Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Our first rainy day

Yes, until today, we have had spectacular weather. No new snow, but clear blue skies, blazing warm sun. It's been like spring skiing everyday. But today we woke up to fog and drizzly rain. I'm sure it's snowy up in the mountains, but it looks like that evil flat, white light. So Willy and Christine headed up for some skiing while we stayed inside and caught up on news, emails, work, etc., etc.

We actually started our day with apple turnovers and tea in town with Duncan, as Mark advised him on how to wire the home he is renovating. I sat there with Java (Duncan's dog) and enjoyed just people watching (yes, dogs are allowed inside the cafes and bars and maybe even the restaurants in France). This was the same cafe as the bad milk day, so I stuck with hot tea. The coffee here actually leaves something to be desired, or maybe it's the fact that they use the boxed milk that can sit on a shelf for months before being opened. Blech.

EDIT: I forgot to mention that we met up with Christine and Willy in town, while she was renting her gear. Turns out that Wednesday is market day in Samoens. Just as in Annecy, there were stalls of sausages, cheeses, fresh fruit and veggies, not to mention woolen scarves, cheap wallets, and fur jacket things. So even though we'd loaded up on goodies at Carrefour the day before, we bought fresh vegetables for soup, yet another amazingly delicious cheese, and some tasty local dried and smoked sausages. All for less than what we paid at the grocery store. Nothing like the overpriced "farmer's markets" in Lakewood! END EDIT

Afterward we headed back to Katherine's. Herve, a real estate agent who lives in Samoens, stopped by for some tea and cheese and bread. It turns out that his family has lived in this region since the 15th century. A true native! We met him the other day, as he is a friend of Katherine's. His daughter is traveling to Denver sometime in the summer, so we told him to stop by and we'd exchange contact info. He is a super-nice guy and very funny. It was nice to meet some locals, as all those we have met and hung out with since we got here have been from Scotland and England! I actually had an easier time understanding Herve than I do some of Willy's friends from Northern England, who tend to mumble and speak with an extremely thick English accent.

Now here we sit, Mark on his laptop, me on mine. We've watched the fog (or maybe it's just the clouds) move in and out of the valley, and the rain continues to drizzle down. We've enjoyed several cups of tea and a beer or two. We've snacked on some more amazing French cheese and bread. And now we'll probably settle in for a nap before heading over to Duncan and Saskia's for dinner. Ahhh, life is nice!


When in France ...

When in France, everything Google is in French. Grrr. Trying to publish our little mini blog with photos, etc., is not as easy as you would think. So before I publish a big long post, I am going to do a test run.
OK, that worked. But I can't seem to add photos to the other day's post. We'll see if we can add some today.

Yesterday we woke up early and had a little breakfast and then headed off on our day's adventures. We took the back roads back to the motorway so that we could pick up some wood pellets for Duncan. After a scenic drive down the valley, through one quaint French farming village after another, we found the lumber yard and loaded up the little Subaru Impreza with five bags of energy-efficient pellets for Duncan's heater.

Next off to Annecy for some site-seeing. Annecy is a beautiful, small city situated on a lake (don't know the name). When we arrived, the glassy lake was covered in a low fog, giving everything a smoky, soft, hazy look. Almost like a pastel painting. Even the swans gliding silently on the lake looked like pieces of art.

We went for a walk along the beachfront to a point where, in the summer, everyone swims and jumps off diving boards, etc. Looked great! Would love to go back in summer. The water was crystal clear, and everything was so clean. Not even duck or swan feathers could be seen floating on the water's surface. Immaculate!

We then followed the river canal into the old town center. The canal winds between ancient buildings on either side. Looming overhead was a fortified chateau. Within the cobblestoned alleys, farmers and other vendors had set up their stalls, selling endive, spinach, beets, potatoes, scarves, rugs, and lots of cheese and sausages. We stopped at a little storefront and bought amazingly delicious sandwiches on that GREAT French bread with that GREAT French cheese. I just ate here in Samoens and still the memories of yesterday's sandwich are making my mouth water.

We continued to amble through the city, occasionally ducking around a corner and finding ourselves in a cobblestoned square with no way out but the way we came in. I couldn't help but wonder at the number of feet that had walked the same cobblestones for hundreds of years.

But back to reality ... After Mark bought a French SIM card for his phone, we had the extremely unenviable task of trying to find a department store so that we could buy "knickers" (bras and panties) for Willy's friend's wife for her birthday. We had sketchy and incomplete personal information, at best. We rummaged through the racks looking for the right size and trying to make sure it all matched and that we had all the right styles. Willy's patience was wearing thing, as was my own. Our leisurely morning was turning into a mad dash for underwear as we realized we needed to get to Geneva to pick up Willy's friend Christine in less than an hour. (Time management is not our strong point when on holiday!) So I grabbed matching this and that and threw it all at Willy to buy.

We left H&M department store disgruntled and discouraged. But walking back along the glimmering lake soon wiped away our scowls. We made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare. Once Christine and her luggage had arrived, we made our way into the old part of Geneva, where Willy had lived years ago. After a quick beer at an outdoor cafe, we walked through the city and admired the old buildings and fancy shmancy cars and couldn't even begin to fathom the amount of money in that city. As we looked around, we would occasionally catch a brief view of the huge jet fountain (originally named the Jet d'eau (jet of water) fountain in Lake Geneva. Our goal was to get to the other side of the lake so we could look back at the city and see the fountain against the setting sun. But, alas, as we got to the other side, someone turned off the fountain. The sunset was still beautiful, and in all honesty, the jet d'eau just looked like someone had left a massively huge fire hydrant running in the middle of the lake, so no big loss.

We finally made our way back to the car, stopping for another quick drink (this time a chocolat) at an overpriced smokey cafe (though Willy tells us it was regular price for Geneva). On our way back to Samoens, we stopped in Carrefour (France's version of a SuperTarget?) for dinner and breakfast groceries. Did I mention that the wine is SO inexpensive here, yay!

Back to Katherine's for a pasta dinner and an early night after our day of walking and seeing.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Another Day in France

It's Tuesday morning and we are getting ready to go to Geneva to pick up Willy's friend. Yesterday was fantastic. Had a leisurely morning looking around Samoens. While Willy met with some acquaintances, we had a cafe au lait at a little cafe. Unfortunately, my lait was a wee bit curdled. Blech. But I didn't quite realize until I had drunk more than half. Blech. Luckly my stomach never reacted, so all turned out fine.

Then it was back up onto the mountain. This time I had a new pair of boots and skis courtesy of Saskia. They fit great and I felt so much more in control. We had a casual, social ski day without too much off piste for me to sort out. I'm slowly getting my mojo back after a couple years of missing it!

Last night we made a pot of soup and some salad and watched Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels. All in all a relaxing day.

I need to learn more about the town. It's probably a couple hundred years old. Some WWII or WWI battles were fought here and some French people apparently helped Jews escape over a nearby pass into Switzerland. If it was anything like the pass we went over, I really hope they made their escapes in summer!

The chalet where we are staying is somewhat old but nice. The stairs are treacherous, however. Instead of each step being full width, it is cut so that the wider parts alternate. You have to start with your right foot or you won't be able to make it up the stairs without tripping over yourself. And so steep!! I certainly can't get up and down the stairs with my hands full. It requires my full attention.

Well, must eat my breakfast so we can get going.

-Tara and Mark

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Well, look at that. We have jumped from Day 2 in Tasmania to Day something or other in Samoens, France. We got in just fine. Had a whole row to ourselves on our Continental flight. After a 2-hour delay as they sorted out the radar problems in Boston, we were finally on our way. (Thank you, Michelle, for the books as they kept me fully entertained during our 2-hour delay. Now I need book 2 to find out what happens in Dallas!)

Willy/Neil was there to pick us up in Geneva and drove us the hour to Samoens. We checked out the downtown and had a cafe au lait with a delicious big piece of quiche. Then up to Katherine's (his friend's place) where we have settled in. Willy took us for a drive up the Joux de Plain (sp?), the steep steep ride that Lance Armstrong said was the worst 37 minutes of his life. Katherine and I had a hot chocolate and Mark and Willy had sodas while we enjoyed the view. The weather is so so warm. It's like spring. Crazy!

That night we headed over to Tony and Debby's (British friends of Willy's) for dinner. A delicious curry soup with grapes and cheese and then chocolate for dessert. Yummy.

The place where we are staying has such a spectacular view of Le Grand Massif (a ski resort that totally lives up to its name its grand and very massive). Beautiful.

The next day we went into town for some croissants and pain de chocolat (essentially, chocolate bread) and rented some skis. We met Katherine, Duncan, Saskia, and Tony at the lift and headed up for a day of skiing. The resort is more like a combination of 3 massive resorts. Once you get up to the top you can connect to at least three other resorts. I was way out of my league but only fell down once and went down some really steep stuff. Luckily it wasn't too too icy. Mark had some great off-piste boarding with Willy and Katherine. I watched from the sidelines. Again, it was so warm, it was like spring skiing. So very warm. After a beer mid-mountain, we caught the gondola down and had a delicious chicken chili dinner (Susan, you were missed) at Duncan and Saskia's, which is just a walk down the hill from Katherine's.

The next day Mark went to a town near Chamonix with Willy, Duncan, and Katherine while I stayed in bed, loaded up on drugs and water. Mark shopped and bought me some Snoopy slippers to keep me warm. When everyone came home, we cooked up some of mom's spaghetti sauce (modified) for Duncan and Willy while we watched Blades of Glory. is Will Ferrell the new Jerry Lewis?

Today we woke up early and I was feeling 1000% better. We had some more pain de chocolat and cereal and then loaded up our backpacks with warm weather gear and snacks. We parked just past Sauvagny after a treacherous slide backward in the ice and headed up the mountain. After a couple hours, Willy and Duncan and some others did an ice climb, and Mark and I took a little break and then hiked further up. We almost made it to the next valley. If we'd had snow shoes we would have made it much further.

We slid most of the way down and walked all the way into the town of Sixt before catching the ski bus back to Samoens. Mark and I found our way to Le Bar Savoie while we waited for the rest to catch up with us. It took me two Stella Artois and Mark an espresso and a vin chaud (hot mulled wine) and both of us a sandwich jambon et fromage avec frites Neil and Duncan to catch up to us. Now we are back at Katherine's, having tea while we wait for everyone to show up for dinner.

Such is life in Samoens France.

T & M