Saturday, 8th/Tuesday, 11th March 2008 – Megeve, Days 1 to 4
I got home latish on the Friday night (that’s the trouble with going on holiday – there’s always a ton of stuff to do at work before you go but I’d promised so I did a 10-hour day), which of course meant I spent the Friday evening packing frantically. Saturday morning we headed off to Birmingham airport, getting there in plenty of time. Bags checked in we settled into the business lounge and waited. The flight was slightly annoying, largely because the “extra legroom” seats we’d booked (and paid extra for) offered just that. Enough room for me to stretch my right leg out, but not my left! And Lynne’s seat offered no extra room at all that I could see. Also, Geneva airport in ski season is completely chaotic, possibly because it’s split between two countries and Swiss efficiency is no match for French anarchy! Skis come off on a separate belt to the rest of the luggage, and there’s no room to get in there and find your stuff for the 300 hundred or so Estonians all trying to occupy the same space while they fight for their skis off the Tallinn flight.
It took almost an hour to get the luggage, then another 20 minutes trying to get from the Swiss side of the airport to the French side to get to the correct Avis counter and collect the car. That took ages as well due to the annoying bloke who barged in front of me to argue that there were 5 people in his party, all with skiing equipment, and Avis had only booked a 5-seater car for him (because that was what he’d asked them to book) and not a mini-bus. Eventually, he was cleared out of the way, and I handed over our voucher to collect the Clio they’d threatened, only for the girl to say that they’d got a Hyundai Sante Fe 4×4 for us if that was OK – I think she was trying to make a point by this stage… Things were looking up.
We finally made it to Megeve, or really Combloux which is about 10 minutes away and the ever wonderful Hotel au Couer des Pres around 18.00, which gave us enough time to be handed the keys for our room overlooking Mont Blanc, unpack, clean up and stagger down to the bar for aperitifs (kir, chips)…
These were of course taken in front of the log fire.
The hotel was as terrific as ever, and had had a bit of a makeover in the last three years, though nothing drastic, thank God! And as we soon found out, Nicolas, the chef, still produces lovely meals, well cooked, with great fresh ingredients. The only trouble is he thinks what the hungry skier needs is 5 courses each night (soup, a starter – usually with cheese and pastry in some form, a main course of meat or fish that is thankfully not too substantial and served with fresh vegetables and a green salad, cheese and dessert). The first night we had a lovely quiche, and the main course was lamb with a herb crust. And to avoid a heavy duty dessert we opted for fresh pineapple after the cheese, everything washed down with one of the local wines. And so, after a brandy in the bar, to bed.
Sunday started sunny and dry. There seemed to be quite a lot of snow and there were balloons in the air.
After breakfast, we nipped to the supermarket to stock up on milk and fruit, and then I headed off to the car park at the bottom of the Princesse lift. Kitted up, I dragged my stuff to the bottom of the lifts, bought my pass for the week, and then took the lifts to the Golf Club at Mont D’Arbois, where I rented a locker for the week in the ski shop there, flung my stuff in, and headed out to ski, stopping only to book a table for lunch at l’Igloo, in the gourmet restaurant, not the self service, which is good but completely lacking in atmosphere (apart from that of sweaty skiers)! An initial run down the Milloz red revealed that the snow wasn’t too bad, though it was a bit sparse towards the bottom. Anyway, three hours later I stopped for lunch, by which time it had clouded over/cooled off significantly, and so I opted to eat indoors – I had wanted a terrace table, but not if I was going to freeze.
I’ve always liked the Igloo, despite the cost (and it really isn’t cheap), and I thoroughly enjoyed the two types of diot – a local sausage – and the cabbage with bacon, as well as the dessert of raspberry tart that I indulged in. Then it was back out for another couple of hours burning up the slopes, which was just great! I was really pleased to note that a) I hadn’t forgotten how to ski and b) because I’m so much fitter than I used to be, I can quite happily keep going out there for hours without getting tired and/or achy. Mind you I was disappointed at how few calories I actually burned in all that time – the downside of being fit, I guess. Around 4.30 I decided I’d had enough – especially as I had to get to the golf club to get my shoes back and drop my skis off, which then meant two gondola lift rides to get back to the car. Back at the hotel, bathed, changed, and ready for dinner, we swapped tales about where we’d been during the day (Lynne walks while I ski), and settled for an early dinner and bed.
On Monday I had the first of three lessons, which was slightly unnerving, especially when the mad instructor made me launch myself off the edge of a cliff – OK, I exaggerate slightly, but only slightly! I certainly wouldn’t have gone down the top bit of that run of the Croix de la Christ lift if I’d been on my own, let me tell you! As it was I wasn’t too sure I could do it until I persuaded the instructor to take my rucksack from me so I could think about balance and not worry about wiping out the contents of the bag (which included my camera)! After the instructor got through with me I did a little more skiing, stopping only to pick up a croquet monsieur and a bottle of water from the snack bar at the top of the Mont d’Arbois lift, before running down to Megeve in the afternoon to meet Lynne for a crepe at the Bretonne Creperie in the village. The staff are mostly deranged in the best possible way, and the crepes are beautifully made and full of good things, mostly cheese! A crepe forestiere apiece (filled with cheese, ham and lots of mushrooms) and a glass of vin chaud soon had us warmed up enough to cope with the rest of the afternoon.
The rest of the afternoon involved a trip to the full-sized Casino supermarket in pursuit of proper fruit and pre-dinner/after dinner drink supplies. And so, as ever, to dinner in the hotel, then collapsing afterwards in our room with a DVD or two – guess who didn’t see the end of Ratatouille because I was completely spark out long before then?
Tuesday was so cold as to be unbelievable given what Sunday and Monday had been like. The mild weather was replaced with strong winds, and hail/snow flurries that were quite painful if you were facing into them. I headed over the Rochebrune side of the resort and skied there, largely because there are more trees lining the runs, which means that you’re at least partially protected from the wind. I ran down the small black run, and spent a lot of time playing around the Fontaine lifts, where I discovered that the blue down there is steeper than the two reds, which should be tougher. I realised how relatively intimidating it looked when a bunch of early intermediates took a look at the top of it and then bottled out. The conversation was along the lines of “Shall we go down there?” followed by a general “Are you crazy?” from the rest of the group.
Eventually I made my way back across the resort to search for lunch, ending up at the charming, warm and cosy l’Alpette, which is an institution of long standing in these parts having first opened in 1935, and where almost everything comes with a scattering of black truffle shavings, including the tartiflette (and there’s a recipe below), which I ate, followed by a raspberry tart yet again. And then I really had to ski more, covering a number of runs including the thoroughly enjoyable Olympique piste down to the cable car station. I finished the afternoon frozen to the bone, so I stopped off at the seriously dangerous Creperie Grand Marnier, where the vin chaud comes with a shot of Grand Marnier (as does everything else they sell pretty much including milk, tea and coffee).
The drink was so strong that I had to order a white chocolate crepe to soak up the alcohol, making sure they didn’t add a shot to that too… Once I’d got the use of my legs back I headed to the pharmacy to stock up on arnica gel and throat sprays, both of which are better from France due to the ingredients they can use there.