Painswick Rococo Gardens

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Painswick Rococo Gardens is only a few miles from where I've been living for the last 9 years, but I'd never thought about visiting.  Thanks to the Cotswold Bloggers group, that has now changed.

As part of English Tourism Week 2018, Visit England organised a series of Instameets to showcase certain venues/parts of the country.  This seemed like an excellent opportunity to take lots of pictures, meet some new people, and generally fail at networking.
I will add a disclaimer now: we were provided with free entry to the gardens, and also tea and cake in the café afterwards.  Thanks also go to Cotswold Tourism who were involved in the organisation.  Here's a group photo of everyone who attended.

Unsurprisingly, I posted quite a few of my photos on Instagram:

But I'd like to share a few more here too.

light on the café building
lamp outside the café

The day itself was cold - and in fact the day afterwards there was so much snow that the gardens were closed.  Within about ten minutes into our hour of wandering around my toes had gone numb, brrr. 

view from a window
view from the Pigeon House

I'd forgotten how much I enjoy just wandering around with a camera taking pictures of whatever random things I feel like.  I certainly do less of this while out walking now, as I usually have a dog lead in my hand and/or dogs to keep a keen eye on.

ducks
duck bums

Oh, did I mention there was cake?  It was very good.  The café was lovely and warm too - just what we needed.

Les Gets

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The holiday started well because for the first time in a while I actually managed to get the window seat - usually Jon whinges about leg room and makes me swap. I amused myself for a while admiring a glory, then took a lot of photos during our descent into Geneva, because, well, just look at it:

flying above the clouds coming into Geneva
clouds and snow and mountains, mmm

We arrived at our chalet in Les Gets and were immediately ushered to the table and handed tartiflette.  Delicious and well timed!

This holiday also marks my first time skiing somewhere other than France - on the Tuesday we skiied to Morzine, then slogged our way over to Avoriaz via a busy slow green run and lifts with a massive queues, and eventually made it to Les Crosets in Switzerland.  Worth it just for the short black run we found that wasn't full of moguls (and also didn't seem to be on the piste map?)

For five out of six days, we had sunshine.  However, Thursday was a whole different kettle of fish.  It had snowed heavily the night before (after the pistes got bashed), and kept snowing until about 3pm so there was loads of powder everywhere.  I spent the morning feeling like my legs were on fire, and doing the occasional ultra slow motion face-plant into heaps of snow.  Once I'd got used to the powder though, it was all good - and quiet!  Turns out only three of us (out of 10) had left the chalet that day.

powder on the piste
first run of the day - powder on the Belle Mouille piste

Along with others from the chalet, we tended to head to Mont Chery in the mornings, as that's where the sun was. This side of the valley is much quieter, and more of a 'locals' area.  The lifts are old and slow - one chair was shut all week (had to use a drag lift instead, eww) and we spent 25 minutes sat on an uncomfortable 2-seater that had broken down.  But the runs are lovely, particularly Lievre.  The red back down to the town features two road crossings which I could have done without.  And I don't mean 'this is actually a road in summer' - I mean actual road currently being used by vehicles.  "You go first, you're on hired skis".  Thanks...

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Christmas in the Three Valleys

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I am really not a christmas person. Partly due to the whole atheism thing, but mostly because there's too much hype and expectation and it stresses me out. Bah humbug etc. This time, I avoided it all completely by spending the week playing in the snow in Courchevel.

xmas day ski slopes

(Though actually I think that photo was taken somewhere in between VT and Meribel)

The Three Valleys is big - the biggest linked ski resort in the world, with around 600km of piste. That's a lot, and far too much for me to cover in six days.  We got area passes but mostly stayed in the Courchevel valley - went all the way to Val Thorens on one day, and to Meribel on two other days.  My favourite area for skiing was above Courchevel 1650 - some really lovely and relatively quiet red runs.  I also liked the tree lined runs down to La Tania.

The lifts are very sensibly laid out, but I can't say the same for piste signposts! I quite like having signposts/piste name signs at junctions, not slightly afterwards when you've already had to make a decision.

sculptures
animal sculptures at the top of the Biollay lift

We had plenty of fresh snow during the week, which was lovely if rather cold and cloudy. However they seem to like piste bashing everything to within an inch of its life - very hard (and fast) pistes, even the day after snow.

Courchevel 1850 - the 'main' bit - is also rather posh and expensive - designer shops (with bouncers) next to the lifts, and ski instructors sponsored by luxury yacht insurance companies.  Definitely somewhere to check prices before ordering a beer! (€12 for half a litre? no thank you)

snowy chairlift

We stayed at Chalet Barragiste in Courchevel 1550, which was a fantastic location - you could ski down to the lifts, and ski back at the end of the day as long as you didn't mind going along the luge track!  The hot tub was also very good, with views of the mountain and of people crashing their sledges.