Afternoons

We are beginning to be able to get a bit of a break in the afternoons now. If we didn’t have to go back for high tea at 5.30 – which hopefully we won’t after this week until half term – we would have even longer. One of our principle imperatives is to get the weight off our feet. They are really suffering with being on them for 10 – 11 hours a day literally (not as one of the guests,  a teacher, claimed to do!). I’m not sure if it is exacerbated by the flooring but we have stone tiles throughout on top of the underfloor heating which makes it very solid (to which all the glass breakages will atest). My feet aren’t even relived by sitting down if I can’t actually get the pressure off my soles but I think even that may be getting marginally easier. At least this problem has fuelled Roger’s slipper obsession.

Pool from the yoghurt pots

Pool from the yoghurt pots

We had adopted a routine when we finish the morning stint of gathering all the bin bags and recycling bottles, scrambling up the side of the hot tub and chalet, climbing a short but steep hill to the bin store, depositing the trash before ascending a further 40-50 steps to the centre ville on the way to our apartment. After a solid 6-7 hour stint this was quite an exertion but the other day we had to go down the hill first to collect a parcel. I was dismayed at this regressive step as we’d have further to climb back up until Roger’s inspired idea of taking the yogurt pots to the midstation and walking back to the flat on a slightly downhill trajectory -yippee. Just a shame they aren’t working at 10pm. This new route does require us to walk past some enticing cafes whose services we have had to evaluate sat in the midday sun. Not so shabby then and certainly easier on the feet. Fortunately we have the full season lift pass so we can jump on and off any lift in resort, unfortunately it doesn’t extend to the 1 swim a week provided on the 6 day pass which would certainly help to ease achy joints, from work never mind skiing, but I’m sure that’s saved the company a few more pennies!

turn round day

We were up at 4am on Sunday as our first 6 guests were due to leave on a 5.10 coach, closely followed by another couple at 5.25. It would be fair to say that they were not best pleased as they were on 10.30 and 11.30 flights respectively but the chaos of the previous week was obviously still very fresh in the transport organisers’ minds even though it hadn’t actually snowed since. We were contractually obliged to offer a cooked breakfast but their initial surprise that we would be up at all didnt deter them from availing themselves of this service. One couple asked for just 2 sausages and sausage and a piece of bacon. Did they not realise that if your going to cook it might as well be for 10 as for 2 and the idea had been for them to say that they just wanted cereal or such like. Fortunately a lovely group of 4 said that they’d just do ham and cheese baguettes from the previous day’s bread. Unfortunately this wasn’t possible as Mrs just ‘a sausage and a piece of bacon’ had been systematically raiding the fridge in our absence at lunchtime and we had no ham left for the nice people! The other couple, hearing about bacon and sausages wanted 1 full cooked, at 4.30! What planet were these people on? More of that in the expose currently under construction.

The rest of the guests left in 2 more groups through the course of the morning which involved stopping what we were doing, escorting (not carrying suitcases) them down the steps and hanging round for the bus. After we’d done that 4 times at 15 mins a time that was 2 hours out of a very busy day. Fortunately our next party wasn’t due until 5.45pm so we thought we should have plenty of time to turn the chalet round and prepare the evening meal (no cake required – yippee). So why did we only manage to have bearly a 1 hour break between 4am and 10pm? We must be so inefficient or perhaps not. More of that in the expose. Even an hour’s help from Fergus probably only enabled us to have a break, not get ahead. We are unlikely to be able to depend on him again as someone has broken ranks so Fergus will probably we covering that gap as I’d be extremely surprised if our deserter is replaced.

Our new guests duly arrived on time, a chaotic chronological cross – section of people eventually emerged from the bus. We were able to say hello to the newly weds before initiating our ascent of the north face of Alpe d’huez and got them all into the chalet before many started to make about turns to go to get ski hire equipment for the morning. With 5 under 10 plus a toddler things became very noisy as they stampeded up and down the wooden stairs. One of the chaps apologised for this and explained that it would be the norm, we reciprocated with indifference as we don’t live in. One of the matriarchs endeared herself to me straight away by sneakily asking for a glass of wine which I duly delivered. Unfortunately she had to wait quite some time for a refill as we didn’t get round to feeding them until nearly 9am. Even now I’m not sure where the time went.

Breakfast the following morning was bedlam but they were all out by 8.45 having tucked spare croissants and pain a chocolates into pockets. Yesterday morning, without mentioning anything to us 12 of them appeared for breakfast at 7.30 (it isn’t ready until 8am) as apparently they’d been late for ski school so thought they should leave earlier. Personally I think they should be better organised as they didn’t leave the building any earlier than anyone else who had had breakfast at 8 and still made it to ski school on time. Emptying rucksacks all over the dining room floor and buying 6  bagguettes to make sandwiches and dumping them in the kitchen before disappearing off with the clingfilm didn’t improve our efficiency of delivering their breakfast quicker but they are still actually nice people so we’ve cut them quite a lot of slack; particularly since the matriarch told me not to bother cleaning the bedrooms although her counterpart did emphasise ‘the children’s rooms’. Hope we aren’t going to get a Mother of the bride versus Mother of the groom stand off.

n bags and recycling bottles, scrambling up the side of the hot tub and chalet, climbing a short but steep hill to the bin store, depositing the trash before ascending a further 40-50 steps to the centre ville on the way to our apartment. After a solid 6-7 hour stint this was quite an exertion but the other day we had to go down the hill first to collect a parcel. I was dismayed at this regressive step as we’d have further to climb back up until Roger’s inspired idea of taking the yogurt pots to the midstation and walking back to the flat on a slightly downhill trajectory -yippee. Just a shame they aren’t working at 10pm. This new route does require us to walk past some enticing cafes whose services we have had to evaluate sat in the midday sun. Not so shabby then and certainly easier on the feet. Fortunately we have the full season lift pass so we can jump on and off any lift in resort, unfortunately it doesn’t extend to the 1 swim a week provided on the 6 day pass which would certainly help to ease achy joints, from work never mind skiing, but I’m sure that’s saved the company a few more pennies!

New Year’s Day

Well we’ve made it into 2015, not quite with a bang but with a bit of a celebration with some of our guests at Underground. Once the evening meal was out the way and breakfast set up (as best we could as some of them were very comfortably ensconced around the table) We took 8 of the younger ones plus a lady of more mature years – my age – who was the mother of 2 of the lads and also happened to be a physio (PLUs as I mentioned) to the bar, extolling it’s virtues as buzzing and with live music. We arrived to a fairly sedate affair and recognised no-one, presumably just some other guests who had stumbled upon it. After 15 mins or so we were starting to feel a little embarrassed and just as I was texting Meg enquire as to where the action was going to be she stumbled in the door with Kat and Emily closely followed by the rest of the crew. What a relief. From then in the place became livelier and livelier with the musicians playing continually. We left about 3 hours later and Gareth and his fellow troubadours didn’t stop in all that time. Their repertoire was amazing, they appeared to be able to play anything from the past 40 years accompanied only by 2 guitars and a tomtom drum. I think our credibility rose when our younger guests realised that we were still there at 1.30 – it was so busy by then you couldn’t see across the room. They didn’t seem to mind that the ‘spit n sawdust’ floor had been replaced by fluid (melted snow and spilt drinks) and broken glass but fortunately everyone was in heavy boots.

We were fortunate enough to have new years day off after a run of 8 so wound our weary way back up to our apartment where Roger fell down the stairs and impailed his hand on the door key. A nice neat puncture wound which decided to drip blood very dramatically down the stairwell. Whilst he tried to stem the flow in the bathroom I attempted to remove the remnants of a chain saw massacre in the hall and stairs so as not to scare the kiddies when they got up the following morning. We tumbled into bed exhausted (again) and slept through until nearly midday.

IMAG0620There had been a loose arrangement with our colleagues to meet them at Folly Douce,  a mountain bar, at 3pm but we were aware that it took us nearly an hour and half from leaving our accommodation to getting to our chalet to try to Skype family etc, pick up the skis and then going down the hill to come back up in the yoghurt pots (from where the photo was taken) just to get to the main centre.  We were in reasonable time and as it was lunchtime the queues were a little less than the previous time so we managed a couple of runs as we wended our way across the hillside to the rendezvous. It didn’t take us long to conclude that this really wasn’t our sort of place and as we were unable to spot anyone we chose to leave and return to our favourite haunt at the top of Signal. 2 chocolate chauds and a portion of fries between us in the afternoon sun and we were very content. We even managed to find a more direct route down to the far end of a long flat section which is normally very hard work but which then takes us straight back to the chalet. The place was a bit of a tip but that’s what happens when you let guests fend for themselves, even nice ones. At least we knew what we’d be met with the following morning. We ambled back to the apartment, as we had no time imperative, admiring the orangey hues of the setting sun on the snow covered hillside with the moon rising above. (Photo approaching our apartment block).IMAG0623

Back in the flat we have little alternative but to sit on the bed. There are 2 uncomfortable upright chairs and a low saggy bed settee so we tend to sit on the bed and fall asleep. Waking again at 7.30 we made ourselves get up, have some tea and even played cards to keep awake. One game of cribbage later and we were tucked up for the night, party animals that we are!

Our 6.15 alarm called and we made our way back to the chalet to find that it was tidied up, dishwasher emptied and all the washing up done. Last week I wanted to be able assess guests to blacklist undesirable visitors, this week it is lovely to be able to emphasise the reciprocity of this type of system to applaud some of our lovely guests who thought the kitchen/living area was too messy for us to return to so took the tasks upon themselves (and repeated the job again last night). I would also need to mention another couple whose bedroom is so neat and tidy that there is little for me to do, I’m not even certain they sleep in their beds! Our only slight blip was to find a prostrate form completely covered by a duvet on the sofa (not the first time we’ve found this to be an alternative nightime abode). Isn’t it always the case that when one tries to be quiet you end up making even more noise i.e. knocking all the beautifully washed up dishes off the drainer. Our occupant didn’t seem too perturbed and when she emerged over half an hour later she said it was still preferable to the snoring she’d endured in the bedroom.

We’re not skiing this afternoon and have managed to stay awake! Only 5 days until the next day off. The snow is nearly a week old, icey in places and the weather is closing in, only 5cms forecast for this transfer day though but a 5.10am bus for our first guests in the aftermath of last week’s chaos so a 4am start for us! Well be sorry to see this group go as they’ve been such a relief after the previous week. Next week we have a honeymoon party with 2 people in their 70s, 2 in their 60s, 4 under 12s and a seventeenth occupant of a baby. OMG, this is going to be hell or fine, but at least they aren’t due to arrive until 5.45pm so we can crash in the middle of the afternoon, or that’s the theory.

Snow’s here

IMAG0614The snow has fallen, the sun is shining, the previous guests have left and our new arrivals are normal people! They are chatty, helpful and quite tidy, in fact PLUs. ‘People like us’ to the extent that the one family in the group is from our home town of Gosport or more precisely, Roger’s district of Lee on Solent. It is already a pleasure after last week. We finally managed to bid farewell to the previous bunch after a 2 hour wait for the bus after which they gave our reps grief when they were informed that they could be diverted to a different airport. Did they really think that their convenience was paramount in the greater scheme of things? Could they not just open their eyes and see the chaos at the the poor provincial airport of Chambray – which even made BBC R2 news but no, why should they change a lifetime’s habit of selfishness and lack of consideration or even awareness of others. My final straw came as I carried the suitcase of a woman who must be at least 10 years younger than me and had managed to ski all week, down the hill and stairs to the bus pick up point and managed to fall over and slide down 10-12 snow covered metal steps. Good riddance is all I can put here and plenty more that I can’t.  This has been a very good reason to start up my next idea; a website called Guest Assess. It would work on a similar basis to TripAdvisor but for hospitality businesses to identify nightmare customers whether they be habitual complainers, seriously messy/untidy, rude, trying to get discounts by threatening poor reviews, ‘nickers’ of towels etc. The list goes on. Why is it just the businesses that have to endure this? These new guests have been more helpful, appreciative and communicative in 24 hours than the others were all week. They even had the audacity to comment that the chalet was only moderately clean and tidy yet it was all their c**p. As expected there was no tip whatsoever and barely a thank you or even goodbye.

IMAG0615We got out on the hill yesterday afternoon and spent a glorious few hours on the fresh snow in the sunshine, reminding ourselves why we were here. It was a bit crowded but was probably at its busiest for the season considering the conditions combined with the holiday week. We were still exhausted when we got back to our accommodation after the 19 hour day previously, as incoming guests had been delayed, skiing in our ‘rest’ period, including a couple of runs which were very hard work. Hard is also the word to describe the ice I fell on rather too heavily to compound my bumache from the steps fall the previous day. Anyway we were not best pleased to find a flood in our apartment but could do no more than check it wasn’t squirting out, threw some towels overy the puddle and collapse into bed.

a bit of snow!

I understand England has some snow. Hope everything doesn’t come to a grinding halt!IMAG0611

We appear to be cut off, it’s 7.20 am, we’ve been up since 4.30 to bid farewell to half our current guests. Bus was due at 5.45 and now we are being rung to find out what’s going on??! The only thing I do know is that the path I attempted to clear down to the road at 5.15am and again at 5.45 is now covered again. Our octagenarians do not have suitable footwear for knee high snow (despite being veteran skiers!) Yesterday’s turnround guests never made it last night, I doubt we could be so lucky today.

The view from our room has changed somewhat.

The view from our room has changed somewhat.

Christmas day

IMAG0593We had tried to have a little bit of our own Christmas on the afternoon of the 24th. We opened the rest of the cards which we’d either brought with us or had been hand delivered by Ruth, tucked into a beautiful box of chocolates accompanied by a gin and tonic or 2 and then decorated our apartment.  We were a bit limited with resources but it is amazing how creative one can be with a box of bacofoil! This had been provided for us but the absence of an oven diminished it’s necessity. We still had to be back at the chalet by 5ish for evening prep and meal and wandered past the ice rink where a stage show was being set up. Our family later confirmed that it had been very good and wondered why we hadn’t attended!!

After dinner and clearing up we made our way to Underground, one of our favourite haunts and found all the other Skitotal people so had a pint and a sit to ease the aching feet before embarking on a fairly restrained bop. Our feet do seem to be taking the brunt of this work now that the hands are healing but even this morning we were on them for 8 hours solidly before you add in the evening shift. We were relieved to be in bed by a relatively modest 1 am.

IMAG0592Breakfast and dinner were usual times on 25th as the family wanted to ski. We were not as perturbed as some of our colleagues at the prospect of Christmas lunch as this was somewhat easier than it has been at home previously as the menu was quite basic and the pudding and stuffing coming ready made. The mince pies were made by 11 am and beautifully displayed on my new cake stand (courtesy of Ruth) and I’d even managed a little Christmas tree stencil for the icing sugar. Not sure that the decoration  or display were  appreciated by the guests but Kat liked it and wanted a photo so that’ll do for me. They came rushing back around 3pm in order to get back out for a torchlit display later but as they’d omitted to tell us that the coffee pots were still in the dishwasher as tea is usually at 4.30. We were able to be amazingly obliging when one asked to have 2 rooms of towel change (on Christmas day??!) which we would not normally do – who changes their towels twice a week at home? So we promised nothing but Kat delivered  the required order 1/2 hour later – impressive I think. We’re just keeping quiet about it as I don’t want to start an avalanche of copycat demands.

 

The evening meal went quite smoothly and I’d even like to think they enjoyed themselves. I’m not sure they appreciated the amount of effort which went into the mandatory after dinner chocolates where I’d managed to pipe Merry Christmas 2014 onto the individual chocs without a piping bag. I hope they couldn’t taste the sage which had been the bag’s previous occupant! We were finished by 9.30 and cleared by 10 so wound our weary way back to Underground to find it almost deserted. We thought the twice postponed Secret Santa was going to be at that time but apparently not. We now have 2 presents which we do not really want as we already have some and have potentially wasted €20 which is a lot of money in this cash strapped environment. We bade the staff happy Christmas, climbed back to our apartment and collapsed into bed. Strange Christmas.

Christmas Eve

I can’t believe it is. I have never felt less Christmassy despite the snow. We have been provided with a tree and I’d collected fir cones and was going to dry some orange slices to make into bundles with cinnamon sticks but don’t feel particularly inclined. Not helped by the atitude of our guests, who don’t appear to want to enjoy themselves and are already sniffing around for where they can claim compensation! Roll on the complaints. At least we have last week’s excellent guest feedback forms on which to fall back and not just from family members.

IMAG0585We are having a spare hour in the chalet whilst they’re all out and our wifi is back up so it’s an opportunity to wish you all a very happy Christmas and healthy 2015 before it goes off again! We have over a metre of snow forecast this weekend which may make our commute a little challenging. (Our current guests were asking for free board and lodging if they get snowed in – I’ll give them a tandem down the hill if necessary but they are leaving on Sunday!) Our accomodating is quite luxurious by staff standards (the photos may show otherwise!) but is probably a good 1/2 mile from the chalet and uphill most of the way.

Our view

Our view

Unfortunately this includes a long fligh of step’s otherwise we could ski or sledge it. Whilst the accommodation is basic it is more than adequate and the view is stunning – not that we get to see much of it in daylight.

 

IMAG0591We managed a couple of hours on the hill yesterday and discovered a nice new run which was remarkably quiet. It was around the back of the nearest hill, the front of which is south facing and therefore green so no-one would expect there to be a nice blue/red run round the back. We decided to indulge ourselves in the mountain restaurant and splashed out on a hot chocolate,  can of coke and portion of chips to share. It was a while before we realised that our neighbours was one of the couples from our chalet probably thinking that we must be paid too much. There goes any chance of a tip – not that there was much of one anyway. We acquired 1/2 bottle of Disarrono and some shampoo from last week’s guests, not sure this group will leave anything but dirt!

Happy Christmas xx

Changeover day

We were warned that this would be a difficult hard day and they weren’t kidding. We are supposed to give the chalet a full deep clean once the guests have left; change the linen and towels (remaking beds to Kat’s exacting standards which we would describe as a straight jacket but achieved no leeway and folding towels into pretty arrangements) redo the flowers/roses for the spare toilet rolls – oh yes, we even have to do those silly pointy ends on the roll on the holder which I’m sure you’ll all have come across. We also have to clean the room, bathroom and balcony as you’d expect. Our army lads, 4 recently graduated from Sandhurst, had been considerate enough to not get up in time to have their rooms cleaned all week (or even have breakfast but were grateful for any leftover sausage, bacon or pastries) but the work had definatly built up over that time. Our lovely first guests even organised themselves to strip their beds so that made life so much easier. I did get summoned back down to the kitchen during my onslaught to join Roger whilst they showed their appreciation of our modest efforts and were very generous in their thanks (tips). It was good to have this opportunity to say goodbye to them as things were about to get manic. Despite everyone telling us to the contrary, we did not have a gap between parties, not even a tight one when we would have had to fly around to get everything completed in time. We had been informed on our training that the incoming guests should feel that no-one had stayed in the chalet before them, good theory! What if the previous guests meet them as their coach doesn’t leave until an hour after the subsequent ones arrive? This did make the cleaning and food prep quite a challenge; we were still doing a full day’s meal preparation and the work which had enabled us a mere 2 hours off the previous day had suddenly quadrupled and then some (but I don’t know what the word is). By midday we were fortunate enough to have the assistance of one of the ‘floaters’ and Fergus was a a sight of sore eyes; so quick and willing and cheerful and as transpired later, to be with us for the rest of the day and then each evening this week – yeah for Ferg! Roger and I had scrambled down to meet the bus, Roger traversing some of it on his bum as he slipped carrying the rubbish bags in his indoor shoes. The bus had already arrived so our welcome, complete with rubbish bags was not quite the look the company encouraged. Anyway, we were met with a group of quite sour faces. We expected 3 children and one elderly person but spotted 2 octagenarians and seemly swarms of kids. They didnt seem any more pleased to see the chalet and even less so with previous incumbents who had considerately taken their luggage down to the basement and taken themselves off for coffees etc but did need to return to collect their bags before departure. They had kindly gathered around the bench on the play area outside the chalet so I was fortunate enough to be able to say goodbye to all of them individually. Knowing what was in the chalet I was so tempted to resist their departure and send the new group back on the bus! I couldn’t even go to the only loo available to me at one point as I found 2 little boys hiding behind the door telling me to be quiet whilst they rampaged through the building with some rather large children playing hide and seek. I considered it a bit too early to start laying down the law, despite every bone in my body telling me to start how I mean to go on.

As the day wore on I was feeling worse and worse and by midafternoon had no voice at all and my throat disguised itself as razor – blades (some people will do anything to get out of making the welcome speech). The final straw hit me when Fergus enquired as to my knowledge of the 5 vegetarians, 1 vegan and a dairy intolerant guest (and another who thought she might be a bit). Our manifest had only informed us that 2 of guests ate fish which I did find a little suspicious but 5! Roger had been on kitchen duty all day and fortunately had everything under control when I finally got downstairs after Fergus and I finished 8 rooms, 2 landings and 3 staircases (I was just hoping that no-one would notice that I hadn’t cleaned the windows or balconies, particularly those where certain people had been waxing their skis all week! but they’re done now). It was 4pm and as Roger placated and sweet talked the appropriate mothers – who were not best pleased at our ignorance when it was confirmed that they had been explicit at the time of booking – Fergus got stuck into compiling the Victoria sponge, neatly incorporating a large slash in the top as the mouth of a big smiley face, for the children of course. I managed to assist in laying everything else out for tea and then grabbed an opportunity to walk to the stores to get some essential items and was grateful for a bit of fresh air. I was somewhat disappointed to arrive at the appropriate chalet to find it locked up and empty; I though there was no free time on changeover day. I trudged back to find our manager in the kitchen who had just informed us that we had Fergus for the rest of the day and that she would drop off what we needed (despite having no transport herself) I insisted on meeting her back at stores in a short while as again I was grateful to escape the some what oppressive atmosphere and get some more air. I was struggling to stay upright as well but just couldn’t play the jovial host part so offered my administration services to CM (chalet manager) but there wasn’t really anything I could help with. I asked if it was okay if I bunked off early as Fergus was around and Roger did appear to have it all in hand but still felt decidedly guilty at walking away at 6pm after only 11 hours work! I intended to return at 8pm to help with serving as plating up and taking out that many covers is quite demanding but despite my alarm ringing and ringing at 7.40 I just couldn’t drag myself out of bed, I’d go back at 9am and help with clearing up. Awaking again at 5 to 11 put paid to that idea and Roger rolled in about 10 mins later and dropped into bed exhausted but ready for another 6.15 start where they seem to have taken the breakfast 8-9am as an army roll call and all arrived at 8 ready for 16 individually cooked breakfasts at the same time! Come back last week’s people, we love you!!

On the piste!

IMAG0578Yeah, we made it up the hill for a couple of hours yesterday in beautiful conditions. It was a timely reminder of why we are here as I was beginning to lose sight in amongst all the preping,  cooking, washing up and cleaning. The other bonus came this morning in the shape of a dishwasher which actually washes dishes – we’re quite easily pleased really. It does have a tendancy to fall over if you open the door too far or bring out the top rack, but beggers can’t be chosers. This has coincided with us losing our ‘assistant’ who was at a chalet which wasn’t booked this week so she has been a great help. It remains to be seen how we manage to serve up 16 hot plates within a few minutes of each other tonight between two of us. Fortunately our guests have been with us all week and are very tolerant. They have been a great bunch and we’ll be sorry to see them go. We are booked up next week with 13 adults and 3 children over Christmas and have to do a full deep clean, drain and refill hot tub etc between turnaround. No-one told us how to manage that when all 32 guests will overlap for an hour!!! Hopefully the incomers will be as adaptable as our leavers. It’ll be sad to see them go as they have made our initiation as easy as possible and have even made super skiing and mountain restaurant companions.

IMAG0580