Trip Report Hermannator's French Adventure 21/22

Hermannator

One of Us
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Jul 9, 2010
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The 'Gul
Alor, finally time for my TR.

Have been back for 4 days now so I thought slowly time to put this retro TR together.

Travel days (day 0, 7, 14)

The trip began with a mad dash to MEL on Christmas Day (day 0) - woofing down lunch, driving 300+km and dropping mum back home to get to the airport. Needless to say, the driving was done "efficiently"...

Arrived at the airport in plenty of time (~18:00) for the 22:25 departure of the first leg. - Flights booked:

MEL-DXB-GVA
GVA-LHR-DRW-MEL

It had been so long since I had flown OS - and in this new covid world there was much to do in addition to the usual stuff. It reminded me of the 'Japanese trip errors' thread... So first job was to get the rapid PCR at the airport - $80 and the result is turned around in 90mins. You don't realise how good a service this really is, given the debacle of trying to get this done (and result back) anywhere else in Melbourne about the xmas break.

With this in hand, I proceeded to the check-in desk but thought it prudent to first weigh my stuff using the courtesy scales around the place. It was then apparent (think Clarkson voice) that there was a problem. My allowance was 35kg but with 2pairs skis in a sportube 2 and my suitcase, I was approaching 44kg... Luckily I was travelling with a mate and I could stuff the boots in his bag.

Then once at the front of the long check in queue (the lanes are not meant for ski cases, lots of awkward u-turn) we were baled up for not having done our swiss entry permit :headbang: after much trying to bullshit them that we were only transiting, we got this done online and received our boarding passes.

A couple of beers pre-flight then to our seats (starboard, A-C) for the 14h leg:
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Despite the Emirates entertainment being quite good in my opinion, I mainly listened to music. Suitably, I quickly found this:

Yeah (yeah yeah yeah yeah)!
Then it was onto UK chart toppers, of which I found '96 and '97 to be the golden years (I started only at '94). Oasis, Blur etc - kept me busy. Before too long, the MEL-DXB leg was done. Other entertainment watched (incl on the way home) was Fast and Furious 9 and welcomingly, the latest instalment of Bond: No time to die.

The DXB-GVA leg was laughably empty (whole row H-J to myself):
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Admittedly, I was that guy and chewed the ear of the cabin manager for a couple of hours down the back of the plane, thereby minimising effort for beer and sponging extras along the way. She told me that DXB-GVA is always like this (empty) but full in business. Turned out that GVA-DXB was much the same on the way home. Re pricing and booking, it's MEL-DXB that is the problem.

One thing that stood out was flying over Iraq... I don't think I've done that before - who would have thought that in a post-9/11 world one would fly over Iraq (but clearly now not Syria and in the past vice-versa)...
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Baghdad (on the way home):
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Emirates even flies there (indicated by the red marker on image above) and to Erbil... needless to say I won't be booking a ticket there any time soon

Managed some good shots of the Iranian/Turkish alps (the first sight of snow!):
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In the second pic, you can just make out the jetwash/vapour trail in the foreground..

more to come in the next instalment :yum:

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Hermannator

One of Us
Ski Pass
Ski Pass
Jul 9, 2010
3,167
2,631
363
The 'Gul
Travel days (part 2)

Just to finish off this bit (really only day 7) and to give a bit of a teaser on where I was headed, I thought I'd elaborate on this a little more. It's important for me also to re-live (the trip as a whole), as I've got a little bit of a present that I didn't head over with, a hangover if you catch my drift... (so plenty of time for TR writing)...

Arrival into Geneva was smooth (circa 13:00) and whilst the weather wasn't clear enough to see the white one from the air, it went well all the same. The entry queue initially moved slowly but then seemed to speed up. There was a noticeable presence of brits - and then there seemed to be a split between them in the EU/CH line and the 'everyone else' line. A few Irish I suppose...

Even though it was Suisse, I already began to suffer French service - none of the screens atop the carrousels displayed my flight from DXB (typical). Had to go and ask (I mean, how hard is it). And they fcuking lost the bolt holding my sportube together...

After a couple of arrival beers it was out to the carpark to meet another friend and his wife, who had just arrived from Luxembourg to collect us. Hellbent on avoiding the vignette (unless mistaken, I partly sympathise, as one would have to buy a whole year's worth for one day, then another year's worth for the return journey as it fell in the new year), we snaked through the Swiss side streets and speed cameras and were into France and onto the motorway. No checks, no staff, nothing at the border. Next job was to try to get the pass sanitaire before arriving at the hotel (fail).

Fast forward to day 7 and this is the back side of a mountain range which is clearly visible from the resort we had just left. Can you pick it?
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This travel day involved dropping the friend's wife off at a major city so that she could get a train back to Lux (isn't she accommodating?). That could only mean one thing from that point forward. BOYS TRIP.

A bit later on, we turned off the motorway into one of the valleys which would contain our next resort. This will give a few clues:
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Not sure what the peak is in the distance...
 

Hermannator

One of Us
Ski Pass
Ski Pass
Jul 9, 2010
3,167
2,631
363
The 'Gul
Day 1

So, after heading South down the A41 from Geneva and a short stop in Chambery, it was getting late on day 0. Grenoble was reached but the GPS and slow Luxembourgish driver meant there was still an hour to go. Lots of switchbacks and a steep climb (hint: a certain other group/ mode of transport users gather here annually), but my body clock could not make it anymore... A quick burger and off to bed.

After a decent sleep, I found myself in Alpe d'Huez...

The first day was overcast and as I had woken earlier than both my Aussie pal and the continental couple, I headed out for a first run (pre-lift ticket). Before I did however, I took a shot from the balcony on my room. Just a brilliant view I thought, phone cam doesn't do it justice:
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Image: Looking out toward the 'Auris' area of the resort (left)

After a 50m walk up the road to the side of the piste and bullshitting my way through the turnstile at the nearest chair (called 'Grand sure', on advice from the hotellier - they would let this happen with the excuse of picking up the ticket), I found myself atop the 'Stade de slalom" on the peak known as 'Signal'. Yay - jetlagged, interrupted sleep, icy and one run in, GS skis attached and doing a slalom...

No fcuking worries! I ripped down as though I hadn't left the slopes 4 months earlier... It felt good, although this would be the fastest skiing I would do that day. At this point, I hadn't got my pass sanitaire nor the lift pass and as we were doing the pass as a 'tribe' - I headed off for the former while the others were waking. Success - pass sanitaire obtained, now just waiting for the others.

It was a gloomy old day and very much Australian-like conditions: warm and re-frozen. Silver lining was that acclimatisation was made a bit easier. After a bit of a wait, I teed up with the others. Unfortunately though, even though my friend had purchased the 'tribe pass' online, there was still a long queue to collect from the ticket machine. Interestingly, this online sans-human process circumvented the requirement to have a 'pass sanitaire' to buy a lift ticket.

Tickets in pockets and with a crew of 2 x skiers (myself and friend's wife), 2 x snowboarders we headed out. Weary of past trips where I had done injuries on day one, we took it easy. That meant 1 x snowboarder donned the skis to give his wife some more comfort. We spent the day cruising mostly greens (wife is tentative) and not making it past 1/4 up the mountain. It was a good, safe introduction to AdH though, punctuated by lunch and drinks.

Can't remember what we did for dinner, but I think we did it as a group and it was probably good.

Day one done..
 

Hermannator

One of Us
Ski Pass
Ski Pass
Jul 9, 2010
3,167
2,631
363
The 'Gul
Day 2

Tuesday Dec 28. Friend's wife ditched, just a 'carnage a trois' remaining... We headed up the mountain in earnest. This involved taking 'Marmottes 1', the 6 seater chairlift from the 'Les Bergers' base area. This was one of two pathways to get to the top (or at least middle) of Alpe d'Huez - the other pathway involved a goddamn gondola. You see, as a skier, I hate gondolas - you have to take your skis off and often walk up flights of stairs, in a queue a mile long.

As with many European resorts, the acreage really increased at about mid-mountain. For Alpe d'Huez, this was centred around the 'Les Jeux' area, a meeting point for a number of lifts from various satellite villages and of course, those heading onto the summit. Dissuaded by either the queue, the gondola or both, we headed down into Les Jeux. Our MO - ski where the crowds aren't.

We kept heading up to Lac Blanc at 2,700m altitude but the vis was literally next to 0, resulting in that awful defensive skiing required to navigate all the moguls and death cookies that could not be seen. Back down the mountain we went in search of visibility...

As you might imagine, even with some vis, it was a bit of a dull old overcast kind of day, the snow was thick and creamy - due to an odd sequence of events whereby there was new snow overnight that had later turned to rain in the morning:
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View from ~halfway down to Villard Reculas 1,500

Not quite a Talabfahrt but the view threatened to be pretty good nonetheless. Was the right call to don the powder skis I think. It was actually a little bit of fun trenching some untracked clag whilst staying low and trying not to go over the handlebars...

Similar shot with (inbetweeners voice) special friends:
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[some edits with pics etc made after 1st post]
 
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