Wednesday, 4 May 2016

A final Au Revoir to St Jean d’Aulps (for now!)

The last view from our balcony at 06:00am just as we were leaving

Our ski season and Europe adventure is over and we are now safely back on UK soil after an easy, but very long drive and ferry trip back on Sunday 1st May. 

As it was the middle day of a European long weekend holiday it was a good time to travel with little (almost no) traffic on French motorways, a half empty ferry on the Calais to Dover route and relatively quiet (if the M25 London orbital motorway can ever be considered quiet!) motorways back to The Midlands and Jackie’s mum’s house in Alvechurch.

Waiting to board our ferry at Calais eight and a half hours later
We were ‘on the road’ at 06:00am (05:00am UK time), setting off in heavy falling snow and driving through fairly heavy rain and low cloud, occasionally turning to snow, almost up to the Paris area, where blue sky replaced the cloud and we were in a clear and sunny, but cold afternoon. Only stopping to change drivers and for fuel we got to Calais at 14:30, just under 8hr 30min and had the welcome news that we could board the 15:30 ferry, instead of the 17:00 one we’d booked, so with less than an hours waiting in sunshine at Calais we were on board relaxing in the half empty ferry. 

On the ferry leaving Calais. It was sunny but cold
Approaching the white cliffs of Dover
Donning coats, hats and gloves we ventured outside on deck in the afternoon sunshine in the cold stiff northerly wind watched the beaches of Calais pass by us and could clearly see the white cliffs of Dover not far away. It made us realise just how close the UK is to Europe and also just how busy this stretch of water is with ships everywhere – one of the busiest in the world but, being Brit’s we had a nice feeling of returning home while looking at those white cliffs (but we didn’t see any blue birds!)

Safe and sound with a glass of wine at Pauline's house in Alvechurch
We were at Pauline’s house, where we’re staying until Friday, at 19:30, after stopping at the Chinese take-away in the village to order a delivery of dinner for us and Pauline, leaving the unpacking until the next day and cracking open a bottle of wine with the meal. Finally home, at least until September when we plan to be off again!

Our balcony from the top of the some down which the cats came. On the blanket asleep is Peter the cat with Groucho just peeking out over the edge of the box she's in
Close up of the above. Groucho's white head is just visible
However, we still have news to report from St Jean d’Aulps, even though we only had two days left and the big news (or what Jackie would consider to be the big news) is that little Groucho kitten has given birth to an unknown quantity of kittens. She uncharacteristically disappeared on Friday night and Saturday morning. I (Brian) took the opportunity to thoroughly clean the balcony where they had stayed, as we couldn’t leave it as it was for Carol to re-take possession after we had gone. The blanket was taken away, the cardboard boxes they had used as little homes were disposed of and I was in the middle of washing everything down with mop and bucket when she suddenly jumped up on the wall and looked on with a mixture of horror, need and pain. I left everything and went inside just as Jackie returned after having been out looking for her. 

5 deer graze on the grass of the house on the opposite side of our valley
Groucho came onto the windowsill and it was immediately clear that she had not long given birth as both sides and tail were wet and bloody and her rear end looked very sore and bloody. She didn’t immediately want food, she wanted fuss and strokes from Jackie and she absolutely lapped it up. I produced some warm water in a bowl and a cloth and Jackie gently washed her down to help clean her up, afterwards feeding her lots of cat biscuits and water with milk. She seemed to settle a bit and then went off to tend to her babies.

Si and Cassie in the Bar National in St Jean d'Aulps
Jackie went up to see where she went and it turned out to be a high shelf in the tool shed of a big house next to our apartment block. Not wanting to get too close as, apparently that can endanger the lives of new born kittens, she could just see Groucho climbing the slats inside the shed, climbing onto a high shelf and hear the faint ‘meaows’ of tiny kittens.

By Saturday afternoon and evening Groucho had been back on our windowsill several times looking much better with clean fluffy fur, much more herself and demanding cat biscuits, so everything seems to be well. As a final goodbye she reappeared on the windowsill on Sunday morning at 06:00am, just as we were about to leave, Jackie had strokes, left a mountain sized pile of cat biscuits and lots of water and we waved goodbye as we closed the door and left. Hopefully we’ll see them all again when we expect to return the year after next.

Drew and Leanne in the Bar National St Jean d'Aulps
But that’s not all the news, in between all this on Saturday afternoon we had an invite to a live screening of a Navy vs Army rugby match being played at Twickenham. This was an event that Si and Cassie had organised at the Bar National pub in St Jean d’Aulps village and Si had flown back from his month long diving job in Belgium to be there (a nightmare journey as it turned out as Brussels airport had only just reopened after the terrorist attack and security was very high and so very slow. Coupled with a nightmare road journey to the airport as well, he only just made his flight). Si is ex-Navy, all his other mates in the Morzine area are ex-Army. Apparently the Army usually win, the last win for the Navy being in 2010, but Si takes it in good part and there is friendly banter between him and all the others.

Si basks in Navy glory to the tune of 'In The Navy'
Watching a live rugby match is not top of our things to do (we know nothing about rugby), but Si and Cass had arranged it, they had prepared food along with Leanne and Drew, they were doing it all for their charity, so we thought it would be nice to go as well as being able to say bye-bye properly before we go.

The food was excellent and the atmosphere good even though not that many turned up. There were maybe 20 or so of us, just enough to make it go and, to our relief not everyone was ‘glued’ to the  match, it was more in the background so we could have a chat and meet new people (there’s a new bridge club starting up we found out and, had we been staying there I could have learned to play – Jackie already knows).

Si making announcements for his charity
Anyway, early on the Navy scored a try and then a conversion and the score was 7:0 – a good start and Si was on form, not missing this opportunity. Sometime later is was 7:7, then 7:14 to the Army then later on it was 7:29 with only about 10 minutes remaining. Ah well, pretty much like previous years and Si was quite accepting, while I was chatting to a French girl with Scottish husband (complete with red hair and red beard) about their house purchase in the nearby village of Le Biot. A while later someone shouted across to Si to look at the screen; unbelievably the score was 27:29 to the Army, but a player in the Navy was just setting up the ball a long way out to take a conversion shot. 

Fun in the bar just as we were leaving. We're on the left!
We watched as he ran up, took the shot and saw the ball go between the two uprights to score 2 points and level the score at 29:29 with only 90 seconds to go. That was the final score, a draw, but apparently the Navy beat the RAF and the RAF had beaten the Army, so victory was claimed by the Navy and they lifted the trophy. Si raising his hand to claim victory with a broad grin was a picture (oh yes, I did get a picture) and we were glad we were there to witness this apparently rare event.
I asked the barman if he could find and play ‘In the Navy’ by the Village People, so he searched through his mobile phone, connected it to the PA system and played it quite loud. Si recognised it from across the room much too quickly, waving his arms around and laughing. We were expecting it and still didn’t immediately recognise it – he did, what does that say?

The victorious Navy team hold up the trophy
After eating far too much of the food we said goodbye to everyone, had a great send off from them and drove our luggage laden car back up the hill ready for the long journey the following morning. The packing had gone extremely well, it all seemed too easy making us wonder whether we had forgotten something big, but no, everything was in, including 14 bottles and one carton of the Roche Mazet wine we had taken a liking to and the extra pair of skis I had bought for €25 at the beginning of the season and used most of the time.

Bye-bye St Jean, we're going to miss you!
Sad to leave, of course, but we’re heading for new adventures, a summer in the UK and then our big trip to South America in September for 12 to 14 months – better get on with planning that, it’s only 4½ months away and there’s lots to do! Yesterday, as we got in the car to go and see our friends Sarah and John in the village I noticed the date, 3rd May. Oh, that’s our anniversary, 13 years today, ‘Happy Anniversary darling’. Neither of us had remembered, but that doesn’t matter, too many things to do, too many places to see and too busy enjoying ourselves. Here’s to our next many years and anniversaries together!

By the way, I have created a Youtube video of 132 still photographs taken of the mountain view from our balcony, one photo for each day we were there and all at 08:30 every morning. The first picture on this blog is the last one, admittedly taken at 06:00am on this one occasion. It shows the changing weather and snow cover and lasts for just under 5 minutes. We appreciate it may not be everyones 'cup-of-tea' and possibly could be likened to watching paint dry, but some may appreciate art in it's higher form! What do you think? Here's the link to view it:


  1. Very excited to hear about the kittens and understand how sad you must be to leave your home of 5 + months? And leaving cats that have become pets must be heart breaking too. Still, loads of us in the UK cannot wait to see you and spend some time. We are patiently waiting for our turn and your mum's beaming smile says it all Jackie. Welcome home. Lots of love, Ian, Helen and Monty-Dog xxx P.S. Off to look at the 8:30am views now. I bet they are lovely. Xx

  2. Loved the pictures. Saw white cat but not black cat! Xx