A whole week of training at Meribel Ski Resort in the heart of three valleys in the Savoie region of France was ideal for preparing for my first telemark race of the season. I was looking forward to good food, a great team, and sunshine in a big way (Too much rain at my temporary home in Montreux, Switzerland).
In Switzerland, train travel is dependable and easy. Almost every mountain has a tunnel bored through it, and with Swiss infrastructure, train travel from point A to point B is sometimes faster than by car. Not so in France. From Geneva, my scheduled train connections would take me first to Champery, then to the train station nearest to Meribel, turning a two hour drive into a seven hour train ride. Not a big deal, I thought, as I packed a book and prepared to spend the day catching up on the life of one of my favorite tennis stars, Andre Agassi.
In previous years my greatest stress usually came on school exam days. I didn’t like the suspense of not knowing how teachers would decide to word questions, even though I knew the subject matter thoroughly. Travel plans often go awry with weather or delays, but upon my arrival in Geneva, I discovered a whole new level of stress. I was not prepared to discover that my second train did not exist. A loud group gathered around the French platform. As I schlepped my hundred pounds of gear closer, I could tell that something was up. There had been a glitch in the computer system, resulting in a hundred passengers booked on a non-existent train.
After changing my ticket, I realized that I wouldn’t make my connection to Meribel. Knowing that I had to figure out my situation on the fly, I boarded the train. Not having the restful day off I envisioned, I constantly pestered the train conductor in my Franglish to figure out how I was going to get to Meribel. Finally with 10 minutes left on the train ride, and with my demeanor filed as sharp as my skis, I was informed that the train from Champery would wait.
That night, after one of the French team members met me at the station, I recounted my story over dinner. I realized that there are some things that you just need to roll with when traveling in Europe. Plus a glass of wine tastes even better when you have overcome French mass transit and come within inches of missing a good time.