Our new guests didn’t last long! Late on Saturday evening, both parties turned up. One group was 2 families, parents with 5 teenage children between them, the other was a family with 3 kids, age 7, 5 and 2. The latter were an Australian couple who are having a 2 year sabbatical (from medicine) in France. The little children were quite cute and had the potential to make Christmas day rather magical again, unlike the monosyllabic teenagers habitually glued to their phones. Unfortunately the wife’s mother had a massive heart attack early Monday morning. After 24 hours of deliberation they decided to return to Oz and so departed, as did our prospect of Christmas cheer.
The other party had invited us to join them for Christmas lunch but realistically, we knew we could not fit any more people round the table and actually had no more chairs anyway. Now, with the unfortunate absence of the Aussie guys, we are able to accept so will be spending Christmas with strangers but as we have at least been invited, it is a massive improvement on last year!
Both groups were due to arrive between 10.30pm and midnight on Saturday so with the previous incumbents departing by 11am we had the rest of the day to sort ourselves out and turnaround the chalet. We completed this about 7pm with no pressure and a couple of breaks on the sun strewn balcony. By the evening we were able to settle down to watch the finals of Strictly live, which was a novelty in itself. Unfortunately both parties did manage to turn up just before the final dance of the final pair and subsequent results so we had to catch up with that the following day. We have Sky TV in the chalet so, now discovered, could mean quite a lot of recordings which we can then enjoy in the mornings after our chores are completed and whilst all the guests have gone up the hill, hopefully.
We had another short ski session on our day off as there had been a light dusting high up the day before. The chair lift around the back of our apartment is now operational so a walk of about 100yds, mostly uphill, takes us to the chair and straight on to the snow in the top of Signal. We can’t use it for coming down and are unable to ski back yet so still have to complete that walk, but at least it is downhill on return.
We walked the dry piste yesterday, the sun was glorious again and the snow is certainly quite poor in places, icy where the sun doesn’t reach and slushy where it does, a recipe for accidents as the slopes are quite busy with Christmas guests. We climbed up above our apartment and picked up the blue piste we had skied a few times last year. It seemed much steeper in places than I remember; it had felt like a lovely lazy cruise down at the end of the day but actually has some tricky sections. We were able to get some bearings for where to advise people to jump off when the snow does eventually reach us. At present there is no significant fall forecast up until 20th Jan, but forecasts can be wrong, hopefully.
We wove our way through the back streets of Huez, the little village at the bottom of the run. It was amazingly picturesque and is a place we have always just driven past on bends number 7-5. The only things missing were the tubs of geraniums, which I’m sure are in abundance during summer, illustrating the fact that it is actually winter, solstice in fact.
We jumped into one of the little cabins which took us back up to ADH and then onwards and upwards in the yoghurt pots to enjoy a galette and pichet de vin in the sunshine at our favourite crepiere and were lucky enough to grab the last available table. I have never thought I’d be content to sit at a pavement cafe next to a roundabout but with, what felt like, only one vehicle every few minutes, it is hardly busy. The other benefit this season is meeting people we know. Emily, joint manager at Sphere Bar, next door, passed by to open up and stopped to have a chat. We are also beginning to see new faces more regularly on the bus service and have been chatting to an ESF (French ski school) instructor, the only English one in resort. They are really tough with their entry requirements, something like within 0.2 of a second outside the Olympic qualifying time. It would appear that their teaching ability is irrelevant!