(written by Dave)
Full disclosure. I skipped school yesterday and went skiing in the Alps with Alice and Mats, at the resort Isola 2000. Actually, I didn’t ski, and neither did my mom but Mats did. Australia readers would know that skipping work or school when you are not really ill is called “chucking a sickie”. It seems that no one in our class, our instructor, my mother or Mats had previously heard of “chucking a sickie”. Nancy and I may not have chucked too many sickies in Oz but we certainly knew what it meant. I did a little reading on the net when we got home and discovered that it is term originated in Australia. The site also indicated that sickie fraud detection is enhanced when one’s wife goes to school and tells everyone that you are skiing. I may have gotten a slightly lower score on my Friday exam today due to my skiing but I wasn’t getting much sympathy from our instructor as she knew the truth. Thanks Nanc! [Editor’s note – Dave conveniently neglected to mention that I pulled ahead in the test competition… that’s what happens when you chuck a sickie…]
As for the skiing, Mats reports it as “awesome”. In fact he described the day in the Alps as one of the best three days of his life (so far). I did not ask him what the other two were. My mother may have given the day a slightly lower score as getting to and from the ski hill entailed a very windy mountain road and at least one crazy bus driver. I thought that the ride up the mountain was great and even did a little reading. My mother and Mats, sitting further back in the bus, were less impressed, with mom actually getting a little sick. The bus was almost too long for some of the switchbacks and there were plenty of switchbacks. At one point looking out the window I counted 7 switchbacks directly below us, with almost no straight road between them. It was really almost stairs, rather than road. And the guardrails, made entirely of rock, seemed entirely too short for their purpose.
As I mentioned, I thought that the ride up was ok. The ride down was another story completely. It took us 2.5 hours to go up and 1.5 hours to come down. Some of the difference could be put down to gravity but most of the hour was simply because the second driver was a complete maniac. When boarding, I grabbed the front seats for the downward leg in order to help everyone “see forward” and in hopes of not getting sick. There were so many times that I thought that we were going to miss a corner, I lost track. Mats and I were exchanging “OMG” looks and groans with each near miss. Grandma was even less thrilled, getting sick again on the way down. She wasn’t the only one. The bus took on a distinct “smell” within minutes of leaving the ski station and continued with much groaning and hacking emanating from behind us throughout the journey. For our driver, the centre line on this very narrow rock and cliff lined road was merely advisory. He used the full road, several times forcing oncoming cars to way to pull over, to stop and even back up. This was a 40 passenger tour bus and we were passing cars and trucks going our direction the entire way down. In fact, I could see behind us in the driver’s mirrors and specifically noted that we never once had a vehicle being held up behind us. No wonder everyone got sick. I think Mats and I were spared because pretty quickly we both adopted the, “hey, this is a carnival ride” attitude. Either way, even we were glad to exit the bus when we finally reached Nice. [Editor’s note – the editor is eternally grateful that she was not on that bus…]
Oh, and the skiing was good. Actually, they have had only one storm all winter and only have a little snow. Last year they had 18 feet of snow. This year it has been cold so the ski runs still have a nice cover of man-made snow. It was groomed to perfection and almost (I say almost) tempted me to borrow Mats’ skies for a quick run (I haven’t skied since 1989). The view of the Alps was great as well. While cloudy in Nice all day, we were above the clouds and had blue skies. Mats reported being able to see hundreds of mountains from the top of the ski hill. The Alps and cute French girls have had Mats quite smitten so far on this trip.
And finally a quick update on the wine tasting. We finally found and tried our first Cru (not sure if that should be upper case or not). Nancy found a Cru du Rhone at the neighbourhood shop. I’m not actually sure if Cru du Rhone is a proper Cru or it’s just a name using Cru. Anyway, it was pretty good. I think it is our first Rhone wine, bigger than our last pinot noir but not as big as an Aussie cab sav. We could be onto a potential winner.
We have not yet made big plans for the weekend. Mats and I are heading to a football match with Nice and Montpellier on Saturday night. Both are division one teams in France, Nice on the bottom of the ladder, MP on the top. We’ll cheer for Nice as they are the home team and it seems a safer option. We’ll probably drag mom out to Monaco as well, just to see if this weekend Prince Albert can be more social and perhaps join us for a pint and the chinwag we missed last week.