Monday, December 4, 2006

A fabulous and French winter destination

As told to us by our favorite Dominicana who resides in Milan, Mrs. Arlene Ventura-Valentini:

For all you ladies who have spent one too many restless cold nights in N.Y. wondering about what the French do in the winter....well, ponder no more. I have been asked to quench your thirsts with my neo-European know how and escapades…and well, if you MUST know, they go skiing in Magical Megève. Forget that whole American-French rivalry thing, its ALL about the French Alps over here.

Doing the Mountains, French Style

Yes, they are fierce, they are fabulous, they refuse to speak English, have major attitude and have no qualms about showing you their distaste in tourists but Megève is worth the experience.

Megeve was one of the earliest ski resorts to be created – a French answer to St. Moritz. Tucked neatly at the toes of Mt. Blanc, Megeve is very accessible by plane (Lyon or Geneva) or by car from Italy, Switzerland and all major French cities. It took us about 3 hours from Milan by car and the sights along the way are beautiful, although a bit claustrophobic if you are not into 360° panoramic views of mountains.

Megève is 599km (372 miles) SE of Paris and 72km (45 miles) SE of Geneva.

Set amid pine forests, foothills, and mountain streams, Megève offers history, ambience and altitude that differ from any other French ski resort. Here you will find cozy chalet homes with smoky chimneys, ancient agricultural farms and luxurious 5 star hotels all together in harmony. Better known for its “glamorous” atmosphere, much credited to royalty, elites and celebrities the likes of Porfirio Rubirosa, Frank Sinatra, the Benettons and Baroness de Rothschild who constructed five resort hotels, which include the restaurant La Taverne Du Mont D’Arbois, great for grilled meats and regarded as Megève’s most fashionable address, have made Megève the “It” place in France .

Megève is undisputedly the most complete cosmopolitan ski resort; with more than 290km (190 miles) of downhill runs plus nearly 81km (50 miles) of cross-country trails. It is the home of the world’s largest lift-linked ski areas that includes neighbouring Chamonix, Combloux, Saint-Nicolas-de-Vèroce and St. Gervais, completing the Evasion-Mont Blanc ski area. Today it boasts one of the best ski schools in Europe (not that looking cute in a snowbunny suit requires any lessons) and is home to one of the world’s best spas, Les Fermes de Marie. In summer, Megève offers a number of activities including water sports on Lac de Javen (ok, Im guessing this is the lovely frozen lake I saw), hiking, horseback-riding, mountain-biking, golf and my favourite, horse-drawn carriage rides through its narrow, medieval-style cobbled streets. The driver even gives you a warm fuzzy blanket that soon matches the feeling you get while taking it all in.

My fond memories of skiing in NY involve Hunter Mountain and manmade snow, standing in line for that hotdog and fries while walking in those boots and trying to look like it was actually easy. In Megève, there is no need for all that façade, if you made it there you are fierce enough to just stand around (very a la Victoria Beckham) and look fabulous. Take a walk in the centre and stop in a café for coffee and croissants (these two things are worthy enough to get yourself over here), window shop or just look at the French do their “thing”. But if you have children like I do, you might actually be forced to do something physical with the snow. In our case it was sledding. We were a bit disappointed Megève didn’t offer the same amenities for some serious sledding but we made the best of it and tore those bunny hills up. Half an hour into this sport and having had entertained all with our originality we were ready for some good ol’ French cuisine (think cheese fondues, chocolate crepes and soufflès, warm baguettes, foie gras, fruit jams with butter and anything with melted Raclette cheese on it). Ok, I absolutely love French cuisine and have to honestly say that this was my biggest motivation for going back to Megève this winter. I recommend Le Ferme de Mon Perè ,with three Michelin stars, it is one of the top restaurants in France. With cooking that verges on the satirical, this restaurant put Megève on the gourmet map when it opened in 1999. They have a 20,000 bottle wine cellar, honey, need I say more? My only advice is that you try and meet a cute local that wouldn’t mind translating all those dishes on the menus for you, since they are not big on English here.

So pack your Versace ski-suit, your Gucci snow-boots, a French dictionary and your Diva alterego and book your next winter escape for Megève, where the French do it better!

For more information on Megève contact:

The Office de Tourisme, 70 Rue Monseigneur Conseil (Tel. 04 50 21 27 28) or

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