Monday, March 15, 2010

Here ya go: Day 1 in Courmayeur

Hallo to SkiMasters everywhere from beautiful, sunny Courmayeur. Thestory in brief on the journey here: not much to report, other than the remarkable surprise of a case of lovely red Italian wine hauled on our bus by DiAnne and Bob McDonald, bought at the growing restauarant enroute to Bormio where we stopped for a 3 hour lunch not long ago. Bob wishes to repeat that the Italian restaurant owners are cousins of proprieters of a favorite Glacier, WA Italian restaurant, and NOT relatives of the McDonalds, much to the regret of all! Bob reports that the restaurant has added a number of rooms to the enterprise so that diners can sleep off the amazing menu, and that the son of the owners still talks about our lunch with them as if it were their personal high point of history.

Various members of the group arrived in Milan early on several airlines and spent the extra time in random activites. Some took a train up to view Alpine glaciers, while others toured LaScala and caught a choral mass in the Duomo. But the good news was that Claudeen had all of her ducks together and on the bus within an hour of the Seattle group’s arrival, and with the sun shining down , we did the 2 hour trip in
comfort and red-wine induced euphoria.

Arrival at the Hotel Pavillion went smoothly, with the exception of one lost boot bag. Several people remember seeing it in the hotel lobby with our mountain of bags, so it is surely safe (and pretty useless) tucked into someone’s closet or forgotten under a bed. Robin Calderon is skiing with a guide and three SkiMasters compadres, in expectation that her missing bag will find it’s way back to her by dinner tonight.

We seem to be sharing the hotel with a group from Japan, a cheerful lot with tanned faces who may have been in the Alps for a while. One woman encountered on the elevator was clutching six bottles of Coke, saying “for gas”, leaving with and apologetic smile and mini bow, making me wonder if I was to return the gesture. I said Ciao instead.

As promised, the Menu Maven has comments on the first dinner, not all entirely positive. Several people seemed surprised by what they’d selected from the menu card, including an undercooked slightly crunchy risotto (al dente is not crunchy) a plate of veal that was NOT cooked at all, as expected. Well, Carpaccio isn’t cooked, but that was not indicated on the menu translation. I guess that we’ll need menu
consults for the rest of the week. Salads are not self-selected at a bar, but offered from a trolley, but the trolley did not make it to all tables. Dessert was a selection of indifferent slices of indeterminate composition, one in un-natural colors. Well, the cheese tray was nice!

Breakfast offerings were scanty, with scrambled eggs disappearing early and not replenished. This is always a learning experience!

Your reporter decided to skip the first day’s skiing, as a former Rotary exchange student (Vincent Mercy, Bellevue High, Class of 1988, coincidentally a classmate of Larina Davis!) is visiting for the day with his fiancé, Minh Trang, from Lausanne, Switzerland, which is equidistant to Courmayeur from Milan. Vincent went skiing with the group, while I decided to stay in town with Minh Trang, to hear the story about her horrific snowmobile accident three years ago in Quebec. Let’s just say that skiing is still my choice of winter sport, so you can keep your SkiDoo.

Not being able to describe the on-hill experience, I’ll say that it is a gorgeous Alpine view from our hotel on the valley floor, with the skiers’ choice of three cable cars and gondolas headed up to the broad open slopes of Plan de Gabba, or the yet higher point of Cresta D’Arp. Mont Bianco (Mont Blanc) is Door Number 3, with the chance to ski over the top to Chamonix at Punta Hellbronner. There seem to be many opportunities to get lost, so surely there will be serious competition for the first Spoon Award of 2010.

A light breeze and 34º temps on the valley floor promises interesting snow
conditions. The north side had to be Styrofoam hard in the morning, and with several of our group renting skis, we’ll certainly hear reports of equipment challenges. All-day sun may make snow chunky as the hours pass, and we’ll get the viewpoint of the group who hired a mountain guide, as well as commentary from those intrepid souls who venture out with Robb Rough’s declared walkie-talkie channel written in
ballpoint on their wrist.

More tomorrow, with Spoon News, weather and snow conditions from Those Who Dared! Ciao from Carol Mast

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