We shared a day of quiet yesterday. The girls and I opted to lounge around the house, lazy Saturday. From the rented chalet we look down out the bottom of the Meribel Valley toward the mountains to the North and East. The forested valley walls are broken here and there by small villages, clusters of buildings surrounding a church.
Without a recent storm to renew the snow, it has receded into patches, rather than a blanket of white. South facing ridges and rooftops are bare, while their north facing counterparts are still covered, adding contrast to the relief.
We have spent the past week wandering and exploring by bus and gondola telecabine. We’ve made trips for groceries and wandered through the ski shops up at the resort center. In Meribel center, twice a week, there is an open market with vendor’s booths selling cheeses and candy, jewelry and polar fleece, dried fruit and sausages.
On Tuesday, we spent far too much on the fabulous cheeses and bags full of candy at this open market. Naturally, everyone in our family liked the most expensive cheese samples the very best. On Friday, when I returned with my camera to take photos, the woman selling candy, who happily took over 30 euros for her fancy confections yelled at me and told me I would have to pay her 10 euros if I wanted to take a photo of her colorful stand. Clearly, I won’t return for more candy when the girl’s bags have been emptied. Fortunately, the cheese man made no such threats.
In Paris, which has a reputation for snobbery, we were met with more grace and kindness than anywhere here in the mountains. When we were dragging our baggage through the metro, not once did the girls navigate a stairway where somebody didn’t lend them a hand. At each turn where we even looked confused, people stopped and offered help. Shopkeeper’s greetings were warm and people in the ticket booths were happy to help.
Here, in Meribel, many of the workers have the tired look of the end of a long tourist season. Faces that have seen too many skiers and helped too many confused tourists that don’t speak their language well, if at all. Of answering the same questions and pointing out the same bathrooms for endless days. I recognize the vacant look from my years working at Mount Bachelor and from the dude ranch. By the end of the season, I wanted to hide and do nothing except go stare at trees. Here, in the Alps, it translates into a grocery store clerk who says not a word nor looks at the customer, shoving and endless stream of food over the scanner, the bus driver who is a bit too short with the passengers, and the woman at the candy booth yelling at her customer.This evening, the first of our friends arrive. By the end of the week, we will have a house full of guests; those who have come to share in a part of our experience here, skiing and eating the amazing Savoyard cheeses, sausages, and wines. We will need to move our community school and work desk off the dining room table to make way for meals together. The party is arriving.
At home, we often spend a Saturday entirely at the house. Yesterday was our traveling version. The girls watched a movie, and I read for hours. We played cards and stepped out on the balcony to look at the valley. No school, very little work. A bit of laundry, and lots of quiet. Time for staring at the trees.