Christmas 2016

by jayhayman

We spent Christmas this year in Europe mainly skiing. We decided to return to Ubergurgl in Austria. It is relatively quiet compared to other ski resorts, such as Solden. There is a superb ski school and lots of beginner slopes (but fewer advanced slopes). Perfect for our kids and novices like me.

Enroute to Austria we briefly stopped by London. We managed to get a bit of sightseeing done, visiting our old house and Alex’s nursery. We even passed by Big Ben, which Alex had been keen to visit, since she had been born in St Thomas’s Hospital opposite it. Then, late afternoon we popped over to the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. The girls enjoyed the rides.

By the end of the day, Alex and Lena were exhausted. Cath and I took the opportunity to go to Chris’s 40th at Hakkasan. It was a highlight of the trip. Although I appeared to be the only person attempting to sample those dangerous cocktails in the bar at the end?

The following day, we flew to Austria. Despite the fog, we managed to get to Ubergurgl in time for dinner. This year we stayed at a different hotel– the Hochfirst. The location of the hotel was perfect: by the slopes next to the kids’ skischool. Anyone who has had to lug kids’ skis will know why that was such a boon.

It soon became apparent that the location was not the main reason why my father-in-law had been so keen to book the hotel. Dinners are his thing you see. And the hotel seemed to specialise in drawn-out, elaborate affairs with several courses. Coupled with an extensive wine list. But while the food was impressive, evenings were often lost on the kids who could barely stay awake beyond 7 pm. At first, we let them sleep at the table, so we could eat, but that idea was shot to pieces after Alex slid off her chair in front of startled guests.

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Julie, Michael and Cath at the hotel.

Nevertheless, Christmas eve at the hotel, was incredible. Once the low season had finished, most of the Brits disappeared and were replaced by a large contingent of Germans. For the Christmas eve dinner, guests (particularly the Germans) made a serious effort to dress up. Everyone looked sensational– black ties, evening dresses.The hotel was totally decked-up. The owners were there to shake everyone by the hand. No expense had been spared on the food and drink– particularly the albino caviar, which I doubt I will ever have the opportunity to try again. The dinner was a joyous celebration, reminiscent of a time when events weren’t always about maximising margins.

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Father Christmas giving presents to the girls.

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Christmas eve dinner. Enjoying the glorious photobomb from Tomas our waiter.

Skiing was a triumph for the girls. Alex progressed so quickly over the course of the 10 days that she was taken up the mountain. Lena struggled a little at the start but after some one-on-one with a teacher (Anna), she was soon turning effortlessly.

By contrast, the adults were all in bad shape. I had injured my neck, my father-in-law had damaged his knee and Julie – not wanting to be left out – managed to drop a printer on her leg. Unfortunately, after a rest day, everyone was out.

Given my inadequacies on the slope, I decided to take further lessons. My concern was I would be allocated the same instructor as I had had last year– his most redeeming feature had been his in-depth knowledge of the failings of the British Army in World War II. But rather than specifically ask not to have him, I requested a young instructor. What I had meant was someone under the age of 50, but the young woman doing the bookings presumed I,  like the myriad of Russians she had to deal with, was angling for a tall, fit, buxom, blonde female instructor. Unfortunately, I failed to heed the warning signals — questions about my personal preferences rather than my skiing needs. After enduring a confusing conversation, punctuated by sniggers from people waiting, I managed to get a (non-female) instructor. Things worked out better this time. Although I am way off going up a mountain.

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Taking a break from skiing to have lunch outside by the slopes.

Austria was great. Even there, the benefits of the EU for Brits was evident. There were a large number of young Brits working out there as ski instructors. Ten years back there wouldn’t have been any.

Following Austria we travelled direct to Upton village (Cambridge) to see my mum and sister’s side of the family including my nephew, Tobias who is 2. Tobias and Alex and Lena got on really well and it was good to catch up. My sister had also planned everything out for our arrival. Even down to borrowing car seats for the girls. The food was also excellent home cooking, which both Cath and I had been craving.

Everyone had a great time. Cath particularly loved the trip to Upton. Especially walking around Cambridge. Although the weather was a bit chilly for my liking.

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All of us on the bridge in Cambridge.

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The girls having a great time playing in Cambridge.

Happy New Year everyone.

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