Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Preparing for the ski season

So we are back in Judith and Richard’s lovely house in Pechaud in the Dordogne area of France getting ready to drive the 680km due east and a little bit north to the apartment we have rented in La Grande Terche ski resort of St Jean D’Aulps, part of the huge Portes du Soleil ski area in the French Alps, but also straddling and including several resorts in Switzerland.

The garden relatively clear of leaves after a hard days work!
It will be an early start tomorrow so the car is now packed (to the gunnels!), the house is cleaned and we just have enough left out for dinner tonight and breakfast in the morning before closing up the house for the winter. No-one will be here again until around April of next year so we need to make sure everything is left as Judith and Richard want it, but we have their check list which we’ll go through so we should be OK.

Jackie acting our her primeval instincts
We decided to go on Wednesday as the whole ski area has its grand opening on Saturday 19th December and we wanted to have a couple of days before hand to organise ourselves in the apartment, get some shopping in, buy our season lift passes (very expensive!) and catch up with Simon and Cassie, our friends who own and run Chalet Bernadine through their company Alpine Action Adventures close by in St Jean D’Aulps village. See their website: http://alpineactionadventures.co.uk/

No point in wasting a good fire, lets roast some chestnuts on it!
A few weeks ago the snow really started to fall there and we were getting quite excited, but since then the temperature has risen, the freezing level is well above the tops and there has been little snow-fall since then. Avoriaz, the main and highest resort, about 30minutes drive from where we’ll be staying is open and there are a number of pisted areas open, but it’s a fraction of what the whole resort has to offer. No snow or cold temperatures are on the horizon at the moment so it’s a little bit worrying, but we can’t do anything about that so we’re going over and hoping things turn cold and snowy soon!

Start of our walk from the village of Siorac-en-Perigord
Here in the Dordogne we may be a long way from the Alps and only at an altitude of about 150m, but it’s still fairly cold, much cooler than when we were last here at the end of October. I always assumed that the southern half of France was always warm, but considering it’s only on the same latitude as such places as Nova Scotia and Vermont which can get quite cold, it’s not surprising. We’ve had frost on some mornings and temperatures struggling to only 5 or 6°C during the day, although it is warmer today at about 15°C.

On the banks of the Dordogne River
It is however dry and mostly sunny and blue skies, so we have managed to get outside, one day to take a 10km walk partly along the banks of the Dordogne river and another couple of days working in the garden at the house doing ‘man’ things like cutting logs for the wood burner with the chain saw! Leaf clearing seemed fairly important as the many oak trees in the garden had mostly shed their leaves leaving a sea of dried leaves. After many wheelbarrow loads of leaves and a huge bonfire we found a lawn, patio, hot tub, swimming pool (fortunately covered so nothing got into the water) and sun terrace. Just a pity we can’t use all these facilities at this time of year, but perhaps another time if Judith and Richard let us visit again… He says ‘man things’ but I too have a blister and worked very hard, enjoyed playing with the fire, both in a scientific how to make it grow and shrink way, and in a caveman prod it with a stick way!

Swans on a 'fly-by'
So that’s all from us in SW France, next entry from a hopefully snowy ski resort! We’ve just got time to watch our British Astronaut Tim Peake arrive at the International Space Station on TV tonight, after we watched him blast off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan this morning on the Soyuz spacecraft – very exciting, slightly more exciting than our trip tomorrow, but hey, we’re still excited!

It had warmed up by this time, coupled with the fast walking pace Jackie insisted on doing!

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