Its a little hard to write to this post without getting super emotional. I guess thats why I've been putting it off. Our week in the snow was the absolute stand out of my holiday and I've been thinking about it & getting choked up thinking about it every single day since we got back.
From London we caught the overnight Eurostar "snow train" from St Pancreas Station in the evening. Along with Jeff & the kids, our travelling companions were my parents, my 2 brothers, my sister, her husband & their 3 children. After an excrutiating bag & body security checking process & subsequent emptying/full security check again [of an overstuffed bag full of toiletries, iPods & iPads & God knows what else] + repacking, we finally boarded our carriage on the train at about 8.30pm.
It wasn't the most comfortable night of travel on the train with upright seats & people constantly pushing past us to get to the train cafe carriage all night long. But you know, can't really complain considering our destination!
We arrived into the French Alps early in the morning at Moutiers at about 5.30am. We then caught a bus from Moutiers to our little snow village, La Tania which is a part of 'Les Trois Vallees", [The Three Valleys], the largest skiing region in the world. Wiki tells me there are 600kms of ski slopes & 183 lifts!
When we arrived it was dark with only a few street lights on & we had no idea where to go to get to our accommodation. After all freaking out a bit, mainly because we were kinda lost, we were in regular winter clothes, not our snow clothes & we had about 30 pieces of luggage, we started to get a plan together. With help from a lovely lady who gave us some broad directions, my brothers set off to find out where we were staying & it wasn't too long before we were lugging all our bags up a heap of stairs, across a bridge and down a long street before we arrived at our beautiful chalet. Of course it was then only minutes later that we found out that check in wasn't until 4pm in the afternoon! Our accommodation manager from SkiPower soon found us outside freezing & temporarily relocated us to another chalet so we could thaw out & get some food & relax a bit.
After our nervous & very cold start to the day, our lovely chalet hosts Cherry & Christina allowed us to come in hours early as soon as the other guests had left, so it wasn't at all long before we were all settled in our amazing chalet. As they busied themselves setting up the rooms we got into some of our snow clothes & then set off to get our ski gear fitted, do some shopping at the local Sherpa Supermarket & check out the little La Tania village in daylight.
Its quite common with European chalet accomodation to get live in hosts to cook your meals & 'keep house' while you are staying there. We were so lucky to have 2 great ladies looking after us. The meals were amazing, three courses every night! And they consulted with us every day so they could cater for our tastes & meals suitable for the kids. When you have a large group and book chalet accommodation it actually doesn't cost much more to have live in hosts & meals provided. When you divide the cost back per person and factor in buying meals or shopping for groceries/cooking yourself, you don't really save any money by booking accommodation without hosts! And I cannot tell you how lovely it is to have had the week off cooking & not having to worry about dinner, especially after skiing during the day. And its a great life for the hosts too. Having to prepare breakfast & dinner then having their day free, they can work & fund their own ski season & ski almost every day if they wish. Oh to have my youth again, I would most certainly be signing up for that kind of life for a few years!
Chalet accommodation sounds totally super posh and we sure did feel very spoiled indeed but its actually cheaper to ski over there in this type of arrangement than it is to ski in Australia believe it or not! Well ok the long flights over to Europe make it more expensive but we were already on that side of the world. We will most definitely consider Japan in the future for skiing because I'm told flights + skiing is also cheaper than Australian skiing. Crazy.
The next morning we all got into our ski gear complete with proper snow socks [absolutely worth the investment for comfort & warmth], thermals, neck warmers & the rest.... and then we headed down for ski school. Here's my whole family in the snow in La Tania. Thats me in the back with my 1980's pink fluro snow headband [who would have thought neons would have come back into fashion? hahaha!]
We chose the Magic Ski School to teach our kids to ski & we could not have been happier. We had a week long private class for Georgia, Charlotte & my nephews Ben & Harry. Their French instructor was nicknamed JB. By the end of the week they were teasing him & calling him Justin Bieber! The kids had a mix of half days & full days, every day for 6 days, including Christmas day!
They went from never having seen snow before, to skiing 'blue runs' [intermediate to advanced] by the end of the week. It was just amazing. It was very emotional to see my girls fall in love with skiing, THE ONLY sport that I am ok at & LOVE so much. I learned to ski as a child, skiing many seasons at Mt Hotham & Falls Creek in Victoria & have returned as an adult on occasion over the years. Now that my kids love it so much, we will be making that our family holiday of choice to get them to the snow as often as we can manage it.
For my 3 little ones, we booked them into a Little Mice class also with Magic Ski School for the week. They take kids from age 4 but I arranged for Buddy, who is 3 to tag along too. That turned out to be a disaster. He had a huge melt down & didn't want to do it. He loved the snow, just did not want to be in a class or ski. Since we've come back he's asked me a few times why he didn't ski with the girls & I've had to remind him that he made a big fuss & didn't want to. I think he is a bit sad about that missed opportunity. So next ski holiday [!!] the focus will be on getting him very comfortable & onto skis again. I started when I was about 5 so I want him to get cracking on it. Much easier to learn as a youngster!
In contrast to Buddy, the twins took to it with lots of enthusiasm & super happy attitudes. They fell in love with their lovely Italian instructor, Filippo! In fact, on the last day & since we have been home, we have had quite a few tears because they loved the experience so much & miss Filippo terribly. They have since written beautiful cards with drawings & we have printed off this photo above so that they can send to him & thank him for teaching them to ski. To see Amelia & Chelsea learning to ski was just amazing. They were so cute & did so well. They loved boasting that they had been on 'the bubble' [Gondola] 'just so many times' to take them up to their lesson area. We have some cute videos of them skiing & falling over & I'm trying to make a little movie with all the footage that I have.
With all the girls in lessons, Jeff & I were able to take turns in looking after Buddy & also leave him with my mum for a small period each day so that we could ski together. The snow in the Three Valleys was just amazing. The best skiing of my life. I was able to spend time skiing alone with Jeff, skiing just with my brothers, skiing with my sister and skiing with my dear ol' [69yo] dad too. It was beyond brilliant. The snow is just different over there somehow. The powder was awesome. We actually had a massive snowfall in the middle of our week which made skiing in the huge dump of powder really really difficult because it was hard to propel forward! But the day after once it was compacted down a bit, it was absolute heaven. You can see just how much snow we had in one afternoon/evening by comparing the snowfall on our balcony to the very first pic in my post. The whole village was covered, it was amazing & so beautiful. Quite clearly I don't have enough adjectives in my vocabularly to describe all the amazeballs that it was!
The day after snowfall, was my best day on the slopes & I will never forget it. The sun was shining, the powder was incredible, and then we had a little sprinkling of snowflakes as we skiied around Courchevel. Magic.
I love this photo of Jeff and I. Stupidly I have my neck warmer pulled up so it looks like I am chinless & neckless but oh well. As well skiing, we also took the time to catch the most massive gondola up to the very top of Courchevel just to look out over the Three Valleys. The Saulire Gondola takes over 100 people at a time & is mildly scary. The lookout is like heaven. Breathtaking. Just speechless to be in a place like that with my Jeff. We had a guy at the top ask if we wanted to go para-skiing with him. Umm no thank you. Way too scary.
My dad & Jeff had gone up in the gondola the day before & stopped in at one of the restaurants right on top of the mountain for a hot chocolate. I can't recall how much it was but Jeff said there was a bottle of wine on the menu for 1500 Euros! It has breathtaking views. You can imagine all the rich & famous would fly in just to dine there. Yes, it seems Courchevel 1850 is certainly a popular place for the beautiful people to dine & ski! The week we were in the snow, Michael Schumacher had a terrible injury skiing in Three Valleys. And I must say I was a little disappointed I didn't bump into Kate & William while we were there but I guess little George is just that bit too young to get his ski on. Next time perhaps. Needless to say my dad & Jeff did not indulge in the very expensive hot chocolate, opting to find something a little cheaper down the mountain!
Here's Jeff & I at the top of the lookout at Courchevel. The elevation here is 2700 ft & looks over Courchevel Moriond, Courchevel 1850 & Mont Blanc!
The week in the snow didn't feel especially Christmassy because we were skiing every day & not doing normal Christmassy things. Because I had a bag with a few Christmas presents in it for the Kris Kringle exchange left behind in London baggage storage, I had to pop down to Courchevel to get a little shopping done but apart from that, it didn't really feel like Christmas until Christmas eve. And then all the girly emotional feelings & stuff started for me. You see our big girls had been invited to join all the local children along with other ski school kids, in a night time ski parade down the mountain. They were all given lights & once it was dark, they all caught the drag lift to the top.
We waited for what seemed like forever but then music started playing, fireworks started and hundreds of kids along with their instructors, started skiing down from side to side of the ski slope all with their little torches & lights ablaze. The little trail of lights was all we could see in the dark actually & we could hardly make out our own children. But eventually we saw them as they came close by & we were just so enormously proud. It was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. Darkness in the snow, all the people from the village waiting at the bottom and all the children skiing down with their lights. It was just priceless & such an unexpected bonus extra. They are a bit hard to make out but you can see a few more pics of the dark village & fireworks in one of my videos below.
After all the celebrations were over, we went back to our chalet to tuck the little ones in & then we set about decorating our dining room for the next day. I had planned to do something super simple so with a stack of doilies & a ball of white wool bought from home, Jeff, mum, Jane & Tom, my brother Gerry & I stayed up & worked together to get all the doilies tied onto long strings of wool & hung them from the curtain rails to the staircase over the dining table. Simple & perfect. I'd also arranged for all our kids & Janes to do a little Christmas sketch on my iPad & I then turned their drawings into A3 placemats. I had them finished & laminated before we left & as they were so flat, they were easily packed at the bottom of a suitcase & then brought out to decorate the table on Christmas Eve. And everyone got to keep one each so they have a momento our white Christmas.
Christmas morning the kids were surprised to find that Father Christmas did in fact find them in the French Alps & had gifted each of them with 50 Euros to spend at Disneyland! Lots of excitement!! We then all had breakfast at our decorated table before heading out for a day of skiing. That night we returned to a beautiful Christmas dinner & exchange of a few pressies. It was the most fabulous day. Not filled with piles & piles of present stuff, just a small gift each, a lovely meal & quality time spent together. Perfect.
Before we knew it, the days had passed & it was time to leave the snow. With heavy hearts, we packed our bags, big hugs for our hosts & then we set off to catch the bus back down to Moutiers & then the train into Paris for our next adventure. That was the amazing thing about this holiday. We got so attached to every place we visited & got very emotional leaving each one but at the same time we were so excited about the next adventure coming up. Travel is strange & crazy & amazing & hard all at the same time.
And to finish off, here's a few random things that I will never forget about the snow.....
Fresh baguettes, ham & Moo cheese for lunch most days. Hot crepes with Nuttella or lemon & sugar for the occasional snack. Eating beautiful thin crispy pizza out in the snow. Nightlife with my siblings & partners. Having to walk through icy snow with bare feet outside to retrieve my kids from the hot spa to bring them inside. Cold! Drinking Pellegrino by the gallon & keeping it cold by leaving it outside on our balcony.
The incredibly beautiful accommodation; we had a whole floor just for our family & we had 3 bedrooms, each with ensuite. Watching the La Tania bubble [gondola] just outside our bedroom window carry passengers up the mountain & from there it was just one large chairlift [Bout Blanc] over to Courchevel. Trying French mustard [Moutarde] on french fries & falling head over heels for it. I then bought some & forgot to bring it home! I have since tried to find Moutarde in Adelaide. No luck. Fridge now well stocked with 6 mustards, none of them quite cutting the mustard, ha! Import coming up I think!
Sitting around the open fire in the evening with full bellies & my family for company every night. My children learning some basic French & making sure they used their French manners to say hello, thank you & thank you very much whenever they needed to. Taking dozens & dozens of photos of wooden chalets that have me so inspired. Watch this space for chalet inspired artwork this year! And on that note, I'll finish off here.
Here's a couple of Flipagrams I made which have a few more pics of our very special time in the snow. Next, we are off to Paris! But I might do a little post on some shopping I did just to break things up a little.
Merci Beaucoup & au revoir!