Also, learning from last year, I invested in some proper ski clothing before I went out; I've been reliably informed that one piece outfits are "so 20 years ago", so hopefully the jacket/trousers I got are a bit more stylish :) (My main criteria were "Are they reduced in the sale?" and "Do they fit?", and they seemed to do the job ok.) I'd certainly like to go snowboarding again at some point, and maybe try skiing on snow (rather than dry slopes), so with luck I'll get a bit more wear out of the new gear in the future.
Aside from the skiing, I had the challenge of finding vegetarian food in France, which inevitably led to something of a cheese overload. Thursday night: melted cheese over potatoes. Friday: three cheese pizza. Saturday: ... I'll come back to that in a minute. Sunday: cheese fondue, followed by a cheese board for dessert. (I had quite a vivid dream that night.) Now, coming back to Saturday, we all went out to a barn dance. It was held in a sports hall (with basketball hoops on the walls), but they'd put in long tables for people to sit and eat, with a space in the middle for dancing, and guys up on stage to sing with accordions. The normal meal was potato, sauerkraut (cabbage), and four types of meat. The veggie meal was just potato and sauerkraut, i.e. they left out the meat. Nice. I didn't realise this until we arrived there, but the evening was actually a fundraising event, organised by "Friends of the Bull Fighting Club". (One of the other vegetarians in our group is also a Hindu!) I was driving (simple/parochial rule of thumb - France = Bizzaro-world, where everything's the wrong way around), so I wasn't drinking alcohol either. 18 euros well spent there... Honestly, I'm not really offended - I have to laugh, since it's just so gloriously crass, like being in a "South Park" episode.
I'm glad I went, partly just to show that I'm a team player and all that, and I do appreciate the boss's hospitality (we stayed in his house) and generosity (paying for my plane ticket). But I don't think I'll go along next year. It's partly because I think it's too unwieldy when you have large numbers of people (20-odd this year), e.g. spending 4 hours in the restaurant because it takes so long to take orders and cook the food, and just general faffing around whenever a decision needed to be made. Also, I don't really like being around people who are smoking, but that accounted for a third of the people who went on the trip, so it was hard to avoid it. The other issue is that I was pretty tired by the evenings, so I'd prefer to just head back and read a book before going to bed, whereas other people wanted to go out clubbing. Thinking back to when I went SCUBA diving a few years ago, there were similarities: we'd all get up early in the morning, head out on the boat to do dives during the day, then go back to the hotel in the evening to have a shower and change before going out for dinner, and to a bar. However, I was always within walking distance of my hotel room, so I wasn't reliant on other people for transport (and conversely I wouldn't abandon people who needed me to drive them back). Also, I had my own hotel room, with my own key, which gave me space to do my own thing. I think the upshot is that I'm better off travelling on my own, or in a small group with other people who have similar preferences to me.
I picked up a couple of new books at the airport on the way out: "Popcorn" (Ben Elton) and "The DaVinci Code". I liked "Popcorn", although I'd come across some of the ideas before in "Sex 'n' Death" (a Martin Clunes film from a few years ago), which is a bit unfair since the book came first. As for "The DaVinci Code", I'd avoided it for a while because everyone else I know from ICSF had said bad things about it. However, someone else then recommended it (and lent me "Decipher", which I liked), so I decided to give it a go. I thought it was a decent story, and I definitely wanted to keep reading it once I'd started, although I found it a bit annoying when he'd reveal information to the characters and delay passing it on to the reader. And I liked the puzzles; I think I had about a 1 in 3 success rate at solving them myself. The religious stuff was rather more annoying. I could tell that the author had made an attempt at being even-handed, but he wasn't entirely successful. More generally, I was trying to say "Ok, it's fiction, so it doesn't matter" but it did still detract from my enjoyment of the novel. Mind you, I think this is partly just a reaction to dealing with other people who latch on to ridiculous conspiracy theories. Anyway, all in all, it served its purpose of being light reading for a trip away, but I'm not planning to read his other stuff.
In other news, I went off to watch "Elektra" at the cinema last night, which I enjoyed. I was looking forward to it, although I'd heard some bad comments about it from other people who'd seen it, so I had mixed expectations. It's probably not a film I'd buy on DVD, but I thought it was good. My main reservation about "Daredevil" was that they'd gone overboard on the superpowers, but the mystic aspects in this film didn't bother me - less detached than "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", but more grounded than "Bulletproof Monk" (which was a fun film). Probably the best compliment I can give is that I hadn't finished my drink by the end of the film, because there were hardly any points when I'd feel comfortable making a noise. I really should get round to watching "Alias" sometime, to see more of Jennifer Garner's work...
(The cut tags are just for brevity, not to hide spoilers.)