Trip 4 - France, Spain

November 2015 to April 2016
Skiing in Portes du Soleil, France
Barcelona's Sagrada Familia Basillica




















Our fourth trip was almost a repeat of our second trip, to spend an entire winter season skiing. We left the UK at the end of October to spend a couple of weeks at our friends house in the Dordogne area of France. From there and leaving all our skiing gear at their house, we drove over the Pyrenees to stay with Jackie's dad, Richard and Elizabeth, at their house on the Costa Blanca in Spain, stopping on the way for two days in Zaragoza in Northern Spain, for a bit of sightseeing. We had over a month on the Costa Blanca looking after their house and cat while they went on holiday and spent the time rock climbing and mountain walking, some of the time with friends Simon and Diane, who we had met during our trip to Vietnam and who came on holiday to nearby Calpe whilst we were there.

In mid December we returned to our friends house in the Dordogne, after a two night stay in Barcelona for sightseeing, collected all our ski gear and then drove across France to stay in the same apartment in St Jean d'Aulps that we rented during our last ski season.
For more details on this trip see below, it's divided into the following:
  1. Dordogne, France
  2. Zaragoza, Spain
  3. Costa Blanca, Spain
  4.  Barcelona, Spain
  5. Dordogne (second time)
  6. St Jean d'Aulps (the actual ski season part of this trip)
  7. Details of the costs of this entire trip. It includes all expenditure of our six months away and can act as a guide should you be planning a similar trip. If you would like further details please insert a comment at the end and we will post a reply below your question.
  • Dordogne, France:
  1. Depart UK at Portsmouth via overnight ferry to Le Havre and drove straight to Pechaud, near Belves, Dordogne, France: Dordogne 
  2. Depart Pechaud, Dordogne, drive over Pyrenees to Zaragoza, Spain: Dordogne 2






  • Zaragoza, Spain:
  1.  Arrive Zaragoza: Zaragoza










  • Costa Blanca, Spain:

  1.  Arrive Altea La Vella, Costa Blanca, Spain: Spain
  2. Hike in Sierra de Bernia: Bernia
  3. Hikes to recce Puig Campana & Bernia Ridge: Recce hikes
  4. Rock climbing & hiking with Simon & Diane: Spain 2
  5. The Bernia Ridge Traverse: Bernia Ridge
  6. Altea La Vella: Spain 3, Spain 4

  • Barcelona, Spain:
 
  1. Drive Altea La Vella to Barcelona: Barcelona







  • Dordogne, France (second time):
  1. Drive from Barcelona back to Pechaud, Dordogne: Pechaud
  •  St Jean d'Aulps, France:
Website: http://en.portesdusoleil.com/st-jean-daulps.html

  1. Arrive St Jean d'Aulps by car from Pechaud, Dordogne: St Jean d'Aulps 
  2. For further details of the ski trip click on all blog entries from December 2015 to the end of April 2016. Special highlights as follows:
  3. Visit of our friend Mike: Mike 
  4. Ski Tour, Col du Cou: Ski Tour 
  5. Visit of our friends Simon & Diane and Brian's sister Denise & Paul: Visits 
  6. Visit of our friends from Solihull Mountaineering Club. Ski tour to Abondance ski resort. Off piste skiing on Mont Chery and Mont Caly: SMC visit 


  • Details of costs for this trip:

We've included this section for any readers wondering if they can afford a season skiing in the Alps, particularly at one of the largest (if not THE largest) ski area in the world. Searching the internet and reading travel books such as Lonely Planet are good at giving an indication of accommodation, tour and meal costs separately, but putting it all together to try to give an overall cost of a trip is hard to do as there are often incidental costs that are difficult to account for.

The costs below are our real and complete costs and the first figure, the 'Overall total cost' is really everything we spent for the entire trip but, to be relevant to other readers, a comparison has to be made between our expectations and requirements and those of the readers, so this is our summary.

We are a 'middle aged' couple, happy in our own company but willing to meet and interact with others. We're daytime, relatively adventurous outdoor people, preferring quiet nights in, home cooking (where possible) and modest drinking rather than rowdy nights out at expensive restaurants, clubs and bars, they just don't register on our list! When we do go out for meals we are careful on our selection of restaurants and prefer local food and places where 'normal folk' would go rather than 'chic' places, as these not only keep the cost down but give us a more authentic feel for a place.

For our ski season we stayed at an outlying resort not linked by skilifts, but linked by a free ski bus to the main areas of Avoriaz, Morzine and Chatel, in order to keep the cost of apartment rental down. As we had our own car with us the separateness of the resort was not an issue as the main areas were only a 20 minute drive away with free parking at main skilifts. We rarely ate out at mountain restaurants during the day, preferring to take a sandwich which we usually ate while sitting on skilifts. This not only kept the costs down but also maximised our ski day. We had all our own ski gear, including skis, boots, all clothing, ski touring gear and all our own rock climbing and hiking gear for the Spanish leg of our trip. We are accomplished skiers so we had no ski lessons nor hired any guides for any trips, we did everything on our own initiatives. 


This season we helped owners of a chalet on their change over days, helping to clean their chalet, Brian doing airport runs to Geneva to collect/drop off clients with owner Simon. Simon and Cassie, who we met when we were first here in 2014, have since become firm friends and we really look forward to seeing them again at future ski season visits. We have also occasionally looked after a dog, owned by a member of a band playing various bars in the resort. We could have worked much more had we wanted/needed to earn more money, but we simply didn't want to. Chalet cleaning/managing, airport transfers, slope drop off/collection jobs are all readily available so, if any readers need to earn money in a ski resort our advice is to get out there, get some form of accommodation and join the local email/Facebook lists and finding work will be no problem at all, provided you are prepared to work hard and be reliable (something that seems to be in short supply with most people!)

We drove from the UK to the Dordogne in France in our car where we stayed at a holiday home owned by our friends Judith and Richard (who we met through Trustedhousesitters). We stayed there for a while, left all our ski gear there and then drove over the Pyrenees to Costa Blanca, Spain to stay with Jackie's father and Elizabeth, stopping off for two nights in Zaragoza, Spain for a sightseeing trip. Having stayed in the Costa Blanca for a month mainly rock climbing, walking, jobs in the house and relaxing we returned to the Dordogne for a few more days, collected the ski gear and drove on to the ski resort for theseason. The cost of the Dordogne and Spanish legs of our trip is therefore not very relevant to most people as we did not have to pay for our accommodation or most meals, but we've included it for completeness. 


At the end of the ski season we drove north to Calais and returned to the UK on the cross channel ferry.

Overall total cost: £7869.84. Average daily cost: £41.86 (188 days in total)

Travel insurance (2 people): We arranged European insurance through 'ERV' as they specialise in skiing, but took the 'Red Rookie' option as this covered us for off piste skiing, ski touring and rock climbing (as long as this wasn't the main purpose of our trip). Cost: £420.08 for 214 days (not all used). Average daily cost: £2.00


France (Dordogne) & Spain (Costa Blanca, Zaragoza and Barcelona):
As noted above, we stayed at a friends house in the Dordogne and with Jackie's father and Elizabeth in the Costa Blanca, so had few accommodation and few meal expenses, so our costings in this section give a rather false view of anothers total costs.

Notes: 
  1. All prices from October 2015 to December 2015
  2. All prices are for 2 people
  3. Exchange rate (2012): £1.00 = €1.31
  4. Total days/nights:53

Total expenditure: €1740.00 (£1328.00)

Average daily expenditure: €33.00 (£25.00)

Breakdown:

  1. Car fuel: €326.00 (£249.00), average daily cost: €6.00 (£5.00)
  2. Portsmouth to Le Havre ferry: £138.00
  3. French & Spanish motorway tolls: €144.00 (110.00)
  4. Hotel Zaragoza (2 nights): €107.00 (£82.00)
  5. Daytime expenditure Zaragoza: €13.40 (£10.00)
  6. Evening meals Zaragoza: €51.20 (£39.00)
  7. Hotel Barcelona (2 nights): €184.00 (£140.50)
  8. Daytime expenditure Barcelona: €165.00 (£126.00)
  9. Evening meals Barcelona: €45.60 (£35.00)
  10. Daytime expenditure Dordogne & Costa Blanca: Total cost: €81.00 (£62.00). Average daily cost (49 days): €1.65 (£1.26)
  11. Evening expenditure Dordogne & Costa Blanca: Total cost: €129.00 (£98.50). Average daily cost (49 days): €2.50 (£2.00) 
  12. Shopping: Total cost: €312.00 (£238.00). Average daily cost: €6.00 (£4.50)

 France (ski season):

Notes: 
  1. All prices from December 2015 to April 2016
  2. All prices are for 2 people
  3. Exchange rate (2012): £1.00 = €1.31 (average)
  4. Total days/nights: 135

Total expenditure: €8628.08 (£6541.84)

Average daily expenditure: €63.91 (£48.46)

Breakdown:

  1. Apartment: A studio apartment in a building with swimming pool, 2 minutes walk from the skilift station at St Jean d'Aulps (aka La Grande Terche), Portes du Soleil, France.                                                                                                                                       Total cost: €4166.15 (£3153.65), average per night: €30.86 (£23.36)
  2. Lift Pass: Total cost: €1440.00 (£1099.00), average daily cost: €11.00 (£7.00)
  3. Car fuel: €602.86 (£404.78), average daily cost: €4.47 (£3.00)
  4. Shopping: €1471.28 (£1113.83), average daily cost: €10.90 (£8.25)
  5. French motorway tolls St Jean d'Aulps to Calais: €75.30 (£58.83)
  6. Cross channel ferry, Calais to Dover: €80.00 (£61.00)
  7. Daily expenditure: Total cost: €691.79 (£527.75). Average per day: €5.12 (£3.91)
  8. Evening expenditure: Total cost: €87.00 (£66.34). Average per day: €0.64 (£0.49)

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