Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Ending the year in the Snowy Swiss Alps .....Dec 2010

Snowy times in Switzerland 2010,
 warmer times in the Andaman Islands 2008
28 December 2010 - 31 December 2010

The last time we saw our kiwi cruising friends Alastair and Vivienne off Largo Star was January 2008.  We cruised up the Thai coast and out to the Surins Islands, where we had a great Christmas together then onto the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal.  We spent an excellent month together, cruising and exploring this remote Indian island group then at the end of January we sadly parted ways.

Balvenie  headed west to Sri Lanka and on to the Med, and Largo Star  returned to Asia for a couple more years.  Finally this year they came up the Red Sea and into the Med,  but they have just arrived in the Eastern Med and we are ready to leave the Western Med!!  We decided the only way to catch up was on land, so the plan was hatched to meet for a skiing holiday.  They have Swiss ex-cruiser friends, Daniel and Rebecca, with some chalets in Bruson, near Verbier, so accommodation was organised, flights were booked, Balvenie was closed up and off we went.
Day 1 in Bruson - lets go skiing!!!!

Rendezvous point was Geneva airport and our Easyjet flight from Alicante arrived on time, unfortunately their Easyjet flight from Gatwick did not.  Still we got to see all on offer in the arrivals area of Geneva - not much, and tried in vain to adjust ourselves to Swiss prices after the very economical Spanish equivalents!!  Late afternoon they finally touched down and the big reunion took place, 3 years on and they didn't look any different - Al's comment that he had never seen us with so many clothes on brought a chuckle to us all, the Andamans would have been in the 30's and wearing swimwear was too hot!, now Geneva was boasting a warm 1c and we were wearing layer upon layer!

We started our Swiss journey with a train along the shores of Lake Geneva to Martigny in the Valais region. Here we changed and caught the St Bernard Express Train up the valley to Le Chable, a village nestled in the head of the valley, sitting below fashionable, somewhat exclusive Verbier on one side and tiny quaint Bruson on the other.  
Time out for apres-skiing
 As we had arrived later than planned Daniel was kind enough to collect us from the train and take us the final 3 km's to one of their delightful wooden chalets at Chez Philippin where we dispatched with our luggage.  We were then invited to join them at their home where Rebecca had whipped up a traditional Swiss Fondue which we enjoyed with them and their delightful teenage daughters, Gaelle and Manon. 

Next day was spent enjoying a big walk in the snowy surrounds, followed by a walk downhill back to Le Chable where we had a late lunch, stocked up on some groceries and Swiss wine then hired the all important skis, boots and poles. Skis have certainly shrunk since last time we were on the slopes which can't be a bad thing but unfortunately boots are still a huge challenge to get on and walk in, still we weren't here to walk in them - we were here to ski!!!

Winter wonderland in Bruson - spot Santa Claus!
Next morning dawned crisp and clear, the scene from our balcony was just picture postcard perfect, mountains towering in the background, tree lined slopes heavy with snow, authentic Swiss wooden chalets with peaked roofs all with snow glistening in the morning sun, I'm sure we could even hear a distant cow bell just to complete the picture. We love the mountains, if you are going to be in a cold climate then the mountains are the place to be.

Not that we were cold, already dressed in so many layers and then a 10 minute uphill walk sure warmed things up! (wearing those dreaded clumsy ski boots and carrying ungainly skis and poles which we never did quite master of way of holding).  We bought our ski-lift passes then eek, not one of those chairlifts that we have to ski off at the top - oh well here we go!!!!  Legs, skis, poles and arms tangled together were the order of the day as we skied (fell) off the chair at the top, but I suspect we weren't the first or last of the day meeting with this fate.  Not to be deterred we pulled ourselves back together and our skis apart and hit the slopes.  Unfortunately Mark hit the slopes more than his fair share.
Bruson and surrounds, Verbier across the valley
 We had never skied together and he had said he had been skiing before but was just a beginner.  Being as great a sportsman he is, very fit, great co-ordination, balance etc etc (as opposed to I, who can honestly say I have none of those attributes) I actually thought that his definition of being a beginner was that he wasn't quite at "black run" level, but he really was a beginner, - I suspect his previous mountain holidays had been more about the "apres skiing", whereby I could almost call myself an intermediate. 

At last a sport I was better at than him, I can't describe how good that felt!!!!!  (I expect he will remove all this when he does his routine editing!!!!)  Now Alastair and Vivienne, well they were very good and went off exploring all the hard runs, I did a couple of long runs down with Vivienne and Rebecca which sure pushed me to my limit while Mark improved all the time on the limited "blue runs".   We skied Bruson 2 days but needed to find more "blues" and a few tame "reds" to try next, but it was New Years Eve, we had a very big night planned and the possibility of sleeping instead of skiing New Years Day was in the back of our mind!!    Posted by Picasa

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