2 March Tuesday
Skied Combloux. Beautiful conditions. Lots of tree runs. Thoroughly pleasant
3 March Wednesday
Cleaned up and tidied van in readiness for me to be bachelor for two
4 March Thursday
Drove across the col de Montets above Chamonix into Switzerland to Verbier.
A bit disappointing as cols go when you have crossed as many as we have.
Liked the look of Verbier. Hope to see more of it in the future. Drove along
the Lake to Geneva to the airport ready for Hs morning flight back to London,
prior to March Ski Trip. H acting as courier and bingo caller on the bus.
Road system round airport very confusing. Circumnavigated airport hotel
3 times before managed to find our way to it . Stayed there the night for
a bit of luxury. Not that luxurious. Perhaps that is why they made it so
difficult to get to so you would just be glad to stop.
5 March Friday
Put H on plane and prepared for two weeks freedom or loneliness. What
would it be ? We have been in each others pockets for nearly 6 months. It
would however give opportunities as well as missed pleasures. First mission
on arriving in Cluses to visit supermarket to stock up on food. Food that
is that I like and have not had the chance to eat whilst we have been eating
together. Weather not up to much so stayed on campsite for electric and
showers. Started reading a new book, got gripped and read till late.
6 March Saturday
Weather cold and overcast. Spent a lazy day reading and watching DVDs.
Designed a quick and easy Tartiflette. Finished book. Thoroughly enjoyed
the days decadence.
7 March Sunday
Another day not fit for skiing (now that I can pick and choose). More
DVDs and started a new book. Feasted on Boudin Noir, fried with garlic,
chunky cayenne pepper, lardons, onions and finished off with calvados and
cream served with poelee. Poelee (meaning cooked in a frying pan) is a mixture
of small cubes of frozen roots and other veg and lardons. It is quite a
find for the fried spud loving man being readily prepared with an excellent
result after being cooked in a minimum of olive oil.
Now this meal raises an interesting issue. Not the should we or shouldn’t
we eat offal one but what has happened to the French cognac industry. I
would normally cook this with brandy. In Slovenia you can pick up a brandy
substitute for £3. In Spain you get more for less. We have got quite used
to destroying our plastic glasses and doing God knows what to our stomachs
with our night-cap brandies. So, you would think that a good, middle of
the road cognac would be easily acquired in France its birthplace. The supermarket
shelves are awash with Whisky and Whiskey. Very little Cognac in view. It
is either very expensive or low grade and not cost effective. Is this French
protectionism working to its own detriment ?
8 March Monday
Skied Megeve/St Gervais. All the black runs I could find including one
with 50 metres of vertical (I exaggerate) shot ice, but one where you just
have to go with the flow and hope you come out the other end. After skiing
I wandered around Megeve town, musing at the chic fur clad ladies but intoxicated
by its laid back but expensive atmosphere. One fine vision was that of the
equine steed pulling a highly decorated traineau having a welcome drink
from the fountain in the middle of the pedestrian square whilst its passengers
were not sure whether to enjoy the moment or agitate to continue their journey
back to their chalet. Strangely enough the ski hardware in the shops was
well priced and with the advent of “fin de series” some excellent deals
but the designer clothing and top of the range ski suits were still “tres
cher”. Perhaps being seen is more important than being skiing. After all
Megeve was France’s answer to St Moritz to attract the jet set.
9 March Tuesday
Skiing is causing me a bit of trouble as is going to the gym. Since “breaking
my arse” my left leg is swollen and bruised and in particular my foot and
calf full of fluid. Reading with my leg up seems the best plan for a few
days. Have now watched all the cheap DVDs we bought in Spain. Some OK. None
as bad as one reported in earlier chapter.
10 March Wednesday
Read, read and read. Ate excellent Chicken in Mustard sauce and read
some more. Now, this week has given me the opportunity to test a few bottles
of wine from the local supermarket in readiness for the Val Thorens. Found
some excellent buys including extremely palatable 13% Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon
imported by a probably very unpopular frenchman. Selling for One euro 29
11 March Thursday
Abandoned camp site and skied Rochebrune in sunshine with perfect snow.
Swollen foot OK when clamped into ski boot. Hurts like hell taking boot
12 March Friday
Back to Rochebrune. Weather overcast and not particularly warm. The snow
is a complete contrast to the day before. Soft mush. Not much fun. Retired
early to wild camp by the Lake and finish another book.
13 March Saturday
Spent much of the day doing admin stuff in advance of forthcoming ski
trip. Getting very pally with chap in Internet café. Desperately trying
to get Internet banking to work on one account. Spending much time on phone
to help desks.
14 March Sunday
First day of the fishing season. Fishermen all looking cold. Fish still
asleep, apart from one that I espy off a pontoon in one of the lakes. It
looks like it has been carpetted very badly in a greenish shag pile. The
reason I later discover is a fungal infection they get after being pecked
by a cormorant (nearly a shag).
15 March Monday
Beautiful day. Decide to test leg by going for a long walk around the
Sallanches lakes. Discover an interesting difference between English and
French fishermen. In England fishing is a solitary occupation. Man against
fish. A struggle of one intellect against its quarry carried out in silence
and with intense concentration. In France fishing is a social pastime. A
group of half a dozen fishermen will battle with the man with the radio
controlled boat and the scuba diver for the same 10 yards of bank. While
the radio plays and they discuss the next major rugby international at the
top of their voices, the water is churned with the splash of fishing tackle
and other equipment. The amazing thing is they still catch fish, which can
only infer that french fish are either deaf or daft.
16 March Tuesday
Red hot weather. Snow disappearing fast. Should be skiing but still chasing
various loose ends on Internet. (and reading another book).
17 March Wednesday
18 March Thursday
Decamped, shopped for Val Thorens and drove to Moutiers via Val d’Arly.
Would have been quick but for diversion through mountain roads. Decided
to stay in hypermarket car park overnight. Piped music coming from pizza
truck and glaring floodlights on car park so found a secluded spot for the
19 March Friday
Noisy morning, but still managed to sleep. Woke to find camper surrounded
by pallets, forklifts and general warehouse activity. I had parked near
the loading bays and it seemed like the whole years provisions had just
arrived. Quietly extricated camper from morass of products and redeployed
in car park proper. Battled through the army of chalet staff buying foodstuffs
for the next weeks intake of skiers to buy my baguette and last minute extras
for chalet maiding in Val Thorens. Spotted a huddle of Silverski staff and
enquired after a friend Pip their ex resort manager. Was given the name
of the ski school she now worked for would get a phone number in resort
and track her down.
Met various Brits seasoning in free aire de camping car at les Menuires.
Weather still glorious.
20 March Saturday
Parked up by side of road to Val Thorens in gloom awaiting the arrival
of ski trip coach. In welcome speech promise them a little snow early in
the week. Did I or didn’t I mention negligible amount.
21 March Sunday
Glorious weather, skied across with John and Wendy Thistlethwaite to
Mottaret to meet Louise Coates, their neice, nannying in Courchevel for
the season. Went across to Orelle, the fourth valley, to meet Pip and Gareth
and entourage in the afternoon. Snowed a bit at night.
22 March Monday
Skied really hard all morning in sunshine with Ian Holt and Paul Thistlethwaite.
The 20cms or so of new snow really freshening the runs. Especially the first
run we did from the top of Peclet. We made a real bog up of being nearly
the first ones down in virgin snow. Started to cloud in at lunchtime and
the normally fantastic views from Cime de Carron which include Mont Blanc
and the Matterhorn were obscured by cloud. Night time brought the start
of a “negligible” amount of snow.
23 March Tuesday
Snow, snow and snow. Ate out at night in cosy little burger and ribs
bar courtesy of my brother Nick. Mountains of red meat so our zinc quotient
is well topped up according to one of H’s health mags. Premature bottles
of Champagne for forthcoming 50th provided by Arty, Acky, Wilks and Stan.
24 March Wednesday
Skied with Chris Holt down to check campervan and then skied La Masse
in fantastic sun and snow conditions. Decided to ski through lunch and cross
to Meribel valley. Unfortunately weather came in and visibility deteriorated.
Was pleased to get back to apartment despite disappointment at deterioration
of the day.
25 March Thursday
Even more snow. H and I had great fun up to our waists in heavy powder
trying (very badly) to master the necessary techniques.
26 March Friday
Which way Courchevel ?
Beautiful morning skied over to Courchevel 1650 to feast at Inghams run
hotel with reputed best British Breakfast in Alps. Breakfast very disappointing.
Enhanced Brits reputation with French as culinary philistines. Sausages
were french with salami content, bacon like leather, beans crisp and a variety
of fat sodden packet hash browns and other unpalatable accoutrements. UK
equivalent cost £10. Not impressed. The afternoon turned into nil visibility
making the return trip very difficult. I now have an infinite respect for
blind skiers. The snow llamas had a field day upending nearly everyone more
than once. Sharron, Heather’s neice , did amazingly well considering her
relative skiing inexperience going so far in the very difficult conditions.
Good God ! I’ve praised her in public. Must have been a weak moment.
27 March Saturday
Waved away the ski trip. Beautiful day as ever . Sat in Fitzroy Hotel
with Sharron and Ian drinking coffee until early afternoon. Drove down to
Les Menuires free aire de camping. Swam in outdoor pool until 8pm. Tried
to permanently swim underwater to stop bald patch freezing over.
28 March Sunday
Clocks gone forward, missed an hours skiing. How inconsiderate. Skied
La Masse and Les Menuires. Spotted a Chalet for rent, which could be a good
idea for 2005. This was at Reberty, an area never considered as potential
location until today. Drove to La Roche near Bozel to visit Pip and Gareth.
Met at door by familiar face but couldn’t put a name to it. Cath Cameron,
now Finn, contact from early MIC days.
29 March Monday
Went up to Courchevel 1850 to say goodbye to Pip, say hello to Louise
Coates and have a general mosey about. (Now there’s a thing! Like all computers
these days this one corrects my grammar, spelling, wipes my ever dribbling
nose and I am sure there is a button I can press here somewhere which will
mean it can write the diary for me too. Could be more accurate than my account.
I must search it out. I was sure that “mosey” would have had a double, if
not triple red line under it indicating word unknown. What is the origin
of the verb “to mosey about”? Answers in an email (modern postcard) to you
know where. First credible answer will get an invitation to the book launch
We gave a lift to a young French hitchhiker. He was intrigued about our
travels and like many people we have met was intent on quality of life himself.
He had spent the last month in Courchevel boarding mainly off piste. No
lift pass, little money but with a good knowledge of the slopes and a sharp
eye for the authorities. Skiing extensively. He was a surfing instructor
too and had just landed a teaching contract somewhere exotic in the Carribean
and was on his way there next week.
Dropped into the Annecy Campervan shop to buy some bits. Shop closed
for stock taking. The management seemed totally disinterested in customers.
Needed to fill up with water. There was a Flotte Bleue outside the shop
gates. I put my money in. Nothing.(or as I am now fluent. Rien). The proprietor
on hearing that “le flotte bleue a mange’ mon argent” condescended to come
out armed with enormous screwdriver, which he forced into various orifi
of offending piece of equipment. I was ‘orrified. (Makes no sense but I
couldn’t resist it). The light, which indicates ability to open door, flickered
on. He opened the door and was immediately attacked by wild blue snake vomitting
streams of venom. (Interpret as hosepipe spewing water.) Some pillock had
left the hose without a nozzle attachment. Naturally I got soaked too but
felt the proprietor got his come uppance. (Could be item 2 in forthcoming
book after Grau de Roi muck spreading experience – Flotte Bleues I have
known and loved.)
Went to supermarket down the road and launderette. Supermarket car park
half full of top of the range caravans with tables and umbrellas outside.
We had heard of the problem of travelling families in France parking up
and being immovable. I thought that most of the anti parking legislation
was aimed at campervans. Apparrently not. The launderette had a washing
machine entirely geared to waterproofing clothes. With global warming and
the UK about to get wetter (impossible) you would think we would catch on
! Parked outside camper shop ready for opening time Tuesday.
30 March Tuesday
Went to shop ordered some bits. Doubtful if they will materialise. Looked
at loads of campervans. Struggled to find better than ours. Left Annecy
then drove through to Sallanches. First stop Internet café. Like coming
home, greeted as if we lived there.
31 March Wednesday
Lie in followed by wander around Megeve. Return of les Anglais to gym.
Greeted like long lost friends but desperately need to tone up after over
indulgence in VT.
1 April Thursday
Who you fooling ?
Skied Les Contamines again in the morning and as snow deteriorated we
moved down to Passy and picnicked by the Lake. We are getting a bit possessive
about this lake. We have spent many nights camping here. If another camper
turns up we look at it scornfully. Treated ourselves to the cinema. The
Passion of Jesus Christ. Mel Gibson’s epic of non stop torture. It was annotated
as VOST. Voix original Sous Titles. Naturally with an English film and such
a description we expected English language. Oh no. Mel had a little trick
up his sleeve, not surprising when you see what day it was. Hebrew and Latin
voices with French sub titles.
2 April Friday
Another good day up at Cote 2000 Rochebrune. Rained at night. We have
both got paranoid about the snow going before our Easter visitors arrive.
3 April Saturday
As usual up too late to go to large market in Sallanches on Saturday
4 April Sunday
St Richards day !!! He must have enjoyed it but cannot remember how.
5 April Monday
Trying to suss out best place for snow, lift passes and tuition for Easter
visitors to learn to ski. Investigate Les Contamines in glorious sunshine.
6 April Tuesday
Skiing Rochebrune again. Another glorious day in paradise.
7 April Wednesday
Seek out suitable garage to give the van a service. Magland Mercedes
dealer suggested by helpful lads at Feu Vert. Managed to fax request to
Mercedes for letter agreeing that VIN number on log book wrong. Would cause
many problems crossing borders in Eastern Europe if not right.
8 April Thursday
Hunt for ski shops with good equipment and prices in Combloux. Walk up
through village to ski lifts. Scorching spring day.
9 April Friday
Spent the day buying supplies for week in chalet with real bed.
10 April Saturday
Moved into Chalet Transhumance at Prairy near Combloux, our home for
the next week.(Soon nicknamed little house on the Prairy). Mark and Penny
arrive with Adam and Daniel. Weather murky. Check out snow at Cote 2000.
Its actually snowing and white out above Megeve. Go to Geneva to pick up
Simon and Lisa. Nasty trick instigated by the Swiss to raise more road funds
by diverting all Geneva traffic onto the motorway and forcing tight gits
like us to buy road toll vignette to use their motorways. 30 euros I had
not intended to spend. But I will have my revenge and return to Switzerland
and drive over as much motorway tarmac as possible.
11 April Easter Sunday
Simons Birthday. Sprogs want to ski so kit everyone out from friendly
ski shop in Combloux and up to Cote 2000. After a 2 hour private lesson
Mark, Adam and Daniel are flying on skis. Not necessarily when they want
to or where they want to but having fun. There is a brilliant beginners
drag at Cote 2000 and the three of them belted up and down to practice what
they had learned. Went Bowling at night. Still takes a good young un to
beat a good old un. In this case they failed miserably.
12 April Easter Monday
50 AND FABULOUS ? ?
Richards Birthday. The big 50. Spectacular weather, superb snow for spring,
good skiing and glorious scenery …. Need I go on ? Probably not but I am
sure you realise that I will. After another private lesson our debutants
were doing really well. Ready to move up a gear.
By now you will also have realised that boozing and troughing are quite
close to my heart. (Stomachs probably no more than 3 cms from it at nearest
point !!!) So what does a gourmant like me have on his 50 birthday dinner.
My choice but tempered slightly to other participants.
Moules a la crème
Steak in a mustard and pepper sauce, potato wedges, veg
Warmed up Chocolate Birthday cake, Chocolate Carte D’Or ice cream, Mascarpone,
Washed down with Wholesome Languedoc Syrah, Mid Range Champagne (I regret
to admit that a bubble is a bubble is a bubble to me so no need for Moet
or Mumm etc) and Expresso and Cognac. After a day on the slopes nothing
13 April Tuesday
Marks Birthday. In this extended family you daren’t even look at your
partner in mid July its that potent !!! Intended to ski les Contamines but
nil visibility and snowing at 1500 metres. So back to little house on the
Prairy and what to do for entertainment. A Wasjig that’s what ! A complicated
but humorous jigsaw where the only pictorial clue is that the image you
have to construct is the view from a set point on the picture on the box.
And what fun was had by all. By the end of the day it was well on its way.
So what did Mark want for his birthday tea, bearing in mind that we are
in France? Mexican ! Ever had fajitas in a croissant ? No need because Intermarche’
came up trumps yet again.
14 April Wednesday
Top of the World
Left Mark to have a day of peace with Penny while we took Adam and Daniel
to les Contamines to cut their teeth as skiers. You could feel their excitement
heading into the unknown in the bubble going up. Or was it just me. I love
getting kids skiing and seeing the wonderment on their faces at the scenery,
piste bashers and the achievement of each step up the ladder to doing their
first proper ski runs. We played on the beginners slope for most of the
morning learning how to stop and skiing in some control (well I did) and
then we were off, down the nearest blue, up the chairlift, up another chairlift
and on top of the world. We then snaked in a racing snowplough down a pretty
hard blue, which turned into a fast straight shuss and then into another
steep slope. Daniel is steady away but Adam has a bit of a concentration
problem. He needs stimulus at 100 miles an hour at all times. Skiing gives
him this and he was being stimulated at 100 miles an hour (well nearly)
when he encountered his first and very educating humungous fall. When you
are going straight down a steep slope, out of control, and you know you
should turn but you can’t, and you know that you are going to fall (and
you think you are about to die) and you do fall (and you don’t die) its
very educational. You learn a lot as you negotiate your second double somersault
with sticks and skis and limbs flailing in all directions. Nothing damaged
(equipmentwise I mean) Adam landed on his head so I knew he was OK, we skied
down for lunch. In the afternoon we covered a lot of miles and the kids
did their first red run. No problems. Daniel and Adam ended their day knackered
but exhuberant. Two more converts, I should be on commission from the French
tourist board ! Wasjig finished.
15 April Thursday
Mark, Penny and Sprogs depart. Weather unsettled so had a lazy day. Went
up to Chamonix for a wander.
16 April Friday
Drove to Flaine, Ocean Blanc. I like the marketing approaches of the
ski resorts desperate to pull in punters due to enormous investment in equipment.
Flaine is free on our season ticket for a day. It also has an excellent
snow record and some great skiing. The resort itself lets it down. We were
not disappointed though the snow at altitude was excellent, the runs empty
and morning sunshine. The morning was enough after skiing hard, Simons’
legs were shot at. These young people just don’t have the stamina. After
having skied on and off all season we are probably quite fit. Skiing must
have improved too. Lunched in sunshine on a Sandwich Americain, which arrived
in an extremely large baguette. Couldn’t find the american he must have
been hiding under the mountain of chips and burgers. Or were the burgers
? ……… Take one american, flour, onions, salt and pepper ….
17 April Saturday
Skied Avoriaz on way back to Geneva. Very slushy and overcast. Not its
Took Heather, Simon and Lisa to Geneva airport, waved them off and returned
18 April Sunday
Read and lounged about all day by lakes at Passy. Snowed at night almost
down into the valley.
Didn’t expect to see the trees covered in snow again this year. The trees
have been Heather’s barometer of skiing potential. I think it stems from
various Bentham skiers always being taken to high resorts and never skiing
a tree lined run.
19 April Monday
Still very overcast and cloudy. Read, lounged and did puzzle pages from
English newspaper. Put skis in for service. Sometimes the old Protestant
work ethic has a go at me. I hear it shouting, “Do something, you are wasting
time. Don’t you feel guilty at your inactivity ?” I take a deep breath and
remind myself that the reason I am parked up in the camper van by the side
of a lake, looking up at Mont Blanc in all its glory is so that if the mood
takes me I can do absolutely sod all. No guilt, No targets, No deadlines.
Just a good book and freedom of choice followed by a good nosh and a bottle
of wine. Now finding a good book can be harder than you think. I am now
fed up with authors who have boned up on guns, their specifications and
abilities (American authors credit those agencies supplying such information
to avoid litigation) and whose, normally ex marine or equivalent, superheroes
can crush a man to death between their thumb and forefinger. I don’t mind
faction but sometimes fiction goes a bit too far. (I was desperate at this
point to write some incredibly clever play on words introducing friction
and fractions but decided the least naff way was to let you do it yourself.
It’s the next logical step from Peter Kay’s Karijokey (where you finish
off his jokes) to a state of Authortocracy where you write the ends to an
20 April Tuesday
Picked up skis. 14 euros for both H and mine for basic edging and waxing.
very good value. Skied les Contamines. Conditions now deteriorating fast.
Run back to bubble now closed. Amazing how quickly a good depth of snow
can disappear. Not sure whether I will ski again this season. Close inspection
of the small print on season lift pass shows that I cannot use it for another
free day at Flaine where the snow is still good. Don’t want to ruin memories
of a good season skiing by a crap few last days.
21 April Wednesday
Had truck serviced at Mercedes dealer at Magland. Costa del Fortune but
now happy to set off to Eastern Europe and Greece in the knowledge that
oil, brakes, other fluids and mechanical bits all in good nick. Stayed overnight
in garage car park to make sure I was there in time for 8am start. (Never
good at getting up except for important things like skiing and fishing.)
Many people will vouch for this.
22 April Thursday
Another lazy day. Visited various DIY shops seeking bits to stop leaking
tap. Not sure when H coming back so went to local employment agency to investigate
temporary job situation. Girl at desk gob-smacked. Never had a Brit come
looking for work before.
23 April Friday
St Georges Day. Traditionally the day in England to pick dandelions to
make dandelion wine. Spring arrived here in a rush. Valley sides now lush
and green. Spent day sunbathing at Lake admiring French attitude to outdoors
and respect for each other. A multitude of activities from fishing, boating,
footballing, picnicking, canoodling, horse-riding, bike riding, kite flying,
petanque etc etc all happening with no conflict, malintent, excess noise
or over excitement as we get in the UK.
24 April Saturday
Bought and fitted plush new carpet in kitchen area of truck. Went to
favourite (cheap) supermaket. Hooray, new stocks of Chilean wine lake have
arrived. At checkout I queued behind lady with five boxes of 10 burgers
(steak hache) and 12 geranium plants. Talk about lead balloon when I suggested
she must have prettiest MacDonalds in Sallanches. Read up on Czech Republic.
Deciding route from France. Heather announces arriving back on Tuesday.
Much to be done before she arrives back..
25 April Sunday
Back to official camp site for much needed shower. Is it my imagination
or have people been crossing the road to avoid me? …. I’m either very houseproud
or petrified of spouses response if truck in a mess when she rejoins me
, so I clean up and do washing. Charge up all electrical equipment so I
can use computer again and promise myself a DVD tonight.
The weather is terrific; absolutely scorchio and with snowcapped mountains
surrounding you, what could be better.
Is my french getting better ? I am sure it must be, although some days
I feel like no-one understands a word I say and on others I am the best
french speaking Englishman (apart from horrendous accent) they have ever
met. Todays in depth conversation was with a Frenchman and his enchanting
four or five year old daughter about crocodiles. They had just seen a little
lizard which as everyone knows is a crocodiles cousin and there were a series
of questions. “Qui est le plus mechant le lezard ou le crocadile ?” leading
to where do you find crocodiles “En France ou en Angleterre” and in which
country was Crocodile Dundee filmed etc etc. Now I am more and more intrigued
by foreigners vision of English wildlife. Effectively the barefooted Moroccan
we met earlier (representing collective foreigners) has just incredulously
asked “ So you don’t have crocodiles and camels in England then ?” What
next ? What will Eastern Europe bring ?
Went for a walk and watched one of the Sallanche’s football teams play
in a local Sunday league. The standard was reasonably good especially the
diving, histrionincs and Gallic expletives at contentious decisions. The
pitch is adjacent to the River Arve which shapes the whole Chamonix valley.
Sallanches won by 3 goals and one ball in the river to 2 goals, 2 balls
in the river and one into the builders yard next door.
26 April Monday
Travel to Annecy to collect spares ordered from camper van shop several
weeks before. Drop in on another camper shop en route to check out what
they stocked I might need. Arrive at Annecy shop. Shut Mondays. Meander
about for a while and then park outside camper shop for the night ready
for battle next day. You might wonder why I expect a battle, but on a previous
visit they were not particularly helpful and I feared the worst.
27 April Tuesday
Two out of four parts were OK. Unfortunately the most important part,
a new cartridge for the tap, was the wrong part. They hadn’t got a replacement
tap either. So hotfoot to other camper shop which had taps. Yes, they had
one, but no-one to fit it but they would let me borrow the tools. After
an enormous amount of grunting and groaning and a growing respect for anyone
blind or working down a hole and in the dark a new tap was fixed. 2100 hours
Geneva airport H arrives. But who do I see first but Jo Armstrong on his
way to Chamonix to be a summer Mountain bike and Trek guide. It was his
Dad Alan who first got me skiing and with whom we spent New Year skiing
at Les Contamines. Spent the night at a parking on the Swiss motorway just
28 April Wednesday
Drove along part of the Golden Valley Rail route through Chateau d’Oeux,
Gstaad and Saaenenmoser amongst other resorts we had visited many years
before, just ahead of starting up Bentham Ski Trips. We arrived in Interlaken
late afternoon ready to see a bit of the Bernese Oberland. We found a very
accommodating car park, next to Interlaken Ost railway station, which was
free overnight. Our home for the next three nights. Expensive Switzerland
is proving cheaper than we anticipated with no site costs.
29 April Thursday
We caught the funicular and then train from Lauterbrunnen to Murren and
walked back. Murren was deserted following the ski season and before the
summer hiking. Impressive views of the Jungfrau, Monck and Eiger. Legs surprisingly
sore from walking downhill even after a season skiing.
30 April Friday
Visited Isetwald and Grindlevald. Isetwald the once fishing village on
Lake Brienz and now tourist and retirement stronghold. Grindlevald, ski
resort and summer hiking centre, nestling beneath impressive peaks, although
in between seasons at our time of visit. We had wanted to catch the Mannlichen
telecabine out of Wengen and walk the ridge to Kleine Scheidegge and then
back into Lauterbrunnen. Due to bad timing on our part most of the telecabines
were still shut and there was still lots of snow on high.
1 May Saturday
Drove to Lucern, parked up in recommended site and in the evening walked
along the lake shore into the heart of the pretty city centre. Toured the
sites and streets looking for a typically Swiss bar and ended up drinking
Boddingtons and eating Walkers crisps in Mr Pickwicks, whilst a Scottish
Pipe Band marched by playing Scotland the Brave. So this is Switzerland
! To be fair there was a Drum and Pipe extravaganza at large to celebrate
May Day. We also briefly nattered to some Galician Pipers about our journey
along the Camino de Santiago a few years before.
2 May Sunday
Once more skirted the lake to tour the sites. Lucern is very pretty,
set on the confluence of river and lake with many mediaeval buildings and
surrounded by snow capped mountains. Spotted in the culture guide that Papa
Chubby the blues rock guitar band were playing so decided to splash out
and hear some live music. Alan and Dana with whom we toured much of Morocco
had seen them in UK and raved. Alan’s taste in music however only included
Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond and Papa Chubby to the exclusion of all others.
The band were good, with excellent guitar, keyboard and drums. The venue
the Schurr (barn) was interesting. Upstairs 300 or so mainly 30+ rockers
whooped and clapped to Chubby whilst downstairs an eclectic selection of
Lindy Hoppers slid and gyrated to a much smoother blues.
3 May Monday
Packed up, serviced van and set off for Austria. We are now ready to
see somewhere different to mountains, chalets and ski slopes. How spoilt
can you get. Next stop Vienna and then Hungary and the evolving ex Eastern
States before summer in Greece.