Monday, September 10, 2012

July - summer vacation or not?

(Chamonix, La Grave, and a bit of Czech Republic)

July, finally vacation is here, but is it really?  Since I started my new job, we had to rearrange some summer plans and I was willing to work all summer long because an opportunity like this doesn't come too often.  Better to work and have a good job, than have vacation and lose the job.  So we arranged to have our kids in the Czech Republic for about 6 weeks with their grandparents.   The first half was planned with my mom and the second half with Jakub's parents.  When the kids actually left, it felt very strange, empty and quiet at home.  I think I was a bit teary eyed when they were leaving, as they've never been gone from home for that long!  I wasn't expecting to get any time off from work since I started working so recently, but to my surprise, my boss said I can take vacation whenever I'd like.  So I ended up planning one week with the kids and my mom in Czech republic to see them half way through this long period, and then a few days off in August, to join Jakub in Prague at his conference and then help drive the car back to Grenoble, that dreaded 16 hour long journey....

Since Jakub and I had the weekends to ourselves, we used the time wisely.  Our first alone weekend after a loooong time was chosen to be spent in Chamonix to do some climbing....

To start off the day, Saturday morning was the perfect time to stroll a local market, get some fresh tea, cheese and bread. 

After a nice breakfast, we hiked up to our planned climbing spot.  On the way there, we saw a huge waterfall we've never noticed before, but after a while we realized that this is release from a hydropower plant that has been built there to use the subglacial water to generate power.  Kindof sad, and made me feel like here in Europe nothing is really pristine anymore.  This is something I really appreciate about Canada (but it's slowly getting there too!).

Glacier d'Argentiere.

Since the weather has been rather rainy just before we arrived to Chamonix, even the rock did not have sufficient time to dry up.  Nevertheless, we opted for a relatively dryish route (it did have some streams trickling through it and required to use some slimy holds at times!), but it was on the easyish side, so no serious risks were taken! :)

Our "wet" destination.
We climbed in the Cheserys Jaune sector, a route called "la blonde" (5.8 max, 4 pitches, 150m).  Just as we were getting our gear sorted for the route, we had some very skilled visitors.  These mountain goats downclimbed a route located just beside ours.  They stood there staring at us with our little gadgets, wondering what the heck we're going to do.  Let's just say they made us feel a little pathetic ;)

"Jaune" or "Yellow", the name of the climbing route that the goat easily downclimbed.

And then we got on our way.  Very fun and enjoyable climb!  And most importantly grippy granite - because limestone can get very slippery sometimes.

Self portrait - "I was here" :)
 To finish off the day, we went to see fireworks in Argentiere since it was Bastille day.  It was quite nice, except that ehm, they had them right behind a large crane that was sort of blocking the view.  And the "party concert" that we thought would be a fun thing to attend was more of this local French guy singing some oldies stuff, more for families with kids.  So we had a beer and went off to bed - we must be getting old!

I also had my birthday in July, so we had a very nice mellow celebration at a cool spot above Grenoble with Jakub.  Wine, cheese and a sunset.

Opening the wine...

Sunset, Grenoble.

Steph, Eduardo and Natalia.
One weekend, I was going to go climbing to Ailefroide - a very renowned climbing area.  So myself and three other friends took off for the weekend.  Little did we know what was awaiting us though!  One hour into the trip (half way), while starting to drive up to a mountain pass, a little light in the car started warning us that something was wrong.  Steph (the owner) said it has been doing that for half a year, so it is not serious...but when something started to smell bad, and the car was not accelerating as it should, we stopped.  Upon opening the hood, billowing smoke came we realized that this was pretty serious.  Basically the engine overheated for some unknown reason, and the cooling liquid boiled out as a result of that.  So we only had one option.  To drive downhill to the nearest village (La Grave) and get it to a car repair shop ASAP.  It was too late in the evening though so we had to stay the night but Steph had most of her things (sleeping bag, warm clothes, etc.) with friends that have already gone to Ailefroide, so we opted for eating out and sleeping in a rafting centre.  Both turned out quite super.  The dinner was very entertaining, I recall I was laughing so hard at one point that tears were coming from my eyes.  You just had to be there...

The next day we took the car to the car shop and after many hours of examination, the mechanic told us that the engine ventilator was broken because the wires were corroded and cut in half.  To order the new wire and plug would take 4 days (we are in France and this was summer), or the ventilator could be rewired and a switch added so that we could turn it on and off manually.  We opted for plan B so that we could drive back to Grenoble and go to work on Monday.  While the mechanic was finishing up the job, we at least had a picnic :)

A local sematary.

La Grave and its glaciers.  Also known for stellar skiing and waterfall ice climbing.

Picnic.  Trying to eat kilograms of cheese that were meant for the whole weekend ;)

We did not give up though and on Sunday we went to climb in Brieux, Saint Egreve, near Grenoble and our wish was at least partially fulfilled!  (Photo courtesy of Steph M.)

Since I've been working so much, the three weeks have passed in no time and so I flew to Czech Republic for a week and a half to spend with my mom and the kiddies.  It was nice to sleep in and spend some time in the house where my grandparents used to live.  I made some red currant jam and melted grandma's beeswax from the attic to clean it from wax moths.  I also went to the folk festival and watched the Olympic games.... ;)

The punk.

There seemed to be at least 4 thunderstorms per day.  I looove them, especially when you're in a warm, dry place, drinking some nice tea.

Making faces at mom.  Of course now that I was around, the kids were more disobedient.

River Oslava.  Vapour rising up after heavy rains followed by heat.

The Chateau in Náměšť nad Oslavou.

Grandma Love.