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Connacht Tribune

Chilly Powder top of the pile

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John McIntyre pictured on the slopes in Morzine.

Annual skier John McIntyre had his first taste of the chalet experience in the French Alps two weeks ago when staying at the Chilly Powder resort in Morzine, France. This is his account of freezing temperatures, being served post-dinner shots with a shotgun and hospitality to die for.

It’ll be no bother. That was the anticipation ahead of my first try at skiing in Andorra over 15 years ago. I was still playing hurling in Tipperary – granted, at an age where the vast majority of players have long seen sense – and I was in good physical shape.

Three days later, any illusions about flying around the slopes had been shattered. To be honest, an elephant on skies would have looked more graceful as I stumbled and fell with a regularity that must have threatened the local record for ending up in the snow on the seat of my pants.

I was no sooner upright than I was down. My habit of trying to turn with my shoulders proved a recipe for disaster. To be honest even putting on those heavy ski boots for the first time was a shock. It reminded me of trudging around a circular feeder for cattle in the muck on the family farm back home.

Though my wife Pauline, and sons Eanna and Donal, were also on their first skiing trip, they picked up the basics fairly quickly. In contrast, I resembled a drunk-on-skies and it was no surprise that our Argentinian instructor started firing snowballs in my direction out of sheer frustration.

But by the end of the week, I had sort of got the nuances of skiing, but it would take a couple of more trips to the Alps before I finally became really steady on the feet. Black runs are the hardest of the lot, after blue and red in that order, and I am now able to traverse even them – admittedly at my own pace. Sometimes, you look back up the mountain and marvel at the fact that you managed to negotiate a way down in one piece!

Skiing is an exhilarating pastime but each time we headed to France or Austria in the spring, we are always bound for hotels with quality spa (or wellness as they are known locally) facilities. Nothing like a swim, a sauna or a plunge pool to ease those aching limbs in the evening.

A fortnight ago in Morzine was different, however, as we tried the chalet experience for the first time. The opportunity came about thanks to the hospitality of Chilly Powder, which has been operating catered and self-catering chalet ski holidays in the village since 1996.

The company runs six luxury ‘ski-to-the door’ chalets which are very suitable for families and have an ideal on-piste location. Inter-action with other skiers is one of the big attractions on the slopes, but now we would have the added advantage of sharing our experiences at the communal dining tables in the evenings.

We travelled to France with an open mind and, to say the least, departed with a sense of having savoured a truly unique experience. Staying in Chilly Powder’s flagship Au Coin Du Feu hotel/chalet, it had virtually everything to satisfy even the most circumspect of customers.

Paul and Francesca Eyre were charming hosts and along with their general manager, Nick Page, have established a business which sets a high standard for chalet accommodation and service in the Alps. No request was too big or too small and the overall hospitality was terrific, in an utterly genuine and unfussy way.

Francesca, a native of West Sussex in the UK, has strong family connections with Galway. Her grandfather Major James Willson was once the Master of the Galway Hunt and owned St Clerans in Craughwell before it was sold to film maker John Houston. She herself trained as a chef under Alex Gardiner in Dublin.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

Connacht Tribune

Community fights back on hospital ‘downgrade by stealth’

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Raw emotion, sadness and some anger filled the air at Clifden Town Hall on Sky Road last Sunday afternoon as a shaken community gave honest, personal accounts of the impact the closure by stealth of Clifden District Hospital would have on the people of North Connemara.

The public meeting was hastily organised after fears emerged on Friday that the HSE may transfer respite services from Clifden to Merlin Park Hospital, 50-plus miles away in Galway City.

Families were told their loved ones in Clifden Hospital may have to move home, or go to Merlin Park the following Monday, due to ‘issues with staffing’.

An axe has hung over Clifden Hospital for some years, but this latest move stirred the community to fight back to retain services locally.

Galway County Councillor Eileen Mannion (FG), who organised the public meeting with Senator Sean Kyne, said 625 people signed the attendance sheets and an estimated 650 people attended.

“The community effort spreading the word was unbelievable; the turnout was unbelievable,” she said.

“It wasn’t just anger; it was raw emotion in the room. Sadness. Family members spoke about the calls they got on Friday. The feeling that their elderly person was being rejected; that they weren’t being respected.

“One man stood up, three years waiting for respite care for a family member, and then to be told after a few days in there that she’d have to be taken home or to Merlin Park.

“We’re 50 miles from Galway. If there’s no traffic you might get to the outskirts in an hour but with the traffic in Galway, you could be another hour to get to Merlin Park. Not everyone has transport either and they’ve to rely on buses.

“A young woman stood up at the meeting and said her dad was dying in Galway. And she had to go to Saint Vincent de Paul to get money to pay for a B&B so that the family would be close to him when the end came. People gave their personal stories, and it was just heart-breaking.”

(Photo by Carmel Lyden: Teresa Conneely from Roundstone addresses people at the public meeting in Clifden Town Hall).

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read extensive coverage of the Clifden Hospital story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Pilgrim took to his feet to realise dream!

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Clifden man Breandan O Scanaill, who is on a pilgrimage from his home town of Clifden to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, received a Mayoral welcome and a memorial crest when he arrived at the Asturian town of Navia last week.

Breandan, whose walk from his home outside Clifden to the reputed burial place of St James in Santiago, began in April, was walking through Navia in Spain when a local man came over to chat to him.

“He asked me about my journey and was interested in the fact that an Irish man had turned up in the town,” says Breandan, who had been admiring the Chapel of San Roque at the time.

The local man outlined the history of the building and the town to Breandan and they began chatting more generally about history and architecture – topics dear to the pilgrim’s heart.

Breandán’s new friend introduced himself as the Mayor of Navia, lgnacio Garcia Palacios, who invited the visitor from Clifden to visit the Town Hall.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Local Property Tax rate to stay unchanged despite Council chief’s plea

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Councillors have agreed to keep the Local Property Tax (LPT) rate unchanged – despite pleas from management that Galway County Council is predicted to spend at least €22 million more than it brings in for the next two years.

County Chief Executive Jim Cullen had recommended an increase of 15% on the LPT rate for 2023 and 2024 – amounting to €2.1m extra in the coffers annually – which would bolster its case when it came to pleading for a greater share of funding from central government.

In an estimation of income and expenditure for the Council, taking into account “unavoidable” expenditure and income changes set to hit, the Council would run a deficit of €9.04m in 2023 and 13.2m in 2024 – well over €22m unless there was a change in finances.

“I am hopeful of an uplift in baseline [funding] levels . . . we cannot continue to ignore the fact that other councils have raised LPT and their citizens enjoy a better standard of services that in Galway,” he stressed.

He told a meeting this week that €9m would be needed to maintain services next year at the same level as 2022. This was due to significant cost increases given that inflation is reaching 9.6% currently. Pensions, gratuities and payroll increases from the national pay agreement, increments and additional staff were all adding to bigger outgoings.

Without that extra funding, it will be necessary to reduce spending by that amount with a negative impact on service and staffing levels, he said.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the story, including the councillors’ discussions, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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