Thursday, February 7, 2008

Home Again, almost

Well, I am trying to be better than I was during our Tasmania stay. At least I am writing to let you know that we made it home (at least as far as Connecticut, where we are visiting family before heading back to Kai and Chester in Lakewood).

Our last few days in Samoens were filled with more skiing and more good times and more good food. I won't bore you with all the details but will just make a few general observations about our trip in no particular order.

--Continental Airlines as an undeserved bad wrap. We even actually received more than just peanuts on the flight from Denver to Newark. Both flights were nearly empty, so full rows for us all the way there and all the way back!

--Contrary to what the Czechs and Bosnian told us about the ski lifts in Europe, the lifts at Samoens were no faster and no fancier than those we have in the States. However, they will stop the entire lift and yell at you in French if you do not lower the safety bar. It took us a full minute to realize that the reason the lift had stopped was not because someone was having trouble but because we had gone about 2 meters from the lift without lowering the bar. How embarrassing and a mistake we did not repeat!

--And yet, there are big pits just off piste across the mountain that do not have any barriers or warning signs. These pits get covered with a little bit of snow, and apparently people fall in them every year and get severely injured or die. So be careful on the lifts, but ski at your own risk.

--I am so not a foul weather skier. We spent one freezing day on the mountain with snow falling and great powder ... for people who know what to do with it. I reverted to my leaning back, hunched up, rigid skiing and ended the day with a frozen nose and burning quads and calves. So much for getting my mojo back!

--"Vous etes ici" (You are here) on a map can be so helpful when trying to find your way back to the group once you are separated from them by taking a wrong turn. But why don't all the maps included this helpful little arrow?

--The French, in an effort to save space on staircases, have come up with some treacherous solutions. Catherine's puzzle-step staircase was nothing compared to the low-rise steps in another chalet. Unless you had a toddler's size 2 foot you could not fit your foot onto the step. I was able to fit my heel and part of my arch and then decided it would just be easier to turn my foot sideways. I'm surprised there aren't more people there with broken legs or necks from stumbling down the stairs during middle-of-the-night fridge raids.

--One night, on the way home from picking up Christine at the airport, we came across a small green Renault van stuck in a ditch. One man was on the phone and the other (apparently the driver, who just happened to reek of gin and other alcoholic odors) was just standing there staring. Soon after we showed up, a Land Rover full of British men showed up. Two people leaned on the side of the car that was sticking up in the air, two others pushed from the front, while the driver revved the engine. Within a few seconds, it was back on the road right as rain. We told Duncan about this the next day, and his response was "Was it the guy in the silver Renault or the green one?" Apparently this was a common occurrence in Samoens and the two men were famous for their sketchy driving.

--As cold as it got on the mountain, I rarely suffered from the cold fingers and toes syndrome I always get in Colorado. Don't know why, but I'm definitely not complaining!

That's all for now. I'm sure there is much more, but I'm hopped up on Sudafed, trying to recover from yet another head cold/sinus infection. Seems I'm allergic to airplane flights!

Hope to see you all soon and catch up in person!
Tara and Mark

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Still Here

Aah, I am so glad I stayed in yesterday . The weather was cloudy, snowy, and cold with occasional patches of sunshine. Mark and everyone else went out for a full day on the mountain and had a great time. I was happy to stay in, read my book, tidy up a bit, and just do nothing for a day. They came back redfaced and sore but happy and said that it had been bitter cold and blustery but fun if you knew how to ski off-piste.

They all got back in time to watch the England vs. Wales rugby match in the Six Nations competition (the six nations are Scotland, Wales, Ireland, England, France, and Italy). Wales won in a major upset (first time they had won at Twickenham in 21 years) so everyone was happy. The most entertaining part was the post-game interview with the Man of the Game (MVP). Even Willy and Christine could not understand a word the man said. Something about going to the championship in a helicopter or some such thing. Or at least that's what I heard.

This morning, we were a little late in getting onto the mountain. It's another beautiful blue-sky day, a little colder, but still fantastic. We were supposed to meet up with a bunch of people on the mountain, but today is the first day of Half Term (school holidays) and the mountain was PACKED!! The lift we were supposed to catch had a chaotic-looking mass of people waiting to load up. So we just followed the emptier lifts and did our own thing. We did eventually meet up with Duncan and did a run with him before taking a vin chaud break. Then we left with Dunc while Christine and Willy went off in search of untouched powder.

Now here we sit wondering what we can scrounge together for dinner while we watch the France/Scotland match (France is winning and we are thinking some kind of potato/bean soup).

We are slowly adjusting to the idea that we are heading home in a couple days. Back to the land of reality (although with a short break with Mom and Dad, etc., in Connecticut!).

Mark and Tara

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Pics are up

Check out some of our photos: Go here!

Just click on the Samoens, France album.

Tara and Mark

Kind of Slow Day

Not much to report today. We had a leisurely breakfast of Meusli, fruit, yogurt, and coffee here at the house. Then Duncan showed up and carted us off to Chamonix. Mont Blanc and the craggy mountains that hem in the city of Chamonix are amazingly impressive. But the town is sort of like a big Vail (although it is authentically French, rather than a fake French like Vail, it is too expensive with too many frou frou people wandering around). However, we had a delicious lunch at Chambre Neuf, a restaurant full of British people right across from the train station. Then we just wandered in and out of all the ski shops ... Billabong (technically a surf shop), Patagonia (technically an outdoor shop), Helly Hansen (technically a sailing shop). Willy bought some snowshoes, I bought some postcards, and everyone else just browsed.

After a couple hours, we headed back to Samoens. Duncan dropped us off in the village while he picked up his kids from school. We ran into Katherine and her daughters in town and stopped for a hot chocolate. They had been skiing and said it was lousy. Half the mountain ended up shutting down because of the high winds. So although we didn't have a stellar day in Chamonix, at least we didn't freeze our buns off while sitting on a lift that was being tossed around by high winds.

Christine and I walked back to Katherine's while the rest caught a lift with Katherine. Although it's overcast and gray, it is still surprisingly warm. Katherine told us of some paths to follow that pass through old farm properties and between newer chalets. Just what you imagine country life in France to look like ... even down to the old French lady peeking from behind her lace curtains to see who was walking by.

After another delicious meal at home, Christine and I visited with Katherine and Duncan while Mark and Willy drove Katherine's ex-husband to the place where he is staying (he's in town to spend his birthday with his three daughters). I think I lost track of the bottles of wine and chocolate consumed. By the time Mark and Willy got back, we were all pretty much comatose.

This morning we woke up to big fluffy snowflakes and reports of up to 3 feet of new powder on the mountain. Willy, Christine, and Mark wolfed down their breakfast and took off. When I heard that there are also 30+ mph winds on the top of the mountain and that the best skiing is off piste and the on piste stuff is kind of messy, I decided to let them have their fun.

I plan to read, go for a hike, clean up a bit, and then meet them in town to watch the first of the Six Nations Rugby matches in town tonight.

A bien tot.
Tara and Mark

Friday, February 1, 2008

Loving It

Yesterday turned out to be a great day. We woke up to fog and drizzle and thought we'd have another day in town, off the mountain. We met up with Herve for croissants and tea in town, and while we visited with him, the sky cleared up, the sun came out, and we decided it wouldn't be a waste of one of our remaining ski days on the pass. So back up to Katherine's to get our gear and then off to the mountain.

Willy, Christine, Mark and I just cruised around, looking for slushy snow. I even did a couple off-piste runs. I did well on piste and nearly burnt my legs to a crisp off piste. But Christine said that next time she'd work with me and give me some pointers on what the heck I'm doing. She's a great off-piste skier and makes it look so easy! Maybe after 3 more days of skiing I'll finally figure out how to do this sport! We'll see. Watch out Susan, I'm coming back a better skier and am ready for our days in Vail, etc.!

Christen, I think Madame Beebe would be proud of the fact that I can actually follow the conversations going on around us. However, I can't think of a single word that i need to say when I need to say it. Although I am able to mumble bonjour or bonsoir or merci. Sometimes I even manage a bonjournee or bonsoiree when I'm feeling particularly fluent.

Last night, Mark and Willy met up with a friend of theirs while Christine and I hopped on the ski bus and hoped to the high heavens that it was going in the direction we wanted. After a few tense moments when it seemed the bus was headed right out of town, it turned around and made it's way to the Aspen Bar for quite a few glasses of wine and great conversation.

Then a dinner of soup and salad back at the house and off to bed. These full days are wearing us out (yeah, poor us).

Today we are off to Chamonix while we wait for the fresh snow to fall on the mountain so that tomorrow we can finally go up for some powder (Well, everyone else will get into the powder and I'll watch from the groomed piste).

Tara and Mark