Back in Milan. In many ways it is very nice. We had a very gradual increase in city size before returning to this metropolis. After leaving the hut we spent the night in a nice hotel in the valley. We were determined not to sleep in the tent and not to have to cook for ourselves. We walked up to the nicest hotel in Planpincieux and ran into the owner as soon as we stepped in the door. Luci said immediately, “Hi, we are the managers of Rifugio Boccalatte. Do you have any room for the night?” in hopes of getting some kind of discount. As it turns out, as usually happens with locals from the valley, he has some connection to the hut; his grandfather packed the 140kg woodstove (that is still up there but no longer in use) up to the hut on his back in the 1930s. I offered to let him pack it back down and he gave us a discount.
The next larger city was Chamonix where we went to look up our friend Stewart who we met earlier in the summer and I stayed with when I went to pick up Amy and Eric. We couldn’t find him so we got a hotel and walked around.
Next was Geneva where we went to see Jesse’s friend Aska and her grandparents. I got to show Luci some of the places Jesse and I saw back in the spring when we were there together. We did a lot of walking and I did some skateboarding on Aska’s board. Unfortunately, I took a spill on the board which made walking difficult. I was skating in a bike lane and lost a chicken game with a biker going in the wrong direction. I shredded my right hand and knocked my knee really hard on the pavement. It was kind of stressful at first having to find a pharmacy and bandage my hands, but here at sea-level wounds heal much quicker than at altitude.
After about 36hrs in Geneva, we took a flight to Amsterdam. Easy-Jet has cheap flights there from Geneva so, since we were in the area, we decided to take advantage of it. We were going to Amsterdam to visit friends we knew and ones we had yet to meet. Our housing for the three days we were to be there was being taken care of by the sister of a good friend from Antarctica. Lorraine and her husband have an apartment and a houseboat. They offered us the houseboat for the weekend. It was really sweet; complete with waterbed and hammock. It was located right on the Prinsengracht, one of the major cruising canals in the city. We must have had a hundred pictures taken of us on the houseboat in the three days were there buy tourists in boats navigating the canal. Given that my knee was still giving me pain we had to come up with an alternative to aimlessly walking around the city like we usually do. Luci’s solution was to lie in the water bed and watch the boat traffic. Mine was to take out one of Gustavo’s kayaks
around the city. Loads of fun but it was a racing kayak so it was a little hard maneuver but, really fast.
It had been bad weather all summer in Holland but people said we brought the good weather with us. We met up with our friend Tracy and his girlfriend for a couple of meals. When he came over to the boat he brought a friend of his whom he thought we’d like to meet, Sherry. Her fiancé is Dutch and she lives in Amsterdam. As it turns out she worked in Antarctica at McMurdo in 2001-2002 and was really good friends with Amy and Eric. It was nice to meet someone who knows our friends and our life but has never met us. All in all, we did a lot of sitting around doing nothing and watching the boats float by which was a nice change but the three days went by too quickly.
Now back in Milan we are finishing up the paperwork for the hut and preparing for next year. We are also getting ready for our return to Antarctica. We still haven’t been issued tickets but the travel department told me we are scheduled to arrive on the ice on the 11th of October. This gives us much more time in the US than we had last year; time to go to one brother’s wedding and paint another one’s house.