Saturday 1 Jan 2011
I am looking out the window
of our room towards steep mountains. Marzipan evergreens are topped by
sugar coated bare peaks on which snow is gently falling. This is the
Vanois section of the French Alps and we are in the small skiing village
of Pralognan La Vanoise for a week of skiing.
The train for Pralognan left from Gare
de Lyon just after noon on Boxing Day. Despite numerous calls to the
British Airways offices, each one involving waits of up to one hour,
Ray’s bag had not arrived. The good news was that we had packed all the
ski clothes in one bag and that one had made it to Paris. The fear was
that if we didn’t manage to receive delivery of the bag soon, the bag
would be returned to Canada. That meant Ray would have none of his
summer weight clothes for the rest of the trip and we both were missing
our malaria pills. Ray was glad his undies were the quick dry variety. I
said that washing them out every night for the next three months might
create holes where there were none before. Ray claimed that would only
give more ventilation in the tropics of Africa. We were informed that
the bag had made it to Paris and was due for delivery “sometime between
10 AM and 2 PM on the 26th. We didn’t get the bag before leaving for the
train and we never received notification that delivery had been
The four hour train ride was a diversion. The train
was full of families, including friends of Erica and Andrew’s, Beatrice
and Eric, with their two daughters. The youngest, Heloise, was a special
friend of Atticus and had invited him several times to stay at her
grandmother’s house in Brittany. One woman complained loudly to Beatrice
that her girls were too noisy (they weren’t). Beatrice asked the woman
if she had children. She said yes, but they were travelling by car with
the grandparents while she and her husband were expecting a relaxing
train ride. Boy, was she in the wrong car!
Our stop was
Moutiers, a few stops past Albertville, the site of the 1992 Winter
Olympics. The closer we got to our stop, the more it looked like ski
country with alpine villages and craggy peaks on each side of the
tracks. At Moutiers we took a taxi van the rest of the way to Pralognan
in the Vanois National Park. The Curling events were held in Pralognan
in 1992. The road hugged the side of steep mountains framing a series of
narrow valleys. Part way up we had to wait while a snow plow cleared a
section of the road. Several cars were having trouble starting up again
but our van had good snow tires and passed all the slower vehicles. Even
so it was almost 6 PM before we reached our hotel, Vacanciel, La Grande
Cordée. It is quite a large hotel with four floors of rooms. Erica had
booked rooms next to each other on the 2nd floor. We checked in and
immediately went to the ski rental shop where we had all booked skis,
boots and helmets for the week. By that time it was time to greet two
other families that were friends of Erica and Andrew and to go in for
our buffet supper. All three meals are included in our ski week, which
is proving to be a great convenience. There are additional advantages,
kids’ movies while the parents enjoy free vin chaud before dinner. There
is also a play school for the younger children every afternoon. Both
Atticus and Roman went the first afternoon while we skied. The children
played games and went tobogganing outside.
Our two grandchildren,
Atticus and Roman, are in ski lessons each morning and Andrew has taken
up snow shoeing. Erica, Ray and I are then free to explore the slopes.
This is a family oriented resort so most of the slopes are intermediate
but that suits us. It has been three years since we last skied and that
was a week in Banff where we attended our niece Susan Demmings wedding
to Yvan Nguyen. It didn’t take us long to acclimatize to the slopes.
France had unseasonably cold weather this December and lots of snow so
the conditions are ideal. The second day we took Atticus skiing for the
afternoon. The first day he was relegated to the rope tow but we took
him on the chair lift. That was much more exciting for him. We were all
giving him instructions the first run down but he asked that we not talk
as much his next run. It worked and he got better and better.
Andrew found his first day of snow shoeing rather pedestrian. It was an
included activity at the hotel and a crowd of people turned up. At least
they sorted out the real beginners. Andrew persisted and signed up again
the second afternoon. That time the outing was listed as “blue”. They
had a much better, but challenging climb into the hills where the guide
pointed out the local mountain goats and told them all about the area.
He had a wonderful time and is all set to try even more difficult trails
We finally sorted out the delivery of Ray’s lost
baggage. Ray managed to get through to British Airways and changed the
drop off location to the Wilson’s apartment. The bag reached the Wilson
apartment at midnight on the 27th. We owe them big time. We can now go
to Africa as planned. British Airways would really gain Brownie Points
if we got upgraded to first class for our return trip in March, but I am
not counting on it. We did get somewhat spoiled on our flight from
Ottawa to London.
Happy New Year 2011!
Three celebrations in three days, how lucky can we be? First came a
Birthday, then an anniversary and then New Year’s Eve. It was a busy end
to our ski week.
the 29th, Erica, Ray and I took Atticus out for 2 runs after lunch.
Atticus is doing well. His instructor the day before wanted to demote
him but after our three runs with him yesterday he stayed in the class
that goes up the chairs rather than the little rope tow. Atticus would
have loved a third run but agreed to stop so that he could go skating.
Wednesday was also Heloise’s 5th birthday. Skating and swimming
were arranged for all the children in our group, starting at 3 PM. The
town hosted the curling events for the 1992 Olympics and has a good
sports complex with a skating rink and a pool with a slide as a result.
We all rented skates. The only choice was figure skates with picks but
once the boys were assured that they were not girl’s skates nobody
objected. This was the first time on skates for the boys and they loved
it. Andrew rented a special push chair for Roman, which was a good move.
Roman found it hard to keep his balance at first, but loved being pushed
hard in the chair. Eventually he got the idea of pushing it himself.
Atticus quickly learned the basics of moving on skates and even learned
how to pick himself up after he fell, which was often. Atticus was
having so much fun that it took a bit of persuading to get him to stop
skating and move on to the pool. I decided I had enough after the
skating but the swimming was a big hit with the children, especially the
slide which Atticus went down continually.
There was a special
surprise for Heloise’s birthday. Her grandparents, who had delayed
coming because of flu that went through the family, arrived that day.
That meant we had 12 adults in the group and 9 children aged almost 4
(Roman) to 13, in the group, 7 boys and 2 girls. The highlight of the
dinner was a Birthday Cake and presents for Heloise. We all sang Happy
Birthday in both French & English and Heloise blew out the candles
twice. Then she opened her numerous presents. Is it ever any different?
On Thursday afternoon we took Atticus up three lifts to the very
top of the hill to try a “blue” run rather than his usual “green” runs.
The Monitrice (Atticus’s ski teacher) told Erica to make sure Atticus
was following her rather than trying to go first, as he usually does, on
a new slope. He did follow her well, even on a more difficult and
steeper slope that the one taken during his lessons. From the bottom of
the top lift we went straight to the bottom. He loved the section where
he could tuck and go faster. We had to repeat that part several more
was our 45th Anniversary. It is hard to believe. I have been married
more than twice as long as I was single. We celebrated with Ray’s
siblings last April in Hilton Head and tonight we celebrated at dinner
in the hotel. It was a Savoise dinner tonight. That meant several
different types of sausages as part of the appetizer and cheese fondue.
The fondue was very appropriate as our honeymoon was a Laurentian Ski
Zone ski trip to Europe where we had the best fondue meal ever in
Zurich. Erica had told the others it was our anniversary and they all
bought bottles of wine from Savoy for us to enjoy. The wine was light
and pleasant, not unlike the wines that were included with our dinners.
The staff appeared at dessert time with two blueberry tarts, part of the
dessert buffet, with candles on them, and sang Happy Anniversary, in
French of course, to us. We had to get up and kiss for photos.
The Play School children, one of whom
was Roman, had been preparing all day for a special show. At 20:45 we
all trooped down to the “Salle de Spectacle” in the basement for a
shortened version of the Lion King. There was a good crowd of parents
and siblings, with the smaller ones on the floor in front of the stage.
Roman, as the Simba, the baby lion, was a hit. The whole group
lip-synched and danced to several songs. In the last scene Roman
introduced us to his new “wife” Nala, played by Heloise. Roman and
Heloise appeared arm in arm and Roman kept giving her cow eyes. We all
cheered and snapped photos.
What is New Year’s Eve without a
celebration! The hotel provided a special dinner to mark the occasion.
We all donned our best duds and found our places at the tables Dinner
was served at the tables in several courses instead of a buffet and was
of a higher quality than usual. The regular buffets were generous but
not gourmet. This meal and the wines were a cut above the norm. The
children were given an abbreviated menu and allowed to disappear at will
to play games. Some of the staff provided entertainment between courses
with various dances which everyone enjoyed watching. Close to midnight
we got the children to bed and in turns, stayed up to see the New Year
in. There was dancing in the lounge and a few fireworks to mark the
occasion. We managed to last until midnight but not much later. It had
been a big day for everyone.
Atticus had missed skiing on Friday
as he fell victim to the flu. After being sick overnight, he slept all
afternoon but managed to enjoy the New Year’s activities. Luckily the
rest of us have avoided the dreaded flu so far. Saturday, our last day
in Pralognan, Atticus was ready to ski with Erica, Ray and me. We
managed three runs in the morning before we had to return to the hotel,
pack up, have lunch and take a taxi to the train back to Paris.