After some 20 hours in the air, we finally touched down on England's sacred soil, clad in boardies and flip-flops. At 5am, even a modest -2 felt like the heart of Siberia. We picked up the car, this time opting for the excess reduction, and drove to Cath and Dave's house, just outside Reading, where we got Dave out of bed -- he'd been to see Manchester United play Blackburn at Old Trafford the night before, and only just gone to bed. He put a brave face on it, and made us a glorious mug of tea. We spent most of the day washing all clothing we'd carried over the last four months, and by Jove it was needed. The rest of the circle of friends dropped in as and when their work committments allowed, and before long we were all seated with a take-away curry and beer. I just about managed to finish my food before almost falling asleep in my plate. Chris and Nana had to make an early start to get to work in time. Cath had to take care of her horses first thing, but still managed to bring us a cup of tea in bed before going to work. Sarah and I loaded the car up and headed for Bristol, pausing momentarily at my old work place to say a quick hello to old friends, and at Snow & Rock to buy ski bags. We then drove into town to go to the bank, some shopping etc before coming back to our house to repack. We'd arranged to meet Henk, Angus and Dave in a restaurant in town for around 8.30 by which time we'd not nearly finished our packing, of course, so it was back to finish off. At 2am or so some yobbos decided to trash our car. A gang of 5 of our nation's finest kicked off a wing mirror, before making their noisy way up the street setting off alarms. We phoned the police, who made it there in commendable time. We now had to try to sort this mess out with the car hire people. The £22 we spent on excess reduction turned out to be money well spent. Kind of sad though that the only sign of crime during a round the world trip is right outside your own front door. So with all that, and the fact that we needed to leave the house at 4am in order to catch our flight to Geneva, we abandoned the idea of getting any sleep and sat chatting to Jo, who'd been out on the beers, until we left. By the time we got to Val Thorens we'd gone for 36 hours without sleep. On top of the Aussie jet lag, that made us a cheerful bunch.
Val Thorens was closed for the first two days due to strong winds. We took the opportunity to sleep. However, there's also a worrying lack of snow. I have never seen the alps this bare, especially not in the middle of high season. Let's hope more snow is on the way, as for Scottish conditions one might as well go to Scotland. Still, the pistes are kept in reasonable nick with artificial snow, but the back country is a no-go area at the moment. We're doing a Chris & Angus, stopping for beers and working on our tans in the many deck chairs present. The temperature is on the wrong side of zero. Pleasant for sunbathing, but less than ideal for the state of the snow, Our little flat is really nice, actually. Perfect for the two of us, and will be cozy for four if some of you make it out. Score another one for the Porter organisational skills.
Anyway, the French can't queue, but we forgive them as the food is great and the wine even better.