Needles, curries and chaos

Cable carAs detailed in the previous post, Leah arrived this week (actually, now last week) and we decided we’d do something more than laugh at her inability to stand upright on a plank of wood this time. As such, Friday saw us ascend the scarily high cable car up the Aiguille du Midi. This ain’t cheap, coming in at €38 (£30 at current rates each) for the return trip but for one of those things we’re both likely to do only once…

Was it a great experience? Yes, definitely. Was it worth thirty squids? Hmm. I suppose so, seeing as it’s effectively a unique trip. The view was certainly splendid, with clear skies giving us quite a distance to squint in the sun to see as far as we could. The local wildlife (mainly blackbirds of some description) were pretty fearless and happy to perch within easy reach of a non-zoomed camera.

BirdThere isn’t a lot to actually do up there unless you’re a particularly experiences skier/boarder with a fair amount of expensive equipment. Ropes, crampons, radio locators and so on are compulsory for anyone considering traversing the Mer de Glace. With my lack of experience and the avalanche warning indicator reading 4/5 I wasn’t really up for it anyway. A British snowboarder died up here about a month ago as well. There’s reason they recommend you get insurance when you do snow sports.

In case I didn’t get the point across, though – the view is fantastic. I took quite a few photos, some dotted around here, and a short video that I’ve posted on YouTube. Sadly, we didn’t have time to get up to the peak (accessed by a separate lift). I’ve been told that section includes an engineering museum of sorts. The last car down was around 16:30 and we were pushing it to ensure we weren’t crammed onto it like sardines. We caught the one before and “enjoyed” (OK, Leah hated) the sudden drops which were part of the descent. Not aided by some middle-aged chap screaming like a girl every time the car dipped.

Oh, the “needles” in the post title refers to this peak. The name translates literally as “Needle of Midday”, a reference to the fact that at noon the sun hangs directly over the peak when viewed from the town below.

Chamonix from Aiguille du MidiOn Saturday, Leah bent to my begging and allowed me to sit in Bar D’up to watch the football. I was only interested in the FA Cup match, and well done to Portsmouth. Shame for WBA, as I think they had it in them to at least get it to extra time.

Sunday. Ah, Sunday. That’s the “chaos” above. You know in the last post I mentioned that this was our last weekend with a full set of open resorts, and that therefore there should be less possibility of problems? I opened my gob too soon…

Combine the snow in the UK with the fact that one of our planes had been taken out for servicing (meaning that all the guests supposed to be on it were split over two smaller aircraft with an hour’s difference in arrival time) and everything went to pot. All of the coach departures had to be recalculated, people moved, extra feeder buses drafted in and guests were made to wait for the next flight to land before they could get to resort.

Having said that, we did deal with everything and the majority of guests were really nice about it. Probably as they were too tired to make a fuss. In fairness, it was obvious that the situation was completely out of our hands. Many of them had sat on the runway at Gatwick watching as a foot of snow was swept off the wings of the aircraft. For four hours. Of course, we had one or two (pretty much precisely one or two, out of a few hundred) who decided to try and take their frustrations out on some of our staff by yelling and basically being rude. The workers had likely been up from an earlier hour than any of our guests and were doing their best to deal with a bad situation. I’d recommend that if you’re the kind of person who shouts at people as a means of trying to make yourself feel better about something, you don’t try it on with one of our staff (or anyone else’s, frankly). You’ll find that the majority will just stare at you, turn around and walk off. As they should. And you’ll just get more wound up at their “rudeness”. We’re actually told to do this. Partly as you’re just being pathetic, and partly as these people aren’t paid enough to deal with abuse, especially when it’s a result of something they and we had no control over. Deal with it. To the vast, vast majority of our guests this Sunday I would like to say “thanks”.

Structure at the peakAnyway, I ended up being late back from the airport and missed the kickoff of the second FA Cup semi-final. Shame as it was a good match and well done to Cardiff (the land of my father, quite literally) in making it to the final. I’ll be rooting for them partly from heredity, and partly as it’ll cause the English FA a problem as they’re saying they won’t give the FA Cup-winner’s UEFA spot to Cardiff if they win. I’m sure that’ll be forced to change if Cardiff take the cup.

I should also mention that I kind of left the lights on on Sheridan’s car. So by the time she and Lisette got back to it, the battery was a little flat… Whoops. Fortunately they were parked on the roof of the carpark so rolling it down the ramp would be an easy way to bump-start it.

Unless the car was, let’s say, a Toyota Yaris. They have a little “feature” that means for the engine to turn over you have to have the clutch pedal pushed in. This is, I suppose, to stop you turning the engine over with the car in gear, thus lurching forward or back and smashing something. It also makes it impossible to bump start. Ah well, they got a jump start from one of the airport staff soon enough and got back in one piece. I’m blaming Lisette as I’ve never left the lights on before and this is the first time in weeks that she’s been in the car. Therefore the was the off factor out so must be to blame for me not hearing the shrill beep of the warning tone when we got out.

View over mountainsBack to the evening. After some beer/wine, we looked for somewhere to eat and ended up settling on the Annapurna curry house again. Leah had never been for an Indian before, the prices were keen and I knew the food was good. And it was. Again. The restaurant wasn’t so busy this time and by the time we left around 21:00, I think we were the only ones left. We got chatting to the man who runs it who, it turns out, is from Mauritius. Quite a jump from the splendid beached of this tiny island nation to the mountains of the Alps! Regardless, the food was superb and I’m promising myself at least one more meal there before the season ends.

Back to work today, though I have tomorrow off. Tonight’s plan is for half-price chicken wings at MBC again. I expect to be very full by around 20:00. I am almost belching in advance!

Finally, a quick “congratulations” to Delphine, who just landed herself a job in Paris. Sounds pretty cool, too. All to do with earth shifting and seismics and stuff.

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