What a different bag of weather this Easter holiday is compared to previous years. 170cm of snow at Les Houches today and pretty much all the lifts open (14/16), and lovely sun to top it all. There was even snow at La Balme today apparently, so all of it’s lifts are open. Even the baby slopes at Les Planards report to be open!
As is the case in celebrating such lovely spring snow and sunshine, a barbeque had to be fired up this evening.
Maybe it’s because we have an early Easter this year that pretty much everything is open. Or alternatively, its because we’ve had such a cold, long winter back in the UK the snow just keeps hanging on in here (and there!)? Nevertheless, its great to get out here and know you aren’t going to be funneled into the top of Grands Montets with all the other Easter holiday makers, as has been the case for the last few years. So much so, it’s almost been embarrassing to hand the place over to guests as we leave. Ironically, of course, no one follows us out to stay in Barrats A this year…
The continuation of good snow has pushed back the date of ‘spring snow’ classification though, so lift passes are still full winter prices until 13th April which we hadn’t quite bargained for, but at least we will be here to join in with the celebrations of Grand Montents 50 anniversary party. This itself is 50% lift pass discount, plus DJs, treasure hunts, rafffles, late opening and even a gymkhana – can’t wait to see horses with skis on
Anyway here’s to a few more bonus skiing weeks, even if we did come out to do some DIY.
With our last dog we didn’t bother to get a pet passport, thinking that he wouldn’t last long enough to warrant the hassle. 4 years later, he was still a live and kicking and costing a fortune in kennel fees or petrol back and fore to the Grandparents.
Having been sans dog for just over a year we recently took the plunge again, mainly as as incentive/reward for our younger daughter to study hard in her exams. She passed her 11+, so there we were left looking for another family pet (father with big mouth/promises!). With a rare free weekend we jumped into finding a foot well sized dog and ended up feeling sorry for a 9 month old beagle. She is cute and fun, but very, very busy. Our research should have been better, but there we go, she came with a cage which is a god send at times and she is now a full part of the family.
So being a young girl we thought a pet passport would be useful. It’s too early to tell you exactly how it works but we’ve got as far s the UK element of it. £120 later she has her passport and rabbies jabs (having been micro chipped already), three weeks before we take her out of the country. The UK rabbies jabs are valid for 3 years, but only 1 if we’d have had them done in France. Apparently you used to have to wait 3 weeks after a blood check for an effective rabbies jab before bringing them back into the UK, but now that’s not necessary, just a worming tablets by a vet 24hr to 5 days before you return into the UK. I’ve found 2 vets in Chamonix listed so fingers crossed we should be ok. We’ll let you know how we get on.
I was reassured to find on chamonet that if we get board with walks in the bottom of the valley there are plenty of lifts and trains we can take her on, only Aiguille du Midi being ot of bounds. However as Duncan has walked up to the mid station without a lift pass in the past it might be the kind of ascent to wear her out anyway.
Access & Restrictions for the Lifts in Chamonix
|Brevent & Flegere||Domaine
de la Balme
|Les Grands Montets||Montenvers||Aiguille du Midi||Train du
|OAPs||Yes||Yes||Yes, up to Lognan unless not recommended by doctor||Yes, access to the ice cave has many steps||Yes, up to mid-station unless not recommended by doctor||Yes, access to Nid d’Aigle is difficult|
|Babies||Planpraz: from 10 months
Brevent & Index: from 18 months
|Yes||Yes, up to Lognan from 24 months||Yes, from 12 months||Yes, up to mid-station unless not recommended by doctor; not recommended under 24 months||Yes, up to Belle Vue
Nid d’Aigle: from 24 months
|Yes||No||Yes, please advise ahead of visit for groups for more than four chairs||Yes||Voza: yes
Nid d’Aigle: no
|Planpraz & Flegere: yes
|Yes, at Charmillon||Yes, at Lognan||No||Yes, at
|Dogs||Yes, but prohibited in the nature reserve||Yes||Yes on lead||Yes||No||Yes on lead|
|Parapentes||Yes||No||Yes||No||Yes, not July/August||Yes -
|Lockers||No||No||Yes||No||Yes, skis only||No|
|Reservations Required||No||No||No||No except groups||Yes||Yes in July/August|
|Sports / activities||Skiing, parapenting, hiking, climbing, mountain-bikingSkiing, parapenting, hiking, climbing, mountain-biking||Skiing, hiking, mountain-biking||Alpinism from the summit, skiing, parapenting, mountain-biking||Theme trail, museum, Ice Grotto, walk to Plan de l’Aiguille (Aiguille du Midi mid-station)||Walking from the Plan de l’Aiguille (Aiguille du Midi mid-station), Alpinism and access to the Mont-Blanc from the summit||Alpinisme from the Nid d’Aigle – access to the Mont-Blanc, hiking, mountain-biking|
I was amused to read the article in the Evening Standard last night claiming that Chamonix is, at last, going up market.
“This upgrade is instantly apparent in the attractive town centre with its shop-fronts – many new this winter – featuring edgy sportswear brands such as Oxbow, North Face and Mammut.”
Ok, I might not have kids in private school or drive a 4×4, but according to The Times we tick many of the boxes entitling us to be middle class (you know, eating humus, going to the Latitude Festival, organic veg boxes, real fires etc.) and part of that is buying said brands from the shops listed above. These shops have been in the town for years! Not being upper-middle class, I’m personally more impressed by the Chanel, Mont Blanc and Monclur boutiques which I’ve never set foot in due to the fear of the price tags. There are also the prestigious ‘heritage’ type establishments such as Arpin 1871 and Aux Petits Gourmands – Pâtisserie -Salon de Thé to peer through the window at. And in terms of Michelin stared restaurants there are 3 in the town center alone (Le Bistro and Le Hameau Albert 1er, Auberge de Bois Pin), with plenty more Gourmet restaurants to sample. To a little girl from Wales that’s all up market
So whats the fuss? Well, apparently now there are chalets renting for £31,500 per week (!!!) in Les Bossons ‘to revival those found in Courcheval or Megeve’, and presumably Meirbel too. Seemingly, people who can afford that kind of rent can also afford a private driver to overcome the drag of not being able to ski back down to the door, so making the resort feel less disjointed, and now everything is becoming rosy .
And if we hadn’t realized the tourist make up is going to change I read that a new spa complex will be opening in 2014. The new 1,500m2 spa will be located behind the Richard Bozons sports centre and feature saunas, steam rooms, beauty parlors and massage rooms.
Not a bad thing to bring even more money into the town I suppose, but I might now have to fight for my space on the gentler slopes as this lot are probably not going to disappear off piste. Oh well, my TK Maxx kit will still put me in good steed to face the elements, I’m sure.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,800 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 10 years to get that many views.
As pretty as these animations are, it doesn’t half bring into perspective the fact that I’ve been neglecting my Chamonix blog. Ouch.
After a quick search on the internet I found a selection of videos posted today illustrating the flavor of the place it seems I’ve forgotten about:
A bit long perhaps, but certainly shows the business of the market square and anticipation of new years eve
This is presumably the kind of thing that happened soon after the market square
And what better way to get rid of the hangover than your friends laughing really loudly after you’ve done a head plant …
Happy new year, I must do better in 2013!
Its always useful to get feedback from friends upon their return. They had a great time at our place, and made use of many of the things posted on this blog and leaflets in the apartment. However, I’d over looked giving them one vital piece of advice. Take your speedos.
It’s something we’ve been caught out with ourselves in the past while holidaying in France. When I say we, I mean the male members of our party. It seems that baggy swimming shorts, particularly loved by the Brits and Yanks, are an absolute no go in public swimming pools. (something to do with hygine?). In the past we’ve risked boxer shorts while on campsites, but that’s not really the kind of thing you can get away with for long!
The lack of suitable atire clearly catches many holiday makers out, as the sports center has a swimming trunks vending machine. It beats hiring a pair of theirs I suppose, but certainly bumps up the cost of a quick swim. You also got to know your size in european terms as well, as they aren’t offering a straightforwrd small, medium and large.
More details on the sports centre can be found on a previous post
And a quick photo just to remind you what its all about Why the different leg stance though?
Friends of ours are currently planning their trip to Chamonix and wanted suggestions for things to do. Of course there are the walks and cable cars, but there are also botanical gardens often forgotten about. This reminded me to dig out the photos of our trip to Jardin des Cimes on the Plateau de Passy.
Its round about a 40 min drive up through Passy taking you into some of the more typical French villages, off the beaten track a bit. Its aim is to be organic and prides itself in its charitable status and kindness to nature. Being located on the side of the valley its views as you might expect are extremely pleasing. It has a number trails through the garden, including sensory ones if I remember, taking you back to the ice age and bygone eras. Its well laid out for children trails, with many guides tours. If you hit it at the right time there are also kids crafts and recitals.
Like all good French locations it has a cafe offering lovely fresh local produce. Checking out the website the prices seem very fair, 10E for a children’s menu and 16E for an adults 3 course lunch.
Its a lovely easy way to enjoy a piece of culture in the mountains without your crampons. If you don’t have plans to stop for lunch you can manage to complete your wandering in about 1.5hrs.
Its 15E for a family of 4 and opens between late May and early October each year.
61, impasse des Gures ZAE des Egratz
Access: 447, route du docteur Davy, le Plateau d’Assy, 74190 PASSY
With all the rain in the UK, memories of lazy warm days spent on the banks of Lake Geneva seem very far away. There are a number of municipal lakes down the valley from Chamonix (e.g Base de loisir des Ilettes, at Sallanches and Plan d’eau biotope at Combloux as suggested here) but none large enough to see floating gin palaces on.
We’ve visited Lake Geneva a number of times to enable the kids to let off steam at the fantastic Aqua Parc at Le Bouveret on the Swiss side of the lake. Its a great venue in good or bad weather, but as with any key attractions can be rather busy at times and perhaps a little contrived. However, the French offer some fantastic municipal facilities, so naturally these are also on offer on the banks of the Lake if only you follow the shore around a little. Thonon-les-Bains is one such location.
Admittedly we were ‘tipped off’ and didn’t find the pools by accident, but they were certainly worth the 103km trip (1.5hrs). Kind of the best of both worlds: indoors and outdoors pools, diving boards and large slides into the lake itself, plus a very reasonably priced licenced cafe, far nicer than just a ‘chip factory’, and of course fantastic views. Being run by the council it was also decked out in many beautiful plants with plenty of well manicured lawns for sun bathing; a great environment for relaxation. Plage les Thonon is also a cheaper swimming experience than Aqua Parc.
After spending a lovely day at the pools, the marina and town centre are only a short walk away.
There are plenty of restaurants along the lake front to choose from, or alternatively you can take the funicular up the hill and wander around the small old town. Ok it might almost be quicker to walk up the hillside yourself than the funicular, but at least you can face the lake during ascent and see the fantastic panorama of the marina below being revealed as you reach the top (and avoid having to listen to the kids complain they are tired).
So all in all a great day out.
So says Fiona Sims of the Sunday Times, and I must admit I have to agree with her.
Although this region of France has some of the smallest vineyards in France, they are of course proud of them and are synonymous with the French scenery.
The Wine Route of Savoie comprises 3 marked circuits:
- Combe de Savoie close to Chambéry.
- Chautagne and Jongieux, near the Lake Bourget
- Léman and Arve in the northern part near Lake Geneva.
Montmélian (73800) seems to be the centre of the Combe de Savoie wine tour region. This is 105km (about 1 and a half hour) from Chamonix by the D1212 or 161km by the more major A40 and A41 route. The drive itself to get there is rather scenic, with Montmélian being on the edge of the Massif des Bauges national park. Check out the route to get there.
The route around the Montmélian area takes in the elegant white wine area Apremont and Abymes and the red wine Chignin, a map of which is here. This particular route covers 16 villages and is probably the shortest in distance, overlooked by the Chartreuse mountain range. Addresses of the individual vineyards are found here.
Chautagne and Jongieux route can be found in a similar direction, towards Aix Les Bains.
Alternatively take the drive in the opposite direction over the Forclaz pass towards Martigny, Switzerland. Driving along the Rhone river valley, past the wine vineyards of the Swiss canton of Valais. This is probably the Léman and Arve tour. I say probably as we’ve not done it ourselves, so if you do it, please let me know how you get on. We’re told that Sion is a medieval city with the Chateau de Valére perched above the city within the Valais and is worth a visit apparently.
If you are interested in learning about the grape varieties themselves, this is a useful site by Vin de Savoie. The principle white grape variety being jacquere, almost exclusively found in the Savoie, being zippy grapefruit and lemon zest in flavour. The site also has facilities for selecting vineyards or grape for example.
And to start the spring off nicely the wine producers open up their tasting rooms and cellars to all, on the closest weekend to 1st May.
There is also a family walk through the vineyards with a tasting of wine and local food, held in a different cru each year on Sunday at the end of July.
One would have thought that getting into the UTMB was the hard bit, but it seems that getting annual leave approved is more difficult. It appears that the Olympics are hitting the UK this year, which buggers up the holidays of those who defend our country. Monday is the day of reckoning. So, just in case things get awkward I thought it would be nice to celebrate last year’s event from a family perspective.
The day before the UTMB set off (while the TDS was in action) the event organisers arranged a Mini UTMB, Mini TDS and Mini CC in the Savoy fields. Our kids were very keen to join in despite not being particularly athletic themselves. The buzz of the town that time of year just charmed the children to take part.
It was organised by the official committee, resided over by Catherine POLETTI. There was plenty of noise and excitement, with the kids grouped into ages. The youngest doing the shortest Mini CCC and the oldest (up to 12 I think) did the Mini TDS. I don’t know who was more excited, the kids or the parents? Lots of running done by all (and some very fast running by a number of Dads) following their progress around.
This was also our first meeting of Sebastien Chaigneau, who came third in the big race itself that year. A North Face sponsored runner, so of course key to this spin-off event.
And here is a little more on the efforts of the kids themselves. It’s amazing how fast they’ll go for some free caps and stickers. Or was it for the cakes and sweets?