Archive for December, 2007

Too pricey

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

This afternoon Bill and Ben went tobogganing, so Carol and I hit the stores in town.

I thought I found the perfect souvenir of our trip to Arosa. I saw a blanket in a store window yesterday… it’s wool with symbols you’d find on a piste map along the bottom. We went back and the blanket was gone! It was the last one and someone bought it yesterday. I looked at some others that seemed like they were similar, just to see if I’d have even forked over the money for the blanket. At 1300 Swiss Francs…. the answer was no.

I thought I knew of a good alternative souvenir: an Arosa tourism poster. We’ve seen them at our hotel and around town… old fashioned looking posters. I found a shop selling them and went in. The woman claimed they are all originals, not reproductions. And she sells them for between one and seven thousand Francs. So much for idea number two.

Carol wanted to check out a couple of stores with pretty coats in them. They weren’t quite as expensive as the blanket or posters, but still too much to as much as try on.

Maybe I’ll find something tomorrow.

Up to the tippy top

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

Today, Bill took me as far up the mountain as you can go and still get down on blue runs. That meant a ride in a mini-bubble…. a tiny telepherique built for four. You stick your skis on the outside and plop yourself on the inside and hang on for dear life. The ride lasts what felt like forever but was probably more like ten minutes. Carol was more scared of it than I was, but I got motion sick. At least I didn’t barf inside the thing, that would have been horrific for everyone.

It might be a blue run up there, but it wasn’t for me. At the top it was very narrow and to the right side was a pretty steep drop off. Bill said it was not any more narrow than other runs I’ve skied here, but they have trees on either side. I know, running into a tree isn’t much of an alternative to tumbling down the side of the mountain in the snow.

At one point I lost control and stopped by just slamming myself into the side of the mountain. Which, by the way, is covered in snow. So it was a soft landing. On my face. Bill had hung out waiting for me and after watching me ski directly into the snow bank, he pulled me out and made sure nothing was broken and helped me get the rest of the way down. Once we got to where the run was wider, I was much more comfortable but by then my legs were so tired I could barely make it. I had to keep stopping to rest but since I couldn’t sit down, even that wasn’t doing me much good. We finally agreed that it was time for lunch… although that meant skiing nearly all the way to the bottom of the mountain to catch a chair lift to go back to the middle for food. At least on the chair lift you can sit down.

For lunch we decided to try a different eating spot. I’d read that there was one spot with a cluster of different food choices, including a raclette bar. (Raclette is cheese melted by a fire then scraped off onto meat and potatoes. Yum.) Bill and I decided to go for the fondue… since the other night’s fondue was good but wasn’t cheese. Somehow, it just seemed like to have gone to Switzerland and not eaten cheese fondue on a mountain side would have been just plain wrong.

I told Bill after we’d eaten and skied the rest of the way down the mountain into town: I’m glad I went to the top. But I won’t be returning tomorrow.

My kind of sleigh ride

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

We’ve just gotten back to the hotel and are trying to warm up after an hour-long ride in a horse-drawn carriage. It was incredible.

The carriage picked us up at the hotel at 5… just at dusk. The carriage seats are covered in fur, and the driver covered us up with blankets and more fur. It seemed like a little much, after all we had on our coats and hats and mittens. But it was fun anyway.

We rode along the side of the lake then climbed up the mountain. There we were, riding behind two horses pulling us up a steep, narrow, icy path. The view back down on the village of Arosa was beautiful. Everything was blanketed in snow and the lights were twinkling in windows…. picture perfect. (Of course, a picture doesn’t capture the odor included in riding behind a horse who deposits a little “present” along the roadway.)

I was surprised to see people sledding down the mountain in the dark. Some just went down the road; I guess because it was lit. That seemed just plain crazy to me.

As we were climbing up the mountain, Kaitlyn said she wanted the horses to go back down. We put a scarf over her mouth and nose and got her to lean against me and that seemed to do the trick: she fell fast asleep. We could barely wake her up when we got back to the hotel.

The hour in that carriage has to be one of the most memorable parts of this vacation. It’s exactly what I imagined doing in a Swiss village at Christmastime.

Not for me!

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

Today Kaitlyn skipped ski school to spend the day with Mom and Dad. She said that was what she wanted. We think she’s bored at the ski school. Yesterday when Bill picked her up, the teacher said that she had just goofed off all day with Tess and Zoey. What we’ve seen of it, the school they insisted on putting her in isn’t as challenging as the one she’s done in France. We thought about signing her up for private lessons, but decided instead to move her to a different of these Mickey Mouse ski gardens. There are three and the one closest to our hotel is the lamest. We’ve moved her to one that has a small butt tow and an actual hill to ski down. Of course, they say they won’t put her in the level above the stupid lame ski garden until they get a chance to see her, but right off the bat they seemed more reasonable and at least said they’d evaluate her.

So, since she didn’t go to ski school today, it was her day to pick what we did together. First we went ice skating. That’s the winter sport I can do better than Bill can. Kaitlyn did really well; I think that the roller skating lessons this fall at school deserve the credit. They had contraptions that are kinda like walkers for skaters that she could push and use for balance, but she actually found she did better without it. I would have liked to have skated longer than we did, but man, did my feet hurt in those skates. Brand new rental skates are not comfortable.

Next, she wanted to to sledding. Sleds here are not the plastic saucer variety. They are wood and look serious. Bill wants to buy one; he thinks it would look cool on display in the house. (I think the wool blanket I saw in a shop window would look cool in the house, too.) He asked Oliver’s wife at the hotel where to go and she gave him the name of the best sled shop in town. How lucky, it is right down the street from the ice rink.

The sleds are all wood, with metal covering the bottom of the runners. There’s no real steering. The more expensive ones give a little more; that’s supposed to allow steering. Ah, ha. They also start at a couple hundred Swiss Francs… and go up to about 600. Even with the dollar doing better than the Franc, that is a lot of money for a sled with no clear steering mechanism. So we decided to rent two for a test run. There are a few special toboggan runs at the ski resort.

We took Kaitlyn up the mountain in the telepherique. I don’t think they could have squeezed as much as one more small dog into that thing. Kaitlyn enjoyed the ride. I did better with it than I’ve done in similar rides in the past. All those people seemed to make it swing more than it had a couple of days ago on the same ride up. I didn’t panic or even feel particularly scared, so I’m making progress.

We ate lunch with Kaitlyn at the same mountain restaurant we ate yesterday. Bill ordered the cordon bleu (no meat specified) and he didn’t care much for it. Kaitlyn had fries and a fried chicken patty. I had soup. Mine was good.

Once our tummies were full (or full enough), we headed off toward the toboggan run. We dragged our sleds along a hiking path that took us past several of the runs we’ve been skiing the past few days. It was neat to see them from the different vantage point. Made me fairly impressed with myself.

When we got to the toboggan run, Bill and Kaitlyn got on one sled, and I got on the other. How do I steer this thing? With your feet. Oh, sure. Your feet. What a crock of crap that is. So you go down this narrow, steep run with little but a few inches of snow to keep you from zooming out of control down a mountain and you are supposed to control the entire thing with your feet. Judging by the number of people, including some old people and small children, it is possible. But I have no idea how. It was scary and horrible. Bill and Kaitlyn got tired of waiting for me at the bottom.

After that nightmare, I sent them off to a different toboggan run on their own. Even Kaitlyn said she wanted to go again, but “without Mommy.” So I came back to the hotel for a hot shower…. during which someone elsewhere in the hotel apparently flushed the toilet and I nearly scalded my belly. Doesn’t matter, that was still better than going on another sled ride from hell.

Waiting for Santa

Monday, December 24th, 2007

Tonight when she went to bed, Kaitlyn was careful to leave out a plate of cookies for Santa (we’d bought some heart-shaped butter cookies at the store in town today). She also left him a big glass of milk and some water for the reindeer and elves to share. In between those two glasses was her orange soda. She looked at her arrangement, then picked up her soda and moved it by her bed, saying she doesn’t want Santa to take hers by mistake.

Bill set up the tripod for his camera with my furry hat on it and we called that our Christmas tree. Kaitlyn thought it was great.

Before dinner, she’d invited her little friends Tess and Zoey over to watch the Grinch before bed. But once dinner ended, it became clear that Kaitlyn was far too tired to play hostess. So I canceled her plans and put her to bed. I agreed to lay down with her and turn on the tv. I figured television in German couldn’t be that interesting and she’d fall asleep soon enough. We started with a show about fish. There was no narration, just music, so it didn’t matter what country we were in. But before long it switched from cute fish to mean, horrible fish with giant teeth and ugly faces chomping on other, smaller, helpless fish. Kaitlyn started to cry, so I changed the channel. Next up was ice skating. The occasional commentary seemed to be in Italian, but, like with the fish, no words were really necessary anyway. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen an ice skating show quite like this one: the skaters performed to live music. And the director apparently had never seen anything like it either… he kept switching from the skater to a wide shot so wide you could barely see the skater (granted, I didn’t have on my glasses anymore) to a close up of the singer when the skater well may have been flipping or spinning or doing something more interesting than singing. Kaitlyn found it boring enough to fall asleep. So much for her big plan on waiting up for Santa.

cheeseless fondue

Monday, December 24th, 2007

Tonight’s dinner at the hotel was fondue. I love fondue. Fondue in Switzerland is picture perfect. Oh, wait, except this wasn’t cheese fondue. No. It was fondue chinoise style. Inside the fondue pot is chicken broth and instead of dipping bread, you cook thinly sliced meat or veggies.

We were all game for it… it sounded fun. Until we looked over at the trays of meat and realized we had no idea what they were. And living in France has taught us all: never assume. (Bill and I did that once at the butcher and ended up with lamb and rabbit. Gross.) It was a good thing we asked the waitress what the choices were. Beef. Chicken. Veal. Venison. Ben asked his girls which reindeer they wanted to eat then showed them how he was cooking up Blitzer for his meal. Fortunately, Kaitlyn didn’t hear him.

Normally the meals include a soup course, but not tonight. Or so we thought. When we were all done the waitress asked us if we wanted soup. Soup? Now? Yes… ladle some of the cooking broth into a bowl, add some port wine or sherry and, voila! You have soup. It sounded a bit like agreeing to drink the spit bowl from a wine tasting party. But we tried it anyway. And it was actually really good.

I still don’t want to leave Switzerland without cheese fondue.

stupid lift

Monday, December 24th, 2007

My morning on the slopes had me ready to take the telepherique down after lunch and go shopping.

After taking Kaitlyn to ski school, where the instructor told me she didn’t particularly listen yesterday, Bill and I walked up to the building where you buy passes and get on the dangling car of death to go up the mountain… because I’m sure I noticed lockers there. At the very least, I wanted to be able to walk up in my regular boots and switch to ski boots there. Turns out, the lockers are for skis and ski boots (complete with heated boot holders. I know for certain they are heated because I grabbed one to find out and, yes, they are quite hot.) That locker is just enough for our skis, poles and boots at night and our regular snow boots during the day while we are on the slopes. It has to be the best 40 Swiss Francs we’ve spent on this trip.

I was anxious to show off to Bill all that I’d learned in my ski lesson yesterday afternoon. He started me off on a slope I know I skied yesterday, but facing it first thing this morning it seemed just too much. I made it down, albeit slowly. I was starting to warm up and feel a little better when my confidence took a nasty spill. The section of the mountain we’ve been skiing is served by t-bar butt lifts rather than chair lifts. On one that is particularly long my ski got twisted or something and down I went. In the middle of the lift with people being pulled up right behind me. Bill got himself off the bar and tried to help me as I literally dragged my way out of the path. That wouldn’t have been so horrible, but the people who were behind me were a pair of very rude snowboarders. In case I didn’t think what I’d done was quite stupid enough, they pointed and laughed at me. There are a few choice words that we’ve discovered are universal and both Bill and I used some of them then. Luckily for them, all snowboarders pretty much look the same to me because if we’d seen them again I think Bill would have knocked them down the mountain. He says it would have been worth getting kicked out of the resort for the satisfaction of doing so. Maybe he said that because he knew it wouldn’t really happen anyway. Finally, we worked our way back across the path and walked down a hill back onto the piste. The whole thing was really humiliating. I was ready to pack it in and just wander the town in the afternoon, so Bill could ski on his own without me dragging him down.

Instead of throwing in the towel, we headed for a break and some lunch. I talked Bill into taking a chair lift on his own to check out a blue run he thought looked good. It’s so hard to tell on the map because these are, without a doubt, the hardest blue runs I have ever seen. And here, blue is beginner. It’s a good thing I sent him up there alone. When he got off the lift, the sign said the blue run up there was closed. The only way down: a red run. I was sitting at the bar drinking a hot mulled wine (which took me several tries in two languages to order… neither of which was German which was a problem) when Bill called me and told me to look up to the top of the giant steep hill beside me. There he was – waving. He was also up there with his camera, so I couldn’t take pictures of him whooshing down the red run.

With a boost from the wine, I put my skis back on and hit the slopes again with Bill. This time, I did much better. I even skied the long run that goes all the way down to the base of the resort. Turns out… it was actually a lot of fun.

Ho, Ho, Ho… big plan

Monday, December 24th, 2007

Today is Christmas Eve.

Kaitlyn’s big plan is to sit at the window all night looking for Santa Claus and when he comes, jump into bed. Because we told her he won’t come unless she’s asleep. So she figures she can out smart the old guy.

Who’s tired?

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

I can’t complain about Kaitlyn being too tired. I couldn’t even manage to go back downstairs for bingo night after dinner. Kaitlyn asked me to lay down with her… we watch some tv show in German about birds… and I think I was asleep first.

Too, too tired

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

All day at ski school may mean we can spend the day skiing on our own… but so far this evening it has meant enduring an overly-tired cranky four year old.

She started crying when we got back to the hotel room because she had to take a bath. Then she got in trouble (and cried) because she ran out of the room with her friends… who are six years old… without asking me if she could go or telling me where she was going. (I was in the bathroom undressed after my shower, so I couldn’t exactly chase her.) Now she is crying because Bill dragged her upstairs for time out because she was talking back to him. And she keeps saying she wants to go to dinner.. and we keep telling her if she’d just stop crying then we could go but you cannot go to dinner if you are a screaming mimi.

I guess tomorrow we’ll have to pick her up earlier from ski lessons.

Oh… well.