Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Not at all piste off

I'm back! and happy to report that all went well.

I have to admit I was a little apprehensive about skiing en famille. I knew it wouldn't be the laid back, start-at-10am, pitstop-for-a-drink every-few-hours skiing holiday of our carefree pre-kids days. (A bit of background: The Doctor and I have been skiing together since he took me, then a terrified beginner, to the same resort we have just stayed at, in my early 20s. My father in law is fortunate enough to have an apartment there - hence, the indulgence of a two week ski trip).

More to the point, I was worried about how Littleboy 1 would get on with being packed off to ski school and Littleboy 2 in an unfamiliar creche. The last time I tried to leave them in an unfamiliar creche, at a gym, I was called by the tannoy after 10 minutes to come and get them, because of the screaming.

But, with great snow, two weeks of warm spring sunshine, a drop of military organisation each morning, and the addition of kindly relatives (with bonus of dogs) who acted as surrogate grandparents in a chalet just down the road, our two weeks in the mountains was pretty damn good.

So here is the Nappy Valley guide to skiing without tears (or without too many of them, at any rate).

1. To all the naysayers who thought we were mad to drive through the night: it was FINE. We didn't fall asleep at the wheel. The Littleboys slept, the Doctor and I swigged coffee from our Thermos at service stations and took it in turn to drive. We tried not to worry that our European headlight adjusters were wrong when all the lorries started flashing us on the autoroute. Instead, we listened to Coldplay and Pink Floyd as we ploughed down the middle of France. (Trust me, Dark Side of the Moon is a truly surreal experience at 5am when you are very, very tired). Then, I had the most amazing experience of driving over a mountain pass into the Alps at 6am, the trees heavy with snow and looking like Narnia, dawn just breaking in the sky, with everyone else sound asleep in the car but me. However exhausted I felt, it was worth it for that.

2. Perserverance is everything when it comes to little boys and ski school. Littleboy 1 took to skis straight away, but the idea of being packed off in a mini cable car each morning, alongside a crowd of howling French children, to follow a ski instructor in a giant chicken suit around a mini-slalom course did not, funnily enough, appeal at first.

Day 1 of Ecole de Ski Francais' 'Club Piou-Piou' (I only discovered at the end that Piou-Piou was the giant chicken) did not go well; Littleboy 1 returned with the wrong pair of skis (we never saw his original hire pair again - a great mystery) acompanied by the report that he had 'cried and slept' rather than joining in with the lesson. But The Doctor (a passionate skier) was having none of it - he determinedly dragged Littleboy 1 back to the nursery slopes and had him skiing the nursery slopes between his legs by the end of the day. But still he didn't want to go off to the lessons. Day 2 went slightly better, but Day 3 was the nadir - he spent the whole lesson in what we came to call the 'crying hut'. When I asked him what he had done he pouted and said: 'I cried for Mummy'. But Day 4 was the turning point. I like to think it was the little pep talk I gave him (' you don't need to cry for Mummy, it would be much more interesting to play in the lovely igloo and follow the giant chicken' etc etc, ) , but in the end it was probably just a matter of time.

Anyway, the reports back from 'Piou Piou' were positive. Thereafter, Littleboy 1 became a ski demon. First in the queue for the cable car; determined to carry his own skis; and most importantly, no more tears on leaving us. We kept a surreptitious eye on his progress - even creeping up to the nursery area to video him in secret. He had clearly soon mastered button lifts, casually taking hold of them in a far more relaxed fashion than his mother. Stopping, however, was not his forte. Not for him the snowplough turn. Instead he prefers to point his skis straight downhill, laughing like a drain as he shoots off into the distance. The Doctor is glowing with pride, convinced that he will be a great skier. I am just terrified.

3. History does not relate what Littleboy 2 got up to in the French creche, but he, too, seemed to have a Day 4 Damascene conversion. Having screamed when I left him on days 2 and 3, and then steadfastly slept throughout the morning session (depriving me of my reliance on his afternoon naptime for a bit of peace and quiet), on the fourth day he rallied. "Il a bien joue," they reported. After that he scarcely even bade me goodbye as he ran in at 9am clutching his teddy bear. (I could even see French mummies looking at me askance as they prised themselves from their sobbing offspring, muttering 'Calme-toi, Olivier'...)

4. A kir, or on colder days a vin chaud, at 11.15 am is a great and wondrous thing. It improves one's skiing remarkably when one has to be back at the other side of the valley to pick up one's offspring at 12. However, a large carafe of red wine drunk with your two brothers-in-law on a sunny terrace at lunchtime does not necessarily improve skiing in the same way....

5. Skiing is great for encouraging small boys to sleep well. The Littleboys slept soundly pretty well every night, Littleboy 1 often passing out as soon as his head hit the pillow. Morever, he stayed in bed all night. Sadly the effects did not last. First night back, and he was up at 5am, having wet the bed.

6. Getting two small children out of the flat, fully dressed for the snow, with accessories such as sunglasses, mittens and hats that they cannot pull off halfway down the road, is an undertaking of monumental proportions. Thanks must go to The Doctor and his cousin, therefore, for rigging up ingenious solutions with pieces of string. Even if it made our children look like the eccentric British kids in a town full of chic French. More importantly, Littleboy 2's wellies and socks combo (see previous post) was perfectly adequate. No need for the £40 ski boots I could not bring myself to buy.

7. Despite the fact that the euro now almost equals the pound, spending money in a different currency still has the feel of Monopoly notes, therefore allowing you to harbour illusions about the simply horrifying cost of the whole adventure.

8. Taking chairlifts on Friday 13th is perhaps not a good idea. We managed to have 'incidents' on two of them, including The Doctor managing to render the whole thing 'en pannne' for at least five minutes. (And that was after me managing to damage my ski on the first run of the day and have to return to the ski shop). But that was not to beat the moment, a few days later, when nine people tried to get on the eight person chairlift. For some reason two giggling German girls had gone through a gate designed for one person. Thank God The Doctor realised at the last minute and leapt out of the way.....

9. Stopping at a roadside Novotel is a great idea if you want children's meals and a nice family room. But don't count on a decent meal yourself - even if you think that being in France will make it OK. The worst food of the entire trip (and that includes the baguette, Marmite and butter lunch on the Eurotunnel home).

10. Not reading a single newspaper, website or blog for two weeks was amazingly refreshing. We all need a break now and then, particularly from blogging, and a recharge of the batteries was definitely required.

But I'll stop going on about skiing now, and go back to my real life. Which involves electricians, removal firms and the like. Oh, and blogging. There will definitely be more of that.

17 comments:

Nota Bene said...

...and all back with no broken bits...sounds terrific fun

Iota said...

Sounds great.

And if you can organise two small boys into a skiing holiday, a move to America will be a breeze.

that girl? said...

Blimey! I'm worn out from reading all of that - sounds like you had an amazing time! And I agree with Lota on the move to the US! Good to have you back!

Nicola said...

Wow - i am seriously impressed and seriously envious. So glad you had such a wonderful time. And it has inspired me to get my skiing act together next year...funds permitting!

Wife in Hong Kong said...

I was just starting to wonder if you'd a) decided not to come home or b) been stranded with various broken bones in France.
Glad you had fun. Glad you're back safely.

nappy valley girl said...

Firstly, Home Office Mum, a blogging foul up meant I ended up deleting my first version of the post and your comment! So, sorry, and thanks for leaving it.

NB - no broken bits - in fact Littleboy 1 managed to damage himself more in Brockwell Park on Monday than he did in 2 weeks skiing.

Iota - I sinceredly hope you are right.

thatgirl - believe me, it was all pretty tiring being there - but somehow invigorating as well.

Nicola - it's definitely worth a try, if you like skiing.

Wife in HK - Well, if we had the choice, we might well have stayed there. (The Doctor has already said he might like to retire to the Alps one day....)

Potty Mummy said...

Glad you had a good time. Still not jealous. Not jealous AT ALL...

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

Had same experiene withour 7 yr old. Hated it for 1st 3 days. Thought we'd made abig mistake. Soemthing clicked on afternoon of day 4. This yr (2nd time skiing) he skiied a black with my husband, also a passionate skier, v gd, & v proud of his son. I was terrified, espec as we hadn't got him a helmet yet. My daughter aged 4 just skis betw hubby's legs with one glove off & thumb firmly in mouth...

Bush Mummy said...

Fantastic! I just lived that holiday through your blog.. could smell the suncream and the crisp air at the top of the chair lift. Very jealous. We are too weedy to attempt it with our two yet.. but are dying to go.

You give me some hope and the drive sounds fabulous - anyone who listens to Pink Floyd gets a big thumbs up from me.

Welcome home.

BM x

Mud in the City said...

Very jealous too - and your boys are so lucky to be learning to ski so young. They'll be chatting up chalet girls in no time!

rosiescribble said...

Sounds perfect, and quite exhausting! Skiing has never appealed to me, I have to be honest, but suddenly I feel like booking a flight and heading off to the slopes!

nappy valley girl said...

PM - I'm sorry. I'll stop making you jealous soon I promise, when I'm back to my old stressing about the move. But it sounds as if you are off somewhere nice soon yourself?

PLIT - I can just picture it (particularly as both of mine are thumbsuckers). We didn't get Littleboy 1 a helmet either (after having being advised by the ESF that it wasn't necessary for the infant area). But I have to say was somewhat sobered by the story of Natasha Richardson's tragic death on our return home. I think next time it may be helmets all round.

BM - give it a go. Although next year, presumably, it will be out of the question? :-)

Mud - I fear you are right. As long as they don't take to snowboarding. Which they probably will.

Rosie - it never appealed to me, before I met The Doctor. But now I am a convert. It's about mountain air, beautiful views and eating and drinking as much as anything else!

Dumdad said...

Welcome back to the blogosphere.

It sounds like you had a lot of fun. Although sporty, I've somehow never got round to skiing and it's too late now - I'd just break something.

Dark Side of the Moon - that brings back memories! I haven't heard that for ages. I think I had the LP on vinyl...

Expat mum said...

Oh god - ski school. My little one was fine this year, but last year got so upset that they had to keep putting him in the TLC room where he threw up then cried himself to sleep. I'm not cut out for that so I just took him out.

Melanie said...

Glad it went well and that Littleboys finally got stuck in. Meanwhile back here in Londinium, you were missed.

Bush Mummy said...

Well I suggested leaving the baby with my mum so we could all go.. but hubbie didn't like that idea.

Men are big softies at heart aren't they?

BM x

Mumof4 said...

Oh you do make me jealous, brings skiing with our two right back, and just imagine what fun it will be with four...