Thursday 11 October 2007


When the vendors simply wouldn't drop the price further when we were haggling over the Auberge, they started bunging in any other inducements they could think of, including shares in the local lift company (ski, not tower block). So last weekend we went to the AGM - a thinly disguised excuse for a drink (actually, many drinks) and a knees-up. The presentations stretched my powers of concentration in French to the limit but we heard more about the plan to join the ski areas of Zinal and Grimentz (reminiscent of the Alagna-Gressoney link in terms of pros and cons, and what type of skier stands to gain most). Just one speaker from the floor was not happy, making the point that it's a big project for something which doesn't actually open much new terrain. But there's good precedent in the biggest lift projects of recent years - Kitzbuhel's 3S, the Vanoise Express between Les Arcs and La Plagne, and of course Whistler's "Peak to Peak" gondola (actually, mid-station to mid-station, but don't let the facts get in the way of a snappy name) that's being built right now. If Zinal is truly planning to compete with bigger resorts the integration will be essential, no matter how good they make the shuttle bus service which currently gets you back to Zinal after skiing across to Grimentz. And at least this lift will actually go up rather than along like those above. For the meantime there's also the paragliding option which seems popular in these parts.

The more vital link, which I sincerely hope will be in before winter 2010, and not subject to objections from the green party or an avalanche risk analysis, is broadband to our house. Until then we have to hoof up the hill to the telecabine station for the nearest wifi signal. That seems desperate (and potentially chilly as winter draws nearer) if you're used to being on-line constantly though it's amazing how much more productive you are when you sit down at your computer and the world doesn't pour in through port 119, wherever that is on your motherboard, or is it your hard drive? Whatever. You don't have to know how it works to be able to use it.


We finally got our stuff - all the clobber from the UK that we seriously wondered about paying good money to haul across the continent, but in the end just couldn't bear to throw away.
A very nice man arrived - at 7.30am (thank goodness he'd called the day before to warn us as he might otherwise have caught me with my curlers in) - with ten palettes on a big truck, dumped them in the car park and left us with a day's work to break them open and transfer the contents to our spacious, but not-overly-endowed-with-headroom, attic. Nothing that won't heal over time - head, not roofline - but I'm already thinking phase two of our renovations might involve roof-raising on that side of the building.
We were so excited about the whole thing we forgot to take any pix before we'd carted half of it away but trust me, there was tons of stuff. Fortunately the DIY store down the hill does a good line in wheeled chariots of various sizes, specifically designed for hernia-free shunting of big loads. Honestly, with a few of these skates I could push the combined English and French packs the length of the Stade de France car park, no bother. Assuming they'd co-operate which, I grant you, is a long shot.
I suppose we could simply have got a removal company to do the whole thing for us though the humiliation of a professionally drawn up inventory for customs - 243 cartons, 15kg, crap; armchairs, knackered, 2 etc. - would have been too much, as would the price. Likewise self-drive, which is eye-watering once you factor in fuel and other costs, though I was itching to have a go in one of those enormous lorries which, somewhat surprisingly, you can drive on a normal license. Instead we used a shipping company. I can heartily recommend for a) replying to phone messages and emails, and b) a no-frills semi-DIY service. They'll drop a container to your door, leave you to fill it, and deliver it at the other end, or you can take the gear to their Dartford warehouse where they bung it on palettes and the whole lot arrives chez vous a week later.

Monday 8 October 2007


It's a good feeling to walk outside every day - in fact, just to look out of the window - and realise once more what a beautiful place you're now living in. That's been the case 9 times out of 10 so far. The 1 out of 10, in mid-August, was equally spectacular (at 1500m you tend to be in the storm rather than under it, surrounded by thunder and lightning), with snow reaching well below 2000m before the sun got to it. Not what most people seem to want, though I just get excited about the prospect of skiing (Zinal's lifts open 10th November...).

Monday 1 October 2007

Auberge Edelweiss

OK, so here's what the new place looks like, along with before and after shots of the bar. We didn't have long to get going with our demolitions before having to head back to the UK for a bit, but at least we've made an impression on the locals who peer in to see what we're doing when they don't think we're looking. The electric-meter man's auntie used to run the place as a restaurant before the previous owners. He's most disappointed to hear we're converting it to a house but the daughter of the woman who built the Auberge told us to ignore him: as she explained, anyone who really wanted it to remain as a cafe-restaurant had ample chance to buy it and run it themselves - a fair point, but friendly of her to mention it as she of all people might feel sentimental about it.