On the short drive from Geneva airport to the Alpine village of Megève, I couldn’t help but wonder how this quaint farming community could possibly be the hedonistic haven of many a tale recalled by the likes of Bridget Bardot and Sacha Distel.
It was created by Baroness Rothschild in 1921 as a red flag to the bull that was Gstadd in Switzerland. It was going to be bigger and better, a rival to claim the crown of the most stylish European ski resort.
Even having read the stories it still seemed improbable. Cows still meander along the narrow roads leading to it. I was wrong. Even through the thick blanket of snow I could see that even the cow barns are five star.
The traditional Alpine dairy theme runs throughout Megeve. None more so that the Lodge Park. On arrival you are met with deer antlers, cow hide rugs and redwood tables – even the elevator is embellished with cow hide.
Surprisingly there is a Scottish theme. Tartan fabrics adorn the walls, even in the rooms. There are 49 rooms and suites. Fireplaces can be lit in each room on request and most have balconies that overlook the surrounding park.
Soothe your weary body after a hard day skiing; head to the Spa Pure Altitude in the Lodge Park. Built incorporating the elements of fire, wood, water, stone and plants, it uses mountain plants in its products. The ‘Pure Altitude’ signature massage with scented candles is particularly good. It’s the fragrant brainchild of Jocelyne Sibuet, one of the founders of the Sibuet hotel chain.
Sibuet styles the hotels, selecting natural products to enhance the visitor’s experience. Her husband Jean Louis turns his senses to wine making; the Domain de Marie wine is one of the finest in Europe and is available in all of the hotels.
Thankfully, mountain air promotes hunger, and the magnificent Beef Lodge is the Yin to the mountain’s hunger Yangs. Beef is the order of the day, rib of Black Angus and fillet of Simmental; there are of course other options, but it would be a shame not to sample the fine cuts of meat from top breeders.
Once replenished and with the slopes beckoning again, ensure that you make time for a comfort break and sample the Savoyard cheese specialties at L’Alpette (Alt 1895).
For a start, the views are stunning.
Perched 1895 feet above sea level you get a spectacular 360 degree view of Mont Blanc. It is also the starting point for the famous Emile Allais slope.
Competent skiers should try this off piste run. It was one of the first downhill race courses to attract major international stars. It is named after the daring champion French skier Emile Allais. He popularised a new style of skiing in the 1930’s – keeping the skis parallel.
He also popularised the tight fitting ‘ski pant’ or ‘fuseau de ski’ which hails from Megeve.
Skiing didn’t do Emile much harm; he lived to 100 before finally hanging up his skis in 2012. However, for those of us who tend to spend a considerable amount of time with the ski pant parallel rather than the ski run, slide down the slope to the wondrous Hotel Mont Blanc.
Bang in the centre of Megeve it’s the La Grand-Mère of the village. The hotel has steadily grown in reputation since the fifties, singers, writers and musicians flocked to it. Cinematic directors use it to film the masterpieces like Roger Vadim ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses’.
All 38 rooms and 11 suites, are distinctly dressed in wood with reds and creams to add a splash of colour. In homage to its late great guests some of the suites have recently been named after them. There is the Sacha Distel suite and the Jean Cocteau suite.
Jean Cocteau, the French poet and novelist, has a strong influence over the hotel. The restaurant ‘Les Enfants Terribles’ was named after his novel. There is an original fresco above the bar and works of pottery by his collaborator Jean Marais. The restaurant always was ‘the place to be seen’ and continues hold this title. The menu offers peppercorn steak, a favourite with Jean and special ‘Marennes d’Oleron’ oysters, available at the oyster bar.
As if the gastronomique offerings so far weren’t enough, Les fermes De Marie presents itself at the edge of the village. An old style farmhouse, it was taken down from the mountain and rebuilt brick by brick. Trekking through the village I thought I must be mistaken when I finally found the entrance to Les Fermes. The ‘farms’ grand entrance was reminiscent of an opulent Parisian foyer.
The inside feels homely and unpretentious. Wooden beams and huge open fires make for a relaxing evening. Sample one of the signature dishes, rib of Bavarian beef with Chef Christophe Cote’s béarnaise sauce or slow cooked knuckle of veal accompanied by an infusion of cow’s parsnip roots.
Everywhere you look cows and farms are entangled in the fabric of Megeve. This along with glitz and glamour makes for a heady combination. Far from lessening the appeal it adds to its charm.
The pace of life is slow, much like the ski lifts. Visit if you want to hurtle at break neck speed down the slopes in your fuseau, or even, if you just want to laze outside a café soaking up alpine rays.
Le Lodge Park 100 rue d’Arly 74120 Megève FRANCE Tel:+33 4 50 93 05 03 Fax: +33 4 50 93 09 52
Reservation : +33 4 50 21 03 69 http://en.alpette-megeve.com
Hôtel Mont-Blanc 29 rue Ambroise Martin 74120 Megève – FRANCE Tel: +33 4 50 21 20 02 Fax: +33 4 50 21 45 28
Les Fermes de Marie 163 chemin de Riante Colline 74120 Megève – FRANCE Tel: +33 4 50 93 03 10 Fax: +33 4 50 93 09 84
Megeve Tourism www.megeve.com
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