She lives….she skis!

Well yes, today I went skiing.  Well I had to.  It was snowing.  Well, not really snowing.  More of a constipated splattering but it was white and falling from the sky.   I only survived long enough for 4 runs though!  Still, in our Arabba world of huge vertical that equates to over 3200m vertical which is not too bad a start for the jellied legged weakling I’ve become.

Weird weather.  We saw a number on Gina our GPS’ display this morning that we’ve never seen before…

Can’t remember if the temperature has ever been above zero before?

We double checked Gina against the town temperature gauge…and yes….+4C?   And it’s snowing.  Go figure?

Home at lunch time for a “nanna nap” for me and some computer work for Graeme.  My food intake is almost back to normal, although cheese, meat and wine are still off my list.   I may never look kindly upon chicken curry or a French sauscisson again.  I now have another answer as to why that great big Lyonnaise sauscisson was called an “Oh Jesus!”.

Okay! So we’re going to get serious with “la neve”.   We are now into our 3rd and last month in Arabba and so far only 16cm of snow has fallen since we’ve been here.   Murphy’s Law will ensure that if we leave Arabba for a few days it will snow.   And yes….a quick check this afternoon of the weather forecasts…..


Our original plan is to head to Venice on Friday for a long weekend. I will confess that I just love saying that!  “Oh just ducking off to Venice for a long weekend!” I have been practising to say it in my most nonchalant tone…as if it’s something we’d do often,  when in reality  I don’t expect that I will ever have another opportunity to say this sentence again in my life-time.

So many of my friends have lived in London and I used to love hearing their tales of going to Paris or Berlin for the weekend.  This ability to just “jet-off” somewhere exotic for a couple of days must truly be one of the most wonderful advantages of living in Europe.  In just a couple of hours you are in a completely different country and culture.  For us ANZAC’s it’s always a long plane flight costing serious mega-bucks and usually involving jet-lag!

So Venice here we come, whether you’re ready or not!   By this I mean, regardless of water levels.  It appears that Venice is starting to oscillate between either not enough or too much water in her canals.  We will be going before the Carnivale festival starts at the end of February which, I hope, will mean slightly less tourists around than later in the month.

This “Carnavale” festival has had me a bit confused.  Graeme came back to the apartment yesterday saying that the slopes were super crowded because our coffee man had told him it was a carnavale holiday?   But when I googled “Carnavale in Italy”,  I learned that any parties or festivals are usually only held about 2 weeks before the start of Lent which occurs 40 days before Easter.  In 2017, the earliest any festivals would start is from the 14th of February, with the 28th being the last possible day.     Given this information, I’m not entirely sure Graeme’s coffee man knows what he’s talking about. I did my own research and learned that Venice now has the most well known Carnavale festival but that festivals are also held in many other cities in Italy.  I also learnt that other than timing, it’s got nothing to do with religion, but rather it’s all about being naughty and subversive before you have to be good and pious for the 40 days of Lent leading up to Easter.   Back in the day when Venice ran it’s own show in the 1700’s, it was all the rage, but then the dour Austrians took over and banned the festival, particularly the wearing of masks.  It seems the festival was forgotten about and it wasn’t until nearly 200 years later in 1979 that the first Carnavale festival was again held in Venice.

Armed with all this exciting new information we are quite enthused about our upcoming road trip.  With the weather forecast looking decidedly average tomorrow we’ve decided to leave for our Venice trip a day early and spend an extra night on the way in a little walled city of Treviso.




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!!!


Non è successo niente

Today.  Nothing happened.  Ditto for yesterday.

We’ve both come down with head colds.  Nothing serious, but our apartment is awash with tissues and the bottle of pure pseudoephedrine tablets that I wisely procured from my doctor before leaving Wanaka is taking a hammering.  Given the good side effects of “P” we’re not feeling that bad and we’ve managed to get out in the village for our morning coffee at 11am each day, returning for a light lunch in the sun on our balcony followed by a “nanna nap”.   Once awake again, in the evening, we cook a light dinner and watch a movie.  “Bridget Jones Baby” was surprisingly good, but tonight Gra is on the couch totally absorbed in his book “The Martian” by Andy Weir, which I just couldn’t put down and promptly finished in record time.  Seems like he’s similarly absorbed.

Balcony lunches
Balcony lunches

As I am typing this tonight, we are feeling much recovered after 48 hours of cocooning ourselves in our warm little nest.

Just a little note of thanks to all those who recently contacted us to find out if we were OK after the reports of an avalanche/ earthquake in central Italy.  It’s a big country and we’re a long way away from this area.  We can’t believe that Keiko & Al McLaughlin contacted us from Japan and Andrew Turnbull from South Africa…..our highly connected world is truly amazing.   Although, Andrew admitted that he just wanted to know if he needed to make a trip to NZ to pick up his wine.  [Gra has left Andrew our wine collection in his will. ]

Tomorrow we are planning to head north to see a World Cup Biathlon in Antholz near Brunico about an 1.5 hour drive to the north of us.   While the temperatures have warmed considerably since the beginning of the week, we have laid out all our warmest gear…we’ve got this winter clothing totally sorted now!   Just hoping that spectators are not drug tested like the athletes.  Our current “P” habit will be a problem.