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Diary of a travel writer: Up in the air before a mont blanc meltdown


The casino in Djerba is a place without much charm, but we have dinner here and applaud the after-dinner belly dancer. A few mosquitoes, the first I have seen in Tunisia, attacked my left wrist on the walk home under the half moon. That's as much violence as you are going to encounter in this magnificent country.


Like George Clooney in that movie, I don't believe in checking in luggage. Which is just as well, because otherwise I would not have made my connection. Tunisair is late and I have to dash from T4 to T1 in Heathrow. The key to Heathrow is go landside rather than airside, use the Heathrow Express and you will save yourself 10-15 minutes.

The sight of the Aer Lingus crew is a welcome relief -- friendly and chatty as always.

My appearance on the Vincent Browne show covers everything from watercress to Obama's Moneygall credentials. I love that show.


Back to the airport for Jet2 flight to Chambery. A four-hour delay means we are going to Grenoble instead, because of night-flight restrictions and the difficulty of the approach at Chambery -- the bus transfer is now three-and-a-half hours instead of two. The Crystal Holidays crew dispense apologies and vouchers and the passengers are not as grumpy as they might have been -- until the Val d'Isere people find their driver is out of hours. It is 1am when I land in a receptionless hotel at Les Arcs, find the package with my hotel key and put my head on the pillow.


Prison cell-like room, basic food, poor hotel, tremendous skiing. Welcome to France. Les Arcs consists of five villages and I'm in the highest, 2km above sea level. There's nothing like altitude for clearing your head.


A great blue-sky day, which is what you need in the Alps. Even Mont Blanc is down to one wispy cloud. Les Arcs has the longest black run in Europe, and a stunning glacier area. Seven years ago they linked Les Arcs and La Plagne into one ski area, Paradiski, but neither side lost their distinctive character.


We hit the six bars in town. Even the pubs that aren't overtly Irish are getting in on the act. Crazy Fox has a road sign to Kilkishen and Whistler has an Irish flag.


Up at 3,400m on l'Aguille Rouge, the red needle, the pistieres come to hassle us because the mountain is now deserted and we are now officially the last on the Alps.

Back down to the overpriced drink. Everything is overpriced in a ski resort. That's the bit they don't tell you in the brochures.