My first European ski experience and just wow. Sorry Australia but your 15 meter long slopes just don’t compare to the 15 minute long ones in Chamonix and the French Alps. We got a cheap flight to Geneva from London although let me just stop there as I won’t be mentioning the word ‘cheap’ again. A ski holiday is not cheap. The French Alps are not cheap. But it was so fun that my bank account can take the hit for the amazing 4 days we had… one aperol spritz at a time.
So first thing is first – which ski mountain and resort do you visit? Talk to a friend or someone who has been before to get some knowledge and local background. Personally I loved Chamonix however I hear that it is more of a family resort that was not for the beginners. Luckily I have boarded once or twice before so I wasn’t a complete beginner but I certainly wasn’t looking to go off piste. Other moutains with a little more apres ski atmosphere and less kiddies are Val D’Isere and Val Thorens.
We booked Chamonix as it was only a 1-1.5 hour drive from Geneva and we didn’t have a whole week. We stayed at the amazingly quirky and gorgeous Chalet Le Castel – run but a cute French gent called Robin who recently renovated it and took it over from his parents. Located at the bottom of the Le Flegere gondola and golf course it makes it the perfect spot to catch the first lift up and be the first one to apres ski after. There was live music, a great buffet and an amazing restaurant in the foyer which was very popular. Insert baguette and croissant heaven below.
We had 3 days. Day 1 was more about getting our gear ready and organising the next 2 days, which passes to buy and which mountains to suss out. We got a 4 hour pass for the first day and the Chamonix pass for the next 2 full days allowing access to 3 mountains with great slopes. The best was La Flegere which was perfect for us considering it was at our door step. You can also get across to Brevant from Flegere and this was worth a visit too.
So other than snowboarding all day and drinking all afternoon what is there to do? Well eating a kilo of cheese and plenty of baguettes too – but there are plenty of places to hit up in Chamonix. I created quite a long list of spots to go to after chatting to our Aussie driver on the way from Geneva to the valley.
FRENCH DINING (beware of the cheese and book ahead at all places to ensure a spot)
La Caleche – traditional cute french place ran by the Grandmother of Robin who owned our Chalet. It looked like a grandmas house with pots and pans and trinkets all hanging from the roof. There won’t be a vegetable in sight but with a bread basket and bottle of red you can’t go wrong with a traditional french feast. Rob had the country chicken and potato and I had the beef rump stew and polenta.
La Tablee – Another French local typical wooden restaurant which we opted for the set 3 course menu. The meals consisted of beef carpaccio, foi gras with a slow cooked egg, country chicken and filet steak, with a Eton mess style meringue cream sundae to finish.
Atmosphere – A lot of people recommended this place but unfortunately we didn’t have enough nights. If we do go back it will be the first we visit especially for their famous snails. I believe it is a set menu restaurant too and you choose your 3 courses. Sounds smanchy. Not sure my Nikes and Lululemons would have been fancy enough.
Chalet Le Castel – The restaurant at our Chalet was an Italian restaurant (not entirely sure why?) but it was great. We had this particular cold meats and local cheese board twice during our stay. Because why wouldn’t you want to nibble on local food, sipping on aperol, listening to local artists play all overlooking the alps and Mont Blanc.
PUB STYLE MORE RELAXED FOOD
Monkey – Tequila Tuesday anyone?? Great for some sweet potato fries and a burger, taco or burrito. Since 2005 Monkey has prided itself on bringing together delicious food, drinks, boogie-down music, great happy hours and a little mayhem, with friendly laid back staff to entertain and serve you everyday of the year.
Bar’d Up – It is quite often labelled an Australian bar and it has a definite beach shack element to the interior, with surfboards on the wall and an anything-goes atmosphere that ensures the night often turns out messier than planned.
COFFEE / BRUNCH
L’Atelier Cafe – we googled best coffee in Chamonix for our last morning when it was pouring with rain. This place came up located in the city center and it didn’t disappoint. Great coffee, super quick service and really cosy inside. They were also known for their brunch. Rob had a bacon, egg and rosti English muffin (which was total yolk porn) and I had the natural yoghurt and muesli. It was great. Large and cheap and NATURAL. Exactly what I needed after 3 days of cheese and baguettes.
HEALTHY SNACKS WHILST ON THE SLOPES
After the first day we soon realised how hungry we got on the slopes and how much we needed some handy healthy snacks to get us through and save money. We found Clif Bars and Chocolate Rice cakes at the local supermarket in the main town. We also had nuts on hand in our pockets and we took some fruit from the buffet too. The healthiest thing I found on the slopes were corn chips and guocamole. But for 7 Euro – can’t say a handful of Doritos really was enough.
So if you go to Chamonix HAVE A BLAST !! We certainly did and will be back soon !
Let me know if you visit these places too.