Fantastic Week – Bourg-Saint-Maurice, Savoie, France

Wow, what a week we have had 😍 It has been a fabulous combination of great fun, physical activity, a learning challenge, spectacular scenery, fresh air, delicious food, Aprés-ski drinks, perfect weather and above all, the best company. We are so lucky to have been able to spend such precious time and made such lasting memories with family in such a great location. The logistics have worked really well, we have been in a campsite in Bourg-Saint-Maurice with great off-lead dog walking on our doorstep and good transport links via the funicular to the slopes at Arc 1600. Alex and Sean have been at a hotel in Arc 1600 up in the snow, scenery and holiday buzz of the resort, complete with sauna, jacuzzi and outdoor spa which has had much use. We have been able to manage not leaving the dogs for too long and getting them out for walks, whilst Alex and Sean have also had some space to do their own thing too.

We booked skiing lessons for Sean and Alex as it was Sean’s first ever time skiing and Alex’s first in exactly 20 years since her 9th birthday trip. As it was hectic half term week and because they arrived mid week, they could not join ski school and instead they had 2 hours a day from an instructor over lunch, as that was all that was available. This turned out to be a great success, as their instructor Roland was the perfect fit for them. He is an amazingly fit 73 year old with 50 years of ski instructing experience, born and bred in Bourg-Saint-Maurice. He combined a great sense of humour with a calm and encouraging style.

Last lesson, on top of Mont Blanc… run

The education extended beyond skiing and into the local way of life, he seemed especially encouraging that they should relax and drink more 😂 Especially the local Génépi liqueur, made with a species of flower of the same name, which grows at altitude in the mountains in the summer. Roland picks and makes his own liquor in the summer apparently. If that is his secret, he is certainly a good advert for it. Their last lesson ended in a bar, which seemed a fitting finale to their skiing education and lessons graduation.

Celebrating ski lesson graduation with Roland

We have eaten extremely well, which with three native Penneys and one adopted on a trip is pretty much the main priority, with skiing merely an interlude between good food. One of the highlights was a lovely local, traditionally Alpine restaurant called Le Chalet in Bourg-Saint-Maurice with the most welcoming husband, wife and Labrador hosts. As much as Alex would happily have kept their dog company all night, he was sent away with a magic phrase “your dad is eating without you”, so he toddled off in search of food like a good Labrador should. Alex and Kevin got to continue her cheese mission with a Raclette, strictly a Swiss dish of a wedge of cheese served under hot plates and melted onto new potatoes, plus salad. Sean had some slow cooked lamb which fell off the bone, I had scallops with fennel.

The skiing has been great, as we are all relatively newish skiers, the many blue slopes in Les Arcs have been perfect. The linking between resorts means we have had plenty of options to explore. We let Roland’s lessons set the pace on where Alex and Sean would ski each day as we repeated his routes and let them have some more practice. They have both been natural skiers and made excellent progress with Roland which I am sure far exceeded what they would have learned in a ski school format. As Roland rather modestly said, 10 hours with him is like 20 with any other instructor 🤣.

All out together skiing

On Tuesday, after Sean and Alex had finished their lessons we could finally get out with the four of us for a full day’s skiing. As they had both made such progress, we had a choice of runs to explore. Obviously food had to play a part in the planning, so we set a course for La Folie Douce (the sweet madness) restaurant on the mountain above Arc 1800. La Folie Douce is a small chain of party bars / restaurants at all the top resorts with an epic reputation. We had never been to one before and their restaurant was the top rated in the whole of Les Arcs, so we had to try.

VIPs at La Folie Douce

We had a great morning’s skiing to make it across to Arc 1800, though the popularity of La Folie Douce was clear, as got closer the slopes were swarming with people. We had never seen them so busy, as people weaved around each other, we were pleased to relax with a beer in the sun when we arrived in one piece. Sean and I indulged in some merchandise shopping to prove we’d made it, which would keep us very warm for the ski home as we would have to wear it.

I had reserved a table as it is such a popular slot and we were unexpectedly shown through to the VIP area, up near the entertainment stage. There was already a group of rich youngsters there drinking a Jeroboam of Rosé complete with firework for someone’s birthday. That was just the start of an exceptional and surreal experience at La Folie Douce.

We had some excellent food plus champagne in honour of Alex’s birthday. There was continual entertainment of a DJ booth over the bar, then dancers and singers on the stage, walking and dancing through the crowds, even an acrobat spinning from the roof. It was just such a great atmosphere, the sun was shining, a massive crowd of people enjoying themselves and a stunning venue. You just had to keep reminding yourself you were halfway up a mountain and you had skied there! What amazing memories, we felt like superstars for the day, so pleased we managed to all ski there together. Even if being a VIP did mean you had to sit on bean bags instead of a normal chair, obviously the cost of being cool 😎🤣

Finally, today was Alex’s birthday and also their last day with us. Their ski passes for their holiday package had expired but their flight was not until the evening, so we felt we needed to do something a bit special for their last day. We decided therefore we would take the cable car to the highest point of Les Arcs – the Aiguille Rouge mountain at 3226m / 10,583ft and have a picnic 🗻🍽🍱🥂🍾🎂😂🥳

Kev and I went to get fresh sushi from Super U as requested by Sean and Alex, plus obviously we had to have some delicacies from the patisserie section and some more bubbles 🥂🍾 We met Alex and Sean at the top of the funicular and took the free navette shuttle bus to Arc 2000, where we walked up to get the first of two further lifts, the Varet gondola to 2680m. We then made the final ascent on the Aiguille Rouge cable car up to 3226m. There is a viewing gallery at the top where you can look across for a 360 degree view of snow topped mountains all round. Sadly, this was the only time all holiday we had cloud, so the visibility was not quite a good as it has been. However, we could see the mist around Mont Blanc and could enjoy the experience of being on top of the world. The resort had even provided picnic tables for us to enjoy our feast, where we enjoyed some good natured banter in a language we could not fathom with the next door table, who apparently to swap our lunch for their sandwiches 🤣

It was rather chilly with the sun partially hidden in high cloud though, so we ate and drank fairly quickly. Despite quite a queue to get up to the top, we almost had the cable car to ourselves going down, as the other crazy fools were taking the red and black ski runs down 🤣🫣. We enjoyed seeing Arc 2000 resort which is covered in snow and definitely ski-in and ski-out of all bars, restaurants and shops. However, as Sean and Alex’s ski transfer was looming, we made our way down to Arc 1600 for a final coffee and farewells. It is really sad to see them go as we have all had such a lovely time together, though it has been completely full-on we are all ready for a rest! 😂

Birthday picnic on a mountain top

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