Wednesday, 9 February 2011

More holiday

I have somehow managed to transfer myself and sufficient of my belongings to GNT, and even survived the first three days. So that's a relief. But before writing any more about the placement, I shall finish documenting our holiday, by way of a string of photos, as threatened in the last post.

Open sandwiches and cakeFirst, the hotel: a very high class establishment, far better than any I have stayed in before. The only disadvantage was that access was up a very steep driveway, difficult to negotiate with jelly legs at the end of a long day on the slopes. They served delicious afternoon tea consisting of rounds of bread decorated with sausage, cheese and other tasty morsels, together with wonderful cakes of various kinds. Dinners were 5-course feasts: a starter, soup, salad, main course (choice of three), and dessert. I tried two strategies: leaving half of what was served, or skipping dessert, but in the end resistance was futile.

Courgette, cream cheese and pastry with a small stuffed pepper on the sideTartar from ewe's milk cheese on grilled zucchini and yeast pastry stick

Soup with floating island of creamCream soup from parsley roots [parsnip actually] with paprika cream

Asparagus on top of a pile of saladSalads from buffet

Salmon, yellow sauce and rice
Poached salmon on spinach with pine seeds on saffron sauce and served with rice

Conical glass with panna cotta, wafers, fresh strawberry and ice creamPanna cotta in a glass with mint pesto and strawberry ice-cream

Mr A sitting in the snow adjusting his snowboard bindingsI tried snowboarding, I really did. After all the lessons and practice, and one more lesson while we were there, I wasn't getting any better, and it wasn't fun. So after three days I switched back to skis, and wheeee! I felt better straight away. Mr A is made of sterner stuff, plus he really couldn't face the idea of returning to the pain of ski boots on his shins. So he soldiered on, and by the end of the week he was able to make fairly reliable linked turns, interspersed with the occasional face-plant in the snow. His homemade shin protection (toilet paper, cotton wool, elastoplast and gaffer tape) worked pretty well, but his knees have swelled up like melons as usual. He has since been investigating the issue of how to deal with dodgy knees in sporting situations. I would probably try to find a different way to enjoy myself on holiday, but he seems undeterred.

Blurry young person with curved sticks tied to his feetThe best evening by far was the barrel-stave racing. Competitors had to tie staves to their feet with straps (no fancy bindings allowed) and slide down a slalom slope including a small jump, assisted only by a long stick which acted as both steering and brake. Some were tremendous, and completed the course without a hitch, including one unbelievable woman of more senior years. Others found it utterly impossible, and either got tangled up in the obstacles, or simply couldn't stand up and ski at all. One youngster started off being supported by two of the course marshals, and ended up with them carrying him over the finishing line, to cheers from the crowd. Another had to be transported down to the finish in the toboggan that carried the staves from the finish back up to the top. For much of the time we were crying with laughter.

J&C on skis with frozen lake in the backgroundFor the first three days I was obviously spending time on the easiest slopes, attempting to snowboard with Mr A. When I switched to skis, I could be more adventurous, and spent some time whizzing about with the friends we went with, J&C. There was a lovely descent to a lake that was sunlit for much of the day, the only hitch being that the only way out was a drag lift, rather than a cable car or chairlift. The area we were in was quite small, although there was a much more extensive area accessible with the free Skibus; J&C went there for a day, but reported that it was incredibly busy, and they preferred to come back and finish the holiday in our little area. Of course Mr A was in no position to take advantage of a large number of slopes, and would have struggled more than I did with a drag lift.

A stuffed marmot sitting up on shelf with crossed legsPoor J&C had to catch their transfer back to the airport at a time that made it hardly worth them going to bed on the last night, but we had a much more civilised afternoon transfer. We spent the morning of the last day in the 'Alpinarium' museum commemorating the terrible avalanche that cost 31 lives in 1999. There were photos, there was video, and some interesting and strange Art, including a curtain of rocks, a hairy human-yeti creature, and a knitted landscape suspended from the ceiling. There were wooden representations of yearly snowfall, a stuffed marmot, silent film of pioneer mountaineers and skiers (wearing skis not dissimilar to those barrel staves), and a disorientating room with mirrors for walls, floor and ceiling. On the roof of the building was a viewing platform, from which vantage point you could see where the avalanche had taken place, and the defences built to prevent any repeat of the catastrophe.

So that was it. Back to the hotel, coach transfer to the airport, short flight, train back home and a cold but welcoming house for less than 24 hours before I was on the move again, on my way north.

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