Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Winter Holiday Report (rather long, sorry!)

**I had intended to add various photos of our trip to this post but Blogger Photos is being unco-operative at the moment so I will leave them out for now. I have started uploading them to my Webshots album and will hopefully finish that off tomorrow. I will add Webshots thumbnails to this post then.**

Our first stop was Geneva where we experienced our first really really cold weather in a long time! DH even had to borrow my hat to keep his head warm until he could buy one of his own. I have lots of hair to keep my head and ears warm ... plus the hood on my jacket :)

We spent a couple of days here wandering around sight-seeing. Spent some time at the Martime Museum which was okay but spent quite a long time at the Roman Museum (which was included in the ticket price to the Maritime Museum). They had an archaelogy student there that day who was available to answer any questions we may have had about the displays. The kids spent quite a bit of time with her and found it very interesting.

Next it was back to the airport to catch the ski-bus to Tignes (this trip was a bit of a Planes, Trains & Automobiles type experience - lol) - about a three and a half hour trip. A little tedious but the scenery made it worth it, as did the looks on the kids' faces when they saw snow.

Upon arrival at Val Claret (the resort we were staying at) we had a long walk up the hill pulling two large suitcases plus assorted hand luggage and watching for icy patches to Club Med. I was very happy to hand over the luggage to the strong young gentlemen there to greet us at the door!!

It was then a flurry of booking in, having something to eat because we were starving, booking ski lessons, sorting out ski/snowboard equipment hire and attending information sessions before we finally managed to get out and go for a walk in the snow before dinner! This is the kids first experience of real snow so of course the first thing to do is have a snowball fight and build a snowman. A bit of a poor excuse of a snowman though - lol!

For those of you who have never done a Club Med skiing holiday before ... the next six days involved skiing twice a day in groups according to your level with an instructor. I struggled the first day or two in Level 1 (I can do snow-plough turns but it has been 15 years since I last skiied and lacked confidence) so made the decision to go back down a level to Beginners. Another lady who was struggling with me decided to do the same thing yet she had no problems in that group the year before!? A lot, I think, depends on the instructor and abilities of the group. Our instructor was very disinterested in those that couldn't keep up and while the people were very nice were also very competitive. I found out later that most of them had come down from Level 2. No wonder I found it hard! Anyway, the beginners group was perfect - really nice people, no competition, keen to have a bit of a laugh and some fun as was the instructor, so the next four days were really enjoyable :)

The kids were having a blast in their respective groups - DD was in her element - both skiing and socially. She had formed a nice little group of friends and was having a great time! DS found a buddy around his own age in his snowboarding group so he too was having fun. DH found his Level 2 group a little difficult so he came down to Level 1 so he could work on his technique. He caught a bit of a head cold so didn't ski one day and then mostly stuck to the afternoons.

Mealtimes are a big communal affair and each night there is something different to entertain you and the staff are great. It was Caitlin's birthday (and mine too) while we were there and I organised a cake to be brought out at dinner on the last night :)

All in all, we had fun although I wouldn't really call it a holiday - skiing twice you are constantly on the go from 7am every day. I think if we did one of these holidays again, I would leave DH and the kids to the snow and I'll do the spa package, find a cosy corner in the bar and stitch :)

From Tignes we had less than an hour's taxi ride to Bourg-St-Maurice to catch the EuroStar train to Lyon and from there we switched over to the TGV to Nimes. We spent the night here and then the next day back to the Hertz rent-a-car office (at the train station!) to pick up our hire car and start on our journey to Toulouse.

There are some rather spectacular Roman ruins in Nimes so before heading off we decided to pay one of them, at least, a visit. A short walking distance from the train station is the Arenes (Arena). Apparently, it is still used today for various events. You get an AudioGuide gadget that you listen too as you walk around and stop at various points of interest.

It was quite windy the day we were there and I was rather worried that Caitlin was going to blow away when she was right up at the top. I went up to have a look at the view from up there too but I'm not keen on heights so I didn't stay too long :)

After a rather delicious jambon (ham) baguette for lunch for me and hot dogs with fries for DH and the kids (they looked really yummy too - real sausages, covered with grated cheese and then grilled and then they put the fries on top inside the hot dog) we piled ourselves into the car and started our 2-3 drive to Toulouse. We marvelled at the wind farms at various points along the way and various castles and cathedrals dotted throughout the countryside. We took in as much green and trees other than palm trees and hills as we could (we don't get to see scenery like that here!).

Getting to our hotel in the city and then finding a carpark was interesting - in the end DH spied a 24 hour secure carpark across the street so unloaded us out the front of the hotel and then went off to park the car while I checked in. He was gone some time and I was starting to worry a little but he eventually made it back after half an hour or so. He had to go "half way around the world" as he puts it to get back to the car park because of all the one way streets.

Anyway, checked in and the car safely parked, we decided to head out and do a bit of scouting about. Our hotel was on the edge of Place du Capitole, it was New Year's Eve and things were starting to get busy. We found a nice little pizzeria place around the corner that we thought would be nice for dinner and managed to get a reservation for a little later that evening. Gave us enough time to go back to the hotel and get showered etc. We enjoyed a very nice dinner and then back to the hotel. I'm afraid we were all asleep well before midnight so didn't see the New Year in although I vaguely remember briefly waking when they left off the firecrackers.

New Year's Day found us heading 15-20 minutes outside of Toulouse to DH's friend's house for a walk in the forest with their dogs and then dinner. It was a great afternoon and a very enjoyable meal with wonderful company. Beatrix told me of a craft shop not far from our hotel that I might be interested in and when we left much later that evening, I had a hand-drawn map of the location in my gloved little hand :)

The next day we decided to take it easy and just explore and in my case, go searching for the craft shop. It wasn't very far away at all and we found it quite easily. There was another shop next door that looked interesting too so I sent the family off for a wander for half an hour while I had a browse through both shops. Unfortunately, neither of them had anything I was really interested in - the first one was mostly haberdashery type stuff and the second, La Droguerie, whilst it had some lovely things (mostly knitting kits, yarn and buttons and beads) there wasn't really any one thing that jumped out and said "buy me"! I must have been sick (actually, I am, but that's another story!).

I still had 20 minutes or so before the family were due back to meet me so I headed out of the shop and went for a little wander along the street. I went around a slight bend in the street and something in a window on the other side grabbed my eye so I went over to investigate. It turned out to be a little quilt/needlework store! It was a lovely little store, lots of French designers (although no Long Dog, not that I could find). I was happily pottering around and deciding what to buy when I looked at my watch and realised that I was overdue for meeting the family! They would be wondering where I was when they discovered I wasn't at the other store, so I hurriedly paid for my purchases and rushed back to meet them. They had just decided to head to the store I'd found as they had noticed it while walking about and figured that was where I was probably was :)

The next morning/early afternoon was spent walking around the city exploring some more. I don't think I saw much though as I was constantly walking with my head down watching where I was placing my feet to avoid the dog poop! That was one thing that put me off my visit to Paris many years ago although Toulouse was not quite as bad. We spent much of the afternoon relaxing in our rooms - I managed to get quite a bit done on St George's - and an early night as we had a big drive ahead of ourselves the next day back to Geneva for our flight back home.

We started out quite early the next day because we didn't want to rush the journey. About an hour and a half out of Toulouse we stopped at Carcasonne for some breakfast and a little look around the Medieval city - DS loves this sort of thing :)

We continued along our way, stopping every couple of hours or so for DH to rest his eyes and take in some sustenance. There was quite a lot of rain in patches which required lots of concentration. After one wrong turn we finally made it to the hotel where we had dinner and collapsed into bed. We had another early start the next day to give ourselves plenty of time to find our way to the airport, return the car and get checked in.

The next morning we found our way to the airport fairly easily, returned the car and checked in, in plenty of time. I finally managed to see Rush Hour 3 and The Bourne Ultimatium on the plane ride home so I can cross them off my list to see now. Enjoyed both of them.

So, now we are back home, where the dog was very happy to see us, and I am making my way through the mountain of laundry. The kids are back at school and DH is back at work. I have managed to pick up a cold along the way (usually it is DH or one of the kids but I was the lucky one this time) which is unfortunate but happens :)

I enjoyed our holiday but I'm glad to be back home too :)


Cindy said...

It sounds like you had a great holiday!

I agree...a skiing vacation is a lot of work :) Sometimes I'm just as happy to sit and stitch and stare at the mountains!

Von said...

Sounds like a fun vacation for you all! But I'd skip the skiing for myself, sending the family off to the slopes and staying warm and cozy at the hotel. I hate being out in the cold for very long. :D

Sharon said...

Sounds wonderful, I look forward to seeing your pictures.