Our Half Term Ski Safari Trip to the Aosta Valley

Our Half Term Ski Safari Trip to the Aosta Valley. Photo: The-Ski-Guru. Piste 6 at La Thuile.

Our Half Term Ski Safari Trip to the Aosta Valley

So this was the time of the year, when we go with two family friends driving to the Alps. This is our half term ski safari trip to the Aosta Valley.
I am super lucky to have a place in the Alps and being able – now again – after the pandemic, to go back all year round. We left a bit earlier than usual, waking up at 1 AM to leave at 2.15 AM, as I have booked our crossing with Eurotunnel a bit late. Rates where too expensive to leave at 6.20, so we tried a 5.20 AM departure.
Tired kids in the car. Our Half Term Ski Safari Trip to the Aosta Valley
Tired kids in the car. Our Half Term Ski Safari Trip to the Aosta Valley
It was not bad at all. But, after the first day of driving, done by my husband, we were exhausted. I don’t drive but I do the copiloting- if that is a word! And try not to fall asleep during all the trip. The idea is to keep my hubby awake!
No-one was at the Eurotunnel terminal and we left one hour early. The weather was good and we did it to Chaumont, to our first pit-stop by 1.30 PM, local time.

The Mad Rush of the Last Days to get out of Britain in Time before Lockdown

Driving to the Mountains. Photo: The-Ski-Guru. The Mad Rush of the Last Days to get out of Britain in Time before Lockdown.

The Mad Rush of the Last Days to get out of Britain in Time before Lockdown

 

What a couple of days.  As Omicron made its way with exponential vigour in the British Isles- more so in England, and Boris Johnson was saying that a tidal wave of infections were looming upon us, all European countries started to freak out and make it more difficult- if not impossible, to travel for Christmas. Therefore, we had a mad rush during the last days to get out of Britain in time before lockdown.

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It was Thursday morning and I needed to get into my computer early due to my work. It was then when I’ve seen one pop up on the News of my computer, with Sky News saying that France was cancelling travels from UK starting on Saturday. Our ticket was for crossing the Eurotunnel on Saturday morning. The story was being developed, so I’ve figured out that it was really fresh!

Queue of frantic drivers trying to get to France before the frontier was closed to us. Photo: The-Ski-Guru. The Mad Rush of the Last Days to get out of Britain in Time before Lockdown.
Queue of frantic drivers trying to get to France before the frontier was closed to us. Photo: The-Ski-Guru. The Mad Rush of the Last Days to get out of Britain in Time before Lockdown.

A French minister has been hinting that more restrictions were going to be done to the UK, as the UK was imposing more severe restrictions to French. But within the twiteratti world of tourism gurus, nobody was seeing this- they’ve thought that maybe the antigen tests were going to be requested 24 hours earlier, as Italy has recently done, or maybe a PCR test would be asked- which was still going to be difficult, as you need to get the result quite quickly if you want them for travelling. You can get PCRs fast, but they tend to be more expensive.

We were making it, getting on board of the Eurotunnel early morning before France closed its borders. Photo: The-Ski-Guru.
We were making it, getting on board of the Eurotunnel early morning before France closed its borders. Photo: The-Ski-Guru.

But this was the crude reality- the same was happening pretty much, that happened last year. I’ve grabbed my computer and took it to bed, while my husband was seeing I was trembling. Got into my Eurotunnel reservation, and as I have a trade account, I needed to ask for any changes via email. I’ve figured out that it was going to be impossible to expect an answer in time now, as Eurotunnel will have a lot of people wanting to change their tickets, so I went ahead and bought a new one way. Now, I should have bought a return ticket, but I did not think that at the moment, but that is for next time. (I could finally talk with Eurotunnel once in France, and buy the return ticket, as if you have your outgoing portion as a no-show, the whole ticket gets cancelled!)

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Our trip to the mountains for our summer holidays.

Our trip to the mountains for our summer holidays.Photo: The view just in the entrance to Lago d'Arpy- the view of the Catena di Monte Bianco.

Our trip to the mountains for our summer holidays.

After such a hectic year with Covid, and thinking that travelling should be easy by now, we got to know we were wrong. At least, we managed to do our trip to the mountains. Here I will recount how it went on our summer holidays.

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Preparations. Our trip to the mountains for our summer holidays.

We had mixed messaging from the UK government, that we could travel and then not. This topped up with the Italian and French governments changing their minds weekly.
Getting onboard the Eurotunnel from Folkestone to Calais. Our trip to the mountains for our summer holidays.
Getting onboard the Eurotunnel from Folkestone to Calais. Our trip to the mountains for our summer holidays.
The last week before travelling, when I’ve thought that we were going to get finally away, we had to do the following. First, if double vaccinated, the French were allowing us to come in without quarantining. This was the same for the kids of fully vaccinated adults. The only thing that was not clear is if our boy of 12 needed or not a further test. Just in case, at the last moment, we went to get an antigenic test at a drive-through at the O2 in Greenwich. There was a line on the advice stating that self-administered tests did not count. At least, we could use antigen tests for both Italy and France.
I’ve bought a series of tests for the whole family for France and then for Italy. I was afraid of not being able to use one for both destinations, as we were sleeping over in France. Then France changed the advice that those needing tests from the UK, they had to have their test up to 24 hours prior travelling. So only my eldest son (maybe) required a test to travel into France.

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EU Regulations for travelling with your dog if we have a ‘No Deal Brexit’.

Get ready to take your pet abroad after Brexit is imposed. EU Regulations for travelling with your dog if we have a 'No Deal Brexit'. Photo Unsplash Jeremy Bishop.

EU Regulations for travelling with your dog if we have a ‘No Deal Brexit’.

September is when we have to plan ahead if we plan to travel with our pooches after 1st Jan 2021. The Withdrawal Agreement ends on 31st December. If there is not a special agreement done for travelling with your pets to the EU, then you need to think in advance. I mean, four months in advance! If at the last minute we have an agreement, then we could be lucky! But as of today, negotiations are not looking pretty. So better to prepare than being sorry later!
 
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If you want to take your pooch to the Continent, act now! Here Ozzy poses with his jacket and preferred ball. Photo: The-Ski-Guru. EU Regulations for travelling with your dog if we have a 'No Deal Brexit'.
If you want to take your pooch to the Continent, act now! Here Ozzy poses with his jacket and preferred ball. Photo: The-Ski-Guru. EU Regulations for travelling with your dog if we have a ‘No Deal Brexit’.

What steps to take to travel with your pet. EU Regulations for travelling with your dog if we have a ‘No Deal Brexit’.

 
 
So what you have to do? Well, for starters, your dog needs to have a rabies vaccine. If you regularly go to the continent, then you should have given your dog a rabies test to travel. The vet needs to put a microchip to your pet, but this is pretty common practice in the UK when you get a pet.
 
Your pet needs to be at least 12 weeks old to receive a vaccine.
 
Even if your pet received a vaccine, your vet, might suggest you to give another rabies vaccine. This is because you need to wait at least 30 days to take some blood samples from your pet to send to an EU-approved lab.
 
The UK government states that you need to wait 3 months from the date of the succesful blood sample to travel. The vet will need you to give you a copy of the test results and include the date the blood sample was taken. He/she will have to write this on an animal health certificate (AHC).
 
Then, if the blood result is not successful, you have to repeat the vaccination and blood test after 30 days… Imagine the pain…
 

The Drive to Our Summer Holiday on Covid-19 Times

Travelling with masks- this is Covid-19 times. The Drive to Our Summer Holiday on Covid-19 Times. Photo: The-Ski-Guru

The Drive to Our Summer Holiday on Covid-19 Times

The drive to our summer holiday on Covid-19 times. Finally the day has come, we put the alarm at 2.30 AM and started to get ready the car refrigerator to get going. Prepared the flasks, went to wake up the boys, like three times, and finally, we were all ready to go.
 

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My husband did the packing of the car, and as usual, we were full. And still full after I took things from the bags three times during the preceding week!
 
Anyways, we finished all in the car with the dog and off we went towards Folkestone.
Trying to get Ozzy to pose on the Eurotunnel photo-frame was trickier than it looks! The Drive to Our Summer Holiday on Covid-19 Times.
Trying to get Ozzy to pose on the Eurotunnel photo-frame was trickier than it looks! The Drive to Our Summer Holiday on Covid-19 Times.

Getting on the Eurotunnel. The Drive to Our Summer Holiday on Covid-19 Times

 
The terminal of Eurotunnel was open, which I was not expecting. The food stalls, as Starbucks and Leon, were publishing that they were taking food to your cars. We did not need that, as we had lots of food in the car.
 
We did go to the bathroom there, all with masks, in and out, and then clean well our hands…. I was trying to avoid this, but at least it was early on and we did not meet many people on the way.
 
We got in our car and we loaded on the Eurotunnel. The loudspeakers said that you could not get down your car during the crossing, so it was quieter than usual. This was great to have a little cat nap and have time to change the miles/h to km/h and adjust the clock one hour forward.
At the Ibis Styles in Chaumont. Ozzy seemed very comfy on the bed. The Drive to Our Summer Holiday on Covid-19 Times.
At the Ibis Styles in Chaumont. Ozzy seemed very comfy on the bed. The Drive to Our Summer Holiday on Covid-19 Times.

On French soil. The Drive to Our Summer Holiday on Covid-19 Times

When we arrived in Calais, it was smooth and easy to get out of the train. We went straight to the A16 and A26 in our road to Chaumont.
We had a good drive, stopped at an open ‘aire’ for a bit. Tried the bathroom and it was awful! That was our last going to the bathroom. Or I find some trees, or use my little Travel Janes that were on my gloves compartment.
All the boys in my family in Chaumont. The Drive to Our Summer Holiday on Covid-19 Times.
All the boys in my family in Chaumont. The Drive to Our Summer Holiday on Covid-19 Times.

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How to have a no-contact drive to your summer holiday

My husband driving over a viaduct near Nantua. How to have a no-contact drive to your summer holiday.

How to have a no-contact drive to your summer holiday

Summer is coming up now. It seems that finally the Foreign Office will allow British citizens travel. They were going to announce it yesterday. We are still waiting. If that is the case, then lots of people will take it to the road and cross to the Continent. People are a bit reticent to travel by plane yet. Some of them will go ahead and do it as are more daredevil. I am not in that category. I am like those others that will tempt going outside in their own cars. Two days ago it was the busiest day for Eurotunnel sales year on year. So how to have a no-contact drive to your summer holiday?

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Splugenpass in Switzerland. Driving to the Mountains. How to have a no-contact drive to your summer holiday. Photo: Daniele Levis Pelusi. Unsplash.
Splugenpass in Switzerland. Driving to the Mountains. How to have a no-contact drive to your summer holiday. Photo: Daniele Levis Pelusi. Unsplash.

 

Where to Start Planning No Contact-Drive Summer Holiday

Starting with going to Eurotunnel. You don’t need to get off your car for the crossing that takes 35′. The terminals have not opened. If you need to go to the toilets, the only toilets opened are by the lay area before embarking. But what if you want to avoid them? And also if you want to avoid going to the Aires (resting places or petrol stations/restaurants) on route? How you should equip for this trip if you want to avoid people? This goes also for people in North America or anywhere in the world.
Here are some things that might help you. At least, this is what I am doing to protect my family while travelling in mainland Europe this summer.
A road to the mountains. Photoo: Anurag Gaggar. Unsplash. How to have a no-contact drive to your summer holiday.
A road to the mountains. Photoo: Anurag Gaggar. Unsplash. How to have a no-contact drive to your summer holiday.

How to avoid going to public toilets: No-Contact Drive Summer Holiday

There have been lots of stories in the media of how going to a public toilet can expose you to lots of germs. There are those small droplets ejected by the flushing of the toilet. These posts suggest you to wear a mask to come to the toilet. In this way you avoid contact with these floating droplets that can stay suspended. Then you clean well the hands and avoid the dryers that can disperse droplets all over. I find all this a bit too much to relax. There has to be something better.
Road trip to the mountains. Atlas Mountains. Photo: Dil. Unsplash. How to have a no-contact drive to your summer holiday.
Road trip to the mountains. Atlas Mountains. Photo: Dil. Unsplash. How to have a no-contact drive to your summer holiday.
The boys can wee al fresco. How about women? If there are trees where to hide, I would do the same. But if there are not? The stops in France don’t tend to have a thick tree-base. I have seen this solution ages ago and never considered it. Now I’ve got some for the gloves compartment in the car.
What is it? A resealable disposable urinal. You can keep on using it until full. It keeps 800 ml of liquid. You can reseal the bag and you don’t mess anything up. The pouch has some crystals that solidify your wee as it gets in! Marvellous idea! The Travel Jane is pink and for women.

Preparing your summer holidays in Covid-19 times

Driving on the Autoroute du Mont Blanc. Les Houches- Photo: The-Ski-Guru. Preparing your summer holidays in Covid-19 times.

Preparing your summer holidays in Covid-19 times

Looking to go away from home now that restrictions are starting to relax? I have been pretty ok and cannot complain as it was not hard for us as a family. I cannot imagine what this was like for those living alone, and for those loosing loved ones. What if you fancy going away for a summer holiday in these times? Well, you need to start preparing your summer holidays in Covid-19 times. Part of it is to get ready for life in the outdoors.

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Walking towards the base of the Dolonne lift in Courmayeur Mont Blanc. Photo: The-Ski-Guru. All the trouble to go on holidays is worth it if you have this at the end of the tunnel! Preparing your summer holidays in Covid-19 times.
Walking towards the base of the Dolonne lift in Courmayeur Mont Blanc. Photo: The-Ski-Guru. All the trouble to go on holidays is worth it if you have this at the end of the tunnel! Preparing your summer holidays in Covid-19 times.

 

I am looking forward to return to my home in the Italian Alps, near the Monte Bianco. Right now my home has guests until before we arrive. We have booked our crossing on the Eurotunnel, which is perfect as you don’t need to come out of the car for the crossing. I would try to go to the toilet before going on the train, as toilets there usually are horrible.
 
I heard on the radio a lady taxi driver saying that she got used to drive with a bucket now that toilets are closed. It is something I will have to consider for our trip. Toilets in open aires in France are not the nicest. Motorway stops have not opened yet its toilets. I guess this might change in July, but a good bucket and wipes can help! Plus bags to dispose any used wipes or any number twos… It is as if we are all dogs now. We always carry bags as we have a pooch travelling with us! We had one trip that we’ve forgot to bring bags. I only have a pair on the lead, but I was desperate going to shops for dogs poo bags…
Going in our ride from GVA to Courmayeur. Photo: The-Ski-Guru. Preparing your summer holidays in Covid-19 times.
Going in our ride from GVA to Courmayeur. Photo: The-Ski-Guru. Preparing your summer holidays in Covid-19 times.
 
We have to take advantage that we can still travel with our pooch without having to do lots of bureaucracy. After December 31st, coming Brexit a reality, all will be more complicated. That is something I will have to start getting worried in September. But who knows? We could be all back in lockdown, so no need to plan so much ahead…I hope this is not the case!
 
We always stop in our way in France (in our favourite Ibis Styles in Chaumont Centre Gare) to break the trip in two. We will have to see if quarantine is still imposed in France. I have read that if driving through France to go to Italy or Switzerland, then you don’t have to quarantine. I have also read that France will not impose the quarantine so much as Britain. But I don’t have clear if we drive through France and stay overnight, if that changes the equation. If not, we’ll have to turn off in Metz towards Karlsrühe in Germany and sleep there for the night… I will wait and see on that one!
Blossoms - next to the Sennhütte above St. Anton am Arlberg tourists in the summer months marvel at the largest edelweiss in the Alps Photo credit: TVB St. Anton am Arlberg Preparing your summer holidays in Covid-19 times.
Blossoms – next to the Sennhütte above St. Anton am Arlberg tourists in the summer months marvel at the largest edelweiss in the Alps Photo credit: TVB St. Anton am Arlberg Preparing your summer holidays in Covid-19 times.Photo credit: TVB St. Anton am Arlberg
 
If this is the case, then we would go through Switzerland. Remember that you need the vignette to drive through Switzerland motorways. If stopped without one police could fine you. You can buy it online before your trip here.

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Comparing the Maps of the Alps.

Comparing the Maps of the Alps.Photo by Alice Donovan Rouse. Unsplash.

Comparing the Maps of the Alps.

This article may contain affiliate/compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.

Now that the weather is nicer, maybe it is time to plan your next mountain adventure. You can sit in your garden, enjoying the sunny days we are having (at least in Britain) during this Covid19 epidemic and start taking your time, as a hobby, of thinking where your next road trip will be.

For me, it will always be to a mountain, and it will mostly be by car. Unless I travel to America (both North and South), I prefer, if possible, to take the car as driving to the mountains, is part of the trip.

Comparing the Maps of the Alps. Photo by Daniel Gonzalez. Unsplash.
Comparing the Maps of the Alps. Photo by Daniel Gonzalez. Unsplash.

So, I always like opening some maps and guides and see what I want to do. I just measure with my fingers the driving we’ll do as a family on one day- actually, the driving my husband will do, as for me it is too traumatising to change sides of the road again. I did it once from Argentina to the UK and I still have to think each time I drive, which side of the road I have to get in, and what side of the car I have to mount to! But I am a great co-pilot, and enjoy the planning of the trip, as much as the guiding.

Here is a selection of maps, many of which I have already bought- (you cannot ever have enough maps, right?) I might not spend too much in shoes, but I do like my maps, and some travel guides as well!

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Our half term ski-safari holiday based in the Valdigne of Aosta Valley- Courmayeur, Pila and La Thuile.

Our half term ski-safari holiday based in the Valdigne of Aosta Valley- Courmayeur, Pila and La Thuile. The boys happy after a great ski day.

Our half term ski-safari holiday based in the Valdigne of Aosta Valley- Courmayeur, Pila and La Thuile.

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This past February, as it is usual now, for our eight year in the row, we left home very early, this time with our pooch, and drove to the Eurotunnel, one hour- and a bit now due to the diversion in the M2/M20, and us trying to find an open petrol station to fill up our car.

Driving off Calais to the mountains. Our half term ski-safari holiday based in the Valdigne of Aosta Valley- Courmayeur, Pila and La Thuile.
Driving off Calais to the mountains. Our half term ski-safari holiday based in the Valdigne of Aosta Valley- Courmayeur, Pila and La Thuile.

We arrived with time to only go to the toilet and we boarded on our way to France. Thirty-five minutes later, we were rolling down the A16 and then A 26, all the way to Reims, and then around Reims and down to Troyes, and changed to A5 towards Chaumont. Just on exit 24 you get off the motorway and, after paying the hefty toll fee, and get into the route nationale 10 to get through a lovely wooded and windy road to Chaumont.

Following our road in the map. Our half term ski-safari holiday based in the Valdigne of Aosta Valley- Courmayeur, Pila and La Thuile.
Following our road in the map. Our half term ski-safari holiday based in the Valdigne of Aosta Valley- Courmayeur, Pila and La Thuile.

We made it in fantastic time to Chaumont, we got in our room at the Ibis Styles Chaumont Centre Gare and after trying to have a nap – an impossible task with the boys wired and running in the room, I went out with my eldest into town…

Arriving into Chaumont through the Route Nationale 10. Our half term ski-safari holiday based in the Valdigne of Aosta Valley- Courmayeur, Pila and La Thuile.
Arriving into Chaumont through the Route Nationale 10. Our half term ski-safari holiday based in the Valdigne of Aosta Valley- Courmayeur, Pila and La Thuile.

Just a nice walk around town, we’ve visited an old chocolate store with long showcase cabinets, which is a pleasure in itself. We got some chocolates, then we went to a fashion shop. My eldest is into fashion now…. getting to be a tweeny! He wanted a brand t-shirt. I don’t know why kids are so much into brands now. I negotiated with him that I was giving the money in exchange of one Amazon voucher he was given as a gift in Christmas and he could buy it.

Around Chaumont with my eldest and Ozzy. Our half term ski-safari holiday based in the Valdigne of Aosta Valley- Courmayeur, Pila and La Thuile.
Around Chaumont with my eldest and Ozzy. Our half term ski-safari holiday based in the Valdigne of Aosta Valley- Courmayeur, Pila and La Thuile.

After going to the local supermarket to have some little something in the room as it was still early, we came back to the hotel room.

At the chocolate shop in Chaumont. Our half term ski-safari holiday based in the Valdigne of Aosta Valley- Courmayeur, Pila and La Thuile.
At the chocolate shop in Chaumont. Our half term ski-safari holiday based in the Valdigne of Aosta Valley- Courmayeur, Pila and La Thuile.

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Brexit: UK travellers to EU face end of free roaming and pet travel from 2021

Dogs are running through the snow- Photo Patrick Hendry. Unsplash. Brexit: UK travellers to EU face end of free roaming and pet travel from 2021

Brexit: UK travellers to EU face end of free roaming and pet travel from 2021

From the Independent. By Simon Calder

New government advice confirms extra red tape and expense for British travellers to Europe

One day before the UK leaves the European Union, the government has revealed that British holidaymakers and business travellers to the EU face onerous changes when the transition agreement expires on 31 December.

Many aspects of travel were previously uncertain, but it appears that the government has already made up its mind that, for visitors to the remaining 27 European Union countries, it will be a hard Brexit.

For the remainder of 2020, no rules on travel will change. But once the transition ends, visitors to Europe will face much more red tape and expense than the travel industry had previously hoped.

The new online advice says the guarantee of free mobile phone roaming throughout the EU will end.

Motorists will need a “green card” – a certificate extending their travel insurance to Europe.

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