Monday, April 21, 2014

Take Me to the....(think Talking Heads here...) Snow

   A couple of weeks ago, I took mon voisin (my neighbor) to the snow. This was his request, as it had been years since he had been in the white stuff. It was the first week of April and after a beautiful drive through new territory for me, we arrived at a ski area called Greolieres. It is the closest ski station to Nice, about an hour or so north, so it gets a fair amount of skiers on any weekend. We went on the Monday after closing day so things were dead quiet, rental shops packing things away until next season. My kids were thrilled to see snow and I had a strong feeling of regret for not taking us on a ski weekend while in Europe. Oh well, too late now.
   Having not considered being able to sled before leaving the house, we were unprepared but found a few plastic bags under the car seats which the children held under their butts to slide down the slopes. It offered a brief bit of relief to our year sans neige (without snow).
   After getting sufficiently wet and winded from climbing up the hill a dozen or so times, we found a bar open, and had an icy cold beer in the blazing spring sun before heading back down the mountain.
   Our route home took us along the rim of the Gorge du Verdon, the French Grand Canyon. It is stunning and the road is a white-knuckler, as you can imagine. I insisted on stopping every couple of hundred yards to take pictures which probably got old for my passengers but I kept proclaiming, there was a good chance I would not see it again, so I had to marvel at every possible pull-out.
    Driving the Million Dollar Highway between Durango and Ouray can be hair raising, and this drive was equally exciting. Two cars can pass slowly and carefully, but I would certainly pull over if there were a truck coming my way. There are a couple of tunnels along the route which are dark as night, unlit and barely wide enough for 1 car to pass through. The railing along the edge of the 2,000 foot drop is a very pretty wooden, single rail and to the French highway department's credit, is reinforced with steel (on the inside of the railing as to not take away from the visual integrity). We saw rock climbers scaling the walls and I remembered a couple of friends from home telling me they had been there to enjoy the world class limestone walls. A couple of para gliders leapt off a highpoint and sailed peacefully down towards the Lac de St. Croix, the reservoir at the end of the canyon.
   The day was visually spectacular and while I never really like being in the car other than to get from point A to Point B, it was a memorable driving experience of hunting for some snow.
Closest ski area to Nice, and my house 
Glissading on grocery bags
Mon voisin et bon ami
Menu at the Ski area bar- sounds pretty good.

The Verdon
Spectacular drop into the Gorge 
No room for a mistake in there.
The guard rail built for more than just aesthetics.


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