Chamonix by night


Daniel was not in bed, technically, when I poked my head round his door at eight, but at least he was in his room.  It was a relief to see him sprawled across the floor face down, naked to the waist but otherwise fully clothed.

I found a pulse and decided to leave him.  No one waits for late risers on sunny mornings in Chamonix.  I could always phone the chalet from the mountain and meet up with him later.   It was two o’clock before I got an answer. “He got up at noon,” reported our chalet girl, “ate some bread and went back to bed.” After skiing I found him lying on the sofa in front of a Guy Ritchie film.

Months earlier, in the warm afterglow of Christmas lunch, Daniel and I had agreed to share a few days in Chamonix.  I would show him the most exciting ski slopes in the world, he would show me the bars of the world’s après-ski capital.  In the event we kept such different hours we hardly saw each other.

We started in the same time zone with a day’s skiing in the rain and a big chalet dinner. On St Patrick’s Night our first stop had to be the Irish Pub, where we arrived to find patrons waiting in the road, jackets pulled over their heads.   I draw the line at queuing in the rain for a pub, so we tried Le Bowling next door.  With its video games, bowling lanes and plenty of space at the bar, Le Bowling fitted my blueprint for a good night out.  “Is this what they call a sports bar?”  I asked Daniel.  “Oh, per-lease,” he said.

Daniel thought Le Bowling was sad. “Just look at them all …” he said.  It was true, half the patrons looked too young to be out on their own; the other half … well, a bit droopy.

Daniel is at Leeds University.  He goes out three or four times a week with his mates and usually drinks vodka and lemonade.  Beer fills him up before he feels good.

He claims to have quite a reputation with the girls and I was keen to see him in action.  So, Daniel, here we are in Le Bowling …. talk to someone.  “Here?” he sneered. “It wouldn’t happen, would it?  Your best chance is when a bar is so full you have to barge people out of the way. You give them a nudge, make eye contact and get talking – buy you a drink? …know any good shots? ….  and you’re away.”  Shots usually have names like Blue Screw so the conversation turns flirty of its own accord.

From Le Bowling we made our way to a basement bar where we met the chef from our chalet who had been back to his place ‘to get a few in’ before going out.  The bar was perfect for Daniel: crowded and noisy, with extreme surfing videos and an Aussie barman with fluorescent hair.  “What are your shots?” Daniel screamed across the bar.  I tried to speak to two Irish nannies who worked in our chalet, but they couldn’t hear so I went home. It was two fifteen – a respectable showing, I felt.

Daniel surfaced for breakfast and made a good fist of skiing in difficult snow.  He drank copious amounts of water, slept through lunch, and didn’t seem over-impressed when I reminded him he was in the world capital of skiing and mountaineering.  I couldn’t blame him – the day was grey and windy and snow conditions were nothing to write home about.

After dinner Dan was ready to go again.   Just as he was about to set off, at half past midnight, the Irish nannies appeared.  They just happened to be passing and saw Dan through the window so they thought they’d call in.

I made my excuses and the next thing I knew, sunshine was streaming through my window. I jumped up and found Daniel as I have already described.  He missed a great day’s skiing.

The story of the preceding evening later emerged, no doubt as it returned to Daniel, piecemeal.  He lost the nannies and started at a bar where he had a rendez-vous with Chris the chef, who wasn’t there.  Dan asked the manageress Mel, a Brit, for a drink he had learnt in Puerto Banus – blue shit: Malibu vodka, peach schnapps, blue bols, and pineapple.  Mel invited Dan behind the bar to fix this revolting concoction for himself and he spent a few hours there, drinking and talking to the Italian barmaid.  After closing time Mel made him sweep the floor to pay for his drinks.

Then Dan, Mel and the Italian barmaid went to a late bar called Garage or, as Daniel prefers, Gay Rage.  After Mel went back to her boyfriend – who must have been delighted when she rolled in at four – Dan stayed on with some Canadians, playing scissors, paper, stone and other shot games.  “Perhaps that was how we got to have our shirts wrapped around our heads like turbans,” said Dan.  They lost the Italian barmaid somewhere along the line.

There was a period when Dan rested his head on the bar and slept. That was after the police arrived and told Garage to close.  So it was a lock-in for Dan and the Canadians, and like he said they played shot games and he slept for a bit.  Wait a minute … there were a couple of French guys in there too. When they got outside the French threw up.

“Just goes to show they can’t drink,” Dan said in triumph.  He may not have done much skiing, but his time in Chamonix had not been wasted.

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