Lost Road To The French Alps
English is not my first language, prepare to dance through a few mispronunciations and misspellings.
Everything was going perfectly as planned, my flight from Graz was on time. I had just landed in Milano and received a text from my daughter Georgia, that her bus from Lugano was pulling in and was going to arrive at the airport at the same time as my flight, our timing could not be more perfect!
I was so excited to see her and hurried off the plane, I was lucky to receive my luggage right away, (when does that ever happen by the way?)
There she stood tall, beautiful with her smartphone ready to record a snap chat story of my arrival; you can’t get away these days from being taped! We hugged, laughed and decided to get some espresso and sandwiches, at this cute bistro on our way to the car rental place.
I figured we better grab something before we got on the road, we had a 4-hour drive ahead of us into the French Alps.
The one thing I can share with all of you, that have not yet been to Italy is: where ever you go, whether you are at a gas station or a fancy cafe in the city, the quality of the panini sandwiches and your cappuccino will be the same, “ hands down excellent.” Something that has always impressed me over the years during my visits there.
From the look of things we had about one more hour of daylight, it was going to get dark, and we would most likely not have many choices to stop on the way. Frankly, I had no interest in stopping; I was excited to get to our Hotel, to meet a dear friend of mine, that was so kind to host us at the Resort he ran. With only three hours sleep the night before, I knew I would hit a wall if we didn’t get on the road fairly soon.
The rental place gave us a Fiat. Very cute I have to say, for anyone who has not heard this saying before: what does FIAT stand for?
“ FIX IT AGAIN TONY” Jokes aside, my first car was a FIAT X19, and it broke down all the time, being an old car was partly the reason.
I lived in Hollywood at the time, an 18-year-old teenage girl that kept bringing the car into the local repair shop weekly, so often that the mechanics felt sorry for me, and barely charged me for the repairs, they taught me that joke.
Being fresh off the boat from Sweden I found it funny. I’m not making fun of the car brand; I like Fiat’s.
It made me feel a bit nostalgic, that so many years later I was on a road trip with my now 18-year-old daughter that had chosen to live abroad to study for her college experience. (History repeats itself)
Ok, let’s get back on topic, on to our road trip.
We were making good time driving, and the mapquest was working accurately until we had about one hour drive left. Our road map randomly added another hour to our trip! I was like
“ hell with that.”
I barked orders to Georgia and had her check Google maps for another solution, I was hopeful.
Luck was on our side; we were back on track!
As we were getting closer to our destination and driving past little villages, I figured we’d see some snow, but it stayed dry around us. I thought maybe it was like in Slovenia where I had just been visiting my grandma the previous few days, where there was only snow on the mountain top. After all, we were headed to a ski resort with snow all around it.
Tired as I was I made a few wrongful turns, the streets creep up on you so quickly, and there were no lights lit up in the little village that we passed.
We drove up one way, and that did not look right.. I stopped after driving around in circles and re- entered the address.
We got directions up a hill for another 28 minutes; I got excited we were getting closer.
We got on a very windy road, that just kept getting more narrow and dark as we climbed. As a matter of fact, it looked like an old dirt road you see around the farmlands.
As we kept getting to a higher elevation the road was in a single narrow lane, for one car only. It made me nervous, why if someone drove opposite coming down? We both started to question how this was possible? How could this be the way to a ski resort??
There was absolutely no fence or any protection in case your car would slide to the side of the road.
If I were a little too far to the left, we would dive down from this enormous cliff/mountain top that we were currently climbing on.
I started to get a bit warm under my arm pits, not wanting to show my daughter that I had any concern, we might be going to the wrong place.
I wanted to keep a positive mind, (Georgia being a smart girl was thinking the same thing, but kept her cool as well)
My hope was, that maybe just around the next corner we would see some light.
On another note, there was no way to turn around, so either way, I had to keep climbing until we found a turning point!
All of a sudden, I see this snow covered Ice sheet in front of us or better described as an ice bump that we flew over. All we could see around us were big trees, a windy road with ice patches.
The road kept getting smaller; it was as we were participating in a set of a horror movie.
I had nowhere to turn, all I could do was to continue driving up. We were both a bit discouraged at this point; we nagged each other from pure nervousness. I was tired from lack of sleep and frustrated, and Georgia was scared not having any control sitting beside me.
Then out of nowhere, we got stuck on an ice sheet when we made the next turn.
The wheels were spinning, and we were at a standstill. Georgia offered to go outside to push the car I told her, “Hell no, stay in the car!” what if the vehicle started to slide backward and I’d accidentally push her off the cliff! I was not about to take that risk. I felt my heart dropping down to my stomach; I felt ill to the point I could easily start throwing up from stress, my spine felt that pounding feeling of panic.
All I could think of was, we were stuck on top of a mountain somewhere in the middle of nowhere, no houses, no people, just some glowing eyes from a reindeer.
I knew that being able to get unstuck, I had to maneuver the car, and by doing so, I was risking to fall off the cliff. It was so narrow; that I had to keep switching my gears and to move the steering wheel while swearing in different languages from pure frustration.
I felt my daughter’s presence that screamed of fear right there beside me.
I’m the parent that’s supposed to save the day and keep my kids safe; I was doing a poor job at the moment!
I kept moving the steering wheel just an inch back and forth just enough to barely move the car from its position.
All of a sudden, the car gave in, and we started to roll again. Georgia had kept her cool fairly well up until this point.
It wasn’t until we turned the last corner and saw that it was a dead end.
Staring us in the face, was this old run down gigantic house. From the look of things, abandoned, half of it in ruins.
She panicked and yelled, “we were going to be chopped up into pieces.”
I actually believed her; I was at the end of my rope from exhaustion and disbelief that we had driven up the wrong road, I could only think about one thing, and that was to get the hell out of there no matter what! Youre mind plays crazy games with you when there’s lack of sleep involved.
I quickly backed up onto a grassy area and stepped on the gas paddle. Meanwhile, I yelled at Georgia to text our friend to ask for the location, and had her drop a pin to show where we were, for him to be able to locate us!
He had no clue where we were??? and said that from a distance it looked like a 30 min drive from his location.
(Take to account we had to drive down the same amount of time first and then climb back up a different mountain!)
Somehow when I switched to the Google map, the address was entered wrongfully by me. (hard to admit I might add) And we ended up on a dirt road to a nonexistent area.
The good news was, we had the right location now and slowly headed down the path of hell.
(The thought of driving up or down that road still haunts me)
We arrived couple hours later than originally planned. All places to eat were closed except this cute local restaurant that still served pizza for us at midnight; we enjoyed couple glasses of champagne to drain our stress for relief.
We could finally enjoy the beginning of our ski trip to the French Alps!