A Week In The French Alps

Alps

It’s not strictly fashion, but since I’ve not really been able to post anything for the past week or so, I thought I’d write a quick round up of my fantastic holiday to the French Alps. I know it’s not really normal for a 32 year old to go on holiday with her parents, but I don’t get to see my folks that often, so a week on the slopes is the perfect chance for me to spend some quality time catching up and getting away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

For many years, my folks have rented the same apartment in the French resort of Mottaret in the 3 Valleys. It’s a cosy self-catered flat in the top part of Mottaret called Le Hameau. There’s a second bedroom (space for me!) and a balcony overlooking the mountains. I’ve become very fond of this little apartment, so I was so happy to return here after a few years away to join my parents for a week of snowsports in the stunning French Alps.

I took quite a few pictures, so snuggle up with a hot drink and join me through the snow, the sunshine, the food and the random sightings of a week in the largest ski area in the world!

My superstar parents drive through the night from the Eurotunnel at Calais down to the Savoie. I was lucky enough to stretch out on the back seats and get some sleep overnight. Here’s the approach to the mountains just before dawn. It’s a pretty impressive sight to wake up to!

Day 1

The weather forecast for the first few days wasn’t great, with a lot of snow and high winds predicted. We picked up the keys, grabbed some lunch and settled into the apartment. We weren’t feeling too hopeful about our chances of skiing or snowboarding in the afternoon. The view from our balcony was a little eerie!

Luckily, the blizzard cleared in the early afternoon and we braved it out onto the slopes. Snowstorms aren’t the best for visibility, but at least there was lots of lovely new snow! Here’s a clearer moment where I grabbed a selfie over on the more sheltered Courchevel side of the mountain range.

In the evening, we headed out to a local restaurant for dinner before turning in for an early night after a long, tiring couple of days.

Day 2

Thick snow and high winds meant I didn’t take any pictures on the slopes today. We managed to get out for a little bit in the morning, but the wind meant that most of the lifts were closed so we soon retreated back to the apartment. We took a short walk to the local shop and bought some bits to make a tasty casserole for dinner. Here’s our little apartment block, where we had a relaxing evening hoping for better weather!

Day 3

The snow continued to fall on day 3, meaning that there still weren’t any slopeside picture taking opportunities. There was a very random installation in one of the cable car buildings though. Nope, I’ve absolutely no idea.

In the evening, we went to another restaurant and shared a local speciality, the Pierre Chaude. This literally translates as “hot rock” and that’s precisely what you’re given. Not a choice for vegetarians, we were presented with a slab of rock, heated with little fuel cells, and a plate of raw meat. The meat is always so fresh and tender, served with delicious home made sauces and accompanied with freshly cut chips and a garden salad. Everything is washed down with a bottle of local wine and plenty of mountain water. To finish off, I opted for the Baileys coffee ice cream with an enormous tower of chantilly topping. Delicious!

On the way home, I stopped to take a picture of the view from the entrance to our apartment. On a good night, you can see the mountains silhouetted against the moonlit sky, and the lights from Meribel shining in the valley. Tonight there was just a mystical snow-filled glow from the streetlamps. We went to bed hoping for the snow to stop falling and the sun to come out!

 Day 4

Alas, there was still thick snow falling when we woke up and visibility was really poor. We had a leisurely breakfast and then decided to brave the outdoors in the early afternoon. There weren’t very many people out, because it was virtually impossible to see a thing! Here’s a picture of me in the whiteout. You can see the reflection of my parents in my goggles!

There’s something rather beautiful about being in the midst of a snowcloud. I know it’s frustrating not being able to see far, but there’s a sense of magical peacefulness being surrounded by a thick, white blanket of nature. Perhaps I’m just a bit of a hippy at heart.

Day 5

The clouds lifted! Look how far we could see! We had a lovely day skiing and snowboarding with the added bonus of being able to see where we were going! There were still quite a few clouds about, but we managed to get over the mountains and onto some new terrain.

In the evening, we got the last cable car from our apartment down into central Mottaret to visit the pizzeria. French pizza is always so thin, the focus being on the tasty toppings. For dessert, I ordered the café gourmand, one of my favourite ways to finish a meal. For those of you who don’t know, a cafe gourmand is a coffee (duh!) served with a chef’s selection of sample sized puddings. As a huge fan of miniature food, this is always going to please me, but my favourite part is working out what’s on the plate! This amazing selection was a crème brûlée, a chocolate fondant, a mini Bakewell tart and a kind of almond mousse with a lotus biscuit topping.

There’s a picture in the pizzeria which we spent the whole meal trying to figure out. It’s obviously from a little while ago, I don’t know exactly when. It looked so much like Meribel, the main resort lower in the mountains, but we couldn’t quite work out which part. As we were leaving, we asked the owners, who helpfully informed us it was in fact La Chaudanne – the central base station in Meribel, but that the photo was reversed.

Full of food and new knowledge we made the trek back up to our apartment. I’ve counted the steps before but I’ve forgotten how many there are. It’s a lot! We take it slow with the climb, breathing in the mountain air and walking off our dinner. Along the way, we pass some slightly villainous looking snowmen. I’m sure they look more friendly in daylight! Back at the apartment we settle in for the night, hopeful for the forecast sunny weather the next day.

Day 6

The sun came out! Hooray! There were some tiny fluffy clouds still floating in the sky, but otherwise it was a clear, sunny day. We headed onto the slopes soon after breakfast and set off towards the little resort of La Tania. The Courchevel side of the 3 Valleys is arguably the prettiest, with tree lined ski runs and pretty wooden chalets. Look at that view!

It’s a bit of a family tradition to take a trip down the gentle green runs (the easiest of slopes) and stop for lunch in La Tania. After a lovely relaxing morning on the snow, we arrive early and grab a table in the sunshine. There’s a big British contingent in La Tania and the bar offers some interesting menu choices. I decided to be adventurous and went for the kangaroo steak, which was delicious.

In the afternoon, we set off back towards Mottaret, stopping for another panoramic photo opportunity in the afternoon sun. This time I managed to get both parents in the picture!

On the home stretch back down into Meribel, we came across a snow wall on the path. The high winds that swept the valley a few days before had taken down a tree, right across the slopes! It’s hard to see here, but it was quite dramatic up close, thank goodness nobody was hurt.

We returned to the apartment and headed out to the supermarket to pick up some tartiflette – another local speciality – for dinner. I took another couple of pictures on the way back to show the difference in the nighttime view once the clouds had cleared. Quite a difference from the earlier shot from a few nights ago, no!?

Day 7

The last day, sob. It was a particularly sad day, because my Mum had a bit of a nasty fall the day before and hurt her knee, so she wasn’t able to come out with us on the last day. In true wonderful Mum style, she instructed my Dad and I to go and enjoy our last day in the beautiful sunshine, so that is what we set out to do.

The 3 Valleys has been linked since 1973, which is what makes it the largest ski area in the world. About 10 years ago, they extended the lifts and developed into the Maurienne area, creating what is now known as the 4th valley. This newer ski terrain is the opposite side of the mountains from Val Thorens, which has some of the highest pistes in the region. The beautiful weather and high slopes make for some stunning views.

My Dad and I stopped at the little restaurant at the bottom of the slopes for an early lunch, finished off with a hot chocolate. We headed back through Val Thorens, stopping for a few more photo opportunities on the way.

After a lovely day covering territory we weren’t able to access earlier in the week, we headed back to our apartment for the last time this year. There was just time for a chairlift selfie to round off a lovely week in the Alps with my parents. We might not have started out the week with the best conditions, but it ended in sunny, snowy style.

On our last night, we went to another local restaurant for a brasserade. Like the Pierre Chaude, this is another Savoyard special where you cook your own meat. It’s another family tradition, and the lady who runs the restaurant remembers us each year. We turned in for our last night in the Alps before packing up and heading home early the next morning. It’s always a bit sad saying goodbye, but the memories are always worth it.

So that’s a wrap! I hope you enjoyed reading about my little family getaway. You can find out more about the resort of Mottaret here, and the whole of the 3 Valleys here.

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