Happy new year!
Last week my family and I went to France (again :p). My family and I love the idea of a white Christmas and since it doesn’t snow that much in Belgium anymore, we decided it was the perfect opportunity to plan a trip to the French Alps. Valmeinier is a village in that region, near the border with Italy. It’s a location we go to every year and it has never dissapointed!
This year, we booked a little chalet at Grand Panorama 1. It really surprised us, in a good way, of course. We feared it was going to be too small or impractical, but it really wasn’t that bad. There were two bathrooms, two toilets, a kitchen with a big dinner table and three bedrooms (one with a bunk bed and the other two with full size beds). We had enough room to walk around and not bump into each other all the time, because some French apartments can be very tiny.
unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of the inside of our chalet, which is a bummer, because it looked so cosy and picturesque. Just imagine a typical French chalet in the mountains, with lots of wood and ‘chrismassy’ prints on the linen.
You can’t really predict how much it is going to snow the time you are away when you are planning your trip, so what the condition of the slopes concerns, you simply have to be lucky. For a few years now, we seem to book in the wrong season. Every time we go, the sun is out all the time and no snow is falling. But it’s not that bad, because they have snow cannons, and when it’s cold enough, they make the snow for you. You can spot them, by the dots of snow on the slopes. (you can see it on some of the pictures).
Last year, the conditions were worse than this year, though. When there is no snowfall, and it’s not that cold, the remaining snow on the slopes melts during the day. Then the slopes become more tricky during the day. The morning after, the slopes are super icy and very difficult to ski on, because at night the snow groomers have evened out the slopes.
This year, we feared we would have the same problem, because we booked around the same time. But we got lucky and a week before we left for France, it snowed a lot. Of course, when we eventually got there, it stopped snowing and the sun showed up. But I don’t really think it’s that bad, because I actually prefer to ski when the weather is nice. I can let the wind rush through my hair, without my ears freezing off.
Handy tip: When there are a lot of people at your ski resort, ski at midday. Every one is back to their places eating lunch, so you practically have the slopes for yourself. I don’t know if that’s the case in any other ski resort, but in Valmeinier, this was the best time to ski. At that time, the slopes are at it’s best condition, too.
Town Center: Valmeinier 1800
Here you have some pictures of the busiest center of Valmeinier. It does not look so busy right now, but that’s because it was midday when I took these pictures and everyone was eating and not skiing, except for me.
Valmeinier 1800 is well equipped with restaurants, bars and shops where you can buy the stereotypical French products, like a french baguette (which are absolutely delicious!) or French cheese. This is just a fraction of the area, when you walk further, you immediately enter a maze of souvenir shops, hotels and bars. Sometimes you have to walk incredibly large stairs to get to your destination. When we went to a restaurant, we had to walk to our chalet by climbing three of those stairs. Don’t imagine it, it was an impressive sight, only not really in a good way… But it was a great way to burn some calories! It looks nothing like a city, though. It’s one friendly neighborhood with a lot of French people, which is lovely, because they are very friendly people.
Ah, Le Panoramic. This is my favorite bar slash restaurant in Valmeinier. It is situated at the end of a chairlift, but you can easily reach the lift by foot too, so you are not obligated to ski to go drink a warm cup of hot chocolate. It is also a restaurant, so you can ski the entire day and come here to eat your lunch. People who don’t ski often also come here. They bring their books and go lay in a deck chair and enjoy their time in the sun. There is something for everyone. And the food is delicious!
L’Elan is the restaurant we went to on Christmas Eve. I don’t have a picture from the inside interior, but it is really cosy and beautiful! The walls, floors and ceilings are wooden. The place is decorated with ornaments made of ski equipment (sounds strange, but it’s very original), and fairy lights are strung all over the place. It was the most idealistic place to be at on Christmas Eve. We ate deliciously and we even decided to go back another day and sacrifice our ‘healthy’ lifestyle for one last time.
This place has something for everyone. I’ve come here since I was a child, and I haven’t been bored once. There are child services for the very little ones and for the children who want to learn how to ski, there is the ESF (école du ski français). The children – and grown-ups – are accompanied by a ski monitor who learns how to safely descend a ski slope. You can book a whole week of lessons, or if you want to learn one time only, you can do that, too.
At the reception of your hotel, you get a folder with all the daily activities of the coming two weeks. Sometimes, there are international ski races and there are a couple of small cinemas nearby where you can watch the latest movies (all the films are dubbed in french, though). Every day there is something to do!
In Valmeinier 1800, they’ve also ensured activities on special occasions, like Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve. Sometimes, they organize a torchlight in the dark on the ski slopes. We participated last year, and it was a lot of fun! After that, Santa Claus descends from the ski slopes and greets the children. The night is topped off with an incredible play of fire works.
The trip back home
I want to end this post with these pictures. On our way back, it suddenly began to become incredibly cold, everything turned white! (Imagine, we had seen sun for an entire week) The whole trip back to Belgium seemed like we rode through Winter Wonderland. Every tree, bush and blade of grass was wrapped in a layer of ice.
That was my trip to France! I hoped you enjoyed reading about it! And thank you so much for reading!