Scott and I had the incredible opportunity, this past week, to accompany our daughter Cait, her husband and their little "herd" (Annie, Ellie, Lilly and Luke) to Samoëns, France. Samoëns is a charming valley village nestled in the heart of the majestic French Alps. It's located about an hour southeast of Geneva.
The week didn't flow quite as anticipated... but isn't that how life generally goes? We tend to have things planned and picture-perfect in our minds, but often in reality, there's not much resemblance...
Samoëns wasn't a new destination for us. We spent a winter holiday there with Cait and the family in 2012. That was a wonderful experience but memories of extreme cold temperatures and abundant snow were foremost in our minds as we planned for this year's trip.
During our stay four years ago, Scott and I had spent most mornings out on the cross country ski trails that ran right past the chalet we were staying at. Many hours out in the cold taught us the importance of having the proper clothing.
This time, before leaving the US, we carefully equipped ourselves with warm boots, good quality undergarments, wool socks, hats, mittens, layers of jackets and plenty of hand warmers. We were going to be prepared!
What we didn't plan for was rain and unseasonably warm temperatures!
A beautiful snow cover greeted us Friday evening when we arrived in Samoëns, but within hours, it began raining. Predictions of more wet weather and temperatures into the 40's dashed our spirits as well as our hopes of enjoying those wonderful nordic ski trails.
Fortunately, downhill skiing was not affected by the weather, as the temps were much colder up in the high mountains and instead of disappointing rain, there was an abundance of powdery snow at those elevations. So Cait, Josh and the girls were fine; but Scott and I (not willing to face the super steep slopes) resigned ourselves to enjoying life in the lovely, albeit rainy village. And honestly, that would have been just fine. Hey, a week in the French Alps, no matter what the weather forecast, was a dream come true for us.
For the first two days, we played games, read, relaxed, made soup and wandered the village (with umbrellas in tow) which is incredibly quaint and lovely. Down every cobblestone lane and around every corner is a photo op, kind of like being lost in a Dicken's Christmas village. Whenever there was a pause in the rain, Scott had his camera ready...
On Monday, we noticed a sign (in French, of course) that seemed to indicate there were not only downhill ski slopes up on the mountains but also cross country trails. When we checked into it at the "Office de Tourisme" they explained that, indeed, there were beautiful (snowy) trails up at the higher elevations and also a bus that transports "Nordic" (the French name for cross country) skiers back and forth to the trails each day. Wow! It didn't take us long to find a shop to rent skis, poles and boots. The next morning, we were excitedly standing in line waiting for the bus.
The bus ride was only twenty minutes, but the scenery change was dramatic. To say there was plenty of snow for cross country skiing would be an understatement. The sight that met our eyes was truly a magical wonderland. We actually ended up above the clouds, and brilliant blue skies prevailed for most of our skiing days. I'm so happy Scott had his camera tucked in his backpack, as words are so inadequate to describe the incredible beauty that greeted us...
There were a few other things during our stay in Samoëns that we didn't plan for. Cait had booked the same chalet on the outskirts of town that we had enjoyed four years ago. When we arrived this time however, we were shocked to discover that, instead of the peaceful, quiet surroundings we'd remembered, a huge, modern and very popular ice skating rink had been constructed right across the street. Yikes, bright lights, a hockey team and lots of tourists were now swarming the area most afternoons and evenings. Peaceful and quiet? Not so much!
Then there was the "tummy bug" that ran it's course through the family to varying degrees. We washed our hands and used sanitizer like crazy, but each day, wondered who might be "dropping" next.
But you know what? Despite all the unexpected, unanticipated predicaments, if I had to sum up the trip with one word I would declare it "wonderful-amazing-fantastic" (Yeah, I know, that's cheating a bit!).
The rain and warm temperatures gave Scott and I the opportunity to discover the awesome nordic ski trails up on the mountain. Had there been lots of snow down below, we would have been content to ski through the valley and would have missed out on an incredible experience.
The "tummy bug" made us appreciate each day that everyone was well, as well as the wonderful gift of a hearty appetite.
And the skating rink? Not exactly ideal, but we took advantage of it, watching a hockey game from the chalet balcony and even had a chance to spend a fun evening gliding around the ice ourselves.
To sum it up, our trip was a good "life lesson" for us: understand that no situation (even a week in the French Alps) will be exactly like we plan and definitely not picture-perfect. The journey will almost always have unexpected bumps along the way. Thank God for each ray of sunshine, stick together through thick and thin and look for the blessings that can arise from disappointing circumstances. They're always there, sometimes you just have to search a little harder...
P.S. We bid adieu to France on Friday and headed back to London for a few more days with the family here before returning back to the States on Wednesday. Stay tuned, we've got some wonderful recipes coming up as well as a London post. So until then, Au revoir!