Chamonix spring and summer didn’t really happen for me this year. Once last year’s achilles tendentious eased off, the pain moved to the calf, with muscle tears in exactly the same place each calf. So running has mostly been out.
From March for 3 months I’ve been in intensive French lessons. Having lived in Chamonix for almost 5 years I’m pretty horrified as how little French I’ve picked up and actually how few people here even bother. I noticed I had hardly any French friends… it was like the blinkers being lifted from my eyes. I am living in an expat bubble and its pretty sad.
So earlier this year I had two main goals. To improve my French and to travel to Latin America. Having visited Venezuela at 18 years old, that part of the world was my first experience outside of Europe and I really wanted to go back. So – with the injuries etc I made both things happen. And then something else happened which made getting away even more important to me……
Intensive french classes in Sallanches with Greta – 35 hours a week. Sad to say it didn’t help massively as it was too much geared at job seeking as opposed to language learning. But the seed has been sown and it’s literally my obsession now. I must admit I didn’t move to France for a love the country in particular- I’m half Greek and have more of a Mediterranean spirit in me – but I feel quite different now. Learning French is quite possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever done- way harder than all the sports and career/study etc. It’s just so hard being British when everyone seems to speak better English than you do their language. No excuse, I know- but its too easy to let it slide.
However the French lessons meant I met a dear, dear friend; an Italian girl, my age, with very much the same spirit and attitude to life…so as well as being in the classroom all week, we went skiing / ski touring together on days off- including the likes of Mont Blanc du Tacul etc.
Elena agreed to climb the Aiguille Verte with a British guy who is trying to become the first Brit to climb all 4000m peaks of the Alps in a year to raise money for snow leopards or something. She really wanted to climb that mountain – it was on her list ( Does this mean I’m a mountaineer now? she said) and I think because of how intense the French course was with our precious time off restricted- (a big thing for Chamonairds to suffer!) she really pushed herself. Sadly there was a slide on the descent and Elena was killed- a week before Ueli Steck and in not a dissimilar manner. People often say ‘ oh they died doing something they loved…’ I don’t buy this at all. Elena did not want to die- she told me so a week before, having had a close call the year prior. I think people who say that are slightly indoctrinated…… but I’ll leave that debate for another time.
The result of this meant I had no desire ( and still very little) to go up the mountain. If someone as experienced and skilled as Elena can get wiped out just like that- what hope do the rest of us have??? I’m not sure if I’ll ever fully get passed this feeling. Time will tell. But I just wanted to get away from Chamonix for a bit …. and I had a bit of a ‘Chandelier’ moment….
And it all happened, some planned some unplanned. I’m now freelancing at Euronews in Lyon, which I really enjoy and I think Lyon is a great city. I’ve continued my French classes there when I’ve had time and its definitely a better place to immerse yourself. It’s only 2.5 hours from Chamonix so I can get back easily which is ideal.
But this hasn’t meant the travel writing is over. Prior to Euronews, I went on a fantastic trip to three central American countries: Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua thanks to CATA, followed by a trip to Mexico with Columbia Outdoors.
Pieces on these trips will be published imminently. But meanwhile there are plenty of photos on my Instagram.
I had a lot of fun with @LatAmTravellist out in Central America. Particularly Volcano boarding!
The countries really got under my skin and I’m desperate to go back, maybe throw in some surfing next time. Personally, I’m off on some rock climbing trips in Greece and I’m already planning some winter stories too…. so it’s all good.
Oh, and whilst Britain is still in the EU, I’ve enrolled on a Masters course from Sweden ( free higher education there for EU members) It’s in Communication for Development- which if you’ve read any of my prior blogs, you will see its something that I’ve been increasingly interested in over the last few years. Possibly partly influenced by working in Geneva and also wanting to use my journalism skills for something useful. I’m not 100 per cent convinced my lifestyle will mean I can complete the course- but I live in hope.
Meanwhile, whilst Britain is unravelling itself from Europe, I’m applying for my Greek passport as I don’t want any chance of being impacted by this….
I’m also obsessed with MOJO ( mobile journalism) following an inspiring workshop by Yusuf Omar when I was freelancing at the European Broadcast Union. I find it a really exciting and ‘up my street’ way of reporting. My shopping list of kit is growing….
I’m also mulling over podcasting….. but that’s all for now. Next up I’ll start publishing my Central America pieces. 🙂