friday

Its Friday 13th and we didn’t realise it until afterwards. Well you don’t do you when the sun is shining and the snow is good. We skied Rochebrune again through tree-lined pistes, surprised at how quiet they were during French holidays but realised on our return to Sallanches that this coming week is the busy time. Heather had her first day on her new skis and thoroughly enjoyed them. She is much quicker than on her blades and will take some keeping up with. (You can’t beat a fast woman ! especially when you are skiing). Wild camped for the 4th night on the trot. We have found a very sheltered, quiet spot outside the gates of the municipal campsite (summer only) . Hope not to wake up to any more diggers fitting barriers.

14 Feb Saturday



You can tell that French holidays have begun there were quite long queues up the hill to Megeve and the local gendarmerie were out in force looking nonchalent but cool in their blue uniforms. In the French psyche looking cool seems to be more important than being efficient. We skied the Jaillet sector of Megeve today. It is great getting the chance to see these little resorts, all of which have some charm and often spectacular secrets to unveil. Le Christomet is only 1853m high but has a fabulous 360 degree panorama taking in the whole Mont Blanc Range, Megeve and its various Massifs, Chaine des Aravis and the Grand Massif within which lurks Flaine.

Mont Jolie

Mont Jolie

There are three more little resorts in the direction of Albertville which we must have a look at. Praz sur Arly, Flumet and Notre Dame de Bellecombe. It proved yet another magical butty stop. I am becoming a converted picnic luncher rather than frequenter of mountain restaurants. The glorious sunshine has had much influence in this opinion. The restaurant at the bottom of Christomet certainly deserves a mention though. Location, presentation, food and atmosphere all score very highly. Megeve is well known as the French Alpine centre of Gastronomie. We will return to eat sometime when feeling flush. We treated ourselves to a beer and amused ourselves watching the kids sledging over a sheer precipice. Miraculously no-one got killed and there were no tears despite numerous horrendous crashes. Back to Sallanches camp site.

15 Feb Sunday

Weather overcast so decided not to go skiing. We did our weekly clean which usually means taking carpet out of van and giving it a good beating since the little “Dirt Devil” (that’s a machine not Richard) that Lisa gave us packed up, It’s amazing how long its taking to get rid of Sahara sand. We noticed a hot air balloon or two and went outside and saw they were everywhere in the sky and seem to be landing anywhere they fancy. We decided to follow one and watch it land. One of them was definitely having problems. It kept wandering towards the motorway much to the motorists amusement, who blew their horns at the poor bloke, who had to keep burning gas to avoid landing on the carriageway. Eventually they all seemed safely down, so we went home and spent rest of afternoon watching dvds we had borrowed from Irene and Tony the two brits on site, One was called “Dune” a classic sci fi ,you have to watch it just for the laugh or instruction on how to lassoo and ride a giant earthworm.

16 Feb Monday

Went to Internet café this morning to see if any of you lot were thinking about us, Hhmmm a few are, but we have to remember that you lot are working. Spent about three hours looking for a chalet to rent for easter and Richard achieving the big Five O. It’s becoming harder than we thought, to find the right property in the right place that is available. After a bit of shopping (always a highlight of the day) then straight to the gym armed with carrier bags of veg. They are used to us there now. I, Heather that is decided to do the hip hop funk class. I was hipping, when I should have been hopping, and my funk was definitely a sight to see, That sort of exercise has never been my cup of tea and with a French instructor, well enough said. Actually I loved it; definitely going back for more.

17 Feb Tuesday

Lovely day. Glorious blue skies. So off we went to ski probably our now favourite resort round here, Les Contamines. Skied all afternoon, then I went to the gym. Richard, definitely coming down with something. Sore throat and feeling groggy, so he stayed at home, It’s good for me to try by myself to socialise. One of the lads who works there knows an odd word of English. So he asks me in English and I ask him in French. One of the words we got straightened out was “go” up not “grow” up, We forget how difficult our language is.

!8 Feb Wednesday

While on the slopes in Megeve, we met a french skiing Granny. 60ish and on the lifts in search of her grandson, who had flown off without her, too fast for her to keep up. He had been skiing since the age of four. How the elderly of this generation have changed. No more sitting by the fire, knitting. They are out skiing, snow blading and even snow boarding. Makes you wonder what our kids will be up to when they are older.

19 Feb Thursday

Cloudy and unsettled. We had a tour of Praz sur Arly, Notre Dame de Bellecombe, Les Saisies. Megeve, Les Contamines and St Gervais in the truck to suss out the best place for a chalet .There is a project called The Diamont Noir that plans to link all these resorts which will make 700 kilometres of skiing.. It makes some of the small, currently peripheral resorts an attractive proposition for the future.

20 Feb Friday

Decided to ski Les Contamines because it looked a glorious day, with crisp blue skies. When we got to the tops, we discovered nearly all the lifts were closed because of high winds. We couldn’t understand it, ”Doesn’t look windy to me”, I said, just before there was a gust so strong that it knocked me sideways across the piste and Richard disappeared in a blizzard. Only fellow skiers or mountaineers will know how unpredictable the mountain weather is. Decided to give up and go earlier to the gym. We haven’t missed a night this week. It’s our second week there and people are getting to know us. Annoyingly most of them can speak some English but they let me practise my petit peu of french and have started congratulating me when I get it right. I have even been got by the hard sell, party plan, girl selling underwear in the changing room. She must have noticed my, now grey looking, knickers after Rich washed them with his black underpants and decided I needed a make over in the undies department. I have to say they do wear pretty lingerie (the girls that is). Some of it a bit prickly and wired for my liking.

21 Feb Saturday

Gym again in the morning. We want to wild camp another night so good excuse for a shower.

Thought we must find a chalet today for Easter. We tried during the week but all the ones we liked were booked up. At the moment Simon, Lisa, Mark and Penny are coming to stay but we thought we would look for an 8 person just in case there was anybody else last minute. After a visit to Tourist Info we found a great looking chalet in Combloux on the hillside overlooking Mont Blanc and the rest of mountain range. 

Special treat went to pictures to see an English film with French subtitles. “Mort Suspendue “ in french or “Touching the Void”. A Film 4 mock documentory about a couple of British lads in the 80s climbing in Peru and having a miraculous escape. Excellent film, a real cliff-hanger, that deserved its BAFTA.

22 Feb Sunday

Went back to campsite today at Sallanches to catch up with washing and cleaning (don’t you wish you only had to do that once a week). We also need to fill up with water. We are getting very good at preserving our water supply a tank lasts us 5 days. (eg the water in our hot water bottles is reused each night) and washing up is done once a day.

23 Feb Monday

Snow, but not a dump down in the valley, which is just as well as we want to travel to Verbier tomorrow. Here we are on the main road to the Mont Blanc tunnel and beyond that the col de Forclas across into Switzerland. We are struggling to find out if it is open or not. Our friendly fitness instructor, Damian, gets info for us from Chamonix gendarmerie but our visit is cancelled anyway due to snow on Verbier side.

24 Feb Tuesday

Decided to ski Combloux an area we have not been to before. More lovely tree lined slopes, none too taxing but very cold. Skied a half a dozen or so runs before deciding that there was no reason to freeze to death. Visited our current favourite sports clothes boutique. Quechua. This is the clearance and outlet shop for the Decathlon stores. Excellent Ski, Randonnee or straight country fashion store. Escaped with a few small purchases. Our tailor is of course Chinese !

25 Feb Wednesday

Went back to Combloux now the weather has warmed up a bit. Glorious day, lovely skiing makes you realise why we are doing what we are.

26 Feb Thursday

Dark overcast day down in the valley, it has and still is snowing up on the mountains. It is very eerie looking up to peaks shrouded in cloud and knowing how inhospitable they must be. Felt happy in the knowledge that there would be fresh snow for tomorrow.

27 Feb Friday

H goes for visit to Coiffure mixte hoping for another coupe moderne.

It can’t be Friday again already. Where does the time go. Went back to Les Contamines and thoroughly enjoyed the new snow. At least 12”. What’s that in centimetres still haven’t gone completely metric. I can estimate in metres but below that I have had it. Skied down some still icy blacks down the back valley to Hauteluce and could see the slopes where les Saisies must be. Like with all hills it is much quicker as the crow flies than how the roads have to be built. Our trip in the truck the other day to Les Saisies took ages circumnavigating the mountains.

28 Feb Saturday

Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc

Snowboarding at Megeve. We catch the Princesse bubble up to the mid station and polish the piste on the way down. We are both very frustrated that we cannot turn yet but are confident we will master it. Richard felt like he was getting it until he caught an edge and landed heavily on his left buttock. Very disappointed that there is no visible bruise to justify the pain. Decided to return tomorrow and try the beginners Poma (draglift). Could be very dangerous as it is 50metres long and we cannot go 5 metres in a straight line yet.

29 Feb Sunday

When wild camping, morning ablutions are very important and we try to use our inboard loo for the less lumpy visits. So, finding a proper loo is important. The local supermarkets vie for our trade on various counts. Loo quality, do they sell gas, food and wine quality, variety and price and whether en route to today’s chosen slopes. On Sunday mornings, it has to be Intermarche at Domancy because nowhere else is open. Not only that, we can buy another weekly treat either Sunday Times or Saturday Telegraph. Enough reading to last a week.

It is a new holiday week and with good conditions the slopes are busy. We cannot get a parking spot at La Princesse so give up and return to Sallanches to book into campsite for a couple of days for washing, water, showers and electricity. Richard relieved because buttock still sore. H thinks he is a wimp, who can’t stand pain. She has always been a good judge of character. Get DVD , Anger Management with Jack Nicholson and celebrity guests such as John McEnroe and Mayor Giulliani. Unfortunately we thought it was drivel and would have been highly embarrassed if Simon had been in it (despite being pleased for him getting a well paid acting part).

1 March Monday

Black and Blue

Black and Blue

White Rabbits. Well they will be its just snowed again. Went snowboarding again. Mastered the Poma. (It is probably the slowest in the Alps, but it’s the fastest one we’ve been on on a board.) All was going well. Richard managed six turns on his toes (with whoops of joy) whilst heels are easy peasy. Then in the middle of yet another toe turn he landed on his damaged buttock again. Now it’s not nice seeing a grown man cry so he stifled his tears and dragged his weary body upright and we set off up the bubble to do longer runs. But with confidence shot and several more falls the only solution is to limp back to camper and an early visit to gym for a medicinal hammam. H reckons photo of bruise does not do it justice. My once lily white buttock is now black too and bruise covers all the back of my leg with lower leg swollen. Discussion at gym re merits and injury problems of learning to board concluded, (with a very heavy French accent) “You have broken your arse”.



[Loire/Ile De Re] [Dordogne and Gorges] [Summer Alps] [Italy] [Slovenia] [Croatia] [On The Road To Morrocco] [Monte Carlo or Bust] [Spain, Benidorm and Gibraltar] [Rabat And All That] [El Jadida, Ounara, Essouria] [More meanderings & out of Africa] [Snowmads] [Snowmads 2] [Richard -  The BIG 50 !!!] [Eastern Europe] [Eastern Europe (cont)]


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