Category Archives: Travel

Rep Life Part Deux – Dealing with life in the cold

For me the best season is summer. It’s hot, it’s shorts-weather, it’s the season where you stay outside all day and play sports, read books, chill out doing nothing. Even when you’re working and you’re sweltering inside, well, at least you’re not cold.

The worst season is winter. It’s never warm outside and even inside it’s dicey because the heating stops working and suddenly you’re living in an ice cube (true story if you’re interested). Yes snow is fun, but only for a little bit because then you have to drive to work and, all of a sudden, that takes twice as long in a car where – yep, you guessed it – the heating’s stopped working (my family aren’t the best at getting things fixed before they absolutely need to be).

So maybe moving to the Alps for five months in winter, when the temperature plummets and it snows all the time (I mean all the time) was not such a good idea on my part.

I have started to get used to the seemingly arctic temperatures, but it’s tough. Today I was out in the wind, snow and just plain cold for half an hour wearing a not very thick coat and jeans. I don’t understand how anyone can enjoy that – my feet were numb. What’s enjoyable about having numb feet!?

One of my uni housemate’s favourite season was winter, and we consistently had disagreements about it. How? Just how? There is nothing fun about it. Some of the views of things (a.k.a. mountains, trees and ESF instructors) covered in snow are beautiful, but you get these sorts of views in warm, dry places too. Just take Nepal for example, or Yosemite. Both stunning, both warm and both incredible experiences.

In total, I have not been dealing with the cold very well – instead I have decided to view it as a challenge. When I am interviewed in the future and they ask me to describe a challenging experience, living in an ice-box for almost half a year may be what I go with.

I love, love doing my season. It’s great. Now, if it was in Croatia in the summer, it would be perfect. As it is, I’ll just have to wrap up warm and brave the cold in order to get a beer and some decent internet for the next three months.

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Away for Christmas

Being away from your family during holidays is, honestly, a bit of an odd sensation, especially when it’s a different country, different timezone and the internet is terrible. I’m not sure if it was lucky or not, but the experience was made easier by the fact that it didn’t feel like Christmas – in the Alps there just hasn’t been the build up that we have at home. It was however tough being away from my family.

This year is the first time I haven’t been at home for Christmas. My brother isn’t at home either as he’s spending six months in New Zealand, so my sister is the only one with my parents during the festive season. This has resulted in two things: less presents, and my mum has taking it pretty hard. The first one was easy to deal with, the latter not so much. All this has led me to re-confront an old foe: the travel guilt.

Now this is a different travel guilt to the one I have talked about previously; that was me stupidly feeling bad about not doing things I felt I had to do as a ‘traveller’. This guilt is the guilt I get at essentially abandoning my mum (at least, that’s what it feels like). My mum finds it difficult to let us go, and me (being the eldest, and thus usually doing things first) usually  gets the biggest hits of sadness. When I first went alone to Nepal for a month, that was tough for her. When I went to uni, that was tough for her. When I went to work abroad in America, that was tough for her. Each time it’s been a little bit further, or longer, or more serious, and this was the next milestone – missing a holiday.

I’m not saying it wasn’t tough for my dad, he just is more accepting of the fact we do have to grow up. And it was tough for me too, though funnily enough it was made easier by a raging hangover (Christmas Eve is a big night for seasonnaires). But I still feel like I have abandoned her, and so in comes the grief.

More than anything that was my defining feature of my Christmas away. I had fun, but that guilt was still at the back of my mind. I hope to be halfway across the world by this time next year, so I should expect a similar situation then too. I can only hope it will be a little easier next time.

I hope you all had a lovely holiday season!

Rep Life Part Un – Getting Settled

Wow. A week and 2 days in and wow. I feel like I am in a state of exhaustion, and my cheeks hurt from smiling so much. I am essentially a waitress for the resort, trying to please customers, suppliers, head office and my managers, all at the same time – a difficult, tiring feat.

And I am loving every second.

I had been told that doing a ski season would be one of the best experiences of my life, that it was incredibly fun. That is, after all, one of the reasons I decided to do a ski season. But being a rep – or customer service staff, which is the new term – involves always being there, always being ready, and, above all, always being friendly. It may sound easy. It’s not. Luckily my waitress training got me ready for this, because you never get tips as a waitress if you don’t smile. Likewise, you can’t survive in customer service without a cheery demeanor (and like I said, I am the resort waitress).

I just can’t handle the night life at the moment. How do people go out every night? I feel I got that out of my system at uni, and getting back into it is tricky, especially as I keep falling asleep on nights out (not even joking, it’s getting bad). Going out, even if only a few times a week, is a highlight though, a definitely feels well deserved after a busy day working hard. I especially like going out in Alpe d’Huez – my resort – because it isn’t as crazy as resorts such as Deux Alpes, it is more of a sit in a pub or bar and drink your drinks while being able to talk to someone. Does this make me sound old? I feel old sometimes next to all the 18 year olds here on their gap years who seem to have an energy I feel I should still possess, but I like sitting and socialising and then finally getting round to the dancing at the end. It helps in actually making friends instead of simply drinking buddies.

All this rambling is basically a way to say I’m enjoying myself, and if you’re thinking of doing a ski season in the future: do it. I am loving my time here in France, but it is difficult and it is trying (some days more than others). Working over Christmas might be a bit difficult – feeling homesick and everything – but I’m going to guess that I’m going to be too busy to really notice all that much!

Blogging with no internet – a bit difficult

So I usually try to post twice a week, maybe three times. Friday is the day when I absolutely must post something, being the last day of the week and all, and last Friday I was getting ready to type. Luckily, I was even feeling in the mood to write, ready to commit to paper (or screen) a riveting post on the American rail company Amtrak (I will repeat, riveting).

But then I experienced something that happens to everyone on the road at some point in their travels/life – quelle catastrophe – no internet.

I know. The horror.

Even in a fixed place this can be a problem for those off on their travels, especially in the more remote destinations. For example, I am not exactly remote, but being in a mountain range – a location not naturally suited to internet cables – means that the web connection isn’t as reliable as, say, in the middle of a town in the UK. And travelling around America I had to have a lot of forward planning if I wanted to post something because I had no SIM card and was therefore completely reliant on public internet in hostels and McDonalds to update my blog.

This has been an unusually long stretch without the web, and it is bad how reliant you become on it, but what I have missed the most is communicating with my family (and Instagram, but mostly the family stuff). I missed blogging too, but the break may have done me good. I was starting to feel a bit thin, like I was running out of ideas. But a week and a half with no WiFi has forced me to read, something I would say I didn’t have time for had I had internet, and think about things to write that are both interesting and that I want to write about.

So, my painful stretch in the WiFi-less wilderness has led me to see that while I may love to write a detailed post on trains in America, there may be more interesting things that I’m dealing with right now in France that I’ll let take the front seat. No worries though, that Amtrak post is coming, and it will knock your socks off. I promise.

Speaking French in France

I think that trying to tackle the French language in its own country may be one of the scariest things I have ever had to do. I did French at A-level, but it is now very rusty, and it shows. Every time I’m at reception and the phone rings, my heart sinks. I know I have to answer it, but I am simply dreading the French person on the other end of the line who will speak quickly and is almost unintelligible thanks to the crackly reception we receive in the Alps.

I went on the bus ride from hell in Nepal. This is worse.

I am scared, terrified even, of flying. This is worse.

It’s not because I don’t want to speak to people – I actually love meeting new people and having a conversation with them. But there is so much technical language about hotels and ski passes and ice skating that, even if my French wasn’t shaky (at best), it would still be incredibly difficult. I had to ask a priest about church times and attendance – don’t ask – and I was terrified. How do you even address priests in France? Père? Ministre? And then you have to negotiate the minefield that is pleasantries, and simply reacting to the conversation that is being thrown in your face at such a break-neck, rapid speed.

I had to work unexpectedly yesterday, and thinking it was my day off I had got pretty drunk the night before. Negotiating a conversation in your mother tongue is a bit tricky when tired and hanging; in a language you can barely just remember sober it is close to impossible. Add in your boss sitting next to you as you try and you’re on to a winner for “Worst Day of the Year Award”.

I’m not an overly confidant person. Put me out of my comfort zone and I’ll adapt, but it may take a few days. But that’s in English and now I’m juggling a completely different language while trying to adjust and negotiate rock climbing prices.

For people  who complain about the person at the other end of the phone not being fluent in slang and having a strong accent – yes, I agree it can sometimes be annoying, and it will raise your blood pressure. But at least be thankful that it isn’t me answering the phone saying, again and again, “Je suis désolé – répétez s’il vous plaît?”

USA in Photos

America is really photogenic. The National Parks, instantly recognisable icons, busy streets and empty, stunning scenery on the side of the highway. It’s all so beautiful that there is a dilemma whether to just take in the views or spend the time capturing it on film. My one month trip to America (post-camp) was broken up nicely as pre-car crash and post-car crash: our car was written off in Las Vegas. Following the crash, I bought a new memory card for my camera, so I also have pre- and post- crash pictures.

I don’t really know what my aim is when I take pictures. Sometimes the photos are captured for this blog, or because the views are incredible and I just want to remember it. Other times they’re for Instagram, and sometimes because they are just funny pictures. But I am not an expert photographer, nor do I intend to be.

Anyway, that is a roundabout way of saying these are some pictures from my travels round America post-car crash.

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The Hoover Dam.
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Grand Canyon.
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A New Orleans cemetery, from the outside.
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On the train, welcome to Yazoo City.

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A church in New Orleans.

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Go Greek at Loyola University, New Orleans.
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Flying the flag at the Grand Canyon.
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Near the market in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
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A criminally beautiful Forever 21 in Washington D.C.
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“Reporting from outside the White House…”
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Work being done on the Capitol Dome.
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The Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument on the Potomac River.
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A beautiful quote in D.C.’s Holocaust Museum.
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On the banks of the Hudson River.
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Which bridge over the Hudson? I don’t know – maybe Brooklyn!?
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A little boat just doing its thing.
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Need I say? The Statue of Liberty, baby.

If you like these there are more on my Instagram.

Do like taking photos when you travel? Why do you take yours?

Off to France

So this is going to be a short and sweet post, because I’m busy getting ready to go to France for 5 months to work a ski season. (!!!) I am a bit excited.

I don’t know how I’m going to fare – I hate the cold (and it is going to be really cold), but I love France, and I love working abroad so hopefully it should be as amazing as everyone tells me it will be. I’m busy doing my final pack, getting all my big fluffy ski stuff to fit in one tiny suitcase, so I’ll leave you with this clip of Jake Wood and Janette Manrara doing the Samba on Strictly this week. Did it deserve the two tens it got? Maybe not, but Jake was twerking for heaven’s sake! So much fun to watch.