|Reunions: Past and Future
By Ottavia Giorgi MonfortHello everybody,We have just had a “fabulous, fantastic and utterly fun reunion.” Although I was the principal organizer of this last reunion, many others also worked hard to help make it possible. Special thanks go to Giancarlo and Nati, Paul Wirth, Pradeep, Sharon, Ross and Massimo Ciceri. Thanks also go to the Staff of Les Roches School and the Hotel Aida Castel.
I have received many thanks for working so hard to plan the reunion, and it’s true that it was quite a lot of work, but . . . it was so worth while! But it was not my efforts that made the reunion what it was . . . it was all of us! We pushed ourselves out of the routine of our daily lives and made the “big effort” to attend. For many, this meant flying halfway around the world to a little town called Bluche. Together we made the dream come true of meeting again in Switzerland, and together we created something magical.
It was a joy for us who attended, and we gave joy to many people. Roberto Grisotti told me that seeing us again in those fields was one of his own dreams come true. Marcel Clivaz, seeming so much the same if only more wrinkled, told me “good bye,” saying, “It’s been great. I hope that you will all come back to Bluche soon. I’m looking forward to seeing you all again . . . I’ll wait for that day!”
Now the reunion is over. We are back to our homes and our everyday lives, but we will never forget the days we spent in Switzerland. Thanks, guys and gals of Les Roches and Pres Fleuris: once more you have been great!
Please pencil down these dates for the 6th Friends of Bluche reunion: June 30 – July 5, 2005. The reunion will be held in the beautiful lake town of Como, in northern Italy, and will be hosted by Massimo Ciceri. See you there!
Crans in July
We are all familiar with the typical High School Reunion invitation that reads “The High School Reunion Committee of Big Valley HS, Class of 1969 invites you to attend the 35th Anniversary Reunion in the old High School Gymnasium”. If you happened to go to a HS with a really ambitious reunion committee you may be celebrating in the banquet hall of the nearby Holiday Inn!!!
Well, not this group!
I don’t know about you, but I feel very fortunate not to have received the typical invitation. Instead, I got a call from fellow Les Roches alumnus, Jean Paul Lewis. Actually, it was a voice message, “there is a reunion in Crans Montana in three weeks and you have to attend, no excuses. Sue Ellen and I just returned from Europe, found out about it from Margaret and are doing everything possible and impossible to go back. If we can do it, you can do it.” Things weren’t looking too promising and I was at best “on the fence” about attending. Jean Paul kept persisting.
If it weren’t for my calls to both Nati Felli and Ottavia Monfort, I probably would have missed out on one of the most remarkable experiences of my life. Hearing their voices and enthusiasm pushed me over the fence and onto a first class Lufthansa flight to Geneva. Why not! Immediately, I was getting emails from Ottavia about people who I was going to meet in the Geneva train station to travel with to Crans. It all played out as planned, I met Robert Bronner, Anthony Corwin (both of whom I didn’t know at LR/PF) Aristides Nicoloudis, his son, and Brendan Foulkes at the designated spot.
We did the nostalgic Geneva – Sierre ride and then, the funicular and car to the hotel. For all of us the two hour ride went by like a flash. We were chatting and reminiscing as if no time had gone by since we last connected.
We were greeted at the Aida Hotel reception by Thierry, the General Manager, and recent Les Roches grad of the hotel school!
Once checked in, we joined what seemed like a low-key, simmering reception on the beautiful terrace, with the familiar majestic Alps as a back drop. As people showed up the simmer and excitement increased, old year books and photo albums were passed around, Fondant was served, and cameras were snapped. Hugs and kisses abounded.
In the typical LR/PF reunion tradition, alumni trekked from many corners of the world. Swagat Bam won the furthest traveled award, coming from New Delhi, India, Dieter Habib came from Belgrade, Gray Tappan from South Dakota, Carmen Lamoureux from Calgary, Lizette Ottenstein from Copenhagen, and Thomas Barth finally decided to move from Abu Dhabi back to Switzerland so he and his family could drive to reunions. Katy Jackson Cantor and Sue Seipel Sturgis and their kids spent time at Ottavia’s Neuchatel home prior to the reunion. Naturally, Tilda Alman from Nice, France and Carl Michealsen from Monte Carlo won the award for actually living in a fantasy world, so we were honored they decided to spend time with us in Crans. Alumni came from everywhere and they brought their kids and dogs with them! It all added to the “esprit de vivre de famille”.
We were always an athletic, hearty group, with enough energy to end a long day with a little partying in the evening. Funny how tradition seems to perpetuate itself! The four day celebration was filled with a tour of the school, a bus ride to Zermatt, hikes, a raclette picnic tucked away up in the hills, and wonderful dinners in our own secluded dining room typically ending with the group migrating to the bar.
One night Carmen serenaded us as a solo. The next night she enlisted the help of the resident piano player. After that, groups would break up, some people retired early “to be ready for the next days activities”. However, there was always a contingent that either “didn’t need that much sleep” or “didn’t come to Crans to sleep”. This segment of the group usually found themselves at Club Absolut, the local disco. The latest, or perhaps I should say earliest, that someone was reported as getting back to the hotel after an evening of adventures was 6:00 AM.
Like all fantasies, they don’t last forever! Sunday morning we did have to start thinking about what was next. Again, it was different for everyone. Grey Tappan was taking a plane to Paris on his way to North Africa on business. For Nicoloudis, who left a day early, it was back to Athens to pick up his responsibility of preparing for filming Olympic events at the stadium. Margaret Mallon and the twins also left early to start their family vacation through Italy. Paul & Astrid Wirth were getting ready to start their family vacation and to stop by at Ottavia’s home in Neuchatel. Marty Boone was on her way to conduct interviews in Italy for the book she and Lizette are working on. Brendan and Carmen went back with Ottavia and her four little beautiful children to their Neuchatel home. In case there is any question, yes, Ottavia’s home is the “unofficial” LR/PF FOB World Headquarters. As well, Ottavia and Nati Felli are the goddesses of reunion planning. We truly owe our nostalgic and grateful souls to them.
It was a complete experience and I highly recommend that the next time you hear of an upcoming LR/PF Reunion, no matter how short notice you have, that you don’t miss the opportunity to check out of reality for a few days and sign up for a dose of real time fantasy with some of the most incredible people that you know and some that you don’t know.
Mr. Clivaz, This One’s for You.
Back in 1991, during the first reunion in the Bahamas, which Mr. Clivaz also attended, I thought it would be a nice gag to charge my drinks to Mr. Clivaz’s room. To play this trick on him was certainly justified, because after all, I had been expelled from LR on more than one occasion for ‘alcohol infractions’. So, throughout that four-day reunion, I giddily signed his room number to my drink tab, and encouraged other alumni to do the same. I never knew what his reaction was, upon seeing the bill, because we all left the Bahamas before Mr. Clivaz did. In any case, I didn’t hear anything, and I thought that was the end of that joke. I was wrong.
Last month, I met Mr. Clivaz at the reunion at Bluche. He was older and more frail, a mere mortal like us rather than the god from the past. There was something different about him this time. I could tell from his genuine pleasure of being there, that he had relinquished control, and was happy with having let go. After a tour of the old school, I offered a toast to Mr. Clivaz, crediting him for being the one person who, more than anyone else, united us alumni so many decades later. We all cheered, and Mr. Clivaz was touched. I then invited Mr. Clivaz to come join us in Zermatt so that we could all see him one more time. After all, he had driven all the way from his home in Italy to see us, and I could sense that this experience was as cathartic for him as it was for the rest of us. Mr. Clivaz agreed, and was waiting for us the next day as we got off the train in Zermatt. He said that due to recent heart bypass surgery, he could not accompany us to the top of the mountain, but would wait for us at the café and buy us a round of drinks.
We walked down from the mountain, arriving in groups at the cafe, and Mr. Clivaz picked up the tab for each group as they drank and chatted. As the last group of hikers was arriving, Mr. Clivaz excused himself to go meet a friend at the other end of town, and asked me to collect all the remaining bar tabs for him. He smiled, patted me on the back and walked off. He never came back. I waited as long as I could, but there was a train to catch, so I paid the tab, and as I did, it hit me.
I may never see Mr. Clivaz ever again. I am glad – no, honored – to have picked up that last tab. Here’s to you, Mr. Clivaz!
For some of us, a trip to Switzerland would not be complete without a stop at St. Cergue to visit Denis and Joy Hill. Thus immediately following the reunion in Bluche, my wife, daughter, Debra Minogue Duke and I traveled to Hill’s villa in the Vaudevois forest.
We stayed in the nearby village at the Hotel La Poste, a charming family owned establishment. The rooms seemed so frozen in time I felt I had walked into the year 1966. The mood was enhanced by the thick mist and drizzle outside the windows.
Denis picked us up in his Volvo and, as always, drove rapidly and with expert precision. As we pulled into the driveway of their villa, we saw Joy waiting for us in the doorway as if expecting the return of family from exile.
It had been ten years since we last had lunch with the Hills at their home, but it seemed as if we had never left. The intervening years vanished, even though this time we came with a five year old child.
We spent several hours in rapturous conversation, and I found myself comfortably assuming the familiar role of a student listening to his masters. Denis shared with us his exquisite collection of lethal Greek and Turkish swords, antique firearms and rare books, all the while explaining every detail. It was as if we were being shown through a private museum by a renaissance gentleman.
Joy spoke of mysticism, secret societies and hidden codes. The breadth of her knowledge on these subjects would have impressed an Oxford Don. She gave my daughter a huge marionette doll sitting on a swing. This doll is now my daughter’s most precious possession.
For me, the highlight of the evening came when Denis spoke about his father. The elder man was born in the last years of Queen Victoria’s reign and in the middle of the Boer war. He was drafted into the British army to fight in the trenches of World War I. At seventeen, the lad received his first pair of trousers, an Enfield rifle and a bayonet. He was given six short weeks of training and then was sent to France to fight on the front lines. Gravely wounded by artillery fire, he was captured by the Kaiser’s troops and sent under guard to a German hospital to recover.
After recovering from his wounds, Denis’s father was assigned by a German officer to take care of artillery and cavalry horses. This was a saving grace because it meant he avoided transfer to a wretched prison camp where men were perishing from want and disease. Denis described the German officer as a man of honor a la Erich von Stroheim in Jean Renoir’s masterpiece, “La Grande Illusion.”
The Officer came from a world that no longer exists. Similarly, the sense of duty Denis’s father felt to King and country is too little appreciated by many today, and is often blithely dismissed as an archaic, romantic notion. Ninety years ago, however, a mere two generations removed, these codes of conduct were held strongly enough to compel an entire generation of men to leave their hearths and unflinchingly fulfill their duty.
As Denis finished recounting his father’s story, I experienced a profound appreciation for the sacrifices made by the generations before us. Those past sacrifices make it possible for us to be here today, enjoying our lives, raising our families. I also realized that we have a similar duty to the generations who will follow us.
Denis and Joy barely paused as they picked up the next topic of conversation, but I was left in reverie and awe at their ability to lead me to wisdom. They were still teaching me after all these years.
“Baby Foot” à Montana-Village
Le premier jour de la FOB-réunion, après avoir bien mangé à Bluche au « Petit Paradis »,nous sommes donc tous marchés de Bluche en direction de Montana-Village. Einar (Angel) Engelstadt voulait à tout prix boire un verre dans le restaurant vers lequel il s’orientait illégalement (et il n’était pas seul) pendant ces années à l’école des Roches. Mais quel déception !! Le restaurant n’était plus là. Je suis certain qu’il a du faire faillite après qu’Angel avait quitté l’école ;-))
Alors nous avons décidé d’aller à l’autre restaurant. Il y avait une appareil « Baby Foot ». Tout de suite nous avons formé deux équipes : Carl Michaelsen et Angel contre Aristidis Nicoloudis et Paul Wirth. Il va de soi que les scandinaves n’avaient aucune chance. Ils ont ramassé une pitoyable perte. «Normal, mon vieux »!!
VICTOIRE A LENS – A Classic Tale of the Underdog
Contributed by Swagat BamThis story will be enjoyed by all those who witnessed Greece win the European Nations Cup last month.
DATELINE: Montana Crans, 17th July 2004, 9:30 a.m.
On the bus I find myself seated next to Debra Minogue Duke. In front is Gray Tappan and behind me is Jonathan Tappan with his wife Sarah. No sooner has the bus pulled out of Crans, we start on our favourite pastime: old Les Roches stories. In a flash of inspiration Gray remembers, 32 years later, how he had chugged a bottle of (obviously illicit) rum one sunny, late afternoon in Bluche. I too remember that incident well. I was seated right behind him in Study Hall and I was first-hand witness to the ensuing mess made all over the floor…..
Ten minutes out of Crans we come to Lens. A forgotten but familiar sight looms into view. It is the Statue. The dreaded Statue! Brain cells in hibernation for three decades are woken up…..
FLASHBACK : Bluche, Autumn 1972
2) CUT TO LES ROCHES SALLE A MANGER:
“Aujourd-hui promenade et picnique a Lens”.
Despite my young years, I had already been the veteran of several forced marches to Lens, to the large statue of Christ on the hill-top. So now instead of relaxing in the Pavillons listening to Deep Purple we would spend 3 excruciating hours hiking to Lens. Our only reward: Pipo at the other end with a big tub of Slippery Dicks and potato salad.
(I must state that it was the avowed ambition of every Les Roches boy, from a non-descript 10th grader like me, to the supercilious upper-classmen, to somehow short-cut this awful system and to hitch-hike instead of hike to/from Lens.)
Hitch-hiking on the way to Lens was difficult and risky. We all used to set off in a group under the strict eyes of the Grisottis, the other Internats, M. Chufart, and M. Pellet (in his car of course). However on the way back from Lens we used to break up into small groups. Hence the supervision was much more lax. Everybody, and I mean EVERYbody, would start walking back with their thumbs in the air. But not a single car ever stopped. Could it be that Clivaz had forewarned all of Valais not to give us any rides? Certainly it seemed so….
With the tedious outward journey completed, and with the disagreeable lunch barely digested, we started off on the long trek back to Bluche. We were an untidy string of walkers spread over half a mile of the road. As I set out, I had a group of savvy upper-classmen walking alongside me. I think Brendan was in that group, and also Jerry Gillum. These upper-classmen had all the savoir-faire in the world. They were confident that today was the day the jinx would be broken. They would hitch a ride somehow.
A short while later, an unbelievable thing happened. A little Fiat started slowing down near us, and then it actually stopped. The driver leaned over and opened the passenger door. This action triggered a stampede of upper-classmen nearest to the car. Bodies were knocked and bruised in the frenzy to reach the Fiat. However, in quiet disregard of this fracas, the driver poked his head out, pointed to me, and said “lui”.
I brushed aside the crowd, got into the passenger seat, and made myself comfortable (there were no seat belts in those days). Seated next to me, in the driver’s seat of the Fiat, was my Pharmacist from Montana!
So while the rest of the cool guys, feeling rather uncool by now, continued the long trudge back to Bluche, I reached Montana in 10 minutes flat. Thereafter it was a quick skip over the funicular, and I was back home in Bluche with two and half hours to spare!
3) POST SCRIPT:
Ma visite chez Ottavia en juillet 2004
Après notre superbe FOB réunion à Montana-Crans à mi-juillet, j’avais enfin droit à mes vacances d’été. Puisqu’un bel été s’installait finalement aussi en Suisse, ma femme Astrid et moi-même avions décidé de passer 2 semaines sur notre bateau sur les lacs jurassiens (lacs de Neuchâtel, Bienne et Morat) qui sont reliés par des canaux. Il va de soi que nous voulions visiter Ottavia et ses enfants, puisqu’ils habitent pendant une partie de l’année au bord du lac de Neuchâtel.
Alors, un soir j’ai laissé tomber l’ancre de mon bateau devant sa maison. Nous avons discuté et ensuite Ottavia nous a invité chez elle pour manger « la Pasta ». C’était délicieusement préparé par sa tante et je peux reommander cette adresse à tous les alumnis. Nous avions toutes les peines du monde pour éviter des bagares entre les chiens de Ottavia et le nôtre. Puisque le vent se levait cette nuit là et que je n’avais pas envie d’être secoué toute la nuit dans mon bateau, je levais mon ancre et je quittais ce bel endroit. Bien-sûr, nous sommes revenus 2 jours plus tard. Avec toute la bande d’Ottavia à bord de mon bateau, soit ses enfants : Francesca, Giulia, Laura, Gian-Filippo et son ami Jérôme, nous avons fait un grand tour sur le lac de Neuchâtel. C’était une journée splendide.
See you next year in Lake Como.
Ten years ago after the Bluche Reunion hosted by Giancarlo Felli, Nicolette de Bona and I decided we wouldn’t attend another reunion as we felt no future reunion could live up to that one. Thankfully, we changed our minds because the reunion hosted by Ottavia Giorgi Monfort was magical.
We got to Bluche a day early and were joined by Carmen Lamoureux, Steve Botzum, Len Enriquez and Carl Michaelsen. Even though Carmen had traveled all the way from Canada, she entertained us that evening with her beautiful voice and expert guitar playing. Dieter Habib turned up around midnight and he and Carl decided to check out the night life. The next day more alumni gradually arrived and by Thursday we had a full house.
Ottavia pulled out all the stops to ensure that we were kept busy and entertained. The Aida Hotel staff was great and really got into the spirit of our reunion. Some of the highlights for me were the walk down to Bluche and around Pres Fleuris, which has changed very little. M. Clivaz, looking remarkably good for 81 years old, arranged drinks for us on the terrace of the new Les Roches. The impromptu soiree at Club Absolut where Nicoloudis Aristides (Zeus), in fine form, danced so magically with Ottavia! The walk and the raclette party hosted by Giancarlo and his wife, Nati was spectacular – a perfect day with great food and wine. The alpine run at 7:00 am (we only got back from Club Absolut at 4:00 am) with Debra Minogue Duke, Pradeep Kapadia, Ross Povenmire and Carl Michaelsen took my breath away. Swagat Bam’s story about Roberto Grisotti and the chocolate cake even brought wet eyes to a few of the guys. And, of course, the proper soiree with the memorable music organized by Pradeep was the real climax and many of us were transported back 34 years.
All of it was fantastic, but spending time talking to some of the special people we went to school with really is what these reunions are all about. I had that time with Nicolette de Bona (sharing a room and a few words late at night when we could barely keep our eyes open), Susan Povenmire (who, I hope, will write that book), Carl Michaelsen (such fun to be around), John Paul Lewis (dear JP, still so intense and passionate), Brendan Foulkes (always happy and solving problems like directing traffic), Irene Neveu and The Makora Dieter Habib. This sounds a bit like the Oscars, but I know there are several I haven’t mentioned, but thank you all for a wonderful time especially those who decided at the eleventh hour to make the effort – Carmen, Nicoloudis, Willem and Onno Brouwer.
A Special Moment for Alumni Visiting Les Roches
Many expletives have been used to describe the quality of education and training that the reinvented Ecole des Roches provides for the hospitality industry worldwide. As alumni of the “Original” Ecole des Roches, our orientation to this “New” school is through the recent tour and video presentation provided to us on the first day of the Crans Reunion. The school is a much more modern, high tech facility than we remember. And the students in the video certainly didn’t resemble any of the former characters that made up the student body many years ago. Les eleves au jour d’hui are disciplined, clean cut, and focused on a very specific demanding and customer service career path. Have I lost you yet??? It even appeared that they wore the school uniform of a jacket and tie on regular basis.
The hospitality we encountered was a testimony to their mission and standard. Upon our arrival in the Les Roches driveway, we ran into M. Clivaz. This was the first encounter with him for a number of the alumni in thirty plus years. If you can imagine, he really did not appear to have aged much in all these years. It must be the healthy vie en Suisse. He still has that Euro Gene Hackman aura and flair. He reminded us about the reception that he planned after the tour and presentation. At the front entrance we were greeted by L’ecole’s top brass. Their hospitality was of a “world class” standard. Being escorted to the auditorium, truly we felt like VIP’s arriving for an international congress on the future of Hotel Management.
After the presentation and school tour many of the group wandered through Bluche peeking in the windows of St. Francois, also observing along the way the basketball, volleyball and tennis courts, and the sports fields, and of course snapping pictures. The ultimate moment of the Bluche tour came when we entered the abandoned building of Pres Fleuris. This was a highlight for the women to wander the halls and “just remember”, and of course for the male voyeurs among the group, it was the final scene of a long reverie, “what lies beyond those doors”. Everyone was satisfied.
Now the imagination has no bounds. Just imagine, walking through the front doors of Les Roches, thirty something years later, as invited guests of M. Clivaz, walking onto the breathtaking back veranda overlooking the Suisse Alps. This was a spectacular backdrop for a rendezvous of old friends and the Patriarch that originally brought us all together. In true M. Clivaz form, he offered us a fine Valais Fondant, once again served by impeccably trained, respectful and accommodating staff. The esprit of the irony of life’s full cycle was felt by all.
This moment was memorialized with a “family” photo on the deck with M. Clivaz surrounded by the group. Very fitting indeed! This was a great moment for everyone present, M. Clivaz as well.
Merci M. Clivaz pour tout que vous fait!
A Younger Perspective
The reunion consisted of five days of solid activity. From five course meals, mountain hikes, a tour of the cheese factory and the original local of Les Roches, to day trips to Zermatt and the grand soiree — the whole week was full of exciting things to participate in. Ottavia Giorgio Monfort really did a nice job executing each outing. As we all know she is notorious for her organizational and hostess skills, she is so fun to watch. The way she slowly gathered people and politely reminded us of our meeting times really showed the loving mother figure that she is. Her four adorable kids were evidence of this as they assisted in handing out brochures, itineraries, and chocolates at our welcome dinner.
I had a great time with the kids, of course, but I also had fun with the grown-ups. I really enjoyed breakfast talks with Lenny and Carl over stuff like airplanes, careers and the stock market. (By the way Carl: thanks again for lending me your Beckham shades at lunch). Robert, Ross and Tilda took Courtney and I out dancing one night which was a preview of the soiree to come. They were just as energetic as we were and we all had such a nice time. Carmen and I had a great 2 hour walk down a mountain heading for Zermatt. We did a bit of shopping and talked about all sorts of good things. I especially enjoyed listening to Carmen sing after dinner. What a treat!
Gray and Jonathan Tappan and Swagat were such fun on our train ride to Geneva airport. Those guys are a pleasure to talk to as they are all so well traveled and experienced in language and cultures all over. Ross and Pradeep were too kind, inviting me to run with them one morning around Montana. What a great workout those hills are. I also had a nice time Mr. Hill. He is such an intelligent and friendly guy. And at 60-something, he really is quite young at heart. I hiked with him, Pradeep, and Ottavia up a mountain and enjoyed all the stories he told along the way of the water cycles and flow systems that were created by men decades ago.
Just Checking in
Sue Seipel called me from her cell on the way to N. Carolina and told me some of the news. She said all the European men were incredibly
George Tappan (father of Gray and Jonathan) writes: I am still living on the high you all gave me several weeks ago. There were so many highlights, including the little crinkle-fender on the way back from one of the bus outings, that it’s hard to put them all in perspective.
One should always book at the reunion hotel, for obvious reasons, but we couldn’t resist le Petit Paradis, and perhaps owe you all an apology for that. It was like going home for me, with so much nostalgia tied up in that tiny paradise, like a small fragment of eternity. My wife and I spent many hours over our four years of association with Les Roches sitting on the balcony marveling over the ever-changing view and watching the students come and go from class.
I enjoyed your group immensely, interesting, 14 or 15 countries represented, fun, and very much family with a dozen kids of all ages, as all families should be. Not many reunions can generate that warm family feeling. Yours is blessed.
I had anticipated seeing the Hills, and enjoyed Denis, but missed Joy. She and my wife shared a lot of interests, and kept in touch all these years, so her inability to join us was a real disappointment. I have written, but am anxious to hear from Swagat on his visit to them Saturday evening.
Thank you for including me. It was a marvelous tonic for me. I’ll never forget.
Pradeep writes to Ross and any other crazy runners out there: Ran 7.6 miles in 78 minutes yesterday. Feel OK (right knee hurts a bit, and a blister in my heel, but nothing I can’t overcome). I’m hoping for a 9 mile run tomorrow, but we’ll see. The cooler weather helps.
Please keep those articles and emails coming, folks. Your submissions keep this thing going. The newsletter is for all alumns of the school, not only those fortunate enough to go to the reunions, so please don’t be shy. Articles in French welcomed! You can send your submission to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, Debra Minogue Duke at email@example.com, or to John Paul Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Debra Minogue Duke is the coordinator for reunion photographs. If you have photographs you would like to share on the FOB website, please send a disk of your best selection, with captions, to Debra Duke, 934 South Josephine Street, Denver, CO 80209, USA.
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