Category Archives: Morris Family Holiday

Great Gifts from the Alps

Great Gifts from the Alps

When it comes to gift buying, the reality is that some people can spot the perfect present a mile off and some cannot. I bought my mother a VHS copy of Cilla Black’s Blind Date out-takes for Christmas 1994, and thanks to the ‘International Registry’ my Dad is allegedly the proud owner of a star in the night sky. I’ll leave you to work out the physics behind that… suffice it to say that I’m pretty useless at present-buying!

My gift-buying woes fall by the wayside once or twice a year though, and are replaced by a veritable sea of inspiration! Gifts for everyone from my boyfriend to my Great Aunt abound, and even the cat gets a treat! In case you haven’t already guessed, I am of course talking about Grenoble airport’s Duty Free shopping area where, on my way home from another wonderful ski holiday each year, I am faced with one perfect gift idea after another.

Let’s say, for instance, it’s mid-February. You’re on your way home with your mates after an epic week hitting the slopes and bars of Meribel, and you know Grandma’s birthday is coming up. You’re strolling through the departure lounge wondering what to do then suddenly, like Newton with his apple or the bloke that invented the hula hoop, inspiration strikes. What could give Grandma greater joy in her dotage, what could put a broader smile on her face, than a whistling marmot toy? Listen to his whistle! It truly is the gift that keeps on giving!

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What about for that special someone in your life, your boy or girlfriend, husband or wife? How can you best express the depth of your feelings towards him or her? You could certainly never tell them how strongly you feel about them… words can only do so much. Again, inspiration will strike amongst the magazines, gin and chocolate of Grenoble airport’s Duty Free lounge – a stuffed St Bernard! He may not have an in-built speaker like the marmot, but one look into his eyes will tell your girlfriend all she needs to know about how you feel.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the best of these tax-discounted gift ideas come in the form of various stuffed toys… but how wrong you’d be! Let’s say your friends have a new baby and you want to express your happiness for them – how better to do it than with a foot long bar of Toblerone?! Baby can enjoy hours of carefree fun trying to open the package and when finally he succeeds, what joy! A chocolatey treat for him to munch on! (When he gets teeth of course.)

Few culinary delights match the gentle aroma of those wonderful French cheeses, and isn’t it such a joy to be out in the Alps tasting them anew! Those petit producteurs in the Alps spend months producing and ageing their fromage to perfection, and the Grenoble airport cheese counter is the perfect place to buy your sister’s gift. “Nothing cheesey,” she said! Ha! Imagine her face when she unwraps your gift to find it’s actual cheese! You’ll be talking about that one for years, assuming the stench gets past the sniffer dogs at the other end.

You’re heading home from your March ski break with mates when suddenly you remember, Uncle Phil has just successfully completed his Alcoholics Anonymous course – he’s been off the booze for 6 full months! With family and friends around him in support, what better way to toast to his success than a refreshing bottle of Genepy?! Ahh, the spirit of the Alps in a bottle, and yours for a wonderfully discounted duty free price. He’ll be over the moon!

However you choose to mark your ski holiday, a small gift to a loved one or relative who wasn’t able to join you will show them that they were always in your mind. So next time you’re returning from a week’s skiing, remember to save a few Euros up for a spot of Duty Free shopping. With gifts as high quality as these, you’ll be the talk of the town for months!

 


The Morris Family Holiday – Part Four, The Lift Pass Office

The Morris Family Holiday – Part Four, The Lift Pass Office

Regular readers of this adventure may be aware that at the end of part one there was a literary cliff-hanger. You may also be aware that it has not been resolved for 3 months now. Well good news readers this is the part where it gets resolved.

For the benefit of those too lazy to here is a quick recap. I pre order lift passes online. I put them in my ski coat pocket. I have a disagreement about fashion with my son. He repacks my old ski jacket for revenge. We get to resort. I discover the jacket switch. And that brings you up to where we are about to pick up from.

It is hard to have the usual shouting match about something this momentous in chalet with people you don’t know. So I decide to keep my rage for a later date. I explain the situation to my wife and how much the passes cost. She has no qualms about anyone overhearing our situation and precedes to give my son a very loud piece of her mind.

I make my way down for breakfast.
“I hear you have lost your ski passes” the chalet host says.
“Who told you that?” I ask.
“No one”.
I am the first at the table and I start eating quickly in the hope that I miss everyone else.
“Good Morning, I hear you are having a spot of bother with your pre booked lift pass” says the man staying in the room two floors up from us.
“Did my wife tell you that?”
“Sort of”.

As the chalet host delivers my cooked breakfast she tells me that she has called the Rep and she is on her way to help deal with my issue. This is very kind of her but really ads to the embarrassment. For me a resort Rep is there to help with simple things such as showing me where the coach is or booking a restaurant. Or help with extreme problems such as medical emergencies or server weather affecting our flight. Not a family prank that has escalated. I thank the chalet host and wait for the Rep.

I retire to the lounge with a mug of coffee and a newspaper that was dropped off by another member of the resort staff. I expect that on his application for the position he pit that he was looking to work in the news industry, as the paper was delivered with some resort news that a family had booked there lift passes online and left them back in the UK. “That’s €800 down the toilet” was probably the comment in the editorial comments.

I was joined in the lounge by a ski instructor who had turned up to collect some guest. He looked at me and said “never have I witnessed this happening before. When I heard I called my girlfriend up and told her all about it. She works in the Lift Pass office”
“Can she offer any advice?” I ask.
“Yes, she said that you should always double check your packing”. I was starting to feel as if I was in a sitcom. Enter stage right the resort rep.
“This hasn’t happened before”.

When I was informed that the Resort Manager had been called I hoped that the sitcom I was in wasn’t about to turn into a holiday to a hotel in Torquay. Fortunately the manager had been employed based on his experience and knowledge and not on his likeness to John Cleese. Somehow the rest of my family had carried on as if there was nothing wrong and that no one had heard the yelling earlier.

It was decided that we would go to the lift pass office to straighten out the situation. That is all of us. The manager was coming to sort it out, the Rep was coming to learn how to sort it out, the host came to collect as she needed some more piste maps anyway, my wife came to see how badly I got on and to remind me not to do this next year, the children came as they were hoping to see me get shouted at by their mother and the ski instructor came too. I assume the instructor was keen to see his girlfriend and in no way planned on finding amusement in our misfortune.

We all squeezed in to a small office and waited for a person of authority on lift passes to appear. I was preparing to lose “€800 down the toilet” as well as this public humiliation continuing. The authority appears and to my delight utters the words “this happens all the time”. I left the lift pass office feeling slightly less stupid than when I went in and temporally €800 worse off, until I get back to the UK and prove that we didn’t use the lift passes. I think the ski instructor was more disappointed than me.

We thanked all involved, which was similar to an Oscars speech with less crying, and get ready to go skiing. We had a great day on the slopes and I forgot all about the morning. At the end of the day as we headed to a bar for a beer I was handed a leaflet.
“Save Time, Pre book your lift pass on line”


The Morris family holiday – Part Three, Arriving

The Morris family holiday – Part Three, Arriving

We all sat on the airplane without talking to each other, based on the events up to this point we thought it best to keep a low profile on the flight. A small part of me was pleased about this as it meant that I could read my book with no distractions. When the hostess trolley came by I decided to deny myself a mini can of lager mainly because it feels like the entire crew is watching us. They have been warned.

We land at Grenoble airport and sail through passport control. The whole family is relieved to leave the reputation we earned so quickly when we arrived at the airport in England. I instantly feel more relaxed and settle into my ‘I am on holiday’ mode. This generally involves me giving up all responsibility for myself and entrusting my actions on to strangers.
“Excuse me, where is carrousel B?” I am stood next to carrousel A which is next to B.
“Excuse me, my skis haven’t come off the plane” They are in the oversized area with everyone else’s skis just like every year.
“Excuse me, I am on holiday do you know what chalet I am staying in?” “No I don’t know what company I am on holiday with, my wife booked it?”
“Excuse me, do you know where my wife is?”
“Excuse me, which coach is going to Meribel?” It has taken me so long to get to the stage where I am ready to get on the coach it is the only one in the car park.

oversized

Fortunately my ‘holiday mode’ allows me to board the coach, and, with big smiles I fail to notice the steely stares of the other guests. Later on my wife tells me about the embarrassment of sitting on the coach listening to comments such as “there is always one idiot who gets lost”. I repeat this incident when we stop halfway for a toilet break.

This year none of our friends wanted to come on holiday with us. I expect that they are busy or may not be able to afford it this year. My wife has a different theory based on the incident last year that happened in our chalet that involved me sleep walking and the chalets host. I put it down to my wife’s insistence on calling the chalet hosts, chalet maids. One was called Ben. This lack of friends meant that we were sharing a chalet with unknowns.

We were booked into a twelve bed chalet, therefore we make up one third of the occupants. To my wife’s delight the other guests are already there, so know little about my inability to board a coach. They comprise of two other families with children of similar age. The other two families have known each other for approximately two hours more than we have known them. I am keen to get the families equipment sorted at the hire shop. I am always paranoid that they will run out of boots. The other guests insist that we all share a welcome glass of wine before going. They had already got theirs, I manage to hide my impatience.

As I have my own kit, this makes me the family expert. Throughout our time in the hire shop I am always on hand to offer my opinion and override any advice the shop staff have that I disagree with. My youngest is fussy when it comes to choosing boots. Last year we had to return to the shop eleven times. We were the last people in the shop, even the rest of our family had gone back to the chalet. I assume this was so they could constantly text me that dinner time was fast approaching. My Son finally chooses the first pair of boots that he tried, I knew that we would be back at the hire shop before the week was over.

bootfiting

Back at the chalet dinner had been postponed by forty minutes. Fortunately when we arrive back the wine had been flowing and everyone was in high spirits. I make our apologies and pour myself a glass of wine.  Dinner is served. As we all are strangers dinner starts with small talk and the conversation flows well enough.  The starters are cleared and long silence falls over the dinner table. Suddenly it is broken by one of the other guests.
“Did you hear about the man who got lost at the airport and held his coach up for over an hour?”

 


The Morris Family Holiday Part 2 – The Airport

The Morris Family Holiday Part 2 – The Airport

This entry about our family holiday starts and finishes before the end of the last post. Which means that we are all still talking as no one has left the lift passes at home.

We are all in the car heading for the airport and the time is four am. We are five minutes into the journey and the excitement of going on holiday has already subsided. Reality has dawned on the family as my wife has accidently leaked the travel itinerary.
“Three hours before the flight! The Check in won’t even be open”
“Three hours allowed for a 2 hour car journey!”
“Can I have some sweets?”
The reason for my annoyance stems from my time spent in airports before I had the fortune of becoming a parent. If a place was represented by the free shot that is given away, then an airport, like a Mint Baileys, is bland with a hint of disappointment. It is far away from the Tequila slammer of a destination you are headed to. It was this that made me think that children shouldn’t be exposed to airports with their giant extractor fans that seem to only extract the excitement of going on holiday.

As I had been resolved of all responsibility for the holiday, including the driving, I have been given the job of entertainments manager, or EM as we call it in the business. This is a role that I am not very keen to embrace. I start by turning Radio Three on and start to read my holiday book. No one else finds this fun, so I try Radio One. I don’t find this fun.  I suggest a game of eye spy. After two disputed rounds there is coup from the back seat.  There is only one thing worse than being given the position or EM and that’s loosing the position as EM.

I am asked to present my manifesto to the family, they will then vote to see if I am allowed to keep my job as EM.
“Many years ago I thought that airports and travelling to a destination was not something for families. It was my belief that it was too miserable for children to go through. But my pledge to you is to make the travelling to the destination part of the holiday”. The next few hours flew by as I demonstrated exactly how good an Entertainment Manager I could be.

 

Capture

We arrived at the airport 2 hours before the desk was due to open. It was clear that I would have to take my role as EM
up a gear. Over the next 2 hours we would be told off by 12 officials and 3 other tourists. Here is a list of the things that we got told off for: Playing football in the car park; playing football in the drop of area, playing football on a moving walk way; inappropriate language; impersonating passport control; playing hide and seek around the check in desks; trolley stunt display and wheelchair racing. It was during the last event that a security guard decided he had had enough. He called the airport manager.
“Do you want to go on holiday?”
“Yes…I was…”
“An Airport is a place you come to before the holiday. It is not the destination.”

We queued at the check in desk in silence and under supervision.  Once checked in and doubting that our bags would make the journey we were about to, we made our way to passport control. We finally made it through to air side after a very thorough security check.

“Would you like to sample a Mint Baileys Sir?

“I’ll take a bottle”


The Morris Family Ski Holiday – Part 1, Packing

Every month we will be sharing with you the tale of the Morris family ski holiday holiday.

Part 1 – Packing  – “Do you want me to ski with you?” 

We are getting ready for our annual ski holiday, it is two days until we leave and most things have been organised ready for our departure. The only thing left is packing. Normally this is a family activity, mainly so no blame can be laid when we arrive in resort to find out an essential piece of kit has been left behind.

This year an unexpected event has occurred and I have been left with the task of packing for the whole family. This also puts me in the position of shouldering any blame for anything left behind. This set up will leave most readers expecting at least another three hundred words before I reveal what I calamitously left at home. I shall not keep you in suspense that long. What I left behind was £750 worth of pre-ordered Three Valley lift passes.

Nothing says organised more than pre-ordered lift passes. Last winter at the end of our week skiing, our rep comes round to say that we need to return out lift passes in order to get our €3 deposit back. Or we could keep them and charge them up online before our next ski holiday. Always keen to try out new technologies and to save minutes in resort not having to order them from the rep, I vowed unconvincingly to myself that I would pre-order them next year.

I am notorious in our family for poor packing. On one holiday that revolved around us hiring a car for a trip around Spain I forgot my driving licence. It wasn’t until we were cruising across the Bay of Biscay that I discovered my error. I am notorious in our family for poor packing. On one holiday that revolved around us hiring a car for a trip around Spain I forgot my driving licence. It wasn’t until we were cruising across the Bay of Biscay that I discovered my error.”Where is your driving licence?”
“Safe.”
“Where safe?”
“My useful document folder, in the spare room, in the paperwork draw.” During the rest of the plane journey I learn that to hire a car you are required to prove that you can drive, and that the car hire people don’t just assume you can drive. This point was pressed home further by the lady at the Hertz desk at Madrid International.

It was easy to see the fear in my two sons voices as they were bundled into the family car to go and see my mother-in-law. The last words of our 16 year old was, “I want the Westbeach outfit not the 1980’s Prince Charles faded onesie”.
“They are back in fashion” I say.
“Do you want me to ski with you?” And with that I was left with our family’s holiday happiness in my hands.

I climbed down from the loft with the bag marked “ski stuff” and proceeded to check off an outfit for each family member. In my jacket pocket I found last year’s Three Valleys lift passes and remembered the words of our rep “Why not charge them up online next time”. Twenty minutes later I had charged our passes ready for our week away. I safely stashed them in my jacket pocket ready to surprise the family with at our chalet.

The family return late Friday night with good news about Gran. This was followed by all of them extracting from me exactly what I have packed for them for the following week. After an exhausting hour of interrogation which resulted in me having to producing two pairs of yellow tinted, scratched, CEBE goggles, just to prove I hadn’t packed them, I was finally allowed to go to sleep.

A flight, a misunderstanding at passport control, a coach transfer and a dinner with strangers later, it was time for our first day skiing.
“What the hell is this? Who packed the faded Prince Charles onesie?” I demand. My son pops his head round the door of our room, “What’s the matter with it? You said they are back in fashion.”
“Where is my North Face?”
“I may have repacked for you” says my son, “does this mean you won’t be skiing with us?”
“It is looking unlikely”.

 


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