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Last updated : Nov 2009
Part 1: The fellowship of the snow
Rating: (4.8) (20 votes)

Meribel Valley, France,
January 6th, 2003

Pros: Great food and fresh snow!!
Cons: none

Part 1 – "The Fellowship of the Snow"

Justin at Lyon Airport at approx 9:30pm at night. All in very bad French/English.

Justin: Ahh excusy ma, umm bus to Meribel tonight please.
Information Woman: Last bus left at 7pm no more until 9am tomorrow.
Justin: Ummm, you sure?
IW: Wee, yes.
J: Hmmm anywhere to sleep?
IW: Hotel, expensive or around the corner there are some airport seats with
no arms.... should be ok comfy.
J: Umm Merci!

This is going to be a long trip!!!!

Well on the road again and having a ball. A trip to Southern France for Xmas and New Years was in call. To say that the trip was interesting was an understatement and to say that it was crazy as one would expect would be the truth!

So hold onto your ski poles and do up those bindings we are off to France
With my flight not leaving until 5pm on the 23rd December, a half day of work was in call. In short this was to ensure that everything was in order so when I came back I still had a job. With the old trustee and oversized backpack packed once again this time with ski pants, ski jacket, an Afro (oh yes) and other stuff that I seem to take but never use I was ready for the France and the snow.

With my eyes on the clock and 1pm closing in, that was my sign to work my way to Stanstead airport for my flight to Lyon. Now because I invested in a cheap flight to France you have to get an airport which is miles away – in hindsight makes you weigh up if cheap is actually worth it, once you have paid for transfers and tickets etc. But it does give you heaps of time to think about what stuff you can put in your journal.

The train pulls at the airport and expecting to hear Xmas carols, I hear the following announcement which does not really bring comfort "Attention, this is a fire alarm. Please stay calm and wait until further instructions if required. This is a warning…stay calm" this message was repeated every 20 seconds for the next 40 minutes while standing in line.

Everyone was having a bit of giggle about it, except for the man in front of me who explained to me that he had been from one line to another etc and he had been waiting for 90 minutes. The funniest thing he said was that even if the fire was within 2 feet of him he would not move – he just wants to get on his flight.. That is travel commitment with a capital ‘C’.

So as I approach the lady behind the desk, who looks like she has had enough of Xmas crowd trying to check in 5 minutes before their flight, I calmly inform her that there is a fire in the building at that she should stay calm until further notice….. she looked at me and I thought she was going to scream – but she had a good old laugh.

I think she appreciated the laugh because I believe I received the equivalent of a business class upgrade with Easyjet.... the emergency seat! Did not even ask for it! Score “Justin 1, World 0”

After only a 40 minute delay I am on the plane in my extra roomy emergency seat, when a hostess asks me if I am strong and healthy and will be able to open the door in an emergency. "Of course, just tell the pilot not to crash on this flight please".... France here I come!

Being in the UK is my first experience of travelling on the cheap flights, they seem to miss out on a few things to reduce the cost – food, water, those little things you put over your eyes oh and pilots!

For those who know me, I am a bit of organiser in day to day life, but travel wise I like to go with the flow, but I had a very strong feeling that with the fight delays and me just landing at Lyon with no pre-booked transfer to get the 250km transfer to Meribel Snow Resort I would be struggling. And you would be right!

Of course, the little mind of Mr Cormack, was in full swing and noticing the couple sitting next to me - him big ski jacket with all the cool logos, her with a big ring and big woollen jumper - I figure 1. They are rich, 2 They are French and 3. Maybe they might be going in my direction. Noticing the guy reading the flight emergency card again for the 7th time I offer them my magazine with a smile, “Would you like to flick through this?” People say that this is kindness, but I call it a bribe.

As the plane descends, the magazine is handed back and I implement conversation of "Where are you going in France" to my complete dismay I am informed that they are here for Xmas and will be staying in Lyon with family... Nooooooo my chance of a lift to Meribel disappears like an ice cube in the Sahara Desert! Damn!

Off the plane and my pack is one of the first off the conveyor belt where I work my way to the information desk. Now as you would have read my conversation with the information woman at the top of the journal, you would note that I did not get very far with a transfer at all. In hindsight the least she could have done is offered for me to crash at her place until the next morning.... but nooo! Out to speak with the taxi man and ask how much to get to Meribel.... "Come on come on they shout, you sit in back I drive…” again I ask “how much" - in short they wanted to namely sum of 250 Euros or 175 pounds or 400+ Australian dollars... umm not today my friend.

With the hours going pass and the lounges in the airport looking more and more appealing, I decide to try plan H, head down to the rent a car place and hang out there like a bum and see if anyone can give me a lift. As I work my way down, I see a English couple and a son with a snowboard walking around and I assume to a rent a car….

Me: Excuse me, you are not heading to Meribel by any chance.
Son: You better ask them (pointing at the parents.)
J: Excuse me, you are not heading to Meribel by any chance?
Couple: Heading 5km out of it, want a lift
JACKPOT
J: You kidding me, this is amazing! Thank you so so much! Wow, I really thought I was going to have to sleep at the airport blah blah blah.

As I follow the group to what I assume would be a hire car, turns out to be a their own brand new Range Rover 4x4, with full leather interior and full length sunroof so I can see the stars above me….. and we are off. “Score: Justin 2 Rest of World 0”

To tell you it is a small world, turns out that the son is working for the same investment firm that I am currently contracting too! The father has worked with Deloitte Touche and somehow we have known the same people within the business circle... wow! And they thought they picked up an Australian bum! Well they did but a bum who has worked before…

After about 3 hours driving at 100miles an hour with visibility of 4 metres, we get to Meribel where I can get a bus to the top of the mountain and find my accommodation. Problem is, the buses stopped about an hour ago.

Not sure if it was my charm or they felt sorry abandoning an under clothed Australian in the freezing cold, but they offer to take me to the top and to make it even better help me find my accommodation! Talk about service. Being the person I am I offer money, coffee or beer, with no luck. So all in all a transfer of 3 hours and 250miles cost me 1/2 can of Pringles that I shared with the son! Ha - about time lady luck looked down on me for a change!!!

As I get into the accom there is a note on the door welcoming me and Jez (I
had no idea that he would be travelling for the next 18 hours to get here... well I guess lady luck cannot help two people at once... sorry Jez). The note states that our bedroom is 3rd on the left and there is food in the fridge... I find the bedroom no problems, but with 4 other doors none of them labelled ‘bathroom’, I begin to analyse the doors to determine which one would be the bathroom... (give me a break it is 1am and the altitude must have got to me…), I think it took me about 20minutes starring at doors and door handles. The last thing I wanted to burst into someone’s room and frighten them and have a ski pole jammed up my arse! Again lady luck helped me and I burst into the bathroom! Bingo

So quick shower and then to the fridge find a plate of salmon waiting... yes! Ahhh no microwave and it now being about 2pm, I abandon the salmon and grab half a French stick and a jar of jam.... sleep I need sleep!

Awoken the next morning by people getting ready to ski, I open the window to see SNOW! Funny about that! As I get out of my room (the size of a closet) I am welcomed by a family of Scottish who are on there way out! With Alice the chalet ‘looka after person’ cooking breakfast I am feeling right at home! Ahh the French Alps everywhere.... one could get used to this.

Spend the day walking around and caught up with Sarah, Chris, Paul and Amanda (Cousin, Cousin Boyfriend, Cousin Boyfriend Brother, Cousin Boyfriend Brother Wife respectively) for coffee and fill them in about my previous adventures. Just remember that this is Xmas eve and find that there are about 30 people who look like Santa skiing down the slopes.

Get to back to the chalet for an afternoon drink and chat with my new family where Mr Jez comes around the corner in the not so best mood! After about 18 hours of travel and mis directions he arrives... “Welcome to France” I yell with a big smile on my face, I think the response was something like "F..k me, is this the f.. place…. Finally!! . After a shower and his mouth washed out, we settled in for a drink and food.

I am pleased to announce that I will not be competing in the 2008 winter Olympics, actually I will not be competing in the under 4s skiing contest. To say that I cannot ski is the truth, to say that I am intimidated by 3 year olds flying down the mountain is so so true! With Xmas day dawning and hiring our ski gear we walk out towards the slope to find that it is starting to snow! Thank you god, I have come 4 billion kilometres around the world and you have answered my wishes for a white Xmas.

So skiing huh, I can do this, clip one oversized boot into a long ski that has zero grip on ice, then put the next oversized boot in another ski and fall on your arse. Multiply this by 8 hours, 15 bruises, 1 broken hip, 2 painful calves and you have had a grand old time skiing. Lets put it this way, after lets say 4 minutes and 34 seconds I was ready to walk back to the ski shop and ask for my 20 euros back and exchange it for 24 cans of beer, but with Jez next to me and some harsh words practised we did. I was given my lesson of ‘snowploughing’ on a slope that could be classified as a "pink slope", not green for easy or blue for intermediate, but pink for “almost flat you girl!" So after a number of attempts I am happy to say that I mastered the snow plough and started on some really advanced stuff… like turning!

I did enjoy the skiing but the French Winter Olympics team have nothing to fear. Which gives me an opportunity to pick on the people who ski and board. Let me talk about the outfit, if they ever decide to make an Austin Powers movie set in the snow, there are some people out there who still have the full length “out there” outfits. I mean some of these outfits are really disturbing. I actually saw one woman with an outfit that was so fluorescent that I am sure she had some batteries somewhere to keep it shining.
And to laugh at the people who attempt to walk in snow boots is funny, but to actually see people attempt to run in them and fall on their arse,… that is even funnier!

As for the kids, better known as crazy ones. When God was creating humans I think he decided to put ‘Fear’ on a delay stage for when you grow up – these kids fear nothing. They fly past you and anyone in their way….. I am sure they must get home, after a big day skiing and have a nice big glass of milk with their mates there conversation starts something like….

“Did you see that Australian guy today, wow was he the worst skier you have seen”? “Pass me the chocolate biscuits Mikey, it is nearly 6 and I will have to head off to bed soon”

So with Xmas lunch prepared and a smart choice to not purchase a undersized turkey, it was opted to have wine, cheese, meats, chicken, bread etc for the main course. To start with fresh Escargot (snails).. As I had not consumed these little suckers before I was very keen, but once they are in your mouth and you have the thought of "Jesus, I am eating a snail" takes a little while to get down, but I have to admit they were very nice and will definitely be investing in them again in the near future. Xmas was very
relaxing and enjoyable and was nice mix of Australian and French!

Not sure if it is just me, but after the consumption of too much wine, our chalet appeared to have moved to the altitude of about 5000 metres above sea level. We climbed and climbed, slipped on snow and ice. Finally we get back and climb into our closet that is called a bedroom and crashed…. Ah Xmas over and New Years to go!!

Whilst the others spent the next day or so "carving it up”, I enjoyed the snow to its finest by completing some amazing walks, through snow covered forests and frozen lakes. Taking lots and lots of photos which I will post on the site once developed!

As the first week comes to an end, we awake to find that is has snowed all night and the Meribel valley looks completely different with fresh powder lining the ground, cars and chalets. Very beautifully looking! But alas, Jez and I need to make another journey to another place in France named St Jean De Sixth to make our mark again.

Talking about marks – it is impossible to write “Justin was hear in 2002!” in the snow! Trust me I tried on many occasions, it usually followed with me yelling “ Hey Jez, how to you spell extraordinary….. quick hurry up!”

Well that is the end of Part 1, the fellowship of the snow and with Part 2 – “The Twin Afros” in progress. I promise it will not take too long. Just needs to get through censorship.

On complete separate side – just wanted to advise, gloat, brag to you all that my journal was selected as one of “Featured Journals” at the Travelpod Homepage (www.travelpod.com). This had nothing to do with me meeting Luke (the creator) and paying huge amounts of cash for publicity. But anyway – feel free to spread the word and if you want anyone to be added to the mailing list let me know.
Take care and anyone heading to the snow " carve it up Dude!" - I think that is what they say!
Jay

One of many snow related conversations:-
Jay: (drawing the curtains back) Wow look it has been snowing last night!
Jez: “Snow Way” - get out of here!!!”
Jay: Yep all night, I am ‘snow snow’ glad we came here, it looks beautiful. Hey what time does our bus leave today?
Jez: “Ummmm Snow Idea?”

Part Two “ The Two Afros”

As promised Part 2 is here and unlike the other Lord of the Rings you did not have to wait a year... There is a reason for the weird title but I will explain later.

St Jean De Sixth is somewhere in Sthn France, I am not really sure, but all I know is that we had to get a bus, then a train, then a different train and then another bus and we were there. Being on the move again (even though a short distance) does give me a little bit of a buzz, the whole not knowing what is around the corner, or what transport to get onto or just how to order a sandwich in cafe in French!

So as Jez and I get to our last bus, we find one of the 13 other fellow New Years Eve partiers is on the bus already. Introductions and we are off. Now personally, I enjoy travelling independently, but have to admit there is a bonus of travelling with others. For example being able to say “ Guys, I am going to snooze away here for a while, wake me up when we get there” is an advantage. The disadvantage is trusting your friends to actually wake you when we arrive at the destination. Knowing my friends, I could end up in Afghanistan for all I know.

So as we get to the main town of St Jean (blink and you will miss it), we alight from the bus and start the hunt for the chalet. Turn left, turn right at the post office - said the instructions. It cannot be that hard, we found what looked like a chalet with people unpacking bags etc - now the smart thing would have been to go up to them and ask if this was the chalet, but we figured we would stand back and stare and hopefully get one of those looks of “Yeah - you have found the right place” - but instead they stared back. So we stared harder and you guessed it they stared harder and longer..... Allowing enough time to break the stare and look elsewhere, I actually saw the sign for the chalet....

Into the chalet to meet the hosts, have to admit the chalet was beautiful. Nice big lounge and dinning room, with an enormous kitchen. 3 Bedrooms (into 13 - will let you work the numbers out). So what to do - with the others not expected until 8pm tonight we would wonder down and purchase food for dinner tonight.

Now personally, I struggle to cook enough food for 4 people, but for 13 give me a break!!! So into the only supermarket in St Jean. Pasta on the menu - 4 packets of pasta, 2 massive French sticks, 3 jars of sauce, 15 tomatoes, 3 capsicums, 2 onions and a shitload of garlic and some breakfast goods and we are done! Unfortunately the shop does not contain any more supplies for pasta.... As the rest of the crew get to the chalet, the cooking begins, now the saying “Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth”, but I think it was more like “Too many cooks in the chalet kitchen, means someone is going to get stabbed”…..

Being the antipodean’s that we are, when New Years eve dawned onto us and breakfast was out the way by about 11ish. The only thing left to do was, to drinking. With only 3 hours before New Years Eve in Melbourne, Australia , a few drinks was definitely in call. As 2pm rollout around and the Men at Work “Land Downunder” anthem began to play we popped our champagne,.... or really just opened another Kronenburg beers and New Years Eve had started!

Oh did I mention that we then continued to celebrate NYE in Adelaide (30 mins later), Queensland (1 hour later) and then Perth (few of hours later of that)- hell at this stage we where prepared to celebrate NYE for Poland, Russia, China and those little islands somewhere in the Pacific that no one knows the name of. And each time, that same Land Downunder tune was cranked out - have no idea what other people in the chalet were thinking.

So as the day ended and NYE eve in France drew closer - time to get changed and ready to party French Style. Or should I say 70’s style - yes some smart cookie had suggested that we make this a 70s NYE and I would like to thank whoever that person was - what a funny night.

Before the trip, Jez and I had invested our hard earned cash into two ummm... Arfros lets call them - what they looked like where two animals involved in roadkill. The previous week we had given them a test run in Meribel to get pre-approval and a laugh - the French just did not get it.

So with everyone dressed and running around the house getting drinks and nibbles, I look around and see the Two Afros, a Tina Turner look-alike, A blonde bombshell with crazy glasses (which would be broken before events begin), more afros, flares, bad shirts, headbands, peace beads - well you can imagine it looked pretty crazy. But this is where it gets crazier:-

Someone “Did anyone organise a taxi?”
Everyone: “Ummm no”, “Uh uh”, “Nope”, “Non” Someone Else: “Lets just hitch hike up the mountain”
Everyone: “Great idea”.

Now close your eyes (well actually do not close them), but imagine 13 individuals dressed from head to toe in 70’s gear going outside in freezing conditions attempting to try and get a ride up the mountain. What we worked out straight away that we do not think anyone is going to stop for 13 - so let’s split up.

Jez and I being the smart ones, leapt ahead to secure a ride. Being smartly dressed and with a wigs of love on - it was going to be the matter of minutes before a French driver would pickup Austin Powers and John Travolta.

As vehicles approached I would put my trustee thumb out and Jez would strike a “John Travolta” pose - you know the one, one hand up and one down! As the first couple of cars went by without slowing - we laughed it off. By the time we were half way up the mountain my thumb was getting sore and to be honest Jez’s poses were a bit on the poor side.

But then when all hope was lost - a car pulled to the side and showed us his lit brake lights. The Two Afros had a ride!! Turns out that friends of ours had hailed him down and when they saw us asked him to stop - in short he had no intention of stopping at all.. But alas a ride we had (for the last 1km) and to the party we were going!

With all the crew managing to secure lifts from strangers we arrived at approx 10:30pm to the place where it was going to go off – problem was that we were the only people in there, except for a small group here and there... hmmm. But it does not matter. What matters is we look like fools, it is New Years Eve and we are in France!!!!...

I do believe that the bar staffs were quite impressed with costumes as he was the first with his camera out. “Flash” “Flash” cameras left right and centre - oh to be famous!

Note: From here the nights events went should we say all over the place, but I am going to try and give you a summary of things and events, in quotes that I remember hearing...:-

“Jez your shout”, “Yeah it is really my hair”, “Excuse me can you tell me the way to the Thunderdome”, “More beer please”, “Who’s got my glasses”, “, “Hi how are you, what is your name... pardon?”, “Yes it is my real hair”, “A bottle of vodka please!”, “Who has got the ice cube”, “Who has got the ice cube now”, “Look at those goons dressing up”, “Chiiiiikoooo.. What the?”,”The thunder dome?”, “Nice moves maaaan”, “That is the worst shirt I have seen tonight”, “Get your finger away from me...”, “Ohhh Oxford”, “Jay your shout”, “I think I need to go home”, “Just stay away from foreign”, “Did those guys just kiss...”, “Can I get you a drink”, “Who’s shout”, “So you are french, my french is crap”, “Australia not United Kingdom....”, “Aussie aussie assuie.....” “Who is that guy?”, ”How many people are here” “ Two of your finest french beers please”, “Toilets... which way”, “5,4,3,2,1 Happy New Year”, “You want to wear my hair - no chance”, “ Who’s got the Aussie hat”, “Chiiiiikooo” And that is about it... I think. :-)

There was another great mystery that did happen during the night which I am still trying to research. Supposedly there is a french TV celebrity named “Chikko”. Now as I was wearing a rather large black coloured Curley Afro hairdo, it gave the French the permission somehow to yell out to me “Chikkkooo” at any stage of the night. By about 3am, I finally found a Frenchman who spoke broken English, who I asked “What is C
Chikkoo”. He then continued to inform me:-

Me: “What is chiko”
Him: “Chickko, TV Man, celebrity, he man curley big hair and big and strong - like you my friend (Laughing)!
Him again: (Top of voice) “ Chhhhhhiiiiiikkkkkkoooo”
People standing arond: "Chikkkkkkooo"
- He then went and bought me a drink.

From that point on, Chickko was my name and I actually somehow learnt to introduce myself in French as Chikko - that skill has now been erased from my brain forever. And the drinks kept coming!

So there you have it - with NYE gone and the group debrief in the mornig to attempt to put the jigsaw back together. 2003 was here. Everyone vowed to do this and do that - but as for me I think I have vowed to find out who this Chiko guy is....

A great New Years Break held by all! And I think the quote of week came as we spent the next day on the couch talking and laughing about the events of the previous nights actions, most of them embarrasing. "Oh that was so so last year!"

Now I hoped you did not think all we did was drink and party whilst in France? Of course I did manage to see some of the country… so stay tuned for Part 3 “The Return of two guys who went to France” where I put a couple of notches in my hitch hiking belt and talk about time in Lyon, the cold and going to the movies French style.

PART 3 - "The Return of the Afros"

Keeping to the lord of the rings theme - part 3 in the movie is title "Return of the King" I believe, so I guess this should be called "Return of the Afros" - not very exciting – but hey you are still going to read on … aren’t you??

So, back at St Jean De Sixth and the days coming to an end and hangovers slowly disappearing, I decided to take a look at this big old country they call France. Well, that meant I would try and hitchhike my way down the mountain to the city of Annecy (approx 40km). I figured we were able to hitch hike up the mountain (4km), being able to hitch hike down the mountain for 40km should not be too hard.

On with the jeans, beanie, gloves and the waterproof jacket and off I went. As I started to walk down I thought about different hitchhiking techniques used in movies and reviewed past experiences. Do I wave, or smile, beanie on or off. ohh what to do??. Hitchhiking was easy in Egypt and Jordan - you were different and they figured they could rob you blind afterwards... but here I am in France and you know what they say about the French attitude.... not the friendliest people in the world.

Analysing the surroundings and ensuring that there would be enough room for a car, truck or perhaps one of those luxury 4x4 (hmmm I hope so) to stop. I rolled up the sleeve of my jacket, gave my thumb a few stretches (to avoid injury...) and out she went. Now at the particular moment, I imagined God is sitting above the clouds minding his own business, until he sees me stick out my thumb. Assuming, that he is a bit of a practical joker - he decides to make my challenge a little harder - he made it rain. Not normal rain, but rain that will soak you completely in 11.4 seconds, rain that comes in sideways, rain that is ice cold - so here I am thumb out, starting to shiver, soaking wet looking and looking for a ride. No one even slowed or acknowledge my existence... 10 minutes in still nothing.

Then it happened, a car pulled over, I looked over my shoulder to ensure that it was for me, I ran over and opened the door. To my surprise, a little old lady smiled at me. People who pick up hitchhikers are not what you expect, as I open the door a little old lady greeted me in French. "Bonjour - Annecy " I called back all excited that she stopped. Before I knew it she was putting her French sticks in the backseat, I guess this was a "yes" and I was on my way. How easy is that I naively thought, nice car, heating going yeahhaaa nothing can stop me today....!

Exactly 4.5km later she pulled over and pointed down the mountain saying "Annecy", because her English was so little - I worked out that she was not going any further and this was the end of my ride... Now I am further away from the shelter of the Chalet and a little bit closer to my destination. The look on my face must have been the face of inexperienced, I was thinking "you want me to go back out there in the rain???". Come on Justin what are you a man or a French frog legs....

Back on the road and the rain still pelting down. Wet beanie back on and thumb out. God, give me a break ease up on the rain! Car after car passed - smiling, waving, looking desperate. Exactly why are you doing this I ask myself - it is fun, different and will make a great journal entry... yeah right. Then out of nowhere - it stops. Another car - hopes are rising again. I run over and open the door "Bonjour - Annecy" - "Wee" - is the reply from a young French woman!

Into the car I say something along the lines of "Hi, Australia" and "You speak English?" Then it happens English comes out of her mouth. Turns out she is going all the way through Annecy - confidence is up and the day begins. Turns out she is a medical student in her 7th year and is on her way to another mountain to ski where there are no ski lifts or actual ski runs... and "you are going to be a doctor I ask?". As she had travelled to the odd place I had we talked about the people we had meet and places we had been too. Also I became an English teacher trying to assist with words – guess those years of charades paid off. Before I knew it, Annecy was approaching, with its enourmous lake in the middle of the town and the mountains in the background – amazing views.

So with the winds howling through the small city, I spent the day in and out of little shops, tasting the French cuisine of pastries and French sticks. With the sun coming out (now that I am not trying to get a ride) and people wondering around the coble streets of Annecy, it really began to look French (if there is such a look) - very very relaxing. Found myself a little café to kick back and write postcards (which still have not been sent) and let the day pass. All in all a good day out - oh just for your info I got the bus back up the mountain – this bunny had enough and needed some sleep.

After another big last night of drinking and running havoc in the town. The time has come to clean the chalet and move on back to reality. Because Jez and I are cheap travellers we decided to fly out on the Monday giving us two nights left in France. I really enjoyed France, but I was kinda of just looking forward to getting home and recovering but we have two nights in France. Ok - back to Lyon to do some Lyon stuff and then home.

A quick bus ride to the train station and onto one of Frances better things - the trains. I am a big fan of train travel and enjoyed the opportunity to lay my weary head for a while. Now I did not realise but these trains crack up a fair speed - and the worst thing to think of whilst sitting on a train moving at 200 miles per hour - hmmm I hope we do not crash head on with another train... Because I am going to spill my coke all over my new shirt!!

But alas, nothing dreadful happened and we get to Lyon with no major problems.

Onto Lyon we head, see this is the bit where I give you some sort of background to Lyon, talk about how it was an ancient area for war and the people bounded together and raised a flag to set up a city that is beautiful from every direction - but the truth is I did not have a Lonely planet which I would copy the information out of, so that is all I have to say about that.

But what I can tell you is what I got up to in Lyon. Off the train from Annecy we caught the local bus to the street where the hostel would be nearby. At first I did not really think much of Lyon, it looked like a normal city - old buildings, big river down the middle but then I actually started to look around and notice the little shops, bars and restaurants
Set in the front of old historical buildings. Not a bad looking place....

Off the bus and towards the hostel, now some smart cookie decided to purchase residence to put a hostel at the top of Lyon – I mean at the top. Someone should have actually thought "Well, since there will be BACKPACKERS" staying here we may as well make it the steepest hill in Europe - no the steepest hill in the Northern Hemisphere actually. So we walked and walked and finally found the place to rest our weary heads - I recommend staying at the YHA hostel in Lyon to anyone heading in that direction - very nice and the views amazing!

As sunset falls, we all take a walk up towards the top of the lookout and try and work out particular sites and sounds of the city. Off to bed to get some rest, just as I get to sleep, 3 French guys having a chat in the share-room wake me. It appeared that they were chatting to a 4th person on the phone. Now I am only human and if the opportunity arises to have a listen to people talk or a telephone call I am all ears, but this conversation was not only in French but sounded like drunk talk

Not really sure what they talked about but I am sure they talked about the normal things that guys talk about when pissed with other mates "The Weather, the education system, thoughts on political stances with Iraq and of course cooking!"...

Trust me when I say, I had all the right intentions of becoming a tourist the next morning and seeing the sights of Lyon, but things took a drastic turn when I awoke. "Jez, I am snoozing through the morning" - enjoy your morning and will catch you later. The previous weeks had caught up. At about 11am, I eventually get up, grab my camera gear I headed out to Lyon to explore.

Now I have been in cold weather in the past where it is uncomfortable...Melbourne, Nepal, London even - but for some reason in Lyon it was the coldest I have ever experienced! Piercing winds through jackets and beanies, snow falling and ears that cold that if you brushed past them with your hands, they would either sting for the next 4 hours or just fall off.

Without any shops open on a Sunday (have they not heard of Sunday shopping), to jump into to defrost, I staggered around the place shivering until my rendezvous with Jez came around. So what to do?

Ahh an Ice Rink - being the keen photographer that I have turned into... I thought it would be great to take some character shots of kids trying to Ice Skate. So here I am with my camera leaning over the edge of the railing, snapping away at kids falling over and watching parents panic and try and catch them before they land on their arse. Ahh isnt this nice and funny I gleefully thought. Now that is what it looked like to me - but this is what it looked like to a French Security guard.

When the guard approached me and said something in French, which I could not fully understand and with his body language I just got the idea pretty quickly that he wanted me to leave in a hurry by his body language.

So with my body temperature dropping by the second to a painful death, I catch up with Jez and crew and off to get some lunch! After consuming the largest pizza ever in the history of pizza making, a decision had to be made to kill the afternoon.... hmmmm - I was not interested in wondering around in the streets in the cold and get beaten up security guards for the next 5 hours.

A movie!! Yes, it would be warm and I am sure if we saw one of the big movies they would be sub titled!! What a great idea.... How wrong could we be????

Off to the Cinema and the selection of "Lord of the Rings Part 2" was made. Attempting to buy tickets was hard enough - so we did not bother attempting to ask if the movie would be in English with French sub titles or French with English subtitles. As we climb the cinema stairs, I look across and see what looks like the new DeNiro movie with French subtitles at the bottom of the screen - "Yes" - I thought, what a relief - imagine sitting through 3
hours of Lord of the rings in French.

As we get into the cinema and find our seats of prime viewing and start taking off the layers of jackets and scarfs we had layered on, the previews of other movies begin. All in French - even big USA movies. Oh oh - doubt starts climbing back into my mind. Please god, please god and then it happens.... that opening title comes up and the word PRESENTS – has the e's, with that little hangy thing above it.

Like being poked in the eye with your own finger, the title comes up on the screen. What we are expecting are the words "Lord of the Rings" instead we get "Le Seguma" or something crap like that... Noooooooo – 3 hours of French!!

How hard can it be - I wondered? Surely my French vocob, which contains 4 words, it cannot be to bad, can it? It is funny how they say that the French language is the most romantic language in the world and even watching swordsmen and devils fight it out – it still looked very romantic. Not really understanding the story completely, I have a feeling it is about 2 guys trying to hide their love for each other, one guy has this gold ring, which the other guy likes and wants, but for some reason the main guy has this other lover that he needs to deliver the ring too. At the same time, there is these two old men who keep comparing the size of their sticks and a bunch of weird other Moulin Rouge characters who dance around with devils and demons. There you have it 3 hours later we all walked out quite confused…. but it was fun in a way – and warm!

So as night fell, Jez and I invested some of our last Euros into some more French Beer and reminised about the previous 14 days. Ahhhh how romantic! Next morning, we said fairwell to the city of Lyon and boarded our plane.

Another adventure comes to an end and the planning of a new one begins!!

Editors Note: I hope you have enjoyed the stories of France - sorry to keep them long. Again would like to thank everyone for their emails and just to answer a few questions that you have asked – the book will be on sale when I return to Australia. Kylie Minogue and I ARE together but we are trying to keep it tight lipped and yes I have been kicked out of my house in London and am now crashing on the floor at Tony Blair’s house at Nº 10 Downing… Take care everyone!