Sellaronda by car

Today, Gra kindly agreed to take a day off skiing and take me for a drive.  Secretly, I’m a little nervous about the driving part given the twisty mountain road and my tender tummy.  But I’m sooo “over” my bed!

Plan is to do the Sellaronda by road, over the high passes,  Pordoi and Sella for morning tea at Selva di Val Gardena or “Selva” as the locals call it, then over the Passo Gardena to Colfosco for lunch and then, Corvara for afternoon tea.   How civilised.  Not that I will be tucking into any gnocchi gorgonzola in a hurry!   It will be cups of tea and maybe some barley soup for me.

There are 4 quadrants making up the “Sellaronda”, the 2 to the north  (Val Gardena & Alta Badia(Corvara) are heavily Austrian/German influenced and the southern quarters, Val di Fassa and Arabba/Marmolada are Italian/local Fodom culture speaking Ladin.   Every sign in the northern half has 2 names – the German and the Italian and in the south – Italian and the local dialect Ladin.   It does make trying to understand the language quite confusing especially for Gina the GPS.   She really struggles to find place names the closer we get to the Austrian border as she doesn’t know which place name to choose.


It’s quite a different experiencing the Sellaronda by road, but apparently in the summer months this route is an equally popular circuit for motor bikers and road cyclists.  Our friend Gavin, from Wales mentioned to us that he has guided trips through this area in the summer.

Selva is one of the towns where the skiers have to cross the road.  They have a unique solution – traffic lights to stop the traffic and gates to stop the skiers hurtling out on to the road, as the piste literally stops by the roadside.

After a coffee and a chamomile tea for me, it was back over Passa Gardena to Colfosco, a pretty mountain town in the Alta Badia quarter.  The road is close to the piste here and it’s a little disconcerting to see skiers moving down the slopes faster than we can drive!!   Lunch was at a lovely family owned restaurant in one of the slope-side hotels.

And finally our day ended at Corvara where we were tempted back to our a little tea house that we’ve been to previously.  Serving our favourite bourbon vanilla flavoured tea, we settled in for the afternoon to watch light snow showers sprinkle down around us.  Maybe, just maybe there will be heavier snow tonight?

And lastly, another paparazzi moment in our collection of photos for ski fashion disasters.  These photos were hurriedly snapped in Colfosco while at lunch. For obvious reasons, in a crowded lunch room, I needed to be a little circumspect in snapping off a photo.  But this zebra suit was quite something and the photos don’t really do it justice!






Still missing in action…Andy …and la neve!

I truly tried.  I put on my long johns, ski socks and then as a wave of nausea washed over me, a prickly cold sweat broke out and the room spun…. I surrendered.   Back to bed for me!   Although on the positive side,  like a re-conditioned radiator that has had all the holes bunged …I’m finally holding water!  More importantly also rice, bananas & porridge.   “Baby steps, baby steps …Andy!”

So over to Graeme….

Well Monday dawned as Andy and I dressed for a morning ski but as we approached the front door, there was hesitation and Andy stopped and said “I can’t go”. All was still not well on the stomach front! As Andy settled back onto the couch I thought I might just head out for a quick morning skin on a forest trail I had had my eye on.

Alas there was more gravel than snow so after a 100m walk in ski boots carrying my skis I decided to abort and jump on the gondola and head up to a high plateau above Arabba and ski tour around and see what I could find. But first a coffee at our favourite spot at the top of the gondola station. The crowd on the top lifts crossing to the Mamolada was crazy so I asked my friendly barista why?  “Is it a public holiday?  Italian school holidays or what?” He scratched his head and thought it might be due to a local Carnivale holiday?

After my heart starter I headed off with no particular plan. I spied a rocky knoll in the distance and 40 mins of skinning later I booted up to the top in a mixture of rock, tussock, snow and ice. After a quick drink I headed back towards the piste and straight back to the cafe for another coffee and after a quick discussion with the barista about where my wife was I was talked into a large slice of what can only be described as a plate of cream and chocolate with a bit of cake mixed in!

By this time I was ready for the decent back to Arabba and lunch with the still poorly Andy.

And then there was one…!!!

And then there was only one left standing!

Well it’s not food poisoning! During the night Marie lost her battle to the nasty gastro virus that’s apparently making its presence felt in Arabba. “Novo-virus?” we’re not sure.

So now, there’s only “Iron-Guts Graeme” left to command the ship. And thank goodness..only in absolute desperation could Hubert or I manage to drive the 2.5 hours to the airport and we needed to leave this morning at 9:30am to get H&M on their flight.

I managed to keep down a bowl of porridge but nothing for the Frenchies aside from Immodium and an unpronounceable drug that stops nausea. Marie is looking particularly green and given her predilection to car sickness she’s absolutely dreading the drive back down to the airport with all the twisty mountain roads.

Between moans and groans we did all manage to have a laugh about our predicament. Certainly it was not in the “script” for the weekend.  And Gra & I do feel very sorry for H&M.  It’s OK for us.  I just crawl back into bed for the rest of the day and the next if I need to.  They have to work.  Tomorrow morning, Marie is lecturing at university, with tennis final in the evening and Hubert has to catch the 5:30 am TGV to Paris!    Fingers crossed they beat this nasty bug quickly.

While we were in the midst of our ailment comparisons, our doorbell rang.   This has only happened once way back in December, and while immersed in our enthusiastic gastroenterology descriptions, we didn’t recognise the sound of our doorbell buzzer.  We thought that it was our neighbours and failed to answer the door.  To our surprise when we finally did open our door some time later to head out, we found a beautiful home-made cake on our doorstep.

Our lovely home-made torta from Gabi
Our lovely home-made torta from Gabi

Gabi our landlady had dropped it off for us.  We couldn’t believe it!   Fortunately with Marie translating we found out that Gabi’s daughter, Elisa who owns our apartment had made it for us.  We’re still not quite sure why, but I think that finally after weeks of being super cheerful, every time we meet Gabi & Carlo, we may finally have broken through their reserve.    In addition to Marie’s heartfelt Italian thanks on our behalf this morning, I also used google translate to pen a personal email to Gabi & Elisa expressing our thanks. I am sincerely hoping that google translate hasn’t said anything wrong.    I remember 15 years ago when google translate was in its infancy, using it to do a German translation of our lodge room features.  We had heated mirrors in all the bathrooms, or “mist-free” as we described them in English.   I thought I had better just double check the translations and duly sent off the transcript to my good friend Anett, our German native, who advised me in fits of laughter that we were advertising that our bathrooms all had “s_ _t” [excrement] free mirrors.  Google translate is a literal fellow and “mist” in German means dung! Hardly something you’d boast about in a bathroom.      I can only hope that 15 years down the track, google translate has been continually improving its Italian or there’s no telling what I’ve just written to our landlords…stay tuned.

But then the dreaded car journey.  We had packed a bucket, tissues, water, plastic bag and toilet paper. A bon-voyage cocktail of immodium & paracetamol last thing and we think we’ve covered every contingency.   Driving on our mountain roads or an autostrada, means that you can’t always stop immediately and pull off.  And so began the journey.  Pretty much zero conversation for poor Graeme, as all of us fell into a stomach cramping sleep.

No conversation on road to airport
No conversation on road to airport

And finally we arrived at the airport for the last photo.  You’ll notice a nice soft focus to the shot….I chose the “beauty face” setting on the camera to help us all feel a bit better.

Finally the mountain roads are over!
Finally the mountain roads are over!

Nothing much to report about the drive home.  We will be doing this same drive again on Friday when we go to Venice for a couple of days and then again on 10 Feb when we take our friend Richard back to the Airport.

Unfortunately, Liz, Richard’s wife is unable to come.  They are trying to sell their house in Araches and they have a keen buyer from England who can only come to see their house on the week that they’d booked to visit us.   Brexit is making things very tricky for UK ex-pats in France.  Fingers crossed they will make their sale and move on with their next projects …of which they have many!  But Richard is still coming which is great.

Back in Arabba, a quick re-stock and then an early night to try and throw this nasty bug and with a certain trepidation that ol’ “Iron-guts” might finally succumb.

And then there were three…

Well it’s a long time since I turned myself inside out quite as well I did all the rest of last night.  Memories of the “Istanbul intestinal incident” in 2015 came flooding back (bad choice of words), but this bout made that 2015 bout pale into insignificance even compared to one Mr M. Barton!!   Needless to say, I was nothing but a limp trembling little waif huddling in my bed come morning.

By some miracle, H&M slept through the horrendous noises emanating from the bathroom and our bedroom during the wee hours of the morning.  And of course I was terribly concerned that I had given them food poisoning with my curry, but no…all good for the Frenchies.    Thank goodness.

And so today… Graeme will be making the blog entry, while I continue to practice keeping lemonade down.

Well guess who’s writing this???? After a very unpleasant night with Andy firing from both ends, the day dawned with “I can’t possibly go skiing. You’ll have to take Hubert and Marie on your own”. After breaking the news to H & M and many “désolé’s”, the remaining three musketeers boarded the first cable car for a leg warmer down our favourite black run in Arabba called “the Burz”.  Hubert was in his element blitzing it at warp speed on the beautifully groomed corduroy.  You couldn’t wipe the smile from his face, while Marie & I followed at a more sedate pace behind. Then it was off on a bit of a mystery tour for H & M.
I was taking them to the Lagazoui which Andy and I had done a few days earlier – the day was of course bluebird yet again. We headed over to a lovely cafe for a coffee on route to Armenterola to pick up a taxi for the trip to Passo Falzarego. We rode the cable car to the Lagazuoi and then did another blinding speed run down the front sunny side of the mountain and back to the cable car – did I mention that Hubert likes to ski fast!!!
Back on the cable car – but as we were going through the turnstile the head count clicked over to 80 people just after Hubert and I went through but poor Marie was locked out on the other side. The operator won’t let you wait at the base station once you pass through the turnstile you must board the cable car and ride it to the top. So Hubert and I waited patiently on the panorama deck in the sun – not really a hardship, did I mention it was sunny – and even a little warmer!
We then headed off down this most spectacular run to our lunch destination- Refugio Scotone which we had only visited briefly on our previous trip. We sat outside on the deck in the sun I actually thought this was strange as last time we were here at this time it was bitterly cold and all in the shade. I got Marie to ask the waitress if the sun was going to disappear behind the spectacular peak behind us to which she replied “cinque minuti” at which point we moved to a table inside and sure enough 5 minutes later the whole deck was in the shade and of course now all the indoor tables were occupied as all their other skiers scrambled inside to grab a table.
After quite an early lunch – including a torta (cake) for desert – a first for us, we headed off down the trail for a surprise rendezvous with the famous “horse lift”. This time I was brave enough to video part of the trip behind the sleigh. As we jumped on the next lift Hubert complained that he shouldn’t have had that cake. It wasn’t agreeing with him – Oh no!
We continued on, blaming the cake for his bloated feeling. Next stop was the World Cup Giant Slalom course at La Ville to allow Hubert to re-live some of his racing youth. Last time we visited La Ville it was closed for preparation.  I can now confirm it is steep and it is icy and it is scary!!! Hubert loved it and of course skied it slowly and cautiously – not!!
Hubert in the start gate
Hubert in the start gate
We slowly headed  back to Arabba to check on patient Andy, but for some reason H didn’t want to stop for a Bombardino!   O’ oh!
As soon as we got to the appartment it was straight to the toilet for H and poor old Andy still wasn’t great.  With her excellent command of the Italian language, Marie headed up to the village Farmacia to see what she could get to help us both.  It was a long visit and she explained that the pharmacist was very friendly and liked to know all about his customers before getting down to business.  With two other people ahead of her in the queue, it took a long time to get the drugs she needed.  But she did learn that there is a very strong gastro virus going around the town at the moment!  Perfect!!   We also learned that “Immodium” is a universal brand.
Two down, two still standing. Marie and I abandoned the infectious diseases ward and headed out for a pizza!!!


Records tumble, tummies rumble..

We have an ambitious plan today, but H&M are serious skiers.  And they are fast….!  H was a ski racer in his youth and he only knows two speeds – flat out and stop.  M is also deceptively fast, probably due to skiing with H all these years.   But Marie makes high speed skiing look so effortless.  I should know…I’m inevitably bringing up the rear.   My brain disconnects from my limbs after 30km/hr….mainly due to the pure terror pumping into my blood stream.

Of course it was a beautiful sunny day…is there any other kind in the Dolomiti?  We were first over to the Marmolada glacier to luxuriate in an un-crowded run down.  Here’s the clip…please turn to slow motion to see Hubert as he flies past at warp speed.  And he’s on tele’s!

Then back over to Arabba for our regular coffee stop.  Good news, my lovely man (whose name I will ensure I get next time), was back in attendance and making us his usual high standard of coffee.

Coffee time.. Marie relaxing!
Coffee time.. Marie relaxing!

Next on to the Sellaronda.  It was quite busy.  We forget how busy the Sellaronda can be. We generally avoid these areas now.    Having said that, the longest we waited in a lift queue was about 5 minutes and that was just because they were fixing something with one of the chairs.

Lunch was at one of our favourite places:  Baita Gherdeccia.  Fantastic service and delicious food.

Back out on to the slopes again after lunch to complete our route around the mountain, ending our day watching the sunset over a bombadino at our newest little discovery at Campalongo.

A fantastic day, with great friends and a new record for us!   I did mention we were skiing with the champs!


And then to the evening.  We decided to just stay in for tonight, pending a try-out of a new restaurant in town tomorrow evening before H&M leave us on Sunday.   We have been gifted with a special Lyonaise saucisson.   It’s called an “oh Jesus” because…well…it’s so big. We think that’s what it’s called because sometimes we lose H’s humour in translation.  But suffice to say we gave it a nudge with some cheese, gherkins, olives and chips washed down with some good Italian wine.  Followed by my home-made curry.  [There is a reason why I’m describing this food intake in detail, which will become apparent in a moment.]

And finally, of course another little tipple of hazelnut grappa before heading to bed with suitably weary leg muscles.   Alas around mid-night I awoke to some strange noises coming from my stomach and a certainty that unless I made it to the bathroom very quickly, all was about to go horribly wrong.




Bienvenue, benvenuto, kia ora Hubert & Marie

Before we move on to today, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the excellent grappa tasting at Market Marilena yesterday evening.

We have been regular customers of Market Marilena since we arrived in Arabba in December.  They have been very friendly to us and nothing is a problem. They even found some old sleeping mats which we’ve been using for yoga.  The young fellow, Bob who works there has been to Australia and speaks very good English and Marilena, who owns the store, well…she gives it her best shot!

And give us her best shot she certainly did last evening.  We have been wary of grappa to say the least.   The stuff is actually rocket fuel disguised as an “aperitif”  But tonight, Marilena introduced us to the beginner level.  Only 28% proof, this is “grappa for children” she explained.   Perfect…just the place for us to start!   But we also knew Marilena was joking as Miriam from Bar Peter had previously explained to us that they only give children watered down wine and prosecco – not grappa.    Good to know?    But in sampling  Marilena’s many & varied thimbles of grappa, we’ve been seduced by the hazelnut flavoured locally made product.   There’s no way that we’d have bought a bottle for ourselves but we have some guests utilising our couch over the next few weeks so we should be able to do the bottle justice.  I mean to’s always important to have a digestive after a heavy evening meal.



And so this morning, we had a few jobs to do before heading to Venezia’s Marco Polo Aeroport to pick up Hubert & Marie.   Most importantly we had to pick up some telemark skis for Hubert.   Unfortunately, the only place within reasonable driving distance to hire a pair of telemark skis is the infamous Renato’s in La Villa where we bought our boots.  Needless to say we were a little nervous about how all this would go as his service on Graeme’s boot fitting was a little below par to say the least.  But this morning.  All smiles.  Renato greeted us like long lost old friends!   Go figure?   We wanted to hire at least 180cm skis for H, but he only had 174cm in the rental stock.  “No problemo”, he says and walks to the new ski rack and plucks a brand new pair of 185cm Trab skis from the rack and says he’ll have them mounted with telemark bindings by this evening.   We were shaking our heads at this one.   We hurriedly pulled out google translate in both german and english to make sure he was not trying to sell us a new pair of skis as we only wanted a 2 day rental.    Yes.  He was happy just to rent.    “Grazie mille, Renato!  Bravo!”   Hubert will be very pleased.

Then onto Venezia…well only to the airport.  No problems getting there, just a lot of twisting mountain road, followed by an autostrada. And much excitement when we picked up H&M from the arrivals.   We turned on the “blah, blah machine” as H likes to refer to it and chatted all the way back to Arabba.    Except for one stop.  Poor Marie suffers from car sickness so we stopped to put her in the front seat about half way up the mountain.  We knew the car-sickness was reaching a peak level when Marie’s conversation began to lag and her colour started to become a distinctive shade of green.  Fortunately, we arrived in Arabba just in time.  We stayed in town and organised M’s ski gear here, while the boys travelled on over the hill to pick up H’s new rental skis.

We were greeted like old friends that evening at Bar Peter as we introduced H to their fabulous “honey & walnut” beef fillet.  M too, was in heaven.  She loves potato gnocchi and informed us that she intended to eat her body weight while here….she’s only small!

First night together!
First night together!

And of course we had to end our evening with a little thimble of our newly acquired hazelnut grappa before hitting the hay for a VERY BIG day tomorrow.

Caught by the Carabinieri, Sass Pordoi & getting ready for the Frenchies!

Mon Dieu, there’s much to do!   Ha, ha, I’m a french poet and I didn’t know it.

Much excitement.  We pick up, the frenchies, Hubert & Marie tomorrow from Marco Polo Airport, Venice tomorrow afternoon.  Weather forecast looking great!

But first, a little morning exercise with a few laps of the Portovescovo cable car.  Our “local”.  The guys in the operations room are starting to know us now.  I do my best to give them a blinding smile each morning as I pass through the turnstiles.   And this morning they even held the cable car for us as we scuttled in very late.

On the first cable car we happened to be pressing bodily against a trio of carabinieri officers and we noticed that not only were their uniforms marked with the words “Carabinieri” but their skis, too were branded, “Carabinieri”.  I couldn’t help myself…what the heck?   “So you have your own specially branded skis”,  I asked.  As expected their command of English was excellent.  “Yes, signora, Nordica makes them for us”.  “Cool!”, I say.   Then the embarrassing stuff….”Hey guys, we’re from NZ and we’re wondering if we could get a photo of you all with your specially branded skis?”     “No problemo!” came the reply.   “We meet at the top?”     And guess what?   They met two other officers once we alighted the cable-car.  Awesome! Cinque Carabinieri!     I did a good face check and unfortunately only one of the “dreamboats” was present from our earlier run-in with the law!   He’s the tall one to the far right of the photo.   Girls…do a zoom in and you’ll see what I mean.

Rockin' the Carabinieri!
Rockin’ the Carabinieri!
They even have their own brand of Nordica Ski
They even have their own brand of Nordica Ski

What a great start to the morning!  A couple of laps, then to our usual coffee place.  But this morning we were missing the lovely young man who usually makes us our “duo espresso lungi “.   Hopefully he’s just on a break and not gone for the season.

Following a few 900m x 3 leg warmers we made our way west to the Passo Pordoi and caught the cable car to the top of the Sass Pordoi – 2950m.   This is where, if there was more snow, we’d be doing some beginner ski mountaineering with a guide.  Alas, you know how it goes.  Just dust on crust….but the views!   And wait for it, still further above us is the Refugio Cappanna Fassa at 3152 m!

About to board the Sass Pordoi
About to board the Sass Pordoi. Not sure if G is praying or looking at something he dropped?

Coming from NZ, where mountain huts get hit by avalanches and swept down glaciers (Gardiner Hut) or blown off the side of the mountain (Barron Saddle), Gra & I just can’t get our heads around these high alpine huts at over 2500m!   The highest is at 4,500m at Monte Rosa (Mont Blanc) of course.  In NZ, the weather God, Hughie would see all these structures as a personal challenge!  I can hear Hughie now…..”I wonder how far I can blow these puppies into the Pacific Ocean!”

Oh the touring terrain up here.  We’ve even got the “bible” touring guidebook from Francesco Tremolada who lives just over the hill at Corvara. We’ve pored over the pages…but alas at the moment as the photos will attest, just rock everywhere we look.  Oh well….we’ll just enjoy ourselves with another espresso lungi and the breathtaking view.

Just a quick word about the “espresso lungi” .  We both like a “short black” coffee, but of course this order makes absolutely no sense to an Italian, Fodom (local people) or German! However it appears that many English (probably Americans) have got a bit confused before us and have ordered an espresso when actually they are wanting an american drip filter coffee.   Almost every time we order “Duo espresso lungi” we are double checked by the bartender.   “Americano? ”   “Non Americano” is our reply.  “Espresso lungi -stile Italiano, per favore”

So sipping our duo espresso lungi, we soaked in the 360° view and watched the expert flying skills of the chougha.

Then all too soon, it was back to appartmento Oxley for a tidy up.  Washing of towels (in the new Bosch precision washing machine) & tune of our skis for Graeme.  Kitchen and floor duty for me.   And when I mean floor clean –  I mean hands and knees job!   No such thing as a vacuum or mop in Arabba.  I just had broom & pan and soft cloth & bucket.  Good character building stuff!  Can you hear me beating my chest now?

But mentioning skis…reminds me. Graeme nearly didn’t have any skis today or tomorrow or the next day!.  He forgot to tie them on the roof racks!  Good thing our first turn in the car this morning was a left one, which sent his skis skidding across the top of the roof racks to rest against mine, (that I did remember to tie down).  We knew immediately, because, of course we saw them slide gracefully across the roof bars through the glass roof of our car!  I knew that car feature would come in handy one day!     To be fair, G did get a bit distracted by Gabi. our landlady who came out to greet us with extra linen for Hubert & Marie.  But it was a close thing.  I can’t even begin to imagine the tears if he’d lost the beloved Dynastar Cham’s!!

How did my skis get over there??

Parking in the carpark, my Viber rang.  Chris Riley.  We’ve been having some fun viber conversations back and forth early mornings our time with Chris.   He has his own Viber dialect and it’s often fun if a little tricky to interpret, but today we spoke to the man himself which was lovely.  But the weather has also gone awry in our home town of Wanaka!  It’s easy for us to sit back and have another espresso lungi when the weather is not exactly delivering the results we want.  It’s an altogether different situation when your livelihood is dependent on the weather.  As requested..we had a magnificent first four turns and dedicated them to Chris and Lee this morning and we are looking forward to more than four turns with them at Treble Cone come July this year.