So last week… Last week was big.

I started normal school – earlier it was a different deal for the kids who skied – went for two bike rides, mushroom hunting, a hike, and tried my luck on the luge. And there is even more coming up: ski practice starts tomorrow, soccer starts Friday, and this weekend we are going camping.

Living in France is awesome.

The first bike ride I went on was with Alain (my French dad), and my brothers Nicolas and Clement. We started from the house and rode up to the tram that is actually a gondola with only one car. It was a quick ride, but out the window was a great view of Megéve. Unfortunately, we picked a bad weather day and it only got worse. At the top we were in the clouds and while it wasn’t raining, it was sure cold. In the beginning, the temperature did not faze us. We set off down the trail and after a bit we stopped and walked our bikes into the forest. In Megéve it is customary for people to go pick their own mushrooms and eat them right away, just like they do at the Telluride Mushroom Festival, except here it happens all the time. Mushrooms are eaten that night or the next day like you do when you catch a fish. We decided to forage late on that foggy day and for 30 minutes, we hunted for a specific kind of yellow mushroom. We found many mushrooms – brown ones, red ones, big ones, small ones, tube one – but none that were eatable. I assumed the people who came before us picked all the good mushrooms earlier in the day. In the end all of our searching came to three mushrooms the size of a thumbnail.  But I don’t like mushrooms anyway.

Then the weather got worse and colder. We pushed on, but Nicolas was not as fast as the rest of us, and it seemed as if we were just crawling along waiting for rain. After however long and twice as much waiting as riding, we reached a split in the trail where we could ride back to town on a single track or ride back up to the top to get to a trail that looped around the ski mountain. I decided on the latter, so we began riding what seemed to be a short, shallow grade road up a small bit. It turned out, however, not to be the case. The road was long and steep and almost as difficult as Boomerang, though half as long, not quite hard enough to walk, but pushing the limits of riding, at least for us. I was panting like a dog after every 100 meters and had to stop. But having just came from high altitude and having good cardio as a result, the adventure must have been way easier for me than for my French family. We decided because of the weather and time we should just go back down on a road and not do the loop, which was a little disappointing for me. I guess I will just have to complete the whole ride a different time.

The next bike ride had its own problems. This time I went with my French sister Camille. We took a different trail on a perfect day that was hot and sunny and dry. We rushed out around 1:00 p.m. – both of us forgetting water –  to ride on the road on the other side of the valley from the first ride. It was a gentle uphill for the first 10 minutes or so, and then we turned off to a different road with the same grade and length as airport road in Telluride. After a short time, we started to get thirsty. But, as I said, we had no water. That was ok in the beginning, but the thirst became like an itch that would start small and eventually become a pressing problem that was hard to ignore. The problem got worse when we turned off again onto a dirt road with an even steeper uphill. It was very difficult to stay on the bike and Camille ended up walking a third of the leg. It was ok waiting though, because I also needed a rest. And the scenery was beautiful: a few summer farm homes and cattle grazing in green grass. The cows had bells attached to their collars in case they wandered off. The sharp ringing broke the quiet. The  only sound was a soft breeze, our heavy breathing and the tinkling of a dozen bells.

Once we crested the top, we found a household café with seating outside and a small decorative water fountain disguised as a log. The place overlooked the valley with Mount Blanc as the backdrop. That was gorgeous. We stopped, and we were both out of breath from our long climb. Both our mouths were dry. I decided we should ask for water at the café, and when I brought it up with Camille, she said we had no money. I thought, fine. They will probably give us a free glass of water and we will be on our way.

The owner gave us a big bottle of Evian water and two glasses and we sat down under an umbrella relaxing and enjoying the view. After a few minutes, we were ready to continue our ride. Up to that point, the push was uphill on a paved road that turned to dirt. There was a single track that wound around the mountain and descended and I was excited for some real riding, especially since on our last ride there was no  single track. So we got up and I told the owner we were leaving and she said the water was 3.80 Euros. Oops.

But I should have seen it coming. I was not in America. In France, it is not mandatory to give people free water and the woman did hand us a bottle, not a glass. Now we were stuck. We had to somehow get the equivalent of five dollars to pay to leave. To do that, one of us had to travel home. Camille went while I stayed hostage on top. That was because I did not know how to get back or where the money was in the house. Camille finally made it back, but it was 3:15 p.m. and we had to be back by 4:00 p.m. That did not leave us any time for more riding, just to descend the road. So basically Camille road up that grueling climb twice and got no real riding, while I went on my second ride that was still not a real mountain bike. But don’t get me wrong: even with the problems, it was still fantastic to be on a bike in France.

I am happy to report the luge/ bobsled adventure was problem free. I went with Nicolas and Camille on the luge and Clement on the hike.

The luge had two parallel tracks so two people could race. There was a chairlift from the bottom to the top and the sleds attached to the back of the seats. I got a 20 pass and Nicolas and Camille had season passes I guess, or maybe it was a local pass. I am not sure. Anyway, we rode on until we got bored. I raced Nicolas. I raced Camille. I had a blue sled. I had a red sled. I rode on the right track. I rode on the left track. I raced on the right and left. In the end, I tried everything and never lost a race. We took lots of pictures and had tons of fun.

The hike went up past the bobsled to the top of the real gondola. From there, it traversed down into town. There were more cows with bells, but more summer farms. In France, especially in the old days, when the castles were really used and there were kings and lords and all that, people had two homes: a winter home in town and a summer home in the mountains. Both homes were usually big, but in both, especially in the winter home, the livable part was generally only a small area on the 2nd floor. That was so when it was cold, animals could be stabled inside. The heat from animal’s bodies would rise and warm the part of the house the people were in. Chairs and tables folded into beds or closets and the beds were only about five feet long. A person’s feet would either stick out the back or knees had to be bent. When it got warm, the animals would wander outside and graze. The houses we saw on our route were not completely traditional: one of them was made of old wood and abandoned. But on my visit to Annecy, there was a room in the castle that explained the life of the common people and showed some original beds and tables. There were also some dioramas of the summer houses, which is where I got my information.

More soon…

Editor’s Note: Last January, Telluride Inside… and Out visited Megeve, located in the Haute-Savoie department, Rhone-Alpes region, southeastern France. The town started its development as a ski resort in the 1910s, when the Rothschild family began spending winter vacations in the region after becoming oh so over  the Swiss resort of St Moritz. Modern-day Megeve is considered among the most beautiful upmarket ski resorts in France, indeed, in the world. And with good reason. Even more than Telluride, Mageve offers extensive downhill options for all levels of skiers and boarders: 111 lifts, 219 slopes, totaling 445 km. The region has no huge hotels, and for the most part, there are no mass market boils on its face. (However – egads –  when we were there, we spied a MacDonald’s at one end of town.) The core of Megeve is a charming medieval village with narrow cobbled streets, but the wake up call signaling you are in the here and now are the numerous high-end designer boutiques flashing brand names like Prada and Hermes. Over the years, Telski, Town of Telluride and Mountain Village honchos have talked about the possibility of an alliance with Megeve in the form of a “sister city” relationship. So far, no dice. But an ambassador went to Megeve anyway,  thanks to two ski coaches, local Caleb Martin and his friend, Richard Gay (in Megeve). The pair decided an exchange would be a great idea, so  Zach Nunn is now staying with Clement Cabrol’s family – Alain, Cathy, Camille,  and Nicholas –  before Clement travels to town to ski moguls with the Telluride Ski and Snowboard Club. Clement will be staying with the (remaining) Nunns: Randall, Debra, and Skyler. Zach plans to spend a year in Megeve and will be posting regularly.

1 Comment
  • tammy
    Posted at 22:31h, 12 October

    Great Job Zach!