So, things are not going quite as swimmingly as our job title would imply; chalet host in the French Alps sounds idyllic, but no. Our previous guests arrived Saturday before last in heavy snow and merely 3 hours late. ‘Our’ van had been borrowed for the airport transfer, earning the driver a princely sum equivalent to one week of our wages. They had problems with the snow chains which transpired to the wrong size after being exchanged a few weeks ago. A stop off at the supermarket provided snow socks, like the ones we lost just south of Calais on our trip over here. The van made it up the drive that evening and stayed there until we managed to extract it the following evening. Monday morning’s early downhill journey was a little hair-raising as we found ourselves slipping and sliding on the slush in the snow socks, which seemed to be welded on (which is presumably why they’d been left in situ when the van was returned to us, also with incorrect snow chains.)
After our Monday morning’s work, when everyone, including those who had benefited from using the van, had b******d off up the hill we set to trying to remove the slippery eels concealing the faithful and effective winter tyres. After much pulling, levering and removal of knuckle skin Roger gave up and resorted to cutting them off. This sounds much easier than the reality; exposed fingers succumbing to freezing ice and snow as gloves reduced dexterity too much. Add to this a Stanley knife which didn’t have any kind of clip to maintain protrusion of the blade whilst cutting through the metal reinforced layer of snow sock and you have a task and a half. Eventually the bl***y things were off and we could drive away safely to recover in the flat. The weather didn’t tempt us out but that didn’t mean that our time off is available for other jobs.
The forecast for Wednesday, our day-off, was good and we considered returning to Serre Chevalier but Roger was hesitant to negotiate the Col, at over 2000m, without effective snow chains. We had little option but to stay at home, convincing ourselves that as we hadn’t had much chance to ski our own resort in good weather conditions so far this season, it would be a fitting opportunity. We were just about to head out when the work phone rang. Jaap, our friendly odd-job man had been told, by a certain person who was up the hill enjoying his 5th holiday week of the season, that he’d brought the wrong size chains and would he exchange them, again. Jaap was up in town from his base in the bottom of the valley, fitting a new radiator in one of the chalet bathrooms and could come and collect the chains in 10-15 mins. We waited and then Roger went out to meet him by the van which we’d had to park along a lower road when we finally found a space.
I had waited another 10 minutes or so, watching the people from the apartments above tumbling onto the piste down to the lift at the back of our flat, in the dazzling sunshine, then I went down expecting to meet Roger at the front door about that time. Another 15 minutes or so later he came into sight at the top of the steps. Yes, Jaap had been at the van after a few minutes. No, he hadn’t taken the chains. He had tried them on, after finally untangling them from the contorted heap where they’d been unceremoniously dumped in the back of the van, and they fitted perfectly well. It was the person up the hill who couldn’t fit them properly and who had said that they wouldn’t be needed anyway when first discussing the van last year. And it was our DAY-OFF!
AND we still have no heating in our bathroom. What little warmth seeping in from the main room quickly dissipates through the missing ceiling panel and exposed waste-pipe which is set in the cavity wall of the building.
I’d like to say ‘moan over’ but it isn’t. Changeover days are horrendous. They can be extended at either end by departure/arrival times or condensed if those times are relatively civilised but then we have fewer hours to complete all the jobs, added to which we now have to pick up guests from Ben’s Bus. Our departing guests last Saturday weren’t a bad bunch so we gave them the extra half an hour leeway we often do. Check-out time is 9.30am which we do consider to be rather early so ask that they be out their bedrooms by that time and leave the chalet by 10am. This is so that they don’t feel too rushed. It isn’t to enable them to invite other friends in the resort to the chalet for a coffee!! This was actually carried out by someone who had been a chalet host for 3 years, I bet he didn’t let any of his guests take those liberties when there are perfectly decent bars nearby which are already open and serving coffee. Roger was off taking one group up to the bus when I spotted a stranger in the lounge area, mug in hand. No attempt was made to explain her presence as I walked back and forth loaded with piles of bedding and towels. Finally I asked if she was an early arrival, which I thought was a suitably light-hearted way of asking who the hell she was. The only reply I received was a ‘no’, no explanation, no introduction, just rude!
In the midst of this I received a text from Sara, other owner, giving the arrival times of the last 2 of that week’s guests, coming by separate Ben’s buses and each wanting to be picked up. We had a group of 5 arriving directly at 11am and then 3 separate individuals arriving on different buses, to which we now had to add a further 2 pick ups.
So, what actually happened? The old guys (aged 50-85) arrived 2 hrs late, but we knew about their delay by then. They went off on the regular bus to town to have lunch, collect their passes and kit and we arranged to pick them up at 5pm from Indiana as 2 of the others were due in on Ben’s Bus at 4.45. The 2 latest arrival times were actually their departure times from Grenoble, not arrival, which we eventually managed to work out with a friend’s help, even though he is only responsible for AdH departures for B’sB, but it meant that we only had to meet 3 different buses. These 2 new arrivals didn’t actually get in until after 5.30pm, by which time we’d had to pick up the old boys as they’d waited for their lift and so missed the next bus down from town. A third person arrived shortly after at 6.15, reasonably promptly, but managed to leave his day-pack on the bus so after much chasing around that night and numerous phone calls the following day he was finally reunited with it . However, far from being a piece of hand luggage containing all his vital items, it transpired to be his water backpack! The two final guys arrived on the 9.45pm bus, we left them with a plate of food each and some rice pudding to reheat, if they wanted it, and fell into bed at 10.30pm, only fifteen and a half hours after we’d started.