Monday, December 05, 2005

La plus belle coin de la monde

On Saturday morning I woke up, packed my wool sweaters and socks, and hopped in a car with Lucie, a 21 year old BTS student. The trip to her home took about an hour -- but this is an hour on small, twisting roads filled with slushy snow. In the mountains. In an old compact car. We were still in the Jura...but it was the Haut Jura.

This, obviously, is an important distinction. We were very close to the Swiss border -- so close, in fact, we drove into the Swiss part of a border town so that Lucie could buy cheap cigarettes.

Lucie's family lives in a very, very small village. Honestly, I can't even remember the name of the town -- hell, I don't think I ever even figured out the name of the town. In France, all roads leading into a town have a sign with the name. However, this area is so rural that the villages aren't really communities grouped together -- some are, but a lot of it is small valleys, with houses dotted along the road. There's about 100 people in her village, but it's all spread out.

Here's the view of the neighbors:

Lucie's family lives in a small bar cafe. Her family owns a small chair lift, since their back yard is the side of a mountain, and her mother runs a cafe for the people who come to ski. She told me that it's mostly local people who ski there, since it's not a huge run, but extremely cheap -- 5 euro -- for an afternoon of skiing.

The downstairs of the house is the kitchen, bar, and cafe -- several small tables with four chairs at each, one large picnic table in the middle. Upstairs are 4 small bedrooms and the bathroom, in the basement is another two small bedrooms. Unfortunately, they don't have, like, a couch. Instead of a living room, they have a bar. They seem to spend most of their time downstairs.... or, really, out skiing. It was very comfortable and cozy, regardless.

Her mother, a very charming woman who spoke a little English, spent most of her time puttering in the kitchen, making coffee for us, baking large tarts. Her father was outside most of the time, plowing for the neighbors, getting the ski lift ready to be opened next weekend. Her little brother, Clovis, is 10 or so, and immediately fell in love with me. It was hard not to feel the same way, as he was cute as a damn button. He loved watching me knit, too, and eagerly did it himself whenever I let him knit a row.

On Saturday afternoon, after a large lunch of tarteflette (scalloped potatoes, I guess. But, need I see it?, better.), Lucie, Clovis, and I went cross-country skiing at a station about 20 minutes away from her house.

This is thigh-deep snow -- fresh and damp. Perfect snowman snow. (Or, bonhomme de niege....gentleman of the snow). Plus, how cute is this kid? Can you stand it?

It was fun, but hard work, especially since we were headed uphill and I had ice caked on the bottom of my skis, causing a crazy amount drag. When we got to the top of the (fucking huge) hill, Lucie got the ice off the bottom of my skis. I got up, skied for 10 feet, then fell on my ass. I looked down to the bottom of the (fucking huge) hill and realize that I was in trouble. TROUBLE.

And indeed I was. Remember we were on cross-country skis -- it was like trying to ski on a pair of greased up yard sticks. But way longer than a yard. For the cartoon-minded out there, like running across a frozen pond covered in banana peels. The whole way down the top third of the hill, I would ski for about 20 feet, then fall down. Ski for 20 feet, then fall. I have five bruises from it, including one that is a huge goose-egg on the side of my knee. I took off my skis, sat on them, then rode them the rest of the way down.

That part was awesome.

That night, Lucie and I went out to meet up with some of her friends. We went to the local bar - where, as you may expect, everybody knows everyone else. There was a live band playing Offspring and Nirvana. I got some decent exposure to the local (hick) accent. One of Lucie's friends taught me the phrase "La bave de grabeau nattain pas la blanch golombe que je suis." (meaning, The spit of the frog can't stain the white dove that I am.) This is something you say if you find out that another person is gossiping about you. I imagine this sort of phrase comes handy in a small town.

Sunday morning, we went back to the ski station for some downhill.

Now, I haven't skied in 10 years, so considering that, I did pretty damn well. We did about 5 or 6 big runs. Before the last one, which Lucie and Clovis were going to do by themselves (fastly and dangerously - Lucie is a ski instructor and Clovis will surely be one is a few years). I followed them down a side path, and when I saw that they were headed toward a jump, I tried to bail out at the last second. I fell down in some really fresh, wet, deep snow. Then struggled for 15 minutes to get up. There was no ground to push against! Every time I tried to push against the snow, it would hesitate for a moment, then my arm would plunge in up to the shoulder.

That part sucked, which I marked by crying irrationally for 5 minutes afterwards.

The rest of Sunday was spent sitting by the wood burning stove, having coffee, chatting with Lucie and her mom, meeting the neighbors who cross-country skied over to visit, trying not to fall asleep.

It was a wonderful weekend. It makes me dream about living in a little chalet in the mountains, skiing in the afternoon, coming home for a dinner of fondue.
At one point, this would have seemed like a starry-eyed fantasy. Now I know that this is how some people really live.


The title of the post means, "The most beautiful corner of the world." Clovis asked me, "Do you think it's pretty here?" as we went skiing. I said, "Of course!" and Lucie said, "It's the most beautiful corner of the world!"


At 10:17 PM, Anonymous Brian said...

Trying to get up in deep snow when you fall is about the worst, most helpless feeling in the world, especially when you have skis on. I say crying is more than acceptable in those situations

At 6:44 PM, Anonymous Tim said...

Your pictures are lovely. Absolutely lovely. File me in the "highly jealous" category.


Post a Comment

<< Home