Friday 8th of March – The last mile
It’s Friday, the last day already… I feel excited about the fact that I get to go dual-skiing again today but I’m also a bit sad. Sad because it’s the last day of our skiing trip and I don’t want to go yet. I’ve had some much fun on this adventure and the week has flown by in the blink of an eye. Could we just stay one day longer?
Dad has been in contact with Emma, the lady who rents out the apartment we are in – he told us that we need to be out of the apartment by 10 AM tomorrow morning at the latest. But he even wants to go leave sooner… as most people are leaving tomorrow, he wants to set off at 6AM to avoid the heavy traffic. I can’t say I’m happy to leave this place – but all good things come to an end don’t they.
But let’s not dwell about this now, I still have a full day ahead of me and the sun is shining brightly in the sky – it’s going to be a terrific day today. Dad went out to get us croissants again and I’m finally getting used to this coffee smell every morning. Mom and dad might be euphoric about it, but I don’t touch the stuff… honestly, it smells like manure to me.
After breakfast we set off again for the ski lift. The line in front of the ski lift is huge. It’s like everybody in Les Deux Alpes wants to enjoy their last day here so everyone is trying to get up the mountain. As usual, we get to cut the line through the entrance of the ski-schools leaving 90% of the people behind us. I walk up to the boarding platform realizing it’s my last time and in doing so I hesitate, just for a second… All of a sudden, a push and a tug and I’m in the lift going up. The tin can is filled with people again – hardly any space to breath. Mom has my favorite teddy bear with her, but I’ve been playing with it all week and am sort off fed up with it. I throw it on the floor of the ski lift and mom and dad have a hard time retrieving it. People are talking in strange languages, some of them I’ve never heard before. It’s a long ride up…
We get to the middle station and dad immediately takes us to the next lift going up to the glacier. He claims it will be easier if we are already up there. That way, he can come all the way up with Valentin at noon and we can have a final descent from 3200 meters above sea level. Mom cuts the line with me again as dad and Tibo fall in. Where are they… I can’t see them anymore? A helpful ski-station attended sees mom and me struggle through the hundreds of people trying to reach the boarding platform of the second lift. She pulls us out of the crowd and puts us at side just near the platform. Mom explains we lost dad and Tibo and the lady goes in against the crowd like a salmon swimming upstream to get them both. All the excitement has set on my bowels and I fill my diaper. As we board the lift towards the top of the glacier and the door closes, the scent of my diaper fills the lift… I can tell my parents are a bit ashamed about this… luckily no one in the ski lift calls out “ok, who farted?”.
As we arrive at 3200 m on the glacier, mom and dad take my brother and me to the restaurant near the top lift station. They have seats outside just like by the pano bar. First things first… changing my diaper. I guess I didn’t count on the fact that it’s cold up here, despite the sunshine. Taking off my ski-pants on a bench and changing my diaper is quite the challenge for mom, dad and brother. They need all 6 hands to get the job done and they do so in record time which is great because I don’t like having my pants down at -3° Celsius at 3200-meter altitude.
Mom and I settle into the sunbathing chairs of the restaurant while dad and Tibo set off for their morning of quality time together. You guested it, after descending from the glacier, they will be hitting the snow park again where bro is going to do his tricks again. Man, I wish I could do that too one day… taking these jumps in the snow park must be great fun… maybe one day… who knows?
But boy it’s cold up here… I didn’t expect this and neither did mom. Other people come sit next to us but they tend to leave after 15 minutes. After about an hour and a half, mom is fed up and honestly, so am I. So we start walking around. From one side of the glacier site to the other – it’s cold and there is not much to do here. I wish we would have stayed at the Pano bar… at least there we can relax and find a spot out of the wind to enjoy the sun.
The hours pass slowly until it’s finally 1 o’clock and dad and Tibo arrive at the glacier with Valentin and the dualski. Mom is cranky but who wouldn’t be after 3 hours in the blistering cold trying to keep me happy and entertained. I’m mounted into the dualski and mom quickly heads toward the ski lift back to the middle station. “Ok – let’s do this!” I think. The dualski is nice and warm and I have already forgotten about the cold I felt this morning. Time to get this show on the road I recon. Up here the slopes are not skied on as much as at the middle station, so the snow is still great, and Valentin takes wide swirling turns with the dualski. I laugh and scream with excitement. As Valentin notices that I’m really enjoying this, he takes things up a notch – I’m having the time of my life!
Swirling down the hill with Valentin in
Halfway down to the middle station, dad takes over again, and I must admit… he is finally starting to get the hang of this. The turns he takes are much smoother then in the beginning and I get the impression he is going faster too. But still, not as fast as Valentin of course.
Before we reach the middle station, Valentin calls out to my dad who has been telling Valentin about the snow park experience my brother has been having these past couple of days. “So”, Valentin replies, “do you want to do the snow park with the dual ski?” Am I hearing this right? I he going to take me to the snow park? I’m thinking “please say yes dad, please say yes….” And as I’m thinking this dad says “sure, why not – as long as you take the bumps safely Valentin, I’m fine with this.” Yes! Great!
As we take the seated lift to the top of the snow park I can’t hide my excitement. I scream with happiness and excitement. Dad takes his position next to the second bump where he will film the ride and Tibo sets off first. He’s quite cautious as he knows dad is filming and he doesn’t want to fall on camera of course. As soon as Tibo has gone through it’s my turn. Valentin pushes the dualski forward and off we go. We speed up as we reach snowbump number 1 and at the top of the bump I can briefly feel the dualski escape from our earth’s gravity. We land softly but immediately speed up towards the second bump. As we reach the top I can feel the skies detaching from the snow underneath and I’m flying. What a great feeling! For a few milliseconds all is quit. I can’t hear the skis on the snow and all I hear is the wind gushing past me. In this brief moment, I feel absolutely free until “bang” the ski-cart hits the ground again and we are heading towards the third and final bump. I did it! I conquered the snow park in my dual-ski! I’m so proud of myself.
Tibo followed by yours truly in the dualski – taking the jumps in the snow-park!
After this great excitement, we slowly start heading back down. Mom is waiting for us at the bottom of the slope again in Les Deux Alpes and I can’t wait to show her my enthusiasm as dad will tell her what we’ve done this afternoon. We get down safely and mom is amazed when she learns that we took to the snowpark this afternoon. I laugh and gurgle to emphasize my happiness. We thank Valentin for the great experience and say our final goodbye’s. Dad and Tibo take the ski-gear back to the shop and we head back to the apartment.
We barely have time for a quick yogurt and a mandatory diaper change before dad summons us to get to the car, he has a final surprise for us in petto. We drive to the edge of the village and park at the large bus parking. As we get out of the car I can already see the surprise in the distance. At the side of the parking there is a ski-slope and on it is a horses with a sleigh behind it. The chubby man next to the horse waves at us from afar. We’re going for a trip on a horse sleigh! Yihaa!!
As we mount into the sleigh the man introduces himself and gives us blankets to cover our legs. We settle in comfortably and with a quick “allez hup” the horse starts pulling. We are pulled along a narrow winding path with a beautiful view on the valley below. The snow is crunchy as the weight of the sleigh and its passengers slides over it. The man’s dog runs alongside and appears to have a lot of fun in the snow following his master.
After about 45 minutes along this beautiful path we arrive at a farm where we stop. We enter the farm and a friendly old lady guides us to a room where hot chocolate milk and delicious home made apple pie awaits us. We take off our cotes and sit down to indulge in these delights. Mom and dad chat with the horse driver and the old lady as I look around the room. It’s filled with antiques like old skis, an old telephone, dolls and other curiosities. There is a window in the room that looks out into the stables where hundreds of sheep, goat and chicken are warmly nested together for the winter. Now I understand the smell of this room… I though it was time to change my diaper again but this time, it was on the animals in the next room.
When the chocolate milk and apple pie are consumed we say our goodbyes to the old lady and start heading back up the trail towards the parking where we parked our car. Pulling the sleigh up the mountain is lot harder for the horse and it stops regularly to catch its breath. The horse driver lets it, no pressure, no stress… we’re not on a clock. When it feels like it, the horse gets back in motion and we head on.
We stop at the butcher and at the grocery store on our way back to the apartment to get the ingredients for our final diner here in Les Deux Alpes. After dinner and the dishes, mom and dad start packing and put everything in the car already. Tomorrow morning we will have an early start as we have a long drive ahead of us. The holiday is over, it was fantastic to experience this all but all good things come to an end as I said before. I’m not looking forward to the long drive tomorrow but teleportation hasn’t been invented yet so I’ll have to deal with it. Mom tucks me in and I close my eyes and let the whole week pass through my mind again. What a ride it’s been!
Saturday 9th of March – Hey Murphy, let’s go home!
It’s 5.30 AM when dad wakes me and Tibo up. You guessed it… the smell of coffee is filling the room again. We tidy up the apartment and close the door behind us. The village is completely quiet. There not a single soul out here as dad starts driving through the abandoned streets – leaving early before everybody else hits the road seems to have been the right idea.
As we head down the winding roads in complete darkness it’s only the headlights of the car that are shedding their light on the curves and bends ahead. I hope mom doesn’t get carsick now. We get to the main road and more cars seem to be joining us from other ski resorts in the area. Tibo is asleep beside me, headphones on, listening to his music. I sit quietly with my favorite teddy bear in my lap.
As we approach the highway towards Grenoble dad says “that’s it guys, say goodbye to the mountains behind us, it’s all highway from here on out. We slide into the traffic on the highway and start going faster to follow into the flow. All of a sudden my dad starts slowing down again. “Damn”, he says, “the car is starting to overheat!”… He takes the next exit and parks the car on a nearby parking lot. We’ve done 80 km so far without any problems, but the minute dad started going 120km per hour on the highway, the engine started to overheat. The car my dad drives is a 3 year old company car with only 120 000 kilometers on the meter. We wait for the engine to cool down and surely enough it goes down quickly. We head on out onto the highway again but about 10 kilometers further down the road, the problem reoccurs. The engine temperature rises to a 130 degrees and dad slows the car down and heads towards the highway petrol station nearby. Time to call for assistance!
“Audi assistance, how can we help you?” Dad explains the problem and is advised to call the “17” – which is the number of the French Gendarmerie – as we are on the highway they need to be contacted first as they are the only ones authorized to dispatch a towing service. The friendly people at Audi Assistance open a case number to help us further after the car has been towed.
About 45 minutes later we are in the back of the tow truck on our way to a service station 20 kilometers further. The guy of the towing service checked the car and the problem seems to be some sort of obstruction in the cooling liquid system preventing the cooling fluid from doing its job. Not something that can be fixed with bubble gum and duck-tape unfortunately. But hey, here I am, sitting in the back of this large yellow truck with dad’s car on the platform behind us. This is fun! Never thought I’dd be doing this on my holiday 🙂
We arrive at the service station of the tow service and are guided into a room that they use for stranded travelers. It’s a nice room with a kitchen, a bathroom, a table and some chairs and they even have a television. As I start exploring the room dad is already back on the phone with helpful people of Audi Assistance. They have arranged a rental car for us that is large enough to fit the four of us plus most of our luggage. They send a taxi to our location to pick up dad to go fetch the rental car at the train-station in Grenoble.
It’s shortly after noon when dad arrives with a brand new Renault Espace with less than 2000 kilometer on the meter. We load all the luggage over but it doesn’t all fit as we had the rooftop box on dad’s car. Mom and dad decide to leave my stroller behind in the trunk of dads car – a compromise. I guess I’ll be walking if we have any more trouble along the way.
Luckily this isn’t the case – the ride from Grenoble to home goes extremely smooth. I must say I’m surprised by the comfort of this French car even-though it’s a manual gearbox and dad needed some getting used to it – but hey, if he can drive a dualski, he can surely drive a manual Renault Espace can’t he?
It’s half past eight in the evening when we arrive back in Ronse, our hometown. Instead of heading straight home we stop at “Frituur Roger” – a tradition in our family… whenever we come back home safely from a holiday, it’s time for french fries with mayonnaise for the whole family!
I’m happy to be able to sleep in my own bed again. As I close my eyes a smile appears on my face. “What a week” I think to myself… with ups and downs… just as it should be… because it’s the “downs” that remind us, to fully appreciate the “ups”. And I do appreciate them, for this truly was, the perfect adventure!
I hope you enjoyed this series of blogs telling you about my skiing holiday in France. I can’t wait until it’s summer when we will be heading out to the far west in a motor-home for the very first time. All the way on the other side of the world the national parks of the United States of America are waiting for me… California, here I come – hope you are ready for me!
Have a great weekend!