DCSIMG

The latest ManxSki blog from Chris Callow

Valley Fog

Valley Fog

73: No frills

A short break for your hosts recently to charge up the batteries ready for the rigours of winter - destination Budapest to look up old friends, featured from time to time earlier in these annals. It was all made possible by the latest EasyJet sale, or the latest but two, they seem to pop-up with such increasing frequency that you’re left wondering which poor mugs actually get stung for the full price whatever that may be. It was odd flying out of Geneva to a non-UK destination – and something of a shock after an indulgent post-check-in lunch in the Montreux Jazz Cafe to learn that the Budapest flight loaded from an obscure gate fully 15 minutes from security. Made it more or less, but my necessary call to the rest-room meant the Boss boarded first – excellent policy as it saved arguing over where we’d sit; she had it chosen and was guarding all three seats like a Rottweiler by the time I trotted up the back stairs. And even that is shortly to be a thing of the past as EasyJet are introducing prebooked seats (for a fee, of course) from Christmas. No obligation to stump up, note, if you don’t they’ll allocate at check-in – one cynically wondered whether they’d split couples to encourage prepaying on future trips and I gained no points for suggesting so many couples would benefit from enforced separation that such a policy would backfire...

So a wonderful few days were split between the rural delights of lake Balaton and some heady culture in Budapest. The tram network, not unsurprisingly, took a hammering and only the Callows could pitch up unknowingly in the middle of a goose festival – foie gras for breakfast lunch and supper. Then back to the gleaming new Terminal 2A for the home flight –but a surprise lay in store. Ryanair, EasyJet and the wonderfully-named ‘WhizzAir’, Hungary’s own low-cost, had fallen out with the Airport over landing charges, so in a neat tit-for-tat all their passengers are ushered straight from security onto the tarmac and thence across a windy apron to a large marquee, bereft of chairs, loos or any of the decencies of modern life and furnished only with crowd control tapes to await their flights in discontented crocodiles. Ah, the romance of travel.... go not to Hungary in January!!

Back in the Alps life continues at a gentle pace. A short sharp cold spell with early snowfalls has given way to a few weeks of unrelenting high pressure – glorious sunshine all day enables the Boss to give the balcony some TLC and me to finish tidying up the garden for its long hibernation. In the valley they don’t have it so good – driving to Geneva I descend into chill clammy fog and it’s a great relief to emerge back onto our sunny plateau on the return-trip. Now is the time to cut and dry plans for the summer as once the first winter guests arrive there’ll be no time for such things. The 100th Tour de France is pedalling obligingly close to us with stage finishes in Grand-Bornand and Annecy, and we’re getting very excited about a new photography course to feature in the autumn programme following the cookery classes. Experimentation is continuing in the kitchen and we’re running out of friendly guinea-pigs on whom to try-out the results – a dubious honour in some cases, but practice will make perfect. Current trends in UK restaurant kitchens are followed on MasterChef - now how about a MasterSkiChef, Mr Wallace, there’s a thought...

And with no trip home for the trusty minibus this year, careful thought has to be given to stocking up larder and freezer ready for the season. Our trusty Castletown butchers are killing the fatted pigs as we speak and the Boss has spent hours comparing the on-line prices of competing supermarkets for the white-van delivery. Stir-up Sunday this weekend; less than five weeks to Christmas...

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