I rocked up to this unique Alpine valley with no accommodation, no job and knew no one. 6 jobs, 2 apartments and 5 months later, I can honestly say that my winter season in the Alps was one of the greatest and hardest times in my life.
Step one was getting a place to live, and thank the lord, an Argentinian friend put me up for a few weeks whilst I found a place of my own and started work.
I was lucky enough to get a job in one of the busiest restaurants in town, but I was the only waitress! I worked on average 11 hours a day and I was absolutely run off my feet, but I
customers by speaking in French and switching to English later on- being bilingual is pretty
cool sometimes, no one could categorise me into a nationality because they couldn’t tell!
I then moved into my ‘apartment’ aka an 18m2 room I shared with a Swedish flatmate, with a ‘kitchenette’; basically a metre of worktop big enough for one utensil. We made the best of it, even chopping down a random pine tree in the middle of the night to put up in the room for Christmas. However, if there’s one piece of advice I come away with from this, it’s this; for the love of god, get to know your flatmates before you move in with them! Unfortunately my situation didn’t work out, there was big falling out, legal disputes with the tenancy agreement and 2 months later I escaped to my own apartment.
I couldn’t have been more pleased; an actual kitchen, a bed on a mezzanine, and a DINING
TABLE (believe me, these commodities are rarely seen when living the life of a ski bum).
I can’t even begin to describe all the amazing things I got to do; snowboarding, skiing, climbing, ice skating and a hell of a lot of wifi searching that came with having none in my apartment (kill me). I had friends of all nationalities, Canadian, Portuguese, South African, Australian, Brazilian, French (surprisingly). Another top tip I learnt; make as many friends as you can, because thats the foundation a season is built on; a close network of seasonnaires living together, skiing together, working together and drinking together.
Which leads me onto my next point- I’m pretty sure I exceeded my life limit of alcohol in 6 months alone (Tequila Tuesday, you were the death of me one too many times). The best nights were the ones where I expected to be out for a relaxed drink and suddenly it would get hella turnt and I would be stumbling home at 5 in the morning mumbling to the pavement. I remember one night where a couple of friends and I went climbing for the day, and then decided to nip out for dinner. And then we found out everyone was going for ‘a couple of drinks’, so we went too.. and then it was 3 in the morning and I was walking back home with my ratty leggings and sweaty t-shirt still on, my climbing harness still in my rucksack.
I slowly learnt to shed the Metropolitan life I had grown up in back in Brighton, and embraced wearing no make up and going out in my pyjama bottoms. It was liberating to say the least. I started to understand that letting things evolve naturally wasn’t as scary as I thought.
So where does living on 81 cents come in?
Well, fun fact, French banks are the pebble in your shoe. That burnt patch on your tongue. The lego brick you stepped on. In my case, it was written in small print in the many legal documents I received, that if I withdrew up to 500 euros in 7 consecutive days, it would block me access to my money for another week. I had to pay my rent with this exact amount; but when I went back to get cash out for dinner, nothing came out. I started to panic before I realised my predicament.
So I did what any desperate person would and searched everywhere for spare change, and managed to scrape 81 cents in coppers for milk. Never underestimate milk; I made pancakes, porridge, and well needed comforting cups of tea for a whole week. And never
underestimate how resourceful you can be when you realise not getting a meal that night is a very real possibility.
I worked hard too; I went through various waitressing and bar jobs before I ended up in property management; I looked after, cleaned and welcomed guests to over 15 different properties, from studios to entire chalets, all on my own schedule.
To top it all off, I ended up on TV! (I mean, who doesn’t want to be seen going on a blind date by 2.1 million viewers?!) No, I was not paid and I didn’t ‘apply’ either. I was just scouted out in my workplace before I left for Chamonix. Due to just saying yes to various interviews, I pretty much accidentally ended up in front of a camera crew, being expected to converse in normal fashion with a stranger, a microphone stuck to the inside of my shirt. The show specialises in helping disabled people find love, and my match was George, a charming ex-footballer who was paralysed from the chest downwards in a car accident. It aired whilst I was in Cham, and I had to get the cafe we were in to turn over the TV channel so I could see it!
Whilst this was one of the many adventures I had in the valley, it certainly won’t be the last. Chamonix, my hometown and location of all things awesome- you haven’t seen the last of me yet.