Adventures in France: Day Six

Day six in France (March 7th) with overcast skies and flurries, something we didn’t mind in the least. Our team was ready to ski, so we suited up and headed to Le Brevent again – but would take the Gondola over to Le Flegere, a different part of the French Alps. The weather and visibility wasn’t as good as Day cinq at Le Brevent¬†but it was still a wonderful day, full of off-piste exploration.

We hiked to the bowls, traversed over to rock edges, really got our fill of the mountain, despite the poor vis – our ski gang really made the most of it.

We skied Le Brevent for awhile, then headed in the gondola over to Flegere, the peak that’s directly next to Le Brevent, Our tickets got us access to both sides, so we figured we’d give it a whirl.

After we had our fill, we headed back to our chalet, changed and headed back out for Apres at a bar that had American paraphernalia all over; pack-man, back to the future posters, 80’s jams on the stereo, Bar Dup.

It was great! Knowing that we’d be going big the next day, skiing Valee Blanche with a guide, we headed to the store for supplies and headed back home to eat a gorgeous French lasagna and headed to bed early.

Adventures in France: Day Cinq in Le Brevent

Sunny, mountain views, skis unzipped from their carrying cases. It was Wednesday, Day 5,¬† and we were ready to ski the French Alps! After yesterday’s travel day, a great nights’ sleep, and some delicious fried eggs made by Kristi, the gang was ready to ski. Our house in Chamonix was perfectly located near the SUD (the Bus depot) but the Gondola that would take us to Le Brevent didn’t seem to be very far, so we decided to walk up.

Well, dang, it was a lot further than we thought, with the last 500 feet pretty steep.

But, we made it and it was a nice little warmup! And warm it was – spring was in the valley and we wondered what conditions at the top would be like.

The gondola shot us straight up, past the dirt patched trails, up and over the top and we finally saw snow!

At the top of the gondola, the views were spectacular and the massive Mont Blanc could be seen as clear as day. Breathtaking! We had been doing our snow dances prior to the trip, but I have to say I was incredibly grateful for the bluebird day, which allowed for the mountain views.

The afternoon was spent exploring the mountain, avoiding the European Jerry skiers (they seem to Cover the whole mountain when turning, going from one side ALL the way over to the other, so can be quite challenging to pass on cat tracks!) and frolicking off-piste.

We found stashes all over, all though the conditions were a bit varied, so I played it safe and skied in an aggressive, deliberate stance. It was an absolutely amazing day.

The mountains are extremely different in Europe, with limited boundaries, ski patrol or signs telling you where you shouldn’t be going. The resort Le Brevent had all kinds of skiers on the mountain as well – from beginners to extremists and most runs had a few of each on them. Except for the off-piste runs, where only a few brave souls would follow the ‘off-the-beaten path’ to ski the goods. These proved to be some of the best runs.

After several hours, we all agreed it was time to refresh ourselves with some lunch and beverages. Kieran left to go meet Kristi in town and Dusty, Mike, Holly and I headed to the coolest lunch spot I’ve ever been to at a mountain resort.

Le Panoramic had breathtaking views of Mont Blanc and we were happy to enjoy Apres with the views.

The day had been delicious and we decided to head down to the village to meet our group. Two other good friends, Zach and Tim, would be arriving in Chamonix, completing the Chamonix gang. We dropped our skis back at the chalet and headed to our second Apres of the day. But first, Mike stopped at a local boot shop, Sole, to get an assessment on his current set up, which was giving him quite a bit of discomfort. A London bloke hooked him up and told him to pick the boots up in 30 minutes. Gotta love a ski town!

Through the glorious town, we wandered to meet the new crew, and the night unfolded beautifully!

Drinks in back rooms filled with cozy sheepskin couches, fancy cocktails, and old Chamonix posters.

Dinner and fondue at La Moraine, a quaint French restaurant with warm ambiance and delicious cheese!

The night continued with sexy drinks at Le Cave, a nightclub under a beautiful restaurant with pulsating music and a groovy vibe. Chamonix did not disappoint us!

Adventures in France: Planes, Trains & Vans

Several months ago, our friends Kieran and Kristie threw out an invite to celebrate Kieran turning 40 in France. Being able to ski the French Alps and drink wine? Yes please! So, we invited our good Colorado friends, Dusty and Holly to join and the trip was planned.

The day finally came and after getting Dusty’s partner to drive us to the airport, we paid an arm and a leg for our baggage ($287 for our skis!) flew through security, had a bite and a beer to wish ourselves a Bon voyage and we were off!

This would be Dusty’s first international adventure & longest flight….needless to say I was excited for him!

Lufthansa is an amazing airline (minus the oversized baggage fees) so we settled into our seats, watched some movies, slept a bit, had some pasta….and woke in Munich. The nine hour flight left us a bit groggy, but strolling through customs, back through security and then to our gate got us in the European spirit. Our second flight to Geneva was only 45 minutes, although it got delayed a bit, so a quick cat nap and we landed!

Crossing our fingers for the bags and skis arriving safely, we navigated our way to baggage claim. THEY MADE IT!!!!

All bags in tow, we grabbed our free train fare into the city center (I had researched this prior to the trip and it was pretty nice that they provided free tickets!) had a nice Frenchmen tell us where to catch the train, and hopped on.

The public transportation in France is tres magnifice – clean and quiet! Arriving in town center after only 6 minutes, we grabbed our extremely heavy baggage and unloaded to catch our next train. We had about 40 minutes, so instead of lugging our baggage up and down stairs, Dusty and Mike went down into the station to see about tickets for Lyon. The track area was lovely, a bit chilly, but surprisingly clean. A drunken French bum came by as Holly and I sat waiting, explaining he had a sick baby at home while concealing a beer behind his back. We didn’t give him any Euros.

Fifteen minutes later, the boys came back to fetch us and we headed to track seven, where we’d go to Bellegaurd, then transfer to Lyon. The boys had taken so long picking out six beers at one of the train shops, a variety of Belgian and pilsners, even a double IPA! Having bought first class tickets (they didn’t have any other seats left!) we felt extremely fancy drinking our European beers on a beautiful train bound for France. The transfer was smooth enough, although the train was delayed about 30 minutes. So, I laid down on our ski bag and took a rest. The station was very French, with quaint buildings lining the tracks and old steel beams. When the train finally came, we climbed on eagerly and settled in for a two and a half hour ride.

We chatted and had snacks (Wisconsin cheese and rice crackers Holly brought) and sipped on delicious beer while watching the French countryside whiz by. Marveling at how quiet and efficient the train was, we all wished for a train as such to whisk us to our Colorado mountains!

When we finally arrived, we gathered our belongings and went searching for Kieran and Kristie. They had arrived an hour or so prior and rented a van. Mike had to use the toilet, so went searching for one in the busy train station, only to find one that he had to give a Euro for. I had brought a bag of what I thought to be Euro…only to discover they were actually Turkish Lira. Whoops! Mike wasn’t happy about it, so grabbed his wallet, where he had actual Euros (he had picked them up at the train station back in Geneva). A European public restroom experience!

Dusty had gotten an international plan and we were able to let Kier & Kristie know we had landed and they let us know where they had parked the van. We headed away from the main entrance and found them, shoved our stuff into the van and were off to Malleval, where a gorgeous bed and breakfast awaited. Kieran and Kristie had gotten the recommendation from Pierre Gaillard, the vintner Kieran had interned for in 2005. After about an hour of driving in the dark, we arrived at the gorgeous house, Le Grand Noe.

The owners weren’t there, but we were welcomed in by another guest so came in and picked our bedrooms. The three rooms were in different areas of the house, Mike and I choose the basement room, which was rather chilly, but lovelywith it’s very own bathroom. After dropping our bags, we decided to head into Pelussin to grab a bite to eat before the restaurants closed, as they do in small towns. Oh, too late!

The pizza shop had served its last customers of the evening, so we headed to the market across the street, in the small town center, to grab some wine, frozen pizzas, baguettes, cheese, and chocolate. Back at the house, we fixed a very French spread, with decadent cheeses and enjoyed our first night in France.