A surprise wedding and a chalet fire!

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Europe » France » Rhône-Alpes » Saint-Martin-de-Belleville
December 26th 2010
Published: January 11th 2011
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Boxing day started with a mad dash to pack everything before having to vacate our wonderful apartment. We got on the road and headed south to the Alps. Our skiing odyssey, for which we had planned for months was about to begin. Thankfully we were all so buzzed about the week to come, because no sooner had we entered the motorway, than we drew to a halt. The holiday traffic heading to the Alps on Boxing Day was tragic. The motorway was a car park, there were mountains of toll booths and what should have taken 3 hours, took 5! But we couldn’t be disheartened! We were just happy to be surrounded by white stuff!

We eventually made it by early afternoon and were certainly not disappointed. The village of St Martin De Belleville is one of France’s most beautiful villages. Everything from the winding road up, to the village church steeple, to the snow covered chocolate-box chalets made my skin tingle with delight. Our chalet was everything I hoped it would be...most central with the feel of the French Alps all the way to the fireplace, which would prove to be almost fatal towards the end of the night.

Kate and Mark, our hosts were fantastic. They took us to help with ski hire and lift tickets which was worth doing this afternoon. Tomorrow the lines would be way too long. Mykenzie also got her ski gear which was a big step for us. We have been waiting for 3 years until she was old enough to go into ski school. Finally that day is here and all parties are so very excited.

After getting kitted out we went back to our cosy chalet to find Rory, Mel and Naryth waiting for us. They had made a huge trek from Scotland and had finally arrived. So finally we were all together (except James and Sonia who would join us in a few days) and we sat back and toasted our first drink together in several months. So there we all were, sitting on the massive couch, chin wagging and drinking red wine, when Brett and Alana shared some exciting news with us. Being engaged we knew they were to get married next year sometime, what we didn’t know was that they had already tied the knot in Australia in a secret ceremony and were to have another ceremony in the Alps with us. For a week we had been together with them and they had been keeping this incredible secret. They were getting married in the Alps with us as witnesses. To say we were shocked was an understatement. Everyone was jumping around with excitement, tears filled our eyes and questions flew. They had decided that they didn’t want a big white wedding but just something intimate with their closest friends and family. We were absolutely honoured to be among that group and that made this week which we had all been looking forward to for so long, even more special.

When we had finally calmed down, they were showing us the photos of the ceremony they had in Sydney. The beautiful log fire, which Rory had stoked with a massive tree from outside, was blazing away, warming us all to the core. The smell was typical of a warm, cosy ski lodge and we didn’t think that it was too strong or that the fire was too big. It wasn't until the fire alarm started screeching that we even realised there was anything wrong. Even though we were standing only metres from the fire, somehow we didn’t see the roof alight. The heat from the fire was so intense that it had lit the wooden hearth surrounding the fireplace. Why there would ever be a wooden hearth around a fireplace escapes me but then we discovered that the flume actually stopped at the roof line. It wasn’t even a proper chimney. So all the heat from the fire only had a small duct to escape through and when the heat got too intense it caught on fire. The ceiling was ablaze, the flames were licking the roof and the fire was about 3 minutes from being uncontrollable. Everyone sprung into action, throwing open windows, dousing the fire with wine glasses full of water, searching for a fire extinguisher. I reckon it took about 50 litres of water to finally put the fire out and the only evidence was the black scorch mark on the roof. It was such a close call that we had even contemplated grabbing the kids and getting the hell out of there! Thankfully it didn’t have to come to that.

The adrenalin was cursing through us by this stage so needless to say a few more drinks were had and by the end of the night, as wine often leads to exaggerating tales, the fire had engulfed the chalet and our clothes had burn marks on them!


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