A couple of weeks ago, I jetted off to the French Alps for an incredible week of snowboarding – well, jetting isn’t quite right word; it was actually a bus ride spanning over a mere 20 hours. Totally craps on my previous record of 14 hours between Essen and Zurich!
Anyway, the bus ride hour count wasn’t the only PB broken – After much contemplation, I had finally decided to book in the trip at midnight Friday morning for a departure of 6.30pm that evening; a new low (or high?) for cutting things fine haha
Fortunately, you don’t really need to have a knack for being an amazing last minute planner to have an incredible snow trip to the French Alps. Last summer, a guy I met told me about an organisation called UCPA; a not-for-profit started by the French government who organises all-inclusive trips to the Alps on a very reasonable budget, as an initiative to encourage people 18-40 years old to partake in summer/winter sports holidays. Not that it really requires THAT much encouraging – the Alps is positively one of the most beautiful places in the world! From the UK, one can book through UCPA’s affiliate, Action Outdoors.
For 800 quid (bearing in mind, this price were heavily ramped up cos of the half term holidays), I had return transport from London-Argentiere (in Chamonix), 7 nights lodging, 3 delicious French meals a day, lift passes, gear hire for the activity of your choice (there were some crazy looking mountaineering off-piste skiier/boarders), bus tickets for the area and 4 days of full time lessons. The only thing you pay for while there? The copious amount of alcohol you’ll consume (and burn off, so no guilt there), and some French cheese to bring back as gifts. And what’s great is that it’s as good for solo travellers as it is for groups – UCPA attracts a great mix of social people! 🙂
For 7 incredible days we had simple routines of sleep-eat-snowboard-drink-repeat, and it was probably the most serene yet exhilarating time I’ve ever had in my life! A perfect way to spend my last week before hitting corporate life again.
Amongst the things I won’t forget (good & bad) were:
- The impressive scenery that surrounded us
- Enjoying lunch with views of France to the front, and Switzerland to the back.
- The questionable costumes adorned by our centre’s “entertainment guy” – total commitment to the job.
- My flame haired doppelganger – you’d think buying your pants in Aus, and your jacket from America, the chances of someone in France dressing the same as you would be pretty slim, no?
- Drinking coffee out of bowls – supposedly a french thing
- Pierre, the sleazy Frenchman – this screams of unjust stereotyping, but I swear this was a real situation
- The group of alpha south africans and their chest bumps, and entertaining “the intimate ladies”
- Conquering my notorious problem with drag lifts
- The skiier who got off the drag lift too early and went sliding backwards down the mountain, taking out other people in the chaos before she could stop herself
- The Englishman who looked the wrong way before crossing the road, and got hit by a bus … fingers crossed he survived it!
- Being taken by our awesome instructor on a beautifully powdery off-piste adventure down the mountain on the last afternoon, bound for the bar for celebration beers to top off an incredible week (for the remainder of us who made it through to the end without major injuries!!).
On the topic of things I won’t forget – Something I saw while our bus was at a petrol station in Calais will surely burn a hole in my mind. As you’d be aware, Calais is quite a hot topic atm on the migrant front, being the gateway from France to the UK. It’s one thing to see and hear things on the news, but the scene that materialised in front of us was just .. eye opening. So while we were at this petrol station at 3am, an English family filling up petrol next to us discovered 2 people hiding in the back of their van – their intention, I’m assuming, was to smuggle themselves over to the UK. It was an understandably frightening shock for the family, who were really distressed to discover these people in their van. After a big commotion, the 2 people ran off into the night. I have no opinion, nor a right to express an opinion, but it was simply just a WOW moment.
In summary, cos heck, this long-ass post needs one, it was an unforgettable week.