Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Antibes, day five; Moutiers, day one

Moving day; another horror.
However, we were gratified to see that the weather had changed when we woke and it was now beginning to rain. Good weather and a common feature; us. Packed, met with the manager, got our deposit back. Went to the local supermarket in the rain to get ski pants for some of the party. We were off to the Alps to meet up with Myles' brother David and his family. Well, skiing was so much fun the first time ...
We sadly drove away from the south of France and within a short amount of time were in Italy. The coast stayed the same, but somehow the towns changed; it was now much more industrial and agricultural. As if the French in this part of the world were just about pretty towns and yachts and bathing, and the Italians were all about making the land pay in other ways.
The weather was horrible - rain and grey and miserable. If you have to move on any day, this was the one.
The trip was about five and a half hours and it was so boring we were all going a little crazy. We had stocked up food at the supermarket and there were very few moments that the children were not eating something. It is shocking; really shocking.
For some reason, nothing really presented for us to stop - the problem of motorways that bypass any kind of town, big or small. So finally, when we were about to enter the Alps in a major way, we stopped at a petrol station with a small cafe attached and got out. It was snowing. I don't think I have ever seen snow actually falling - or if I have, I have forgotten. It is very pretty, even falling on petrol pumps and a very ugly cafe. But it is wet. Now this might be self evident, but when you are a little mesmerised by something you have not yet seen (and that is all of us), you tend to stand out in something (wet or not) for the experience. A little known, but crucial fact about the puffy jackets is that they are not waterproof. Yes, strange. But the jackets that were waterproof were about ten times bigger and we would have needed another whole suitcase and even we were self aware enough to realise that this wasn't a good plan. But neither is puffy jackets that are not water proof a good plan; and certainly not standing in snow. Ha. Next time we do this, we will not buy a damn thing in Australia, but wait until Europe and buy coats that are not only cheaper but actually designed for the conditions (unlike our jackets that are designed for overly anxious hikers who are strolling in Yellowstone National Park - with kilos of trail mix).
In Italy, as we were at this cafe, I am the communication giant. Really? I hear you ask. Well, yes. So it was me asking about toilets and ordering coffee and hot chocolate and working out the ticket we needed to go through the tunnel to the Alps. And in my defence, we got our drinks and had our wees and bought something approximating the correct ticket. I think.
Perhaps slightly more exciting than this, we passed back into France and suddenly we were driving through the route for the Alps stage of the Tour de France. Sad perhaps, but as soon as we saw the sign for the Col de la Galibier, we all got silly and had a long conversation about what the riders might think as they are riding up what looked like a razor sharp, completely vertical climb. Despite the weather (disgusting) and the approaching darkness, I poised like a cat up on the dashboard with the camera for the next sign and took a photo.
At points as we drove through this part of the Alps (completely beautiful and huge), we were struck by strange little buildings that were just stuck fast to the top of knobbly peaks. How and why a house was built here or there is unexplained. But it would be a bugger getting a litre of milk.
It was just getting dark as we pulled into Moutiers and began looking for our hotel. There is something of a leap of faith booking a room online with only photos to guide you. But this is what we had done. And arriving in a small French town on a rainy evening had not gone well for us in the past. We walked up the street our hotel was on (reputedly), a sweet little cobble stoned affair, with the rain coming down and our jackets soaked. And there was our hotel, on our second pass; and it was as closed as anything has ever been. Sigh.
Myles seemed to remember that one of the conditions of the hotel was that we couldn't check in until 5pm. We confirmed this with the stuff we had. So there was some talk of driving up to where Myles' brother was staying (we were effectively in the valley and he was on the mountain), but I thought it wise to hang around to try to work out the hotel room. So we took a quick turn through the town, found the tourist office, asked some particularly banal questions about chains and driving in snow (which the woman in the office looked bewildered at). And then, back to the hotel. It was warmly open, all yellow light and welcoming. Like every other hotel in this town, the front room was full of men drinking. Where the women are is a major mystery.
And then, the moment of reckoning. Would she have our booking? Does the internet actually work? While we have done this several times before, there is a minute between arriving at the door and recognition from the one with the key when everything is still in limbo, and things could go wrong.
But not this time. We were brought in, and sent to our room. Now were are close to the ski slopes and paying very little for a room with five beds, so I was frankly expecting a terrace with five cots. And perhaps a tarpaulin. Most of the photos on the website had been of the bar. But it was altogether not too bad. The sheets were clean and cotton, it was quite warm and there was a bathroom.
We fed the kids at a little restaurant down the road and then came back for some cards before bed.
Myles was threatening us with an eight o'clock wakeup call. It was time to fall down the deep dark tunnel to sleep. I was restless though and dreamed long and hard that the bed was a medieval castle that could only be negotiated by moving in one direction (like IKEA). Makes little or no sense I know, but it made for a tiring night.

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