Friday, 25 January 2013

Beautiful guests and soon to be familiar faces...

I'm sorry I've been so quiet...

It's only because we are coming to the end of 3 awesome weeks with 3 awesome sets of guests. And it's been a real pleasure. After our nightmare guests a couple of weeks ago it was a real breath of fresh air and a bolster to our experience. We thought we were doomed to a season of guests who we had no connection with. Our manager received a formal complaint, 10 points long, about how incompetent Kerry and I were at our jobs.

I gave simple and honest answers to my management hierarchy. Every piece of feedback prior and after these particular guests was shining and it gave me a real boost in morale. I knew what I was doing was right and I was conducting my job to the fullest. My manager told me not to take things like this too highly. But I have real trouble with that. I want to thrive and excel at everything I do, whether that is clean a toilet, run a chalet, maintain an engineering asset or paint a picture! I take real pride in my work and get great satisfaction from knowing I've pleased a boss, client, friend, relative.

But that's all behind us now.

We have received 2 great snowboarding groups. People where the mountain and the snow is everything to them. People who have 2 winter holidays boarding and no summer holiday. And these are the kind of people I enjoy catering for the most. For them the experience is simply about the mountain and everything it offers. Not whether the toilet roll is folded in to a point or the croutons too big with the soup. It's all about the mountain.

They're probably the best kind of guests because they have the same mindset as me. Kerry hates it when I tell guests, but I am here for the mountain. Yes I take pride in my work, but my primary reason for being here is to ride my snowboard and have a good time. So when I can do both of those things with my guests, of course I'm going to love them!


Unless I make a personal and meaningful relationship with the guests. Which I did with one set. A family of 8 ranging from Grandparent to Grandson and from a place not too far from my home town (Tonbridge Wells). And they shone to me. The epitome of family happiness, all out to enjoy a holiday together. And time together which they admitted they did not get much of at home. But now they were in the Alps, together, and loving it.

Some had skied before, others not, each took it in turns to look after the 2 year old while parents could shoot off over the mountain together. Kerry and I skied with them most days and enjoyed every minute. Conversation was varied and intelligent and I just warmed to them like I can imagine any good chalet host doing. These were wholesome, decent people.

And we are due more! Good friends of ours Alex and Claire are booked in to arrive this coming Sunday! They were initially the only two people booked in for next week. Imagine that! A whole chalet for me, Kerry and our two friends. No uniform, dinner when we want, one room to ... maybe... make. A holiday.

But alas, it wasn't to be. We had two more guests book mid week and then by Thursday the whole chalet was booked out! 10 full guests! So a panic trip down the mountain to the supermarket was needed and we are now prepared. It really will be awesome to see some familiar and friendly faces. I can't wait.

As far as boarding is concerned I am now a full on powder hound. I love the stuff! I like nothing more than that woooosh of fresh, deep powder under my board. (It also doesn't hurt when you fall!) The feeling of pulling off a lovely set of turns through an untracked powder field is second to none. I now know why the ski-bums come to Sainte Foy. The powder.

Here is a little montage of clips to illustrate my love of the off piste. Trees are a new venture for me, but one I'm starting to like more and more.


Sunday, 6 January 2013

What a difference a day makes...

It's 5:25am and I've just said goodbye and good ridance to our worst set (yes of two) guests. They literally made my week a living hell. My only escape was when we got out on the mountain.

We hosted for a family of two adult siblings, their partners and numerous horrible children. The siblings were the worst if I'm honest. Both with mid-northern twangs to their voice that grated every time they spoke. I dreaded climbing the steps to the chalet to the shrill of Ella or Georgia with extended endings as if speaking on a rollercoaster. Ellaaaaaaaa..... come here Georgiaaaaaaa. As the mum beconed to her disobedient, messy and down right rude children.

Her brother may have topped the charts for the most glum person alive. Everything and anything we could have done or had done was wrong. I'd like to expand on the matter a little but I'll have to refrain from any expletives as my Grandparents are partial to a dose of Vagabonding Adam! (Hi G + G!)

Not only was the table wine an 'insult' but the bread was stale, the tart au citron too lemony, the choice of 5 cereals not enough, the stairs too steppy and the burnt chalet too burnt. Everytime Kerry and I whipped out our best conversation leading question he'd grunt a closed answer and turn back to shit-united playing on the TV. (Sorry Grumps!)

But of course he was the don on the slope. Stories of him breaking the speed of sound and 'smashing' every black run on the resort (of which there are 3, not very fun black runs) were plentiful. All while he shoved 2 slices of buttered bread in to the hole in his face.

It's a shame really as his wife was a pleasure to cook for. She appreciated every morsel we could have given to her, was a chef herself and gave constructive, appreciated criticism when it warranted it.

Their kids, and the kids of the other family were another question. Everything was 'not for them'. We tried to accommodate with pasta and a tomato sauce with cheese and sausage; but then had to individually dish out their meals as one wouldn't eat cheese, the other sausage. One would have sauce but not too much and all gave their plates back just as we'd given them to them, untouched.

What really got to me though was when they'd ask for decent food, like sausage for breakfast. Having quite a tight quota of 'English' goods like Heinz Baked Beans, sausages and bacon it meant that we could only cook enough for the guests. Any left overs or unwanted food was ours for breakfast, a real gem! So when one brat would ask for a sausage every morning, push it around the plate, stare at it intently and then leave it to cool down, not even trying it, really got up my goat. That was my sausage!

It spoilt the week, not only for us but for them. We payed no attention to their wellbeing, didn't do the finer touches and generally just didnt give a …. (Hey Grandma!) Yes we did the obligatory, we made poxy sausage and bacon sandwiches at 4am this morning because Andrew wanted them. We did everything the company asked of us, just didnt 'shine' as hosts.

So now we have 5 hours to turn the chalet around, all new linen, deep clean the rooms, windows cleaned, carpets hoovered, cake baked and dinner prepped for our new set of guests.

Please god.

Don't do that to me again...

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Self catering holiday and a fabulous Christmas week...

It took the chalet a good few days to warm up. The concrete inside it acts like thermal mass, taking a very long time to heat up, but conversely giving out heat for a long time after. This meant Kerry and I had to endure a few nights of near freezing temperatures, even inside! Luckily some early Christmas presents, namely a hot water bottle, were put to good use!

We picked up our seasonnaires lift passes on Saturday 22nd but were unsure as to whether we could try them out and get a few runs in... we had been told that staff were only allowed to ski once they had guests and had finished their days duties. Throwing caution to the wind, counting on the fact we were the only staff from our company in Sainte Foy, I rushed to the equipment hire shop at 4:10 trying desperately to grab my board and get out to the lift for the last lift at 4:40. And I made it! I managed two lifts and the runs were brilliant. I took some very hard falls and it hit home just how little I seemed to remember, but those two runs were the start of my season, and I was happy.

A phone call later that night put a warm fuzzy feeling in our stomachs. We were told we weren't getting guests the next day, Sunday, because of the state of the burnt chalet and its crumbling demise being a 'serious Health and Safety risk' to guests. Our instructions were to eat all of the perishables and be ready if called upon to help in another resort.

Well I was fine with that! A luxurious chalet to ourselves, eating food that had been bought by someone else, and with nothing to do each day but snowboard, explore, drink the vino that was meant for the guests and generally chill! A holiday before we'd even started working!

A few days later and my boarding was back up to scratch, I hadn't caught an edge yet and I was getting a lot quicker. Kerry was advancing on every run. I'd get to the bottom, turn to face up the hill and wait a few minutes for Kerry to join me. By the end of the week those minutes changed to seconds until I turned around and she was there on my tail! She looks very good with it, mostly dressed in purple kind of like a Miss Penelope Pitstop of the slopes.

We practised everyone of the vegetarian options, freezing the expensive meat for next weeks guests, and decided on the 'Spicy bean burger' being the best vegetarian meal in the book. Each day, however, we tentatively watched as French builders put in 30 minutes of work a day to make safe the burnt chalet.

Friday came and it was clear we were about to get our first set of guests 2 days later. The builders had constructed a pathway and cleared old mattresses, books and other burnt posessions that used to litter the entry. Our first week of guests, and on Christmas week! Quite a daunting task, until we met our guests. They were the best set of guests a host could ask for, Christmas week or not.

2 families with some convoluted ties and some great kids who were down to earth, understanding, well behaved and clean. It was a pleasure cooking and cleaning for them for the week and I personally maybe made a slight mistake and really got attached to individuals. I was devistated one night when the chicken breasts for the main took 30 minutes longer than listed, delaying the meal. The adults were insistent that the delay was fine but, having formed this relationship, I felt I had let them down and was very disappointed with the meal.

Luckily Christmas Day went beautifully. We realised we had no stuffing or brussel sprouts on Christmas Eve and after a few phone calls rustled up some stuffing mix but sprouts were apparently a lot harder to find in the alps. Luckily a chalet couple we had met in the pub were able to give us a huge bag. I sneakily kept it quiet that we had secured the sacred sprouts from my guests until later on Christmas Day when I proudly asked how they'd like their sprouts cooked, holding the bag aloft!

Christmas Day had even more pressure loaded on it. The organiser of the party was having her 50th Birthday on Christmas Day. Kerry and I used a little imagination and some engineering prowess to construct this monstrosity! It went down a storm.

Saying goodbye to our first week of guests was difficult. Not only because it was a 5:15 departure. We didn't know who we were going to get and had watched the 4 kids advance from crying before their lessons to bombing down the slopes with me and Kerry happy as larry.

Our first two weeks being seasonnaires has been good. The work is hard and sometimes stressful in the evenings, but rewarding when you see someone try a new dinner and enjoy it, or learn to ski.