Christmas Part 2: The Journey to the Alp

This was, very obviously, the part of Christmas most fraught with potential for disaster. 5/6 people (depending on the day) in a small metal box, driving in icy, snowy conditions, in several foreign countries.

Miraculously, no one died.

I spent the journey up in The Metal Box in bed in the back. If you ever get the chance to be carried around by experienced sedan chair bearers, I recommend it - it must feel rather like that did. By far the best way to travel long distances, stretched out in bed with big windows all around you. (And I have tried several methods of travelling long distance - in case you were interested, and I will assume you are, else you wouldn't still be reading this sentence, the worst is by far travelling in a bus with no suspension where the seats are so high your feet don't reach the floor. Surrounded by chickens. Next to the bus toilet.)

Aside from random shouting by an Italian service station man when we tried to fill up with LPG - apparently cars are allowed, campervans, not so much. In which case, you'd think they would have a sign like this:

They didn't, and we never really got the bottom of why we weren't allowed to fill up. Remote internet research by Paul suggested it might be because our LPG pump converter thingy has an alarming tendancy to blow up occasionally. I think the phrase he quoted from Internet was "they will identify you by your dental records, if you're lucky." I decided Mum and Dad probably didn't need to know this little snippet of information; it wouldn't help reduce stress levels any. James and Vix looked thrilled to hear it though!

So, since I spent the whole time reading a book in the back, I can't tell you much about the journey. (The book was crap - so crap I can't even remember the name to warn you off. Premise was a good one - race against bad guys to save the world through visiting various ancient wonders and stuff; writing was utterly appalling, and it carried on a previous story, without giving you adequate introduction to who anyone was.)

We arrived in Chambery, eventually. It was dark, and snowy, and there didn't seem to be anywhere to park a rather large Metal Box in town. So, as you do, we found ourselves parking in the car park of a shopping centre for the night, with the intention - and this is important - of heading up to Meribel to see my big brother and his girlfriend. Where Paul and I would get a bed, since it would be my birthday. For one night, the car park was ok - there were fast food places, the shopping centre had free wifi, toilets, all mod cons. (We won't discuss the toilet in The Metal Box. Suffice to say that we were all thrilled to find real toilets in the shopping centre.)

However, the best laid plans of mice and men, and all that. The snow continued. Paul's flight up was delayed. (Unaccountably, he had opted not to run away from work a day early and spend an extra night in The Metal Box, but fly up on the Saturday and meet us in Chambery.) Internet predicted temperatures of -17 up in Meribel. LPG stops being gas at those kind of temperatures. Since the heating in The Metal Box ran on the *gas* part of LPG, it was decided we would stay in the car park another night.

We collected Paul from Chambery station - via the weirdest pub, it was like a Victoria station pub, down to the ugly carpet and furniture, but all in French and staffed by French people. Deeply disturbing. Then we went back to the car park, where James and I amused each other (if no one else) by recounting past horrors of Christmas and the various ways in which we had nearly died growing up. (Quite an impressive list, if I do say so myself.) And we played cards. My birthday dinner was in Flunch. (Which is sort of a French equivalent of Littlechef, but with slightly better food. And alcohol.)

The next day, The Metal Box shuddered to life in the sunshine, and we set off to Meribel. We had a reservation for lunch at 12:30. Astonishingly, we made it more or less in time. By the way, though walking in snow in stiletto heels sounds like a silly idea, and I was mocked, they do give a good grip and are worth considering!

Breaking this now, since it's longer than I expected. Part 3: The Alp and Geneva will come soon. Photos from Chambery follow:


Photo out the window as I woke up on my birthday:

We amused ourselves as best we could:

You can tell it's a shopping centre. A lonely trolleys waits in the freezing sunshine.

The Metal Box when the sun finally came out

wonky  – (3 January 2010 at 23:15)  

Hi Nicole.
I just found your blod today and read every entry. I was doing what I do everyonce in awhile. Surfing the web for information on the cote de azur.
I am an american who visited the cote de azur for 2 weeks in 2008. Of course I fell in love with the place. Since then I've been planning an moving there. I've been working on the preparing, getting finances in order,learning french, and most importantly trying to get a job so I can get a work Visa. Don't worry I am not here to ask for advice or help.

You've gone to many of the same places that we fell in love with. But I didn't see any mention of Eze. I'd recommend a trip there. It's not far. It has a wonderful 12th or 15th century fort on a hill. The little rooms have been converted into small shops that sell homemade jewelry etc(thought you'd like that). When we went there a thick fog rolled in. It became almost a magical experience where I almost believed I was in the 13th century. Here's a picture I took
I expected a monk with the plague to come around the corner.

BTW I am planning on starting a blog when I move about being an expat in Nice.. must be the thing to do.

nicole  – (4 January 2010 at 10:26)  
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