Do you prefer to be Home or Away for the holidays? Elisabeth Hobbes extols the virtues of a ski chalet, while Robyn Rychards tells us why California is the place to be...
Elisabeth Hobbes - The Glorious Ski Chalet
Who’s dreaming of a White Christmas? I know I am but the chances of waking up to even a dusting of snow isn’t likely in Cheshire. If we’re lucky it will be sunny and we can go for a walk but most likely it will be rainy and grey.There’s one place guaranteed to deliver one, though, and that’s a ski resort.Imagine waking up in a cosy bed in a wood-beamed chalet and knowing that when you open the window there will be piles of the white stuff as far as the eye can see? I’ve spent Christmas skiing in France twice. This was before children and I feel guilty every year for not having taken them. If I had the money I’d do it every year. (Note to self- write the next worldwide bestseller).
The day goes something like this:
Breakfast at 8 am. Usually with champagne, fresh bread, boiled eggs, meats and cheese, and plenty of strong coffee. Since having kids, I’ve been lucky to lie in past 7 am—strict rules even on Christmas day—but when there’s a day on the slopes waiting I don’t mind the early start.
We’re not religious so there’s no churchgoing in my house. Christmas Day involves presents, a walk somewhere—if we’re at home we head up the hills to the local Victorian folly for brass band music and mince pies—then the business of cooking dinner. Not so in a ski resort. A walk through a pretty village full of wooden chalets is a lovely way to start the day and as soon as the lifts open, we hit the slopes and spend the rest of the day blasting around the mountain. Everyone is in a good mood, calling ‘joyeux noel’ to strangers on the lifts. There’s more snow than you can shake a stick at in every direction. OK, once we got caught in a huge snowstorm and couldn’t see the markers telling us where the edge of the slope was but I’d still take that over a bit of fog trudging along the canal path in the mud.
Lunch involves vin chaud. Enough said.
There are no lessons on Christmas Day but the ski schools generally turn out and put on some entertainment with music and singing—and more vin chaud—at the bottom of the lifts when it gets darker. Père Noel makes an appearance on a horse drawn sleigh—on proper runners as there’s no need for carefully hidden wheels when there is so much snow —throwing out sweets to the kids in the crowd. The atmosphere is lively and fun. It seems a shame to leave and go back to the chalet, but it’s worth it because there will be freshly baked cake and coffee waiting in front of the open fire.
After a welcome shower there is time to chill out and open presents. Not that we take many because luggage allowance is taken up by boots and woolly jumpers. That’s another advantage. We have a house bursting with stuff and don’t really need any more so the excuse not to add to the clutter is always welcome. A promise of a trip to the thermal baths one evening keeps me happy.
I love cooking and I enjoy making Christmas dinner but after a day of hard skiing it is wonderful to know that someone else is cooking it. Canapes and fizz is served before a communal dinner with plenty of wine. Not everyone will enjoy spending the evening in the company of strangers. I love it though. We stay in chalets for 20-30 people and after days of sharing lifts and lunch tables, returning poles after tumbles and comparing notes on who did which runs, the other guests feel more like friends. It makes a change from listening to Auntie Doris’ tale of the time she lost her glass eye for the twentieth year running. There is often music and dancing or silly party games for those who want to join in.
By midnight it’s time to turn in because tomorrow is another day on the slopes. The village is quiet and dark, with twinkling lights on the mountains from the pistebashers ironing out the death cookies. Even I, cynical as I am, wouldn’t be surprised to see a troupe of tired reindeer heading Northwards across the sky.
Elisabeth's latest release, Redeeming the Rogue Knight is out now. For more information check out her website and follow her on Facebook, and Twitter.
Robyn Rychards - California, Here I Come!
Living in Colorado, snow and all things winter wonderland come with the territory. And I love winter. There’s so many things about the season that are romantic. Sleigh rides. Roaring fires. Big fat white flakes floating down from the sky and melting on your nose. I adore skiing and ice skating. So, although I don’t celebrate Christmas, I’ve always enjoyed the end of the year and all things winter. Until last year. When we spent the kids’ winter school break in sunny California.
Though the water wasn’t quite warm enough for swimming, the weather was wonderful. And the best part for someone who doesn’t celebrate the holiday? It didn’t feel like Christmas time. It was lovely doing all sorts of out-of-doors, warm-weather activities, like Knotts Berry Farm, Universal Studios and Sea World. Christmas day saw us on the Hollywood Walk of Fame searching out the stars of our favorite performers and looking at the hand prints in the cement in front of Mann’s Chinese Theater. Not only was it not crowded, since it’s a tourist destination most of the shops and restaurants were open.
No matter what time of year you visit LA, though, I highly recommend a trip to see the Queen Mary. An old cruise ship built in the 1930’s which you can tour, but it’s also been converted into a hotel and we had the joy of staying there. In its glory days it was THE way to travel to Europe for all the Hollywood glitterati. Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart, Rock Hudson, Alfred Hitchcock. The place screams romance. And being a writer, I spent my time there imagining them on the ship and what it would’ve been like travelling across the pond on the Queen Mary. For me, there’s something about a ship that’s so romantic.
Which brings us to San Diego and the Maritime Museum with its historical ships that take you back to the 1800’s. And dreaming of pirates and all tales swashbuckling. Once again, the imagination runs riot. All in all, California is a great place to get away from the holiday spirit, if you’re an oddball like me and are so inclined! Therefore, it’s my new favorite place to go over the winter holidays.
Robyn's latest release, The Bodyguard's Catch, is available now. For more information check out her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
Where's your ideal place to be during the holidays? We'd love to know where you are or where you want to be. We're always on the lookout for new places to travel! Let us know in the comments or use #HomeOrAway on Social Media to join the discussion...