Sunday, 11 July 2010

A Quick Visit from Mum and Dad - Part II

After we had had our fill of history and of walking, we went back to the car and headed home for a glass (or three) of wine. We had decided to go out for dinner at the nearby Terrasse in Bussigny, a Portugese-owned restaurant that Christelle and I had frequented in the past to sample their steak and chips and pizzas (although not during the same visit).

I had previously had the entrecote de boeuf with a peppercorn sauce – which was delicious – but had been advised by Pascal’s dad and sister to try the garlic sauce next time I went there. So, I ordered "entrecote de boeuf avec sauce à l’ail", and waited for my meal to turn up.

During my previous visit to this restaurant, the arrival of my meal had made my mouth water. This time, however, when the waitress arrived and set my plate down in front of me, my eyes began to water. What I had assumed would be a garlic-infused sauce was in fact a thick layer of chopped garlic sitting on top of my meat. I wiped my eyes and slowly took a mouthful, trying not to inhale as I ate.

The taste nearly destroyed my tastebuds – the garlic was so overpowering. As I chewed I looked round at Chris and my parents, who were also struggling to cope with the odorous nature of my dinner. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t finish it, I left a small sliver of meat with its garlicky topping for the waitress to throw away (hopefully she wouldn’t torture her dog by feeding it the scraps).

After more drinks at home, where I successfully managed to transfer the garlic stink to the entire apartment, we said goodnight and went to bed. I had to lay facing away from Chris to avoid my garlic breath melting her face while we slept.

The next morning, I still smelt like a Frenchman, despite having a long shower with the strongest smelling shower gel we had. I had to make sure I chewed minty-flavoured gum frequently throughout the day, otherwise I might have found myself somewhat alone and unsociable.

The journey begins...
That day, after another bakery breakfast, we decided – in accordance with the better weather forecast – to head over to Evionnaz, Valais, to have a go at finding our way around the giant hedge maze there, the “Labyrinthe”. It is billed as the world’s largest maze, and Christelle and I had tried to navigate it once before with Nelly, Bernard and Caroline, but had to give up after three hours having only got about halfway around.

Ride 'em Daddio!

We were hoping to have slightly better luck this time, and after a quick lunch of hot dog and chips, preceded by me having a go in a giant hamster wheel and scraping my knee after falling off, we started our journey into the labyrinth.
Instead of simply being a load of old hedge, the labyrinth at Evionnaz also has ten “Countries” dotted around the maze, where you can put a stamp on your labyrinth flyer – if you got all ten stamps, you could fill in your details and hand in your flyer to have a chance of winning a prize (although there was no mention of what prize that might be).

Open you stupid @$?#!
The maze also had one treasure chest per “Country” with a combination lock that you have to try to crack using the code printed on your flyer. If you managed to open a chest, you had to write down the secret word hidden inside so that you could claim either a free drink or free ice cream at the exit.

Not the most exciting prize, but still better than nothing.

Climbing like a monkey

It wasn’t all countries, chests and codes – there were also a series of obstacles to navigate, like a zip-line, a climbing wall (where falling off meant getting your feet wet in a big puddle underneath), balance beams and wobbly bridges.

We certainly managed to get our fair share of physical exercise as we moved around the giant maze, like hungry lab mice searching for that elusive bit of cheese. Incidentally, when my parents' house had a couple of unwanted mice visitors a few years ago, my parents put a piece of apple in the mousetrap instead of cheese. Apparently mice prefer apples to cheese, which would require a rethink of all those old Tom and Jerry cartoons. I guess it's easier - or possibly more fun - to draw chunks of cheese.

More monkey climbers
After about forty five minutes, Chris’ code successfully cracked open a treasure chest, meaning she was guaranteed a little prize at the exit. Her little victory dance and shout of glee was quite funny to watch, even if the rest of us were not so lucky.

Our codes proved to be as useless as the paper they were printed on, as the chests remained firmly locked, shutting out our chances of freebie goodies. I'll admit I was a bit gutted at this shutout, as my competitive side began to sulk in the face of a defeat. I managed to hide my annoyance from the others, silently cursing the cashier at the park entrance who must have knowingly given me a useless code, no doubt chuckling to herself as she watched the light of innocent optimism flash across my eyes.

Finally, after one hour and twenty minutes of navigating our way around the world’s self-proclaimed biggest maze (is there an International Maze Organisation to verify that claim?), we arrived at the exit. Somehow we had managed to completely miss one of the ten “Countries” in the labyrinth, so did not finish the stamping of our flyers.

However, the fact that we had finished the course in eighty minutes compared to the three hours without success of our previous attempt, we were pretty happy. After triumphantly leaving the maze, we had a go on some of the little wooden games that were setup in a large tent outside the maze.

We played various forms of skittles and get-the-balls-in-the-holes games, before coming across a table football game using magnets to control your player and knock the ball into your opponent’s goal. This was the best game they had there, and although I eventually lost to Chris in the final, it was brilliant fun.

I had a look for the game on the Internet afterwards, entertaining the idea of possibly buying one for us, but my tentative plans were shot down when I saw the asking price of 75 euros. No thanks – it was good fun, but I didn’t fancy forking out that much for it.

The game is called “Weykick Football”, for anyone interested.

We also had a go at a Gladiators-style game, where I managed to beat both Mum and Dad, and got both victories on video to prove it:

Above: My victory over Mum at the Gladiators game.

Above: Beating Dad at the Gladiators game.

Finally, having had our fill of fun and games, Chris picked up her prize (a bottle of water) and we went home, were my parents packed their little suitcase, and then we headed to Geneva airport. It had been a pretty brief visit, and after drinking a Starbucks coffee at the airport, we said goodbye and watched my parents make their way through the security and onwards to their flight, which – fortunately for them – was not affected by the Icelandic volcano that had once again started to cause travel disruptions in Europe.

Another all-too-brief visit from my parents had come to an end, leaving me with that familiar sadness and a longing to be back in the UK so I wouldn’t have to keep saying goodbye. It is a feeling that is difficult to describe to someone who has never experienced it, but it certainly isn’t pleasant. All I can do is to push those thoughts to the back of my mind and concentrate on something else, like things we plan to do over the next couple of months, including my brother’s Stag Weekend in July and his wedding in August.

The following day, we went back to work, and life returned to normal in our house. Shortly after that, I booked my flights for July and August, to make sure I would get to see my family as soon as possible. Until then, we will have to make do with phone calls, emails, text messages and Skype – the wonders of modern technology.

I can’t even begin to imagine what it would have been like to live far from your family in the early nineteenth century, when communications were so different. Imagine having to rely on sending letters?

Still, the post office would have appreciated our business, so every cloud has a silver lining.

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