Part 1: The fellowship of the Snow

Trip Start Jun 01, 2002
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Trip End Sep 11, 2007


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Monday, January 6, 2003

"PART 1 - The Fellowship of the Snow"

- Justin at Lyon Airport at approx 9:30pm at night. All in very bad French/English

Justin: Ahh excusy ma, umm bus to Meribel tonight please.
Information Woman: Last bus left at 7pm no more until 9am tomorrow.
Justin: Ummm, you sure???
IW: Wee, yes.
J: Hmmm anywhere to sleep?
IW: Hotel, expensive or around the corner there are some airport seats with
no arms.... should be ok comfy.
J: Umm Merci!

This is going to be a long trip!!!!

Well on the road again and having a ball. A trip to Southern France for Xmas and New Years was in call. To say that the trip was interesting was an understatement and to say that it was crazy as one would expect would be the truth!

So hold onto your ski poles and do up those bindings we are off to France

With my flight not leaving until 5pm on the 23rd December, a half day of work was in
call. In short this was to ensure that everything was in order so when I came back I still had a job. With the old trustee and oversized backpack packed once again this time with ski pants, ski jacket, an Afro (oh yes) and other stuff that I seem to take but never use I was ready for the France and the snow.

With my eyes on the clock and 1pm closing in, that was my sign to work my way to Stanstead airport for my flight to Lyon. Now because I invested in a cheap flight to France you have to get an airport which is miles away - in hindsight makes you weigh up if cheap is actually worth it, once you have paid for transfers and tickets etc. But it does give you heaps of time to think about what stuff you can put in your journal.

The train pulls at the airport and expecting to hear Xmas carols, I hear the following announcement which does not really bring comfort "Attention, this is a fire alarm. Please stay calm and wait until further instructions if required. This is a warning...stay calm" this message was repeated every 20 seconds for the next 40 minutes while standing in line.

Everyone was having a bit of giggle about it, except for the man in front of me who explained to me that he had been from one line to another etc and he had been waiting for 90 minutes. The funniest thing he said was that even if the fire was within 2 feet of him he would not move - he just wants to get on his flight.. That is travel commitment with a capital 'C'.

So as I approach the lady behind the desk, who looks like she has had enough of Xmas crowd trying to check in 5 minutes before their flight, I calmly inform her that there is a fire in the building at that she should stay calm until further notice..... she looked at me and I thought she was going to scream - but she had a good old laugh.

I think she appreciated the laugh because I believe I received the equivalent of a business class upgrade with Easyjet.... the emergency seat! Did not even ask for it! Score "Justin 1, World 0"

After only a 40 minute delay I am on the plane in my extra roomy emergency
seat, when a hostess asks me if I am strong and healthy and will be able to open the
door in an emergency. "Of course, just tell the pilot not to crash on this
flight please".... France here I come!

Being in the UK is my first experience of travelling on the cheap flights, they seem to miss out on a few things to reduce the cost - food, water, those little things you put over your eyes oh and pilots!

For those who know me, I am a bit of organiser in day to day life, but travel wise I like to go with the flow, but I had a very strong feeling that with the fight delays and me just landing at Lyon with no pre-booked transfer to get the 250km transfer to Meribel Snow Resort I would be struggling. And you would be right!

Of course, the little mind of Mr Cormack, was in full swing and noticing the couple sitting next to me - him big ski jacket with all the cool logos, her with a big ring and big woollen jumper - I figure 1. They are rich, 2 They are French and 3. Maybe they might be going in my direction. Noticing the guy reading the flight emergency card again for the 7th time I offer them my magazine with a smile, "Would you like to flick through this?" People say that this is kindness, but I call it a bribe.

As the plane descends, the magazine is handed back and I implement conversation of "Where are you going in France" to my complete dismay I am informed that they are here for Xmas and will be staying in Lyon with family... Nooooooo my chance of a lift to Meribel disappears like an ice cube in the Sahara Desert! Damn!

Off the plane and my pack is one of the first off the conveyor belt where I work my way to the information desk. Now as you would have read my conversation with the information woman at the top of the journal, you would note that I did not get very far with a transfer at all. In hindsight the least she could have done is offered for me to crash at her place until the next morning.... but nooo! Out to speak with the taxi man and ask how much to get to Meribel.... "Come on come on they shout, you sit in back I drive..." again I ask "how much" - in short they wanted to namely sum of 250 Euros or 175 pounds or 400+ Australian dollars... umm not today my friend.

With the hours going pass and the lounges in the airport looking more and more appealing, I decide to try plan H, head down to the rent a car place and hang out there like a bum and see if anyone can give me a lift. As I work my way down, I see a English couple and a son with a snowboard walking around and I assume to a rent a car....

Me: Excuse me, you are not heading to Meribel by any chance.
Son: You better ask them (pointing at the parents.)
J: Excuse me, you are not heading to Meribel by any chance?
Couple: Heading 5km out of it, want a lift
JACKPOT
J: You kidding me, this is amazing! Thank you so so much! Wow, I really thought I was going to have to sleep at the airport blah blah blah.

As I follow the group to what I assume would be a hire car, turns out to be a their own brand new Range Rover 4x4, with full leather interior and full length sunroof so I can see the stars above me..... and we are off. "Score: Justin 2 Rest of World 0"
To tell you it is a small world, turns out that the son is working for the same investment firm that I am currently contracting too! The father has worked with Deloitte Touche and somehow we have known the same people within the business circle... wow! And they thought they picked up an Australian bum! Well they did but a bum who has worked before...

After about 3 hours driving at 100miles an hour with visibility of 4 metres, we get to Meribel where I can get a bus to the top of the mountain and find my accommodation. Problem is, the buses stopped about an hour ago.

Not sure if it was my charm or they felt sorry abandoning an under clothed Australian in the freezing cold, but they offer to take me to the top and to make it even better help me find my accommodation! Talk about service. Being the person I am I offer money, coffee or beer, with no luck. So all in all a transfer of 3 hours and 250miles cost me 1/2 can of Pringles that I shared with the son! Ha - about time lady luck looked down on me for a change!!!

As I get into the accom there is a note on the door welcoming me and Jez (I
had no idea that he would be travelling for the next 18 hours to get here... well I guess lady luck cannot help two people at once... sorry Jez). The note states that our bedroom is 3rd on the left and there is food in the fridge... I find the bedroom no problems, but with 4 other doors none of them labelled 'bathroom', I begin to analyse the doors to determine which one would be the bathroom... (give me a break it is 1am and the altitude must have got to me...), I think it took me about 20minutes starring at doors and door handles. The last thing I wanted to burst into someone's room and frighten them and have a ski pole jammed up my arse! Again lady luck helped me and I burst into the bathroom! Bingo

So quick shower and then to the fridge find a plate of salmon waiting... yes! Ahhh no microwave and it now being about 2pm, I abandon the salmon and grab half a French stick and a jar of jam.... sleep I need sleep!

Awoken the next morning by people getting ready to ski, I open the window to see SNOW! Funny about that! As I get out of my room (the size of a closet) I am welcomed by a family of Scottish who are on there way out! With Alice the chalet 'looka after person' cooking breakfast I am feeling right at home! Ahh the French Alps everywhere.... one could get used to this.

Spend the day walking around and caught up with Sarah, Chris, Paul and Amanda (Cousin, Cousin Boyfriend, Cousin Boyfriend Brother, Cousin Boyfriend Brother Wife respectively) for coffee and fill them in about my previous adventures. Just remember that this is Xmas eve and find that there are about 30 people who look like Santa skiing down the slopes.

Get to back to the chalet for an afternoon drink and chat with my new family where Mr Jez comes around the corner in the not so best mood! After about 18 hours of travel and mis directions he arrives... "Welcome to France" I yell with a big smile on my face, I think the response was something like "Fuck me, is this the fucking place.... Finally!! Fuck". After a shower and his mouth washed out, we settled in for a drink and food.

I am pleased to announce that I will not be competing in the 2008 winter Olympics, actually I will not be competing in the under 4s skiing contest. To say that I cannot ski is the truth, to say that I am intimidated by 3 year olds flying down the mountain is so so true! With Xmas day dawning and hiring our ski gear we walk out towards the slope to find that it is starting to snow! Thank you god, I have come 4 billion kilometres around the world and you have answered my wishes for a white Xmas.

So skiing huh, I can do this, clip one oversized boot into a long ski that has zero grip on ice, then put the next oversized boot in another ski and fall on your arse. Multiply this by 8 hours, 15 bruises, 1 broken hip, 2 painful calves and you have had a grand old time skiing. Lets put it this way, after lets say 4 minutes and 34 seconds I was ready to walk back to the ski shop and ask for my 20 euros back and exchange it for 24 cans of beer, but with Jez next to me and some harsh words practised we did. I was given my lesson of 'snowploughing' on a slope that could be classified as a "pink slope", not green for easy or blue for intermediate, but pink for "almost flat you girl!" So after a number of attempts I am happy to say that I mastered the snow plough and started on some really advanced stuff... like turning!

I did enjoy the skiing but the French Winter Olympics team have nothing to fear. Which gives me an opportunity to pick on the people who ski and board. Let me talk about the outfit, if they ever decide to make an Austin Powers movie set in the snow, there are some people out there who still have the full length "out there" outfits. I mean some of these outfits are really disturbing. I actually saw one woman with an outfit that was so fluorescent that I am sure she had some batteries somewhere to keep it shining.
And to laugh at the people who attempt to walk in snow boots is funny, but to actually see people attempt to run in them and fall on their arse,... that is even funnier!

As for the kids, better known as crazy ones. When God was creating humans I think he decided to put 'Fear' on a delay stage for when you grow up - these kids fear nothing. They fly past you and anyone in their way..... I am sure they must get home, after a big day skiing and have a nice big glass of milk with their mates there conversation starts something like....

"Did you see that Australian guy today, wow was he the worst skier you have seen"? "Pass me the chocolate biscuits Mikey, it is nearly 6 and I will have to head off to bed soon"

So with Xmas lunch prepared and a smart choice to not purchase a undersized turkey, it was opted to have wine, cheese, meats, chicken, bread etc for the main course. To start with fresh Escargot (snails).. As I had not consumed these little suckers before I was very keen, but once they are in your mouth and you have the thought of "Jesus, I am eating a snail" takes a little while to get down, but I have to admit they were very nice and will definitely be investing in them again in the near future. Xmas was very
relaxing and enjoyable and was nice mix of Australian and French!

Not sure if it is just me, but after the consumption of too much wine, our chalet appeared to have moved to the altitude of about 5000 metres above sea level. We climbed and climbed, slipped on snow and ice. Finally we get back and climb into our closet that is called a bedroom and crashed.... Ah Xmas over and New Years to go!!

Whilst the others spent the next day or so "carving it up", I enjoyed the snow to its finest by completing some amazing walks, through snow covered forests and frozen lakes. Taking lots and lots of photos which I will post on the site once developed!

As the first week comes to an end, we awake to find that is has snowed all night and the Meribel valley looks completely different with fresh powder lining the ground, cars and chalets. Very beautifully looking! But alas, Jez and I need to make another journey to another place in France named St Jean De Sixth to make our mark again.

Talking about marks - it is impossible to write "Justin was hear in 2002!" in the snow! Trust me I tried on many occasions, it usually followed with me yelling " Hey Jez, how to you spell extraordinary..... quick hurry up!"

Well that is the end of Part 1, the fellowship of the snow and with Part 2 - "The Twin Afros" in progress. I promise it will not take too long. Just needs to get through censorship.

On complete separate side - just wanted to advise, gloat, brag to you all that my journal was selected as one of "Featured Journals" at the Travelpod Homepage (www.travelpod.com). This had nothing to do with me meeting Luke (the creator) and paying huge amounts of cash for publicity. But anyway - feel free to spread the word and if you want anyone to be added to the mailing list let me know.

Take care and anyone heading to the snow " carve it up Dude!" - I think that is what they say!
Jay
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