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Published: January 13th 2008
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas. And, as I was unlikely to get one in London, I figured Neddy better go to the mountain and try to sort one out.
As it turned, out, it was not an uneventful adventure but a great time was had by all.
First off, a high - managed to book the flights from City airport, my favourite airport in the whole of London. Why? Two reasons. First, it is very easy to get to - you can get there in about 40 mins from my place just using ordinary London Transport (tube and DLR). Second, it's small, so you only need to check in 30mins prior to departure. As our flight was early in the morning, we arranged a minicab to take us, but even that is not too exxy to City Airport.
So, bright and early and very excited on Sat 22 Dec, Adam, Trav, Marc and I headed to City Airport to find heavy fog had rolled in overnight making it impossible for our plane to get from Geneva to London, meaning there was no plane to fly us out of London. We joined the long queue to
discuss other options with the single Swiss Air representative on duty and, in a brilliant effort at multi-tasking also called Swiss Air on the phone. When we ultimately spoke to someone, we were told that we could be wait-listed on a flight from Heathrow on the 23rd. To be honest, we were not very tempted by that offer - I mean how many people decide not to get their flight to their Christmas destination? Eager to hit the slopes ASAP, we looked at other options. We were able to get a booking on an afternoon Eurostar and decided to trust that we'd get on a TGV to Geneva from Paris.
Although it was still early, we headed straight to Kings Cross to see if we could get an earlier Eurostar and to source some breakfast. I am happy to report success on both fronts! We managed to get 'tip-up seats' - kind of like the jump seat on a plane - in the baggage area on a 9.30 am train. We were very happy to avoid a 6 hour wait at Kings Cross station (although we would have been able to put the new champagne bar - the
longest in Europe - to good use).
One we arrived in Paris, we discovered there were no seats on the TGV to Geneva until 6pm. While we purchased tickets for the 6pm train - we decided to try and sneak on to the earlier train.
We did not get kicked off the earlier train! True, a guard did come and speak to us and tell us we were not supposed to be in the carriage we were in, but - thanks to her lack of English and my (perhaps slightly more deliberately atrocious than normal) French, she was unable to communicate what we were meant to do and let us stay on the train. Think perhaps it was lucky that Marc, who has been learning French, was asleep at the time of these crucial negotiations!
When we finally made it to Geneva airport, we discovered that they had given out van away - despite us calling to tell them we'd be late. Lovely.
Luckily they managed to locate us a new van and finally, 17 hours after we first left home we arrived in Chamonix. YAY!
There was heaps of
Me and my fearless off piste leader
snow - and blue sky and it was awesome to be back on the slopes again! It was only a partial crew on day one as others were arriving that afternoon. It was great to get my snow legs back. As it turned out, there were still some problems with flights from Heathrow so we were extra glad we'd decided not to wait and see if we could get on a flight the next day. However, everyone was able to make it as planned - no further delays.
While it had not snowed for a while, the weather had been really cold, so the snow was not icy (in Chamonix - 'hard packed' actually means hard packed, not code for icy like in Oz!).
Chamonix is great because there are a number of different slopes accessible from the village - especially if you have a car. No prospect of getting to know the mountain like the back of your hand in a week there! We even drove over to Italy and skiied Courmayeur. Those Italians ski like they drive - crazy! It also meant that we got to view Mt Blanc from almost every angle.
a few of us on some off piste adventures and (from necessity more than design - had to get down the slope somehow!) my boarding has improved a lot. Felt very hard core when one of the runs involved a hike in AND a hike out (neither very long thankfully).
While there was lots of snow around the chalet, we were not able to make a snowman - the snow would not stick. (OK am scraping the bottom of the barrel for lows for this section of the update).
WHITE CHRISTMAS BABY! OK, so while it did not snow on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, there was snow on the ground all around the chalet so I think that qualifies. We had a great Christmas dinner, starting with a huge antipasto spread and then turkey with all the trimmings. Our Christmas bar on the balcony of the chalet was a sensation.
We did not, however, have any Christmas decorations at the chalet. In case you are wondering, it appears that Chamonix is a tinsel free zone. Well, that is not strictly true. Places have decorations up, including tinsel, it was just impossible to buy
any. So - no decorations at the chalet. Very disappointing. At least for me. Others did not seem so disturbed. However, I did have a Christmas hat, so all was not lost.
The Aiguille du Midi. It's high (3,842 metres in fact). In fact, it's the highest lift station in Europe. When it was built - it was the highest cable car in the world. It is still the highest vertical ascent cable car in the world. (So many facts.) From there, you can head onto the glacier for climbing (mainly in summer - although we did see a couple of ice climbers) or skiing. We saw lots of people heading out on the ridge with their crampons - much more hard core than me! The views were fabulous. You can see the French, Swiss and Italian Alps. In summer, you can get the cable car to Italy, which would be pretty cool.
We celebrated two birthdays in Chamonix - Happy Birthday Richard and Sarah! Of course, that was the perfect excuse for the obligatory yaegermister shot. As you know, it's not a ski trip without one!
I lost my ATM card. However -
was not really a problem as still had the trusty credit card!
New Years Eve. We had a great new year. By then, the crew had moved from the chalet to the Mercure. Our accommodation included a new years dinner, which was great and, much to out surprise pre-dinner treats of champagne (as much as you wanted) and freshly shucked oysters, which was even better! After dinner, we headed out to a bar on the main square, from which it was easy to join the festivities in the main square at midnight and then duck back into the warmth of the bar once the cold started to seep into our bones.
Our flight home was cancelled. Seriously. Who would have thought? Twice in one trip. This time it apparently had something to do with air traffic controllers being sick (or at least that's what they told us). Not as stressful this time, as we managed to get a flight to Paris and then one to London - although it did extend to trip home and mean we flew into Heathrow - so in fact I did not get to experience my favourite airport in London.
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!
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