A french affaire: Christmas in the Alps

Travel

I love Christmas, decorating the house, which I will still do. Eating the food getting snuggly. But this year as our first married Christmas we are treating ourselves to Christmas in the Alps.

It will be hard because I love Christmas so much. I love the build up and the magical Christmas night.

I am lucky that my best friend and husband are joining us.

Its great as couples we all get along, very easy going its going to be great.

What’s not to love about Christmas in the French alps?

Snow, the views, French wine, all the cheese, stews and steak. Okay I will have to stop because I am drooling thinking about all the Vin Chaud and cheese.

We will actually have a white Christmas!

When I first learnt to board over ten years ago it was in Le 2 Alps and ten years later I am spending Christmas there with the same man who wanted me to learn. This is going to be really special.

I am still not a great boarder

But I love it.

I love the clean air.

The views.

Going from top to bottom.

I really love the Apres ski.

This is good practice for Japan not the drinking, but the boarding.

I am trying to make it a bit special so and idea would help.

So far, I am thinking stockings and crackers but I also have the two meals to consider.

French Traditions I am looking forward to

• Christmas eve feast

• Champagne

• La Galette des Rois

Christmas Eve feast

In France Christmas or Le Réveillon is normally the big feast. It’s the time that you spend with your family and traditionally head to Mass. As we are not religious, we will just be taking part in the feast.

It can last up to 6 hours. My mum has been to a few where they were talking so much that the first course wasn’t served till midnight and she arrive at 7pm.

Hopefully it wont be that long but we are trying to book a restaurant at the moment now so we don’t end up starving.

Champagne

Well, when in France. I love champagne, I do.and a glass before dinner sounds heavenly. A friend bought us champagne glasses for a wedding feast. She knew I hate flutes (bubbles go up my nose and I often spill it. I much prefer the traditional champagne saucers!

I am imagining champagne and candle light everywhere.

French Cake

Ummmmm I am glad I will be boarding for the most part. I am going to be glad of the exercise because I need to work off all the patisseries and cakes.

Galette des Rois is really yummy.

We had one with my nephew and said to him that he may not find the “king” Feve and he did! It was a really wonderful moment and we were all smiling!

A french affaire

I can’t wait but I will miss a few things about not being home. This will be a true experience for us and we are all getting excited. Looking at Christmas jumpers and silly things!

If there are any other French traditions and things, I must try please let me know.

And if you have any ideas how to make Christmas personal when staying in a hotel I would love to know.

We need to talk about Mario!

Personal Experience, Travel

So I loved Bulgaria. It was a wonderful week of great weather, pristine slopes, mountain dogs and my instructor.

I am a nervous snowboarder. Anything can unnerve me. On our first day my friend Jamie’s hit an edge and dislocated his shoulder. Not much of a holiday for him. As this happened on the first day I decided enough was enough I needed a lesson. I need to rebuild my confidence and go back to basics.

Private Lessons

So the lessons were really reasonable and the quality of them was brilliant. I have never had a private lesson before. Even when I have had lesson with group of 3 I have always been the last down the mountain or struggling to catch up. In France if you get lost they just leave you to find your own way back.

I cant be hard on the french instructors as their job is to get the best out of you as fast as possible. But for me however this type of learning doesn’t work. I hate to be last and I just end up being frustrated.

So i asked at the Samokov hotel Ski school for a lesson. I was really lucky. I got Mario! He was so nice and kind and new exactly how to handle me.

The first thing he said was not to worry we can go at my own pace and take our time till my confidence builds up.

He guided me through every turn, every patch of ice, he even held held my hand when I turned toe side edge of a steep red. His control of the board was a thing of wonder.

Encouragement

I mentioned earlier that racing down the mountain and always trying to catch my breath wasn’t the best training for me. The problem with being slow and last is you never get time to rest. People are always waiting for you. So by the time you catch up it times to push on again.

With Mario it was different.

All his encourage made me want to try harder and face my fears. The reds in Bulgaria were gorgeous and wide. So even though it was steep with a few patches of ice, the slope was amazing.

I pushed my self everyday, with every lesson and really enjoyed myself. In the end I I chose to have 4 lessons. I looked forward to hitting the snow. And on day 3 the snow was pretty perfect. Fresh powder is a snowboarders best friend. Even I was hitting the fresh snow and attempting little jumps ( completely failed) and loving it.

Yes I fell over a few times but it didn’t put me off!

Doing it for me

I normally spend my time with Linda, she skis, I board, we encourage each other down harder slopes. We drink vin chaud to reward ourselves and always have a great time. This time with her husband injured she didn’t want to leave him. His accident unnerved her skiing!

Normally each holiday I have a few good days of boarding and a few shitty days of hating it. This time I enjoyed every single day. Considering I didn’t spend most of my days without the group I really enjoyed myself. I snowboarded for my self.

Mario was the reason for this

I needed his encouragement and advice. The main thing he taught me:

  • Relax
  • Don’t bend your knees too much ( thats the fear)
  • Don’t panic
  • Stop looking down
  • Look where you are going
  • Don’t panic

Don’t loose my bottle!

I just kept going.  I went from top to bottom turning the whole way. I freaked out at the narrow flats but Mario got me cruising along them. I still freaked out about them but he had me linking all my turns.

He told me I get stuck in my head when I should just relax. I can do it, I have a lot of control and I know what to do, I just don’t push myself.

He also said that being in a group can be hard. That when your the best you excel but when you aren’t the best, it can affect your confidence. That’s why me going with a smaller group is good. That’s why me, Linda and John make such a good team.

I do feel a wee bit bad because everything Mario told me  Gav has said a million times. The problem with boarding with your loved one is when they tell you what you are doing wrong you can tell them to eff off! He gets frustrated with me, i get frustrated with him. he will spend 8 hours boarding… me not so much.

I get annoyed at Gav too easily even though he wants the best for me. But he pushes me to the point were I don’t want to prove myself. I need Linda to ease myself down the mountain.

Lessons learnt

I need to snowboard for myself.

I need to do what I want when I want. If I want to take myself off the mountain. If I want to get up late spend a few glorious hours boarding followed by a leisurely lunch. If I want to have a few drinks and watch Linda put her mittens on the wrong hands, then laugh all the way down the mountain, then I am going to do it.

Doing it for me.

Its my holiday too and should enjoy myself.

A little thank you

To Gavin, for putting up with my snowboarding nerves for years. I think I have lost my tittle of worlds slowest snowboarder. ( Maybe I am the third slowest definitely need a medal!).

To Linda, for always being my drinking slope buddy. For encouraging me and supporting me then having another drink just for fun! and for putting your mitten on the wrong hand!

And to Mario, for being the best instructor a girl could wish for. If you are staying at the Samokov Hotel in Borovets then please ask for Mario. I can’t recommend him enough.

I hope I will always have a little Mario on my shoulder guiding me down the mountain. Encouraging me so that I constantly improve.

Because I want to!

Travel made easy, budget friendly Bulgaria

Advice, Personal Experience, Travel

Going to Bulgaria was already friendly on the wedding budget but we like to take a few mini bargain luxuries.

Transportation

We ordered the Gatwick flyer which is a airport taxi service that does all airports in London not just Gatwick. Picked us up from our door and dropped us off at stanstead airport! Not as expensive as a taxi and we were lucky enough to be the only ones on the journey.

Brilliant.

The driver helped with the suitcases. Was lovely and chatty and so was the driver the driver on the way back. They let you know what time to be picked up and they track your flights I they know when you get in!

Love them, rate them. Will use them again.

Ryan Air

Okay I whinged about Ryan Air and they were fine, we upgraded to priority so we could get another bag and have the bigger seat. So it was an added expense but it meant no fuss. No issue with our bags and space for our suitcase.

Lounge

Gav get two lounge passes a year and we pay for the rest. The lounge is only good if you get a few hours. They are totally worth it. Unlimited food and drink just don’t get too drunk. You can pick up a bottle of water and snacks and charge you phone.

I loved it.

Last time I was at stanstead it was being redone. This time however it was completed. There was lots of choice of dining, shopping.

I bought a Chanel lipstick and balm, Gav bought an Aftershave and two bottles of gin. We tried the Sulent Pool

The flight

It’s roughly 3 hours to Sofia from Stanstead. The flight felt long but I had my books and Gav treated us to a cheeky gin and tonic!

So we had a lovely relaxing time.

When we got off the plane we only had to wait 5 minutes for our transport. Priority means your luggage gets a space as well which is great.

Sofia airport was clean and organised. We didn’t have to wait for long for our luggage and the oversized bagged was also quick!

We paid a little extra for room on our seats, we had to pay for extra for baggage. Bulgaria is so budget friendly that we could afford a few extras and they were great. We whizzed through the airport. If you a few hours to spare then a lounge may be £30 plus but for a few drinks and food you can totally make the money from it! Plus they supply water bottles for your flight.

Yes all these things were added extra but they were budget extras. These little luxuries made our journey so much easier.

So if we have the time we would do it all again!

Snowboarding Outfit planning and packing

Organising, Personal Experience, Planning, Travel

When I first went snowboarding I looked up what to wear!

I had no idea.

Gavin informed me of all the bits I needed for the trip and insisted it was better to buy better pieces. Well ten years on I still have my snowboarding coat. It has a few wears and it came in handy during the snow in Britain a few years ago. But other than a few patches it looks pretty perfect.

It’s a Betty Rides coat and I bought it in TK Maxx for £60. I didn’t even know if I would like it but I go back every year to the slopes sometimes twice!

This isn’t about necessities though that can be on another post. This is about what to pack when you are there!

So firstly if it is your first time on a snow trip then unless you are naturally gifted then you are going to fall over or tumble a lot. This means that you don’t want to pack in anything two restricting after you get off the slopes. I live in jeans I always have I find them so comfy but I won’t be taking my super skinny ones. Instead I will take ones that I can spend all day in and love it.

We are traveling with Ryan air which are a shit but cheapish airline. Normally I wouldn’t complain but the flight may be say 60 but then they charge x amount for hand luggage, x amount for a suitcase. I would rather fly with B & A or virgin but sadly they don’t fly there.

Don’t get me started on flying from Stansted either.

So I always have a travel outfit. To save space I travel in my boarding coat as this would take up so much of my suitcase.

I have a favourite Harry Potter tee that I always travel in and my roomy jeans.

No heels

Let’s talk about shoes. Ladies I promise you don’t need heels. No man cares about your shoes especially when there is snow or worse ice outside. So base you outfits around cute boots and walking shoes! Moon boots are adorable and you can make them work. You can wear trainers if it’s warmer weather!

Ski holidays are often about fun so don’t be afraid to add pops of colour and clashing items. When I first went everything was neutral. Now I love bright turquoise accessories.

Another thing you need to bear in mind is layers. When it’s cold in Britain we know we don’t cope that well. But ski towns are built for the cold. I have never been cold on a ski trip. Maybe on the mountain or a chairlift but never in the town. All the restaurants and bars are lovely and warm so layering is key.

The restaurants hotels hostels are all warm. You don’t need your thickest jumpers. Just think about how hot you get when you travel. Coat jumper tee: perfect layers. It is better to layer up then. A few thin jumpers will see you through.

Night life going out out

We aren’t really clubby people but when we are on holiday we sometimes will spend the night dancing away! Now you can dress up if you like but the majority of people will be in cute tees and hoody’s.

We come for the powder not for fashion.

No club or bar is going to turn you away because you are wearing snow boots jeans and a tee! It’s cold they understand.

It’s all about comfort! You are going to see a lot of big brands like Montclere, Canada Goose. These brands are super duper expensive but they are all about comfort and keeping you warm!

So what to pack!

Start with a list.

Try to build outfits rather than individual items. I find writing a list makes it easier to not over pack and to really think about what you want.

I do love packing cubes they make everything so much easier!

When it comes to boarding gear a list is essential so you don’t miss anything off. This also doubles as Gavs list so he can use most of it!

I think both of us has two tees we didn’t use so that isn’t too bad!

Organising is key to stress free packing.

So write a list.

Plan your outfits.

And enjoy!!

Bulgaria travel: Snowboarding plans for next year

Planning, Travel, Wedding Budget

With all the wedding planning and budgeting, I didn’t think I could squeeze in a ski trip this year. It’s our 10 year anniversary so Gavin is treating me to a week snowboarding in Bulgaria.

I have never been to Bulgaria.

I can’t wait.

Planning the Snow Trip

When our snowboarding group started to talk about where we wanted to go I knew that the Alps were far out of my budget. I turned down the holiday and then they started looking further afield. I am not a great snowboarder but I have been doing it for long enough that I am confident on most slopes and situations. Unless we are talking about a sheet of ice I can pretty much tackle any slope. Just really really slowly.

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Photo by Borislav Krustev on Pexels.com

Bulgaria is cheap, super cheap. We are talking half the price of the French Alps in a hotel as well. We normally rough it in a french Hostel and so far I haven’t missed any luxuries. After 10 years of UCPA’s  its a hotel for us this time. The price tag is also great!

We are planning on renting a Chalet at some stage as most of us have our own equipment. We had a chalet in Samoens 4 years ago and it was so beautiful. I still have the same jacket I bought at the start of my Snowboarding life. I invested in a good coat and its only now that there is a bit of wear and tear in it. I also have amazing armour after I broke my wrist on the flattest slope on Samoens!

Borovets Ski Resort

The Apres ski is supposed to be amazing which I didn’t expect. The town has enough entertainment for us with restaurants and bars. The actual slopes are supposed to be great nothing too challenging so I will hopefully get a few more red slops under my belt. the only downside it the chairlifts as that is what they mostly are. My favourite thing to do each holiday is to board from the top of the mountain to the bottom. Then I reward myself with a nice vine chaud or Peche beer.

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I will pay for lessons for the first day to act as a warm-up plus it will just be me and my cousin in the glass. we will have some constructive tuition and then join the others on the rest of the holiday.

We are spending our evenings planning routes and looking on tripadvisor for restaurant recommendations. We like to slip out one night and just spend the evening alone. I really looking forward to not spending 40 euros on 4 bottles of beer! The pricing all over Borovets seems amazing value for money.

Living in London means I am used to spending £4-5 on a beer and £10 on a gin and tonic. With wedding planning and budgets I have been limiting my nights out but I still budget for a few.

Otherwise, what’s the point.

I am looking forward to dressing in cosy knits and sampling the sumptuous Bulgarian cuisine. I have already my guidebook as I like to be informed.

If you have been to Borovets Ski resort and have any advice let me know!