Having a family with 30+ cousins, one is bound to be able to bond and share magnificent adventures around the world.
This adventure was with David to his beautiful home in Chamonix, France. Followed by a day of sightseeing in Geneva.
It started with having a Christmas duck and lobster at Min Jiang in Kensington, where the generous offer of coming for a winter weekend in Chamonix was made. I gratefully accepted and we quickly booked flights before the prices spiked. And that was that, Joe and I were to be off to France with David, Larissa and Arenal. The week before Joe and I had a cheeky nandos in Covent Garden, and filled up with ski bargains at Sports Direct – £3 gloves, not bad! With salopettes squished into cabin baggage, we made our way to the decadent London City Airport. We stoked up on last minute contact lense solution and sat down to a Hendrick’s gin with cucumber. City airport is for those who work in the city, and have plenty of money to travel to their holiday houses with the premium experience and ease. There weren’t the normal adverts for Mcdonalds or the like, but adverts for nothing in particular other than stating ‘your children are at home’ – talk about touching on a sensitive part of busy bankers lives. It is also the only place I have seen well dressed men in suits wear skiing books onto a plane. A sight, I kid you not.
We boarded our British Airways flight, had a glass of wine which ended up being spilt on my jeans due to turbulence, and soon enough landed in Geneva, the city of extortionate watch prices and beautiful banks.
After a bus ride as long as the flight itself, we arrived in the small and chilly Chamonix town centre. Met by Larissa, we drove a few blocks to their warm and welcoming home. That night was filled of Joe’s now-favourite wine, lime dark chocolate, and talks about business and Ocado shopping habits. Little did we know the delights Larissa had in store for us to try; delicious morning juicing, niche seeds and dehydrated stick insects.
And so the skiing starts. We woke up to wee Arenal playing about. Donning out thermals toe to next, salopettes, jackets, scarves, gloves, goggles, boots, with a chocolate bar in our pockets we were ready.
The first day was quite a shock to the system for both of us. Having skied about five times growing up, and being an alright ice skater I thought I’d be good enough to do a green run, but no. We were stuck on the absolute beginners (baby) slope for the entire day. After two runs we let the others go off, as this would have bored them to death. We continued up and down, up and butt down. Stopping for a well deserved lunch and wine. Enter: my obsession with Le Tartiflette – the most heavenly, cheesy, potatoey, bacony dish known to man. That was my lunch decided for the next few days.
Despite extreme tiredness, we continued after lunch for a few more hours. Slowly getting our confidence up and having a ball together. David had hired their family ski guide for the weekend, as they were planning for us to do Aiduille du Midi, Mont Blanc. What I would call a freestyle/avalanche prone expert slope. Anyho, their gorgeous French guide, Edouard assisted us on the beginners run teaching us the ways.
Day two we were with David at Brévent. I was terrified, as not quite as fearless nor thrill seeking in my old age. We managed a few big runs, and I certainly caught up with Joe on my lack of falling over the first day.
This day was our favourite hands down. Edouard was the most patient and caring person one could wish for. I had a terrifying moment the previous day, where the slopes had to close due to bad weather, and as we were trying to ski to the bottom, my skis crossed with each other as I was heading for the cliff. I don’t normally have nightmares, but I tell you, I certainly slept awfully that night. So starting off day three, I was in a state of panic and fear from the get go. But gently coaxed and encouraged by Edouard I made it down the slope. From there, the rest is history. We skied better than either of us had before. After lunch the cloud had closed in, but that didn’t stop born-skiing-Edouard, we got in ant-like formation and skied our hearts away. The slopes were baron due to the conditions. With the silence of the slope and the two meters visibility, our lives were in the skis of our guide. The thrill was immense. David joined us for the last few runs, and the boys were going to do a red run (next level up) to end the day. As the day had been such a success I decided at the last minute to join them. Legs, butt and cheeks aching from our accomplishments, we arrived at the bottom unscathed.
Dinner was delicious steak and wine. Our favourite.
For our final day in Chamonix we decided to spend it sightseeing. Starting off with a seemingly delicious crepe for Joe (I watched jealous due to there being no gluten-free ones), we then walked to the base of Mont Blanc. After two gondola rides, we reached the top, in awe that David and Larissa manage to push themselves off the ridge. Settling for the pleasure mongering option of ordering pommes frites and vin chaud. Followed by a climb to the viewing platform where we looked into the fog of France, Switzerland and Italy. Posing for a photo in front of the fog on the way down.
We said our goodbyes, and jumped on the EasyJet bus back to Geneva for the final leg of our journey.
We arrived in Geneva, navigated the buses, unsure of which language to speak. Located our lovely first experience together in AirBnB. Ravenous, we asked for a recommendation of a good (but cheap, we’re used to London prices, but we were warned we had to be even more careful here!) restaurant. Our host recommended Le Te (a Chinese restaurant (authentic, I know…) translating to The Tea), but warned us of that it was such a winner with the locals, but only had 10ish seats, so we were unlikely to get in. Luck was on our side, despite a complete language barrier, we were seated after only 5 minutes of awkwardness at the door. Ordering a bunch of dishes which we understood only a couple of words of, the feast was a success. Full of exotic Chinese tea and food, we somehow gathered enough cash of various currencies and headed to bed.
Our final day was a stunner. The temperature was 20s, which was summer compared to what we had come from. So we stripped the scarves and spent the day strolling the city. It was truly beautiful, the wealth made a museum of the streets. Cars which Joe fancied, jewellery which I drooled at. And then, the Lac Leman, which we contemplated spending the day walking around, until we Googled and realised it was over 150km. We lunched on the pier with the locals, fillet of tuna and fresh veges. Then strolled to the end to observe Jet d’Eau which was then quickly turned off and not turned back on until we let that evening.. odd!
Before going, the only thing I knew about Geneva was that it is where the Red Cross convention was signed in 1949. Due to this, I was aware that there was a museum dedicated to the Red Cross. For obvious reasons, it was our one mission of the day.
After a good 40 minutes of walking, we came upon the United Nations buildings. We were actually hoping unknowingly to cut through their garden as Google Maps said it was the quickest way to get to the museum, looking at the level of security we decided against that idea. There were protestors outside the UN, although we couldn’t tell what they were protesting for. The exciting part for me about this, was that I knew Helen Clark was in this exact building that day (I follow her on Facebook). As an admirer of what she does, it was cool to think of her working her magic in there for the world!
After another 20 minute walk, we arrived at Musee Geneva. Illustrations and statues of people from all walks of life welcomed us. Proudly flashing my volunteer card, I got a discounted entry. We spent the next few hours learning about the documentation of the work the Red Cross did and does to restore family links, from the World Wars to now for Syria.
It was certainly a proud moment to sit and have coffee under these banners. Being one of the 17 million volunteers worldwide.
And that was that, a trip truly to remember. The trill of skiing, the gluttony of steak, and to the humble show of Red Cross.
Having been invited back next year, who knows what stories will be told then!