Val d’Isere and Prague
January 23 - February 3, 2019
January 23, our departure day, finally arrived and 53 of us arrived at Philadelphia International departures almost 4 hours in advance to allow for any issues associated with the government shutdown. We made it through security and scattered to various bars to toast the beginning of our vacation. First up on our agenda was Prague, Czech. We traveled via Lufthansa Airlines with a stop in Frankfurt, a great airline with fairly comfortable seats that included open bar. We arrived in Prague right on schedule, and we were greeted by 2 tour guides who accompanied us to the Grand Majestic Hotel, a 4-star hotel very centrally located between the old and new towns. We had arrived too early to check-in, so many of us broke off into groups and started exploring and of course, “prosting” our arrival with some great Czech beer.
Our first night in Prague, about 20 or so of us, led by new member Kerry Lucas, enjoyed a pizza dinner and Czech ales delivered direct to our tables by miniature train. A unique twist to having drinks served by a waiter, the trains ran between all the tables and to and from the bar.
On Friday, we all gathered in the lobby and walked to Prague Tour office where we had the first of 2 very good city tours – the first one was arranged for by Madeline and included a short cruise along the Vltava river. The second one was a surprise from our tour operator, Alphorn Tours, and they picked up where the first tour left off. Both tours were very informative and enjoyed by all, and we learned about communism. Prague is truly a beautiful city, nicknamed The City of a Hundred Spires.
We would not be deterred by the cloudy overcast weather and walked for miles along the quaint cobble- stoned streets admiring the colorful baroque buildings and the many sights Prague had to offer – Prague Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral, the Charles Bridge lined with statues of Catholic saints, the Bell Tower, Lennon Wall, medieval Astronomical Clock, Wenceslas and Old Town Squares, the Jewish Quarter and the Franz Kafka rotating statue. We ended our visit to Prague with our traditional leaders- hosted happy hour, hor d’oeuvres, wine and ales.
Early Sunday morning we were off, excited for our ski vacation in Val d’Isere, France. A short flight to Geneva and then a 3 hour bus ride. As we gained elevation and held our breath through the many hairpin turns climbing into the French Alps, it was SNOWING and we were excited to know we would have fresh powder skiing.
Club Med at a ski resort is like a cruise ship on snow – open bar, delicious French cuisine buffets, cappuccinos, French bread, croissant and sweet butter, and of course the wines. The seafood we enjoyed – prawns, mussels, escargot, salmon, swordfish, various white fishes and calamari, as well as beef, pork, and pasta dishes too, all were exceptionally prepared in a variety of ways from sashimi, to grilled, to en casserole. Add in one of the freshest salad bars ever; and the DESSERTS. . . need I say more?
Our Club Med vacation included all-day ski lessons/guides with many of us learning and/or re-learning ski techniques, which proved truly helpful given all the fresh snow (at least 2 feet fell), freezing blizzard-like winds, and flat light – a skier’s delight, so NOT. Although the weather did not cooperate for us to watch the Alpine Europa Cup, Anne did run into a few guys at the base of Val Claret who had skied down the mountain wearing briefs only, goodness they looked COLD and cute. P.S. I would not try this on your own.
Most of us ventured into the town of Val d’Isere, just 2 very quick stops by bus, to enjoy the Festi Light in Val d’Isere with jugglers, musicians, DJs, and ice sculptors. Then to a local creperie, Crepe Val’s, for dinner and Michael M.’s favorite Bordeaux wine, Chateau La Claymore (for all of those who enjoyed his selection as much as I did).
We did experience a couple hiccups along the way, particularly as we left Val d’Isere, and Anne and Madeline would like to thank everyone for being so good-natured about the extra-early morning departure (due to even more snow) and the late buses.
It was a wonderful vacation with great camaraderie among ski friends, old and new. We arrived home right on schedule, in time to watch the Patriots win the Superbowl.
From Mike O.: For all of you who did not go on this trip Shame on you! Prague, one of the most visited cities in Europe welcomed us with great architecture, interesting places to eat and Fantastic Beers! Our guides showed us around the city with interesting tours of this famous city. Then we had to go skiing in one of the best resorts in the world! The snow gods blessed us with great conditions while there. The town had an event with lights and music on the main street one night with some finding a Crepe shop to sample treats afterwards. One group claims skiing over 80,000 vertical feet for the week. There is not an issue to eat French food on the mountain for lunch while looking at the south side of Mt. Blanc from the Italian, French border. Hopefully we will do this trip again! Thank you for being a wonderful group.
From Christine E.: The funniest thing for me was stumbling onto the fact that 2 sets of my parent’s neighbors plus the ex-husband of a former co- worker were on the trip. Our favorite experience in Prague was indulging at the Absintherie. And at Val d’Isère, for the first time in 3 years of skiing, I found the joy of skiing. I lost my fear on the Grand Pre ski run. The Monday after we returned, I was at Hockessin Athletic Club telling a friend about the trip who then heads to her yoga class to learn the person sitting on the mat next to her was also on our trip!
From Joe W.: Skiing the glacier and enjoying libations after. They go together--enjoying the skiing and then celebrating after!