Alpine update

A ski lift on the Grande Motte.

Another belated update, but again I have been working my (frequently-laundered) socks off. I’ve also enjoyed the company of the lovely Giuli from Turin once more – her last visit was in February. She popped over last weekend – a long weekend in Italy – to enjoy the freshly-opened Grand Montets slopes.

It’s always nice to host another couchsurfer, especially as it forces me to act a little more sociably! We went out for dinner two nights she was here. After not bothering last season, I finally tried the Sunday roast down at Monkey Bar in Chamonix Sud. A little pricey at €10 per plate, but the portions were a decent size and the quality of the food top notch. They even had proper mint sauce!

We of course enjoyed a visit to Bar’Dup and on the Monday night devoured chicken wings at MBC. The skiing was apparently well up to scratch, though the Sunday was incredibly busy with queues of up to 90 minutes at the lower lift. The Monday was apparently better with virtually nobody else on the slopes.

I’m fairly confident Giuli had a good time as she went to sleep both days when she came back after skiing before dinner. I must also thank her for the wine and the chocolates she brought over (both local specialities from where her parents live). Both are still unopened as I’ve barely been in the flat over the last week! I might keep them for Christmas.

Well, aside from that brief visit I’ve been a busy bunny.

The last time I left you, I was starting work on configuring a big bunch of PCs before they shipped to resorts. I finished that little job at 3:30am. Needless to say I was somewhat tired the next day, but couldn’t hang around as the weather was still rather ropey. The drive back to Chamonix from Tignes was… interesting. It was either snowing or raining the entire way depending on my altitude.

This caused a fair bit of “fun” on the roads, but it still beggars belief when you see how incapable some people appear to be when attempting to drive in the snow. Like the guy in the sporty Mercedes with his rear wheels (correctly) wrapped in chains… doing 15km/h. I was in a flipping Kangoo van with snow tyres – no chains – doing upwards of 30km/h on the same road.

Regardless, I made it back to base safe and sound as the PCs were making their way around the Alps. Of course, this then resulted in a gazillion phone calls as people tried to figure out how to plug them in, or that their internet connection didn’t work, or that they didn’t have the password to get into their resort manager account. The latter really teed me off as I’d spent a fair portion of that long night typing up these instructions and including passwords. These were sealed in envelopes on which were listed the equipment to be carried to site by each group of reps.

Only the idiotperson entrusted to hand them out didn’t bother. I found out that they’re still buried in his car somewhere.

As a result, two resorts were short of equipment as it was left lying in Tignes. A third had no PC at all as nobody told me their reps weren’t being trained in Tignes so there was nobody going that way to ferry it up. You know, you try your best…

Anyway, as the week progressed, the problem calls lessened until by the weekend (i.e. today) I had only three and all were very simple little queries.

In amongst all this, I had one night in our flagship hotel in Belle Plagne while I delivered more kit. I fixed another staff laptop (cost: one pint), had a drink bought for me by the Overseas Director, enjoyed a lovely free meal and got utterly wasted in a nearby bar.

Of course, I made full use of the swish room I had. Shower, bath, loo, flat-screen TV and comfy bed were all utilised to the full. The only thing I didn’t use was the DVD player, but I didn’t have anything to watch. Oh, and the wifi and cabled internet connections in the room were on the fritz, too. There’s a bone of contention between ourselves and the French electricity board about this. They’re claiming it was a lightning strike that fried several thousand Euros-worth of switches, while we reckon it was a serious spike on the mains.

Great place, though. Shame I doubt I’ll ever afford a holiday there, but I’m sure anyone who does will have a cracking time.

I drove two of the Chamonix staff back, one of whom had a rather dodgy tummy poor lass. Things have been hectic here as we have our first chalet guests arriving tomorrow and I’m on the airport run to show them how it’s all done. Which means an early rise. And on my birthday, too…

Yup, in around ten minutes local time I will “celebrate” getting even older. And still being none the wiser. Fortunately we’ll only be waiting for one flight so I should be safely ensconced in Bar’Dup for kickoff at 14:30 as we hopefully thrash Portsmouth. Don’t expect any coherent posts for at least 24 hours after that! My credit card is already behind the bar – I left it there last night.

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Snow and electricity

Tignes les Brévières as viewed from the Myrtil...

Too much of the snow, not enough of the electricity is my problem right now.

I sorted out the computer system up in Meribel yesterday afternoon which took me longer than expected, but a job well done. By the time I left, snow had started to swirl down around the summit. The flakes as I descended the mountain were as large as I’ve ever seen, the windscreen of my Kangoo looking like a big frosty albatross was pooping all over it.

The snow continued right through the valley all the way to Tignes. It was an… interesting drive up the side of the mountain, especially once I got past the dam. I passed numerous vehicles stranded in the ever-deepening snow, many of them stopping as I approached their back ends. The most annoying grinding to a near halt just as we reached a sharp hairpin right which made for an interesting corner as I had to go round him without losing speed. Thankfully the road was empty.

There hadn’t been a chance for the snow ploughs to come out, hence the problems. By the next day (i.e. today) I’d expect the roads to be in much better condition so that I still don’t need to put the snow chains on. No way was I stopping halfway up that hill to put chains on last night when it was -5 degrees outside with a hefty wind and snow coming down!

So I made it to the hotel where Sonja kindly served me a “random” meal which I definitely needed. I got one of the PCs done and then we popped out to the Alpaka Lodge for a couple of beers. Lovely little place, very cosy and home to the world’s largest dog. OK, maybe not official, but if you meet him you’ll be inclined to agree.

This morning, I rose with the intention of fixing up all the PCs so that the resort staff could take them with them the next morning as they all disappeared to their respective homes for the next few months. Start early, get done by mid-afternoon and perhaps pop up to Belle Plagne to sort their systems out.


Only, the French electricity company decided to put in an appearance. After waiting a whole month for the useless b*stards to appear, they turn up to fix a problem which must be resolved by Sunday. And in doing so tripped the fuse for the downstairs ring main where all the PCs are that I need to work on.

No “excusez-moi” or “by your leave”. They just flicked the lot off as I was in mid-Outlook config. Argh.

So there I sat for the better part of an hour until Sonja, hotel manageress extraordinaire, noticed the silly… people had left one of the trip switches down that they didn’t need to. One click and the systems are all back up and working.

No wonder the electrics in France are so bad if this is the standard of their staff. Ah well, an hour wasted. I better get on!

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Snowy update

Again, apologies for the lack of pictures but the good news (in case I didn’t already mention) is that Olympus have replaced my camera under warranty with the improved new model. And replaced my underwater housing so that this replacement fits. The former has arrived, the latter is somewhere in the postal system. Top marks to Olympus for that!

These last few days I have mostly been making 3-hour-each-way return drives between Chamonix and Tignes. Firstly to rip apart the training room here in Chamonix and set it back up again in a hotel over in the Tarentaise. This was a right pain, to be frank, but at least I was given help in the form of Mike – one of the reps from last year who’s returned for another season.

Between us we had the whole thing in pieces, in a van and in Tignes in about five hours. I then had another rep, Joe, help me piece everything back together again so that training could be done with our next group. Amazingly, I was done by dinner time and a few of the Child Care bunch kindly offered to share their pizza with me.

The after dinner “just one drink” night out turned into one of those ones that never seems as if it will end. Starting at the Bagus Bar, I had drinks bought for me by a couple of people for helping them with various laptop problems. Then the bar realised most of the people there were seasonairres, so decided they liked us and needed to bribe us into telling holidaymakers what a great place it was.

Out came the free vodka shots and more free pizza. By around 1am, the night still seemed young and what few of us remained went round the corner to Jack’s. Jagerbombs. Jager shots. Pints. Then free toffee apple shots and free halves. I do remember losing very badly at pool and really not caring.

I ended up rescuing one of the staff from another one (she has a boyfriend after all) and she crashed in the spare bed in my room. I’m nice like that. And no, no names!

My thoughts of driving back to Chamonix early morning were somewhat laid to waste by the fact I was in no fit state to get behind the wheel of a Tonka truck let alone a full-grown motor vehicle. Instead, I did some odd jobs around the place before grabbing a filling free lunch in one of the chalets (thanks, chef!) and finally making my way back to Chamonix.

I had dinner at the hotel here with the managers-in-training which was a good laugh. Decent grub and a post-meal quiz which our table won. Free cocktails! Which inevitably turned into a walk down to Bar’Dup where I was gifted another jug of beer for repairing a “broken” external hard drive. Bed at 3:30am…

More catching-up and organising of hardware followed the next day, before driving to Tignes again on Sunday afternoon to deliver some printers. I also had to configure (and remove) a couple of the training PCs as they’d be needed by the hotel staff heading out on Monday.

The drive up was pretty good. Not much traffic on the roads and no snow as yet. I managed to get from Bourge St Maurice up to Tignes in less than the running length of Slayer‘s Reign in Blood. Check out the album details and then look on a map for the route. Suffice to say that had Leah been in the van I’d have been shouted at frequently when she wasn’t busy gibbering and hiding her face in her hands.

Of course, when I got there I was frankly informed by the person running the training that they needed all of the machines and that I wasn’t allowed to take any of them. I pointed out that two of them weren’t even on the network so obviously weren’t being used, so yes – I would. Those two. Ideally I needed two more, but was forbidden. Well, less work for me (though more later in the week).

Including a dinner break (thanks, chef!) I managed to get the two machines set up, optimised, configured, tested and boxed by half eleven at night. Then retired with two cans of lager, some cheap crisps and  the last two episodes of The Dead Zone season 5.

The next morning I found out there’d been a) an overnight snowfall and b) a messup with the transportation. As such, I was no longer meeting people in Albertville to hand PCs over, I would have to bring them all the way back to Chamonix. So I loaded the van, hopped in and made acceptable time on the now more slippy roads.

So, in Chamonix for a couple of days to do some odd jobs before scooting back to Tignes on Thursday afternoon. It really is all go, here. Hotel staff are now in place (or at least, as I type, on the road heading for their resorts) and chalet staff/reps will be zipping off to settle in on Saturday.

That’s about when I start getting a million “my xxxx doesn’t work” calls.

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