|Me and my boys, on top of the world
Being back in France after an absence of five years was fabulous; the food, the scenery, the cheese, the cheese (yes, I really need to go on a diet now). Having holidayed in the US and Canada for the past few years, at last the Littleboys got to see that people don't all speak English, and had an opportunity to practise some French, which they started learning at school last September. We had been slightly concerned that while Littleboy 2 was happily coming home and addressing me as "Maman" in a perfect little French accent, his older brother hadn't appeared to pick up a single word, so I was determined that he should learn. In a fit of enthusiasm, they insisted we buy an AA Kids' Phrasebook at the Eurotunnel shop, and proceeded to fight over who got to look at it for the next 48 hours (before they lost interest). Two weeks later, and I think Littleboy 1 knows just a few more words - including "frites", "je deteste", "bonjour" and "au revoir". But it's a start.
The ski-ing itself was very different from our last visit to the Alps five years ago. Then, we were encumbered by a three year old who cried every morning when we took him to ski school, and a baby who spent his mornings in the creche while we frantically skied for three hours and zoomed back to reclaim both of them. In Vermont, things were different again as they were in a very child-friendly ski camp all day, leaving us to potter around in a relaxed fashion (while trying not to freeze to death). No longer. We now have two rather intrepid, and frankly quite scary, young skiers on our hands.
The boys' ability to get down a mountain improved enormously during the fortnight. Two years of good American ski school clearly did the groundwork -- all it took was a couple of morning sessions with a decent instructor, and they were shooting around (although wiping out rather often). This meant they could ski with us all day, and go anywhere we wanted to go (we even managed a black run en famille, something I would usually avoid at all costs but I was determined not to be the only family member not to attempt it. For those that are interested, my own ski-ing was thankfully OK despite the pain condition - I just swallowed painkillers and somehow, concentrating on getting down the slopes took my mind off things, and it was really no more painful than walking down the street).
Our sons also joined us for picnics, meals at mountain restaurants, and various drinks pitstops (where they downed hot chocolate and lemonade, and looked disapprovingly at us if we ordered a vin chaud). These little breaks were not always very restful, as Littleboy 1 would usually put his skis back on and look ready to go after about five minutes of recharging, but it was a bit more like the springtime ski-ing I remember. It was also a welcome break from worrying about house buying/selling - having sold our own house the night before we left, we began the holiday fretting about phone calls from estate agents but ended it by hardly thinking about them at all. The sun beat down the entire week, but the snow stayed good to the end, and not once did anyone worry about being cold.
Other memorable moments included listening to the entire first two Harry Potter books, read by Stephen Fry, as we sped down the French autoroute; Littleboy 2 throwing up on an Alpine pass (renderng our car smelling of vomit for the entire 7 hours of driving we had left that day); teaching both boys to play Scrabble in the flat, and having many chairlift conversations with Littleboy 2 about how one becomes an author (his latest plan) and with Littleboy 1 about characters from The Hobbit.
As the Littleboys become older, I increasingly often have moments of nostalgia where I remember how they were as little ones, and wish I could slow time down. But this holiday wasn't an example of that at all. Some things defintitely improve with age - and a family ski-ing holiday is one of them.