Monday, 4 February 2013

James turns 40

To celebrate James turning 40, as well as having gone out for dinner with friends the previous weekend, we decided to go to the French Pyrenees for a weekends skiing. We took the kids out of school at lunch time and had a yummy birthday lunch at home and birthday cake of course.

We then packed the car and headed off to Ax-les-thermes, which is about an hour and a half away. It was a beautiful day and we ended up driving straight up to the resort. It was lovely and warm and not very crowded. We found the ski school and booked the kids in for lessons the following day and then went and hired our skis and put them in the storage room at the mountain. Jasper wanted to have a ski right then but as we weren't in our ski pants decided not to.

We then drove down the access road to the village and found our apartment. It was modern, clean and tidy but was pretty much just a roof over our heads. We had to bring our own linen and had to clean it ourselves, which I knew, but it did surprise me that they didn't provide anything at all for cleaning and no toilet paper. Luckily I had learned this when we stayed at Roses and had put in spray and wipe and dish wash detergent plus tea towels. The other funny thing is that in every French motel room there is a coffee machine and a salad spinner but no kettle or toaster!

As it was a special day we headed into Ax and found a great restaurant which was empty when we arrived and full when we left ( we were put in the window partly I think to draw in the crowds). We had the speciality of fondue, and got a chesse and a meat one, which was fantastic. I don't know what OSH would say about the pan of boiling oil sitting on our table over a open flame for us to cook our meat in, but it was great fun.

The forecast had been for snow for the weekend so we knew that the weather wasn't going to be great but we hadn't really realised how bad it was going to be. On saturday we decided to catch the cable car up the mountain and got in the wrong queue for a start as we had to buy our tickets then queue up again to go on the cable car. We got a ticket lady who spoke English but she ended up selling us all gondola and lift passes and we only wanted gondola passes for the children - so it was an expensive ride up the mountain. When we arrived at the mountain, it was windy and snowing. The kids all put on their skis and Penelope and Jasper did really well but Hannah found it hard and cried.

They had a good play and ski and then we went and met some friends for lunch who were coming up for the day. We had a nice lunch although Penelope complained about having to have steak hache (hamburger) and chips again - the joy of being gluten free. I had an amazing tart, which was like a flat bread with onion, cheese and ham on it but the size of a pizza.

Penelope and Jasper had a group lesson at 1.30 so James took them to that then went for a ski and I stayed with Hannah. She had had enough of skiing so I cancelled her individual lesson. Hannah and I went and checked on Penelope after about 45 minutes and found her sitting in a heap crying and distressed. The instructor said Penelope had found the conditions a bit hard with being blown around and snow in her eyes. We went to a cafe and had a drink and recovered. She was such a brave little solider and got back on her skis for a bit more of a go. She has told me though that she is not a ski type of girl! Despite me not taking my cell phone and James searching for me for about half an hour with no joy we all managed to eventually meet up. James collected jasper from his lesson. He had done very well and the instructor said he was ready to go up on the chair lift the next day. James and jasper found us in the storage room and James had had a good ski although said that going up on the chair lift was the coldest he'd been in his life!

We headed down in the gondola after waiting in the queue for about ten minutes in the blizzard - not nice! Hannah cried the whole way down the hill and we all arrived back at the apartment very tired.

We woke on Sunday to more snow and decided not to go skiing. We still had our ski gear to return so James headed to the cable car to go back up the mountain at 8.30. The mountain was closed due to conditions however, so he went to the ski school office at the cable station and he was able to sort it all out there.

The road was very icey and we were very thankful for the snow chains we had borrowed from friends as we would have been stuck in the apartment car park otherwise. By 10am the wind had stopped and it was only snowing slightly so jasper, Penelope and I decided to walk into the village while James and Hannah drove.

On our walk in we had found a great hill for sledding so we met up with James and Hannah and went and hired a sled then headed back to the hill. We had a great time playing in the snow having snow ball fights and sledding.

We then headed back into town finding some hot springs on the way to warm our hands up in.

We found a great little takeaway that did hot frites and I had a kebab sandwich with frites which was a bun filled with kebab beef, salad and sauce topped with hot chips - yum! I think everyone else was a bit jealous but I shared my meat.

We headed home just as the sun was coming out and everyone was joining the queue for the cable car and got home about 2.30.

A great weekend although next time we will listen to jasper and ski when the sun shines even if it is at 4pm and we have to change into our ski clothes and just have a go on the learners slopes - free. By the way I didn't get to use my skis or lift pass - maybe next time!

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