School holidays just finished up throughout France and since I was here, I got a little taste of what the season is like on this side of the world. While I usually think of school holidays as a time to go somewhere warm to get through the long Canadian winters (or at least the grey winters of the west coast,) here, everyone dreams of skiing. So when in France, you must do what the French do and go to the Alps! Jérémie picked Les Carroz D’Araches and a little Apartment at Les Fermes du Soleil. I was pretty thrilled with the selection since it had a bit of alpine charm (unlike some options we came across) and he liked it because of the pool which he saw as a big bonus for travel with a 6 year old.
We packed the Audi full of everything (including the guinea pig) and drove out from the Île de France through Burgundy, the Jura and finally into the beautiful Haute Savoie, home of the French Alps! We took the highway, which although you have to pay to use, I do love that they often have art along the roads to keep the kids interested on long road trips leftover from the days before electronics were in the backseat and they’re much quicker. Lucky for us, these private roadways also usually have pretty nice rest stops and because it was the holidays the one we happened to choose was offering a free climbing station for kids (and massages for adults.) Clearly they were aware of all the families passing through the region and the need to stretch out a little bit for everyone’s sanity.
Once we arrived we loaded all our bags into the tiny apartment and we made it our home away from home for the week. We were perfectly stationed 2 floors up from the pool and spa, so we would wrap our bathrobes over our swimsuits when we were finished put our little booties on and up to our own showers. We made it down to the pool every day except for one and Irène has officially mastered the length of the pool on her own now.
Next to the reception in the main building was a large common living room with a rustic French fireplace that smelled perfectly wintery and games to be enjoyed by guests. Not one to let an opportunity pass we took advantage and borrowed from the library occasionally so we could play in our own apartment and other times we were happy enough to play a few rounds of clue in front of the roaring fire. Even better than the pool and games galore, was the food service option! You could put your order in every night for baguettes and pastries from the local bakery to be delivered by 8am the next morning which we found out was a wise way to ensure you never went without bread, a French faux-pas, since the shelves of the bakery were empty more than once when we passed by after skiing which made for some very sad stomachs. Beyond morning staples you could also order dinners which were incredibly reasonable in price including local specialties like fondue and tartiflette. On one particular day the weather wasn’t so great so we stayed indoors and decided to treat ourselves with dinner in from their menu. We picked up a raclette machine at the front desk after a swim at the pool and around 7pm our meal was delivered to our door and it was a great feature that I don’t imagine you can get too many places.
I continued to be impressed even beyond accommodation. Free transit shuttles skiers from all over the village to the lodge throughout the day which meant you could have a *grasse matinée and get skiing when you felt you’d had your fill of coffee and tartines. Once on the hill there were two dedicated spots with three different pommel lifts free of charge and one of which transforms to a well lit sledding hill at night, perfect for families with beginning skiers or those who just need an after dinner activity.
We spent a total of 5 days skiing and it was just right. We experienced all types of weather from rain, to snow, to wind and finally beautiful sun but whatever the weather we had so many options we never felt in want. Five different stations make up the Grand Massif lift pass and high mountain ridges connect many of them making for beautiful landscapes (sadly, I was too busy skiing to take these photos) and equally feel a bit terrifying with cliffs on either side of the run. We were fortunate that Irène progressed really quickly and was soon taking the wooded trails, jumps and whipping down blue runs with occasional icy patches and plenty of moguls so we never felt too restricted. But anyone who has children will tell you, you learn a few things when you travel with kids. We learned it’s better to pack a picnic than to go restaurants. Why? Because kids get tired so quickly and they’ll swear off the sport about 6 times a day and if you’re always searching for a restaurant at the bottom of the hill, you might not make it back up once you’re done so we packed baguette sandwiches daily along with fruit, drinks and little snacks so we could just stop anywhere, have a snowball fight, an apple, get cold and get moving again! Better yet, these mountains even have picnic tables all over the hills so if you’re lucky enough to happen upon one at the right moment, you don’t even have to sit in the snow.
The trip was great. From beautiful perched cafés to see Mont Blanc (we weren’t even at HALF the altitude!) and the creative ways we learned to descend the hill on the last run of the day (both by sliding or piggy back skiing) we really enjoyed the time away in the mountains. Having ski lockers included with the rental, a grocery store just outside the building and a skating rink to look over from the balcony, the only things I might want on my wish list for next time would be a slightly comfier bed and not to have to fight post vacation traffic all the way back. Not too bad if you ask me.
Grasse Matinée: fat morning. Read: sleeping in