One of the good things about moving from a three-bedroomed detached house to a 29m2 apartment is that it doesn’t take long to settle in. I mean, there’s only so much you can do. And to be honest, we’d done most of the settling in required over the past year when we’d been doing up the flat and bringing all the bits and bobs we needed to be able to have the kind of stay there that made it a little home-from-home.
The girls were familiar enough with the village already to be able to run to the swings on their own, or head home from a café when they felt like it. Not that there was going to be any swinging any time soon.
By Sunday morning the fresh snow, which had fallen on top of an already impressive amount, was shin deep and it just kept falling. When we passed by the swings we found them wound multiple times around the top beam and only inches from the snow that had drifted, and been pushed by the snow ploughs, around the frame.
I found our sledge and used it to ferry our things from the car park. Still snowing. We unpacked and relaxed and then took a practice trip to the school. So. Much. Snow! And still falling. It was great – it totally distracted the girls from thinking too hard about their first day in French school.
We had to get up at 6.45am every morning so that we could catch an 8am bus. The free ‘Navette’ runs between Val Claret and Tignes Le Lavachet about every 7 minutes between 8.30am and 9.30pm, but not as often when we needed it. And we didn’t want to be late. I was dreading getting them up that first Monday but something had them moving at a reasonable pace – perhaps the thought of the snow (still falling) maybe just because it was something new. Or had they just magically forgotten that they were a bit of a nightmare in the morning? I wasn’t complaining.
That first Monday the bus stop looked like this (ain’t that bus stop sign cute!):
We found we were early at the school gate – the bus only took five minutes or so, then a short walk up the hill through the snow to the school, and it wasn’t even 8.15am. Shame we couldn’t wait for the 8.20 bus, but it was just cutting it a tad too fine. Not that the girls minded having time to throw themselves into fresh snowdrifts!
Someone was out front clearing a path to and through the playground. Other early arrivals were hurling themselves at the snow too – even the regular French kids were excited by the snowfall!
Then the girls and I were meeting their teachers with little time to dither, and then they were heading apprehensively into their new school for their first morning.
I’d agreed to to pick the girls up at 11.30 for the two hour lunch break that’s standard, I think, across the whole of France. I thought it was only fair for the first week or two to let them have a break with me at lunch time – being thrown into a new school, new language, new culture all at once was quite a big thing after all.
You simply can’t rush kids through fresh snow. It’s pretty difficult to go at anything other than a steady pace whoever you are, and children just keep damn well stopping to look at icicles, and wander perilously close to big drop-offs with no sense of the fact that snow hides and disguises things like edges – and isn’t always all that firm. Or deciding to explore huge snowdrifts alongside buildings, which might be resting lightly over big holes, or entire pathways, or wide open wheely bins full of waiting-to-slash-them broken glass. Who knew what was under all that snow. Still falling. Getting the girls back home was exhausting. And a little bit stressful. Then there was only just time to give them some lunch before we had to go back to the bus stop. Back up to school. Back down to the bus, back to the flat to do something constructive before I had to turn around and do it all again. In the snow. Which was still falling.
I swiftly hatched a plan to spend our lunch times in an indoor picnic area near the cable car close to the school. It saved us four bus trips and whole lot of time. I had a vague recollection of seeing microwaves in there, and there was definitely hot chocolate in the machine. A hot pasta lunch and a hot chocolate, then a play in the snow. That was going to be a lot more relaxing for all of us.
And so our early days’ routine settled in. The girls were ok at school. Daisy was her usual laid back self, totally disarming me with the way she just took it all in her stride. Isla made more of a drama of it. We’re all different… Daisy revelled in the mountains, being a bit wild and free and dressing in trackies and salopettes every day. Isla found a best friend on the Monday, lost the best friend by Friday and complained that she hated France. Bad start, I thought, til I heard her explanation as she gazed out of the bus window one morning:
“I hate France. I hate snow. It’s too mesmerising.”
She had a point. And we all had to live with it. In our 29m2 and the mountains for our garden. Lucky us.
(If you missed the last scintillating installment “Made It” – you can read it here.)
Do feel free to leave a comment. Are you snow mesmerised? In the middle of an ill-thought-out and rather vague plan to start a new life elsewhere? I’d love to hear about it!