France


After arriving home and realizing I’d just traded Paris in September for Anchorage in October I was pretty unmotivated to get on with things last week.  Going out doesn’t have the same appeal when the streets are so empty that fat bald men with goatees drive up and ask if you’ve seen any kids.  No description needed, they’re that scarce.  Luckily Jeff and Graham offered me the opportunity to join them skiing at the Snowbird Hut this weekend, and I happily went along, hoping to get a taste of the winter I’d come home for.

The weather Friday was pretty awful, warm rain, a retreating snowline and predictions of heavy winds; typically demotivating for this time of year but warmer then usual.   It took us five and a half hours of walking along the closed road, scrambling up a rain slicked trail and skinning over rocks iced with sloppy snow to reach the hut.

I’d spent the last month walking all over Paris admiring the scenery, and I’d thought this would better prepare me for skiing then my normal Alaskan fall activity of sitting on the couch watching football.   I figured it would be a decent intro as the basic action – walking around admiring the beautiful scenery – was essentially the same, but his was only true while wandering along the road compared to interesting, once we started scrambling up the muddy hillside I got wrecked.  The final section through the pass and across the glacier with skis on was heartrendingly relaxing, but upon arriving at the hut I was exhausted.  After a night of intermittent sleep I woke up to  clearer weather with a light breeze feeling drowsy but ready for the years first turns.  Early season skiing on the glacier with its long mellow runs with plenty of space to open up and not worry about rocks was great fun.  Exhaustion couldn’t hide my huge smile after some fast turns in the sticky rain effected snow.

It was pleasant  just to take in the difference in scenery, Paris with it’s perfectly spaced picturesque clouds and Alaska with it’s contorted and strange sky with the sunlight filling from impossible angles. After a month of wandering through Paris discovering the minuscule parks tucked between meticulously ornate buildings to be suddenly wandering through huge empty valleys marked by a solitary rotting cabin, amongst heaps of mine waste and finding a cached camouflaged new testament, it has been a strange week of contrasts.

It was exhausting hiking for hours to and from the glacier, and also a bit frightening to go out for the first time all season and find most of your gear falling apart (I think like Akaky Akakievich when replacing stuff) but I feel rather lucky that the hiking wrecked me. I’m so tired and sore that I’m likely to sleep, rest and watch football until there is a little more snow on the ground, or things start too feel more normal around here.  More skiing to come.

Random Links to pass the time:

 

Dede (click here for a picture) arrives by moped at Pierre’s job every Wednesday and Thursday with beers and snacks.    Before entering the store he’ll usually shout  at whoever is walking down the sidewalk something like  “Sarkozy!”, “Gastronomie Francaise!” or one of his other catch phrases I can’t understand .  Once entering the store, he treats everyone to a full day of non stop mostly incomprehensible chatter.  Yesterday he told Pierre and Olivier they were his best friends, invited me to dinner (which I couldn’t attend), demonstrated his penmanship, and celebrated the performance of the stock market before treating us to this little dance.  You might want to turn the music down.

If I was living here full time you would all be receiving weekly posts on this phenomenon.

This will have to be a quick post, as playing around with words isn’t as much fun as playing around with Paris; but we spent last weekend in Saintes, which was a new town for me, so I figured I’d take a minute and put up some pictures.  The picture above is Eglise St. Eutrope, as seen from from Bea’s backyard.  St Eutrope, the towns first bishop, was apparently stoned to death by a gang of bandits around 250.  

It’s hard to beat saucisson, pineau and fresh olives while waiting out the afternoon heat around the pool.  Especially when you have a 3,000  year old village to explore in the evening, complete with Roman ruins and a lack of tourists.

The arena once sat about 15 thousand and was built under Emperor Claudius, which makes it a fair bit younger then the towns baths or the the arch (pictured bellow), which were built a few years earlier (under Tiberius) and sit next to the beautiful Charente.  A little history makes for a pleasant change from the 1970s architectural nightmare of AK.