It started with vin chaud.
Almost exactly a year ago, on one of those perfect mountain days when the world is a dazzle of white mountains and blue skies, we finished an elated day of skiing with a stop at one of the little wooden cafes that dot the Alpine pistes.
Cheeks reddened and tongues loosened by the alcohol, one of us joked, “we love it so much, why don’t we just move here?” And we had one of those conversations you have on holiday, in which you don’t need to draw the line between imagination and reality, and we returned to London.
At that stage, we had no intention at all of actually moving. We had just bought our first house and were going through the stages of painting and furniture buying. We had added two cats to the family. But we kept that dream of mountains in our pockets, and as 2010 wore on, a number of factors conspired which got us trawling immobilier websites and making budget spreadsheets and, eventually, telling friends, family and work that we were moving abroad.
And so it was that on Christmas Eve I left my desk at the bank for the last time. I jumped in a taxi and as I watched the streets of London, bedecked in their festive finery, pass by, I wondered whether I would ever call this city, where I was born and where I have lived for all but four of my twenty five years, home again. But I have been waiting a long time for the Alps to become the place that we return to, rather than from.
I flew to Geneva, and into the arms of my husband, and we drove through thick, peaceful snow to our new home. The road clung to mountain sides lit by fairy lights strung along the chalets’ eaves.
The last time I spent Christmas in the mountains was when I lived for a year in way, way upstate New York. I was eighteen years old and I felt like I had stepped into a postcard. That winter I learnt about temperatures so cold that school was cancelled because the buses couldn’t start. I ran endless laps of the high school corridors with the track team because, outside, the air was so icy that it hurt to breathe.
May we be as happy, here, as I was, there.