Hitchhiking into the New Year

Trip Start Oct 26, 2006
Trip End Aug 2007

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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

It's hard to believe that 2006 is coming to an end. We got married, bought a house, sold a house, had a summer wedding party, left our jobs (temporarily), and are now off on a nice long honeymoon (or on sabbatical as we tell the French). Not a day goes by that we don't remind ourselves how fortunate we are. These next 8 months are going to fly by, that's for sure, but lucky for us we have a lot to look forward to at home afterwards.....actually move in to our new house, jobs that we enjoy, and all of the precious babies/infants (born and unborn) that are growing rapidly within our families and close circle of friends.

Despite the lack of snow in our corner of the world, there are still areas nearby where we can ski tour and take advantage of the low avalanche hazard. About 10km from La Grave is a place called the Col du Lautaret, which has the most snow for ski touring in the surrounding areas. As we don't have a car, we have to hitchhike to get there. Coming from the States, where hitchhiking is discouraged for safety's sake, I was at first hesitant. I didn't think anyone would pick up the two of us, especially seeing all of our gear. However after our first day of going to the Col and back, Seth's comment at the end of the day was "Hitchhiking is cool!" In the morning we were picked up by an elderly French couple, who of course wanted to know what our story was - where we were from, what we're doing here, etc, etc. Le Monsieur asked us if we generally have a hard time getting someone to pick us up. I told him that this was our first time hitchhiking. His response was, "Ha, that's funny, because this is the first time I have picked up hitchhikers!" But he said that as we looked very nice and had skis with us, he decided it was OK. When they dropped us off, they both got out of the car to shake our hands, having been glad to have met us, and le monsieur said, "Better that you are here than in Iraq". Ain't that the truth. At the end of the day, the first car to come by pulled over for us, another randonneur (ski tourer). He was only going to Villar d'Arene, the village just before La Grave, about 5km, so we'd have to get out there and hitch the rest of the way. Ok, ça marche. Well, apparently he (Bernard) enjoyed the conversation enough in just 4 km that he ended up driving us all the way up to our apartment in Les Terrasses! So we had him in for some tea and sablés (traditional French cookies that my host mom gave me the recipe for. Bernard was very impressed that I made them). We ended up exchanging email addresses and possibly will go ski touring together sometime. Hitchhiking is not only great practice for my French, but we get the opportunity to meet some very interesting people. Of course, we don't always get the most interesting people. Yesterday morning it was a younger French guy who was either hung over or is just not a morning person. My questions to him always got one or two word responses. But it certainly is always a positive experience.

The ski touring, despite the marginal snow, has still been spectacular as a result of the scenery and beautiful weather. Yesterday we got close enough to see a bouquetin (wild mountain goat with HUGE horns) to get some pics (see photos!). We didn't summit that peak, not wanting to derange le bouquetin, and also not knowing whether or not they are aggressive in defending their territory. That would be a bad story for our parents to find out we had been butted off the mountain by a mountain goat. The snow has been trés dur, hard enough that I went and bought some "couteaux", or ski crampons, as well as some new climbing skins. Now I'm dialed, and I think Seth has couteau envy as I fly up steep, hard slopes and he is having to bootpack up.

As I write we still don't know what we're doing for "Le Réveillon" (New Year's Eve) celebration. We're for sure going to have a nice dinner and a good bottle of wine (not the boxed wine we drink on a daily basis, though which is actually quite good and not the boxed crap we get in the States). After that, we may watch a movie and see if we can stay up til midnight, but if not, oh well! One thing is for sure we're NOT getting wasted on wine, beer and Aqua Vit like we did on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day was painful. We will not be hung over tomorrow on "Le Jour de l'An". Maybe we will make some more sablés to keep us up til midnight.
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