Thursday, January 7, 2010

Family Vacation Woes

Bonne Annee!  Happy New Year, everybody!  Well, we had quite a time over the holidays with all three children, one new fiancée and her two children incorporated into the mix.  Trying to get eight people up, motivated and all moving in the same general direction was a challenge every day but we somehow managed to do a little skiing, a little sightseeing and a lot of eating.  Isn’t that the definition of a great European vacation—the time spent between meals?

It is always fun to watch Euro Newbies react to stuff that we don’t think twice about anymore.  Ms. Fiancee and The Instant Grands have rarely travelled outside of South Carolina, let alone across the pond.  There were some quizzical looks as to why we were traveling in two cars.  We had rented the biggest bus available for rent to a non-commercial entity for our group but it still wasn’t big enough to fit all of us, our skis and our luggage.  A “big” vehicle in Europe is not the same thing as a “big” vehicle in America.  I know Ms. Fiancee was thinking, um, why didn’t you just rent a bigger bus?  She is, however, a polite and sweet girl and she refrained from pointing out the obvious.

So, I had to drive our regular car from Switzerland to France following the Griswold-mobile. 

Except Mr. Big was driving so slow!  Why are you driving so slow, Mr. Big?  This was my first time driving over here and I was worried about the roundabouts.  Ha!  I should have been worried about the speed limits!  I estimate that I will be receiving 6 tickets in the mail in about five weeks from my one little driving adventure.  Apparently, my kids were having quite a time watching speed cameras flash on and off all around me and I was just tooling along worrying about the stupid roundabouts.  They said it was like watching a disco lightshow, driving behind me.  Whatever.  I prefer the US system where there is an actual cop with an actual radar gun that you can actually see and try to elude.  These anonymous speed cameras over here are just way too devious.  Hopefully, most of my speeding was in France where they won’t deport me for too many tickets, like they will in Switzerland.

The next day was a major disaster and it was all my fault. 

I take full responsibility.  Thinking that we would start off with an easy day and let them get over their jet lag, I make the decision to forego skiing and just take a ride up the gondola to the top of the Aiguille du Midi, take some pictures of Mont Blanc, have some lunch and let them soak in the views from the top of Alps. 

Oh my Lord.  Everyone was fine at the midpoint waystation at 7600 feet.  Clouds started rolling in just as we boarded the second gondola to take us up to the summit at 12,600 feet.  Well, at about 10,000 feet, they started dropping like flies.  The Telecabine was rocking in the wind, we’re swaying over blue glaciers, the Instant Grands are starting to pass out from altitude sickness, Charming Daughter is having a panic attack thinking we are all going down and Ms. Fiancee is looking daggers at me like I have deliberately planned this Evil Torture Ride from Hell as a special welcome to the family. 

And me?  I’m blithely taking pictures with my new camera, oohing and aahing over the ice caves!  When it got really windy, I had checked the Telecabine operator’s face and he wasn’t at all concerned, so neither was I.  I didn’t really become aware that half of my family was swooning until Charming Daughter actually hit the floor. 

Even after disembarking when I should have immediately sent them all back down on the next gondola, I was convinced a little snack and a hot chocolate would perk them right up and they would all be fine!  So, I herd them into the cafeteria and put Mr. Big into line to get snacks and off I go to get more photos.  Sometimes I amaze myself with my own idiocy.

Luckily, Small Son was unaffected by the altitude and set me straight.  He put his two hands on my shoulders and looked me directly in the eyes.  “Mom.  This.  Is.  A.  Very.  Bad.  Idea.”  By this time, the little 4 year old was practically comatose. 

Right, gotcha.  Down we went in The Telecabine O’Death once again.  At about 5,000 feet, they started to come around and by the time we reached solid ground, everyone was back to normal, except Ms. Fiancee who I think was convinced that I was trying to kill her children.

NOTE TO SELF:  Do not bring people who live at or below sea level to the top of the Alps on the very first day of their visit.  It might result in a very short visit.

I did not let them know until after the vacation was over that 50 people actually had to be extracted via helicopter harness from the gondola in Zermatt two days after our own misadventure.  That would have just been the icing on the cake.  I’d never see Domestic Son and his entourage ever again.

Do you want to hear more about the Griswold’s family vacation or do you want to hear about how the world’s most electronically challenged person attempts to use a fancy, digital camera?  Let me know!

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