Thursday afternoon we arrived at Le Giffre campsite in Samoens village. It is a smallish campsite in the valley, with one side bordered by the river and the other by a road. At the far end is a lake which you can walk around.
The entrance of the site is about a 100m walk from the main Grand Massif Express gondola going up to Samoens ski area and there is also a lovely warm kit hut to store ski’s and ski boots when not in use – a welcome relief from walking the other 100m to the pitch we were on.
The site was fairly busy and now the French school holidays have been staggered it was probably quieter with just the Paris kids still off when we first got there. Because of the low number on site they took the opportunity to have less facilities open and from the Monday 1 of the 3 (that I spotted) shower/toilet blocks was completely closed and the one closest to us had the ladies side closed for some cleaning and decorating but we just used the gents’ side instead.
The site itself was quiet and nicely laid out and had some hardstanding and some grass pitches, most with EHU. The shower blocks were well heated and clean with plenty of hot water. The one near the entrance also had washing machines (which had their own washing liquid) & dryers which were €5 & €3 respectively.
Within about 50m of the entrance is a Boulangerie / Patisserie, a ski hire shop and a little café which only opens evenings (except Wednesday) which sells fantastic pizza’s and very nice Burgers which we would highly recommend. The village centre is about a 300m walk and in the snow it was pretty wet and slushy but walking down the road was no problem at all.
For Steven there was fast and reliable wifi internet.
Friday 4th March
We headed out for some skiing walking painfully in our ski boots to the gondola (this was before we discovered the kit hut!) and we joined a short queue to get our lift passes. Having not skied for nearly 2 years (the last time I skied was on a dry slope and I broke 2 bones in my hand!) we headed for the really easy slopes at the Samoens ski area and limited ourselves to 4 hours (we are also not the fittest people on earth so wanted to ease in gently).
The top of the gondola area was really busy with adults and kids alike and we soon found the helpful map board showing all the runs. Soon after we were on the easiest of easy runs trying to remember all those things we learnt over 2 years ago. The fresh snow helped a lot and we were soon speeding down the 2 easiest runs trying not to hit or be hit by other skiers. After lunch up the mountain the weather closed in and we decided to call it a day – the last thing we wanted to do was push it and end up hurting ourselves.
Saturday 5th March
Saturday morning was pretty grotty weather but cleared enough late morning for us to wander around the village which is small and pretty with a few tourist shops, a couple of grocery shops and a supermarket plus a few cafes and bars. Everyone was really friendly and helpful and spoke some level of English (even though I do try at French) and the small brasserie was heaving on Saturday afternoon due to their wonderful food. The only downside was that the shops shut between 12 & 3pm.
Sunday 6th March / Monday 7th March
Sunday we headed up the mountain again, the queues were much longer at the lift pass booths but it didn’t seem too busy up the mountain. Our neighbours on the campsite had suggested we try Morillon which is the next village along but we didn’t feel brave enough that day, instead we went there on the Monday. There is a really long green run at Morillon called Marvel but to get to the top of it you have to have more than a “Debutante” lift pass so we went as high as we could and then joined up with it over 2/3rd down. The run difficulty coding is the average of a run, so you can have steep bits if there are flat bits to average it out and our first look at the run nearly had us heading back to the chair lifts. Instead we took it really slowly to build our confidence and knowledge of the run and it felt like it took us an hour to do about a kilometre. By the end of it our legs and knees were really sore from being in a tense snow plough so we headed for lunch and ended up chatting to another British couple.
After lunch we both felt more confident so gave the same run another go, this time we made it down in less than half the time – amazing what some practice can do. Feeling even more confident we decided on one last run and practically flew down and actually getting into parallel at times – we felt resplendent!
Even better was that I had a massage booked (much to Steven’s envy) for later that afternoon so after a somewhat challenging morning my muscles got a lovely chance to relax.
Tuesday 8th March
Tuesday was a catch up day so I did some washing and Steven did some work. In the afternoon we walked into town and in the evening we headed to our favourite little café just up the road.
Wednesday 9th March
Today we woke up to glorious sunshine and headed straight up the local gondola again. There’s something magical about the alps in winter with crisp white snow and deep blue sky. We were both feeling much more confident after the previous 3 days of skiing and even attempted other runs up the hill that both of us thought were well out of our capabilities on the first day which on the last day we were flying down, weaving between the crowds and then skiing down the next run, getting a chairlift back to the top and doing it all again – great, great fun and we ended the week feeling absolutely delighted with our progress on the slopes and our major of achievement of being fully intact! Well apart from Steven falling off the chair lift exit! Twice! In the same place!
Thursday 10th March
Thursday we headed out early having managed to book a couple of tickets for a tour around CERN at 1.30pm. We stopped to fill up with LPG again on the way and discovered that we’d probably survive about 7 days if we were permanently on gas and about 10 days if we had EHU. During our stay at the campsite we’d left the electric oil heater on during the day, swapping over to the gas Truma in the evening to get the heat at floor level overnight when it was coldest. We have a double floor in our motorhome where the water tanks and pipework live so keeping this warm over the coldest nights was important.
We crossed the border back into Switzerland and headed to CERN. Both of us are wannabe science geeks and the chance to go to the heart of physics in Europe was too good to miss. The tour was conducted by one of the female Italian physics professors who showed us the Atlas detector which was in pre-startup mode so no collisions going on unfortunately, she also showed us the very first collider built in CERN post WW2. I was very impressed with how she translated some very complex theories into concepts that a half intelligent layman could understand and her description of cosmic waves and how they’ve been measured was very enlightening.
CERN was originally set up to attract the great scientific minds back to Europe after WW2, it was also always going to be a public research facility and everything they do there is released to the public for minimal cost, so after Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web some clever person saw its’ potential and bought the design for about €37 which is the cost of the photocoping! Other things like PET scans, MRI and fMRI machines have emerged from the research there aswell as photon cancer treatments. Finally (for my list) some of the engineers and scientists that have figured out how to cool the LHC system down to near 0 Kelvin have moved onto things like the ITER Fusion project which could solve the worlds energy problems one day!
I can’t feign to understand half of what goes on there and I’m not really sure why they are so interested in how the universe started but it inspires me none the less!