OK, this is probably going to to be one of my most personal and longest posts (and probably the last for a while), so if you are more interested in the weather, or Liverpool FC I suggest that you do not read on.
A few years ago, me and an ex of Italian extraction (let’s call him Alberto) set off in a hire car from Lyon to head to the fairly inaccessible ski resort of St Sorlin D’Arves, 1600m up in the Haute Savoie. I must point out that this was in a fairly early stage of our relationship (three months) and I feel that we still did not know each other particularly well.
…Anyway, we were speeding along a beautiful straight stretch of empty autoroute, when a car approaching from the other way, out of the Frejus tunnel, flashed us. A. didn’t appear to notice, but I said to him that driver is trying to tell us something, perhaps there’s been an accident, maybe we’d better slow down – but he seemed not to hear me.
As we exited the tunnel, predictably enough we spotted the gendarmes in their little layby, and yes, they pulled us over, and that’s where the nightmare began. A. seemed pretty carefree, and stayed in the front seat while I pulled down my top a bit, and prepared to ‘charm’ the grizzled old officer and his teenage assistant. But they looked most unimpressed as I struggled to ascertain in my rusty schoolgirl French that we had to pay 90 Euros in cash immediately, and sign something to declare we had committed the crime of driving at 155kph in a 120 zone.
Well, guess who hadn’t bothered getting any currency out in advance, and guess who coughed up 90 of my 100 Euros cash, and was trying to suppress tears of anger and frustration while A. mocked me in his sunny way; ‘Are you crying?..Are you crying?…’ I should have known that this was something of a warning sign.
I somehow managed to put the incident behind me, and we left the motorway and hit the local roads into the mountains. This is where I had to discard my internet directions printout as the instructions were given in road numbers eg E72, but the roads were only ever marked in names, eg Rue de la Fourchette etc.
It was getting towards evening as we arrived at the grimmest ski resort I have ever set eyes on. No trees, no people, no snow – just concrete tower blocks. Welcome to Corbiere. We weren’t supposed to go through here, according to my printout, but by now A. was following theSatNav that kept ominously saying ‘recalculating route’ and was sending us in an ever decreasing spiral that ended up on a steep icy side road, leading to a piste, which the SatNav insisted we drive up.
At this point I cracked.
I managed to ask a guy who said we had to drive back several kilometres, and get back on the E72 or whatever it was called, and I had a feeling he was right. The were no roads out of Corbiere except back, so we must have missed a turning somewhere. Oh yes, and at one point during this disastrous bit of the journey A. was distracted by my shuffling papers and had to slam on the brakes as we nearly plunged over a cliff. I still shudder about that moment even now.
So we turned round and set off to retrace our steps about 20 kilometres, and hopefully never go anywhere near Corbiere again. At this point it was starting to get dark, and there was no way we were going to get to our concierge by 8pm to pick up the keys to our apartment. This is where A. really started to lose the plot. He insisted on stopping the car, opening the laptop, and trying to find an email address to contact the travel company to let them know we would be late. But of course we were high in the Alps where WiFi and Satellite connections are unreliable to say the least. I had to practically shake him out of it, and persude him to just drive…Eventually we did arrive at the pleasant village of St Sorlin, found our block, and I did what anyone with half a brain would do: marched into the nearest cafebar, where a smiling lady sat us down, got us beers, and looked up a number in a battered old notebook. Ten minutes later, another smiling friendly local arrived with a key, and although we were both still shaking, I knew the worst was over, for the moment.
We did have a very enjoyable holiday, though everyone we spoke to laughed heartily when we told them about the journey, and they all said of course SatNav doesnt work in the mountains – everyone is always late getting here! We even returned to that resort on another occasion – not missing the turning this time, but experiencing a whole new set of adventures involving snow chains…We had a few more good months together before things started to go seriously wrong, and well, warning signs are usually accurate, and maybe shouldn’t be taken as a sign of imminent doom, but perhaps should just be borne in mind rather than shut away forcefully under lock and key…but hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Now it’s your turn…