THE FESTIVE SEASON IN SIERRA NEVADA
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
NEW YEAR IN TIGNES
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
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
Out on the slopes for 10am in the crisp January air on some excellent
and, other, reasonable pistes.
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.
BOURG ST MAURICE
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
- 2. How much the top box will hold
- 3. How little extra space we seem to
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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
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)
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 !
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
!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
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
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
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
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