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World Trip 2011

French Alps, December 2011

FRANCE | Thursday, 5 January 2012 | Views [877]

Car, train, taxi, train, train and van. Our trip from London was another long day but we eventually arrived at the chalet in La Combe, France which would be our new home and work for the next five months. La Combe is a tiny, traditional French village that is about 5 minutes drive from St Martin de Belleville. This area is part of the three valleys ski area, the biggest in the world. The chalet was originally a barn and is around 250 years old. So it’s not what we imagined a ski chalet would look like. Canadian chalets are awesome examples of timber workmanship, custom fitted into the hill side. The French style is older and looks more like a handy man special. This became evident in the first two weeks as my job was to fix almost everything. So many things were broken or just simply shoddy that sometimes it was hard to believe. Added to this was that I had a very limited supply of equally shoddy tools to get the job done which made for some creative solutions. Danielle was also fixing things up by painting, sewing and working hard with the never ending job of cleaning.

The two people that we are working with are Darren and Becky. Both are mid 40’s and have thrown in their respective jobs in the south of England and have come out to France for a different scene. They worked in the chalet last year doing the jobs that we are doing this year. They are both nice but living and working in close proximity has been inevitably testing. All good though.

Our first week of guests was an easy one as we only had 3 people which was good to get a feel for the operations of the chalet. Then came the next group. The Christmas period is obviously a busy one but I really don’t think that we were prepared for it. The first drama was that the septic system broke. The smell was horrible, especially in one or two of the rooms. The guests who were in these rooms were understandably not very happy about it, but to be honest they don’t pay me and Danielle enough to be fixing septic systems! We had a total of 30 guests; some of the families knew each other and some didn’t. That is what the chalet is, shared living. However, some of the women started getting bitchy and some of the husbands were being loud mouths and there were a few nights around the dinner table where the tension was palpable. There were women crying and leaving the table or just refusing to eat with the other guests. We didn’t realise that we had to be counselors as well! It felt like we were back in the school yard. This went on for a few days until one of the families decided to leave. It was the only thing that could be done, but one of the loud mouths said something to another guy’s wife and so the husband drove up to the mountain, found the loud mouth and a punch up ensued! Classic stuff. Now our chalet is renown throughout the valley, but for the wrong reasons. On a positive note for us personally, all of the guests were happy with our performance (no tips though). Later in that week, Danielle and I were driving separate vans up to a restaurant to pick up the guests and Danielle’s van broke down. I had to continue up the mountain to pick up the guests that were waiting in the freezing night, leaving Danielle in the middle of the cold, mountain road with no hazard lights. She wasn’t very happy. Neither were some of the guests, but what could we do? The engine in the van seized and that was the end of that. We are still one van short nearly two weeks later.  Christmas day wasn’t much fun as we had a lot of prep to do for the evening dinner. The chalet has a tradition of dressing up on Christmas day and going out snowboarding so we managed two quick runs down the mountain before heading back to the kitchen where we remained for the rest of the night.

The group that came for the New Year’s break were much nicer and there weren’t any dramas like the previous week but we are feeling really worn out and frustrated at the hours that we are working for such little pay and the owner continues to make our list of jobs longer. Comically, the owner came out to the chalet over the New Year’s period and in three days he managed to spin one of the cars out of control on the mountain road with guests in it, get the four wheel drive stuck in a ditch and get the van wedged in a driveway, stopping both lanes of traffic! New Year’s night was similar to Christmas as we slaved away in the kitchen. However, we managed to have a couple of beers that night and even managed to get into a huge snow ball fight with the guests from the neighbouring chalet. It was all in good fun.  

I guess we are paying the price for having not worked much this past year. The universe has a strange way of balancing out. Needless to say we have thought about quitting, maybe we still will. On a positive note we have had about ten days up on the mountain. The terrain is amazing but I will leave that for another posting. Not quite living the dream anymore, but there has been some great powder days that are keeping us interested.

We have had over 3300 views of our travel journal now so thanks for tuning in. Shout out to Judith (Danielle’s aunt) who may be our number one fan and to everyone who lives vicariously through us!

Tags: 3 valleys, chalet, christmas, la combe, new years., snowboarding, st martin de belleville

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