The Vikings Have Left the Building

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Frozen Waterfall at Gressoney St Jean

Peace has descended once more on the Lys Valley. The Vikings have left the building.

We suspect that they departed in the wee small hours and decided not to do anything as mundane as go to bed. Nightlife here is limited – we did once see a person dance on a table in bar but that was an isolated incident and happened well before 8pm.

Nevertheless, I heard some Viking improvisation. Sleep evaded me as a light switch in the next room was switched on and off really quickly to produce disco-effect lighting as an accompaniment to the clattering, singing and what sounded like handfuls of marbles being dropped repeatedly to scatter on the tiled floor.

Noisy neighbours for a week. Such are the tribulations of skiing for a season!

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We’re hoping for better luck than Harold Godwinson in 1066.

We trust that we will have better luck than Harold Godwinson in 1066. We live in hope that the departure of the Vikings won’t be followed immediately by William the Bastard leading an invading force of chaps called Norman sporting funny haircuts.

From 8.30 when we arose, it was busy on the slopes – a sunny Saturday. There were groups of half a dozen or more skiing around, so we made an executive decision to get down the valley to St Jean before the sun disappeared – and before the food shop closed.

Our receptionist, Sylvia, had recommended shopping in Gressoney St Jean rather than Gressoney La Trinité, since there was “more choice.” We thought that going down the mountain would be good for the dogs in terms of warmer and more snow-free walking, so we dragged Big Blue out of the garage. As we descended the sunlit Valle de Lys, we admired the frozen waterfalls adorning her red-gold rock walls. The fanciful scenery was like something that you might expect to come across in Narnia. In my humble opinion, the Lys valley is truly one of the most stunningly beautiful places on earth.

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The Lys Path at Gressoney St Jean

We did a lovely, picturesque walk along the river Lys at St Jean. A few hundred metres lower than home, it was certainly warmer. There was even a little path cut out, so the dogs didn’t need their jackets, which are great for keeping the snow off but do tend to mat their fur a little, necessitating the ever popular grooming sessions!

We walked around the centre of town, but could see nothing much, certainly not a supermarket. The Tourist Information was wreathed in darkness, but when we put our noses on the glass door, it gave way. It was open! Like classic Italian scholars, we asked “Dove il supermercato?” A grumpy lady told us, in Italian, that it is not a supermarket, but a mini-market and it was closed until 3.30pm. There were a couple of little shops, including a Spa, that were open.

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Castel Savoia – a Fairytale Castle. Like the supermarket, we couldn’t find it!

We drove around, but couldn’t find any of them. We drove around again and I spotted a fairytale castle, with snow covered turrets, up on the hill. “Let’s go up to that while we wait for the shop to open!” We drove up, but it was a disappointment. We couldn’t even see it! We went back and found two small stores, neither of which looked like a Spa, but <Drum Roll> we did find a shop selling plastic boxes!

They say that you are never more than 12 feet from a rat. It is a relief to know that even high in the mountains, you’re not more than 20 minutes from a shop selling plastic boxes. I can’t vouch that they cost a pound because the shop was, like all shops in Italy, closed. I suspect not, however. One pound, I found out later, is the going rate for a tin of butter beans in the mountains. Nevertheless, we were delighted – and know where to come if we BBDT (break beyond duct tape) our improvised bed base again! (See A Viking Charm Offensive – and Other Oxymorons for the low down on the bed!)

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They say that you’re never more than 12ft from a rat. Even in the mountains, you’re not more than 20 minutes from a shop selling plastic boxes!

We returned to the Minimercato. It was shut. By now we had lost the will to live and did a swoop in the supposed Spa, which had slightly more stock than the telephone box sized store in our home village, whose shelves are mainly empty. The Minimercato could still provide us with only a single bottle of milk!

We have really embraced the world of online ordering. Unable to buy topographical maps of the mountains here in the mountains, we have purchased them from Stanford’s of London! We have thus far had a camera battery delivered and are eagerly awaiting dog boots.

Burns’ night (25th January) is coming up, which means a rendition of my famous Burns’ Night joke:

‘The Prime Minister visited a new hospital ward filled with people gruffly speaking unintelligable sentences. “Some hae meat and canna eat, — And some wad eat that want it; But we hae meat, and we can eat, Sae let the Lord be thankit.” “Is this where you treat people with mental illness?” the PM asked. “No.” the executive answered. “It’s the Burns Unit.”‘

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Some hae meat and canna eat, — And some wad eat that want it; But we hae meat, and we can eat, Sae let the Lord be thankit.

We are packing a bottle of Jura single malt whisky but I am not sure that online ordering is the answer to the traditional Burns night meal of haggis and neeps (swede) in the Alps!

Mark passed his apprenticeship on the washing machine with flying colours, managing to cleanse that most exacting of loads – the super-kingsize duvet cover. Curiously, the portable washing machine, besides saving us money, allows us to travel light as we need fewer clothes! We have instigated a rule that our few remaining possessions should be multi-functional as far as possible. The washing machine fits this requirement perfectly; doubling also as a laundry basket AND a dog barrier.

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Rosie laments the multifunctionality of the portable washing machine as it prevents her from going out to play in the snow!

I suppose that being unable to buy food helps in one way. The ski boot camp started in earnest today. Our off piste course is coming up and we need A. to get fit and B. if I don’t want a wet behind, I need to get into my pink powder pants…!

Join us next time to see how we get on with our Snoworks Gressoney Back Country course – and find out whether my backside will be wet or dry when I am skiing powder!

If you enjoy my blog, don’t be shy. We bloggers always appreciate a like, comment, share or follow!

If you have missed any episodes of our travels to date, click on these links to read about our Continental Cavorts with Cavapoos and a Caravan; Fur Babies in France or join us in the snow with Pups on Piste. The blogs on these pages are listed in chronological order.

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