Now that I have mastered the basic comings and goings of life in this frozen winter playground, I am feeling somewhat accomplished. I am able to successfully navigate my way through ordering anything from a live sheep to toenail clippers at the market. I finally find my way to the right home from all of the places I frequent which the avalanche patrol helicopter crew really appreciates as I don’t need to keep getting rescued from dangling off a crag with my groceries; I even know the secret paths and which snowbank you can crawl over that will get you there faster. I can answer the phone in a French accent and ward off telemarketers. I willingly offer directions to a stranger (no guarantee they will be accurate) and tell him where the bus will be stopping along the way to Chamonix. I soar my way through the magnetic detector on the “very-familiar-with-your-butt-bar” ski lift and have for the most part, avoided crashing into trees on my way down. I can walk in my ski boots without being pointed at and called nicknames like, “Two-Ton Tony”. As a future goal, I hope to learn how to tell jokes in French so I can make stand-up comedy my night job. It’s all part of the adjustment I suppose, allowing for the expansion of my brain, with the greater goal of….well, I couldn’t tell you, but I’m sure there is a greater goal.
All of these newfound talents are definite pluses on my journey here, aspects of daily life that cause time to just melt away, and help me get from point A to point B. However, the reasons for my being here bring the true lessons….Tom and Julie, and their many chalet guests!
I know I brag about all the Lean Cuisine and Chef Boyardee I have learned to make, but honestly…hand-crafting a meal is just a little too much to put on my plate right now. Being the true entertainer I am, I would rather spend time performing circus acts, and political impersonations for our guests while my best friend (the can opener) awaits in the kitchen.
So, let me tell you about who has come to enjoy these dinners and more…
For dinner we have had the count and countess of Les Grassonetts, where I live. Jackie and Katrine. Best friends of Julie’s and French to the core, we enjoyed a very lively meal and I was happy to win the approval of Katrine’s palette with my cookery. Katrine is a ski instructor at the mountain I fall my way down most days, and Jackie is a ski guide and artist, who reads Greek philosophy on his days off. Their visit taught me that in France, one leaves the dirty plates in front of the guests/diners until every single person has finished eating. Needless to say, I did a lot of finger twiddling during this meal. We’ve also had the Roots, a non-rusted English couple who I knew would appreciate the flavors of India with a curry, and the ever-loyal Christine, Julia’s caretaker here in Chamonix. Christine is probably by far my favorite person. She is a spitfire of a Frenchwoman and has a heart that would bend over backwards for you, even if she were on skis. I think this woman knows absolutely EVERYTHING there is to know about everything. Though she would never tell you so. Which is why I was so happy that she gobbled down the dinner I made with all the “Bon appetit” in her body! Then again, it’s not like I tried to woo her with French crepes or anything; and pretty much everyone likes takeout pizza….
U.B. and Stassa
Place of origin: Barcelona, Spain
Purpose of visit: Helping me wake up in the morning when my alarm clock is out of commission, and skiing.
I was happy that UB and Stassa were our first guests. I was still adjusting to the time difference and downing Valerian root capsules every two hours, and they were most gracious. Though I know it’s a fib, UB claims to have no knowledge of what his “initals” stand for. Unabashed Bluffing?? He and Stassa came into the chalet and quickly made themselves at home, and I quickly learned about which delicacies they preferred from extra protein to fondue. Stassa, 8, became my new best friend and now pen pal, and I was able to get a lot of practice in my hair-braiding, fingernail-painting, and snowman-building. UB invited me to visit the whole family, in Barcelona on my break, and so it shall be!
Place of Origin: Chamonix, true French woman
Purpose of Visit: Catching up with Julie
Katie came on a night that UB and Stassa were here as well, with dinner for six to prepare, I nervously brought to the table what I thought was Chicken Coq au Vain but really just ended up being a drunken form of Julia Child’s classic recipe. All would have gone well, had I not announced what I made. People would have just thought the chicken got into a bottle of Cognac and topped it off with some red wine. Stassa and salvaged the wishbone from the chicken, and each got an equal piece in the ritualistic breaking. The fact that both of our wishes will come true has a way of taking the sting out of my mis-meal. Everyone ate the chicken up regardless of the original invention while listening to Katie talk about her Kundalini yoga training. I kept watching her to see if she would ascend right before my very eyes, but the root vegetables that I made along with the chicken probably kept her fairly grounded. I did however, after she left, run out and buy sixty white turbans to wear, and Julie and I did a little Kunda-liney of our own. We didn’t quite become superhuman again, like the kriya promised, but Julie did get another bout of her coughing spell due to the Breath of Fire. Julie seems to favor cold climates, maybe we should stick to Breath of Icicles for our next yoga session?
Butters: David and Jane
Place of Origin: England
Purpose of Visit: Dinner
Their visit was short, sweet, and their words melted out of their mouths like….well….Butter. I enjoyed their company and tried my hand at veal to welcome them (which am pretty sure I could hear crying it’s way onto the frying pan and into the oven). Alas, I felt it was entirely too cliche to just set sticks of butter in front of everyone’s faces for dinner. So I avoided what I am sure they get fed a lot and served a poor cow that hasn’t had a chance to live life to it’s fullest.
Martha’s Vineyard Harbor Master, Jay
Place of Origin: See above line
Purpose of Visit: Skiing and showing off his pillow fetish
Jay was a great visitor! Laid back, full of character, and quite helpful in fun factoids and information. He knows someone I know on Martha’s Vineyard, and the reiteration of how small the world is was brought to our attention. Jay and I toured the backwoods on snowshoes one day, while Julie took it off of from skiing, and I got to hear his life story and have a good chat about everything under the sun.
He stayed a week, and then after he left at 6am on a Friday morning, I could finally arrange the pillows on the couch the way I like them without him making forts out of them everyday to read in. I also learned that some people don’t eat vegetables, I never thought this possible until I relentlessly offered him salad every night. He never gave in.
Next up arriving in a few hours: Jill, yoga aficionado from the US. Purpose of her visit: Unspecified thus far. Not to ski though, so I am sure she will want to be my best friend! I am excited to get her input on my backbends and tree pose. I’m going to try to contain my excitement upon her arrival and not run to the door in advanced rotated pretzel pose shouting, “Jill, Jill, look what I can do! (Insert Cheri Oteri jump here) Come look at the great yoga mat I crafted out of furry pine needles and my holey ski socks!”
The key to being a good little Chalet Girl and winning your weekly day off is to anticipate the needs of guests. Know what they want before they know they want it. Learn who likes their soup hot and who likes it cold. Who keeps the door open while going to the bathroom so you have to keep your eyes closed while walking around the house. Who walks in on you going to the bathroom, requiring you to craft a “Do Not Disturb” sign to lug around with you everywhere you go. Who requires an XL towel, or three, who needs pre- and post-bath tub bleachings, and who will punch you in the arm if you sit to close to them at the table, as they gaffaw loudly at your jokes. It’s also important to remember that when it comes to the guests, it’s never a competition. If they are yelling, one should not attempt to yell louder. If they make strange sounds while taking a tubby, it’s not recommended you try to exceed the decibel level of the sounds while they are sleeping. And if they can build a fire better than you….
Well, it’s no reason to put elephant laxatives in their oatmeal.
I MISS YOU!