am not normally a nervous flyer, but on one flight to Nice, I found myself wrapped in the kind of terror those who fear air travel are often so crippled by. Unbeknownst to me, Nice airport is directly on the coast. From the right hand side of the plane, until the very last second when you touchdown, it looks like you’re about to crash into the sea.
It was a hair-raising introduction to the Côte d’Azur in the South of France. When one pictures the South of France, visions of long, Mediterranean beaches being enjoyed by sun-soaked, leathery locals exposing a little too much flesh than their advancing years suggest they should, spring to mind.
However, while this was yet to come, I was in the South of France to snowboard. It’s a peculiar destination, given the Alpine riches that France has to offer, but riding in the Med’ was too good an opportunity to pass up. My destination was Isola, a small ski town situated in the Southern Alps, just on the Franco-Italian border.
After landing at Nice airport, I headed for my transfer to the resort. Unlike the mini buses or people carriers I’m more accustomed to getting to ski resorts, my carriage was a large and somewhat ageing coach. Furthermore, it wasn’t pulling in to the airport just to take skiers and snowboarders to the mountains.
The coach acted as a bus service for locals. A handful of young families and elderly French women carrying a week’s worth of shopping were already on board. It may not have been luxurious, but the 90-minute commute to the snow cost only €8, which compares favourably to the €40 you’d pay for a similar length journey from Geneva to the French Alps.
As the coach wound its way up the mountain roads, it was strangely hypnotising to see the Mediterranean landmarks, such as lemon yellow houses and boat hire shops give way to more traditional mountain villages and ski rental stores.
It was nightfall by the time I arrived at my hotel – the Pierre & Vacances’ Les Terrasses d’Azur. After a hearty evening meal consisting of a lot of meat and double my bodyweight in cheese, I headed to bed, ready for the next day on the slopes.