If you thought that Méribel was known for skiing and skiing alone then think again. Yes, it a fantastic location for winter sports as I found out on a recent trip but it also offers all sorts of other activities throughout the year.
There are some parts of the world that just have to be visited to appreciate how beautiful they are, Méribel is one of those places. Nestled in a vast valley that makes up part of the largest skiing area in the world it really is picture perfect in every way from the skiing from your front door to the superb views in those chic mountain top restaurants.
I stayed at the Hotel le Mottaret, one of Madame Vacances excellent properties. It was situated at the quiet end of Mottaret village of just a short distance from Méribel. It had really lovely touches such as tea and coffee making stations on each level with pastries, sweets and goodies to help yourself to whenever you want. Fairies seem to replenish the stock daily as I never saw an empty bowl once. The rooms have a TV and DVD player (very handy with kids) and as if the free treats 24/7 were not enough the five-course supper every night certainly filled me up.
Taking a shuttle gondola down to the Mottaret village (which took a matter of minutes) is where I found all the action. There were plenty of restaurants, a jovial atmosphere and ski schools for both young and old. The sun was blazing so an early start is best here as parts of the valley are in the sun all day the snow can get a bit mushy towards the end of the afternoon. It’s all very centralised so great for families of mixed abilities to go and do their thing then return to the one spot.
My visit coincided with ‘Coup de Coers’ a spring festival with music, stand up, DJ spin offs and plenty more. My hotel was hosting a lunchtime gig in their cafe Del Mott. Keyboard, guitar and a saxophone produced some pleasantly chilled out sounds, not too loud – with an excellent burger and a beer it made the afternoon slip away.
The centre of Méribel is also accessible by free bus (called the Méribus) it is just a few stops away. It’s a charming town with many shops and restaurants – I can recommend The Refuge, a buzzy place with sheepskin rugs on the chairs and good food. There is a swimming pool in the town, a legacy of the 1992 Winter Olympics as well as other activities like snow shoeing and sledging if you don’t fancy skiing.
In the evening another gig, this time in the bar with one of the staff singing (a young lady called Tchai) she had an exquisite voice not unlike Amy Winehouse. I must stress that these performances are really laid back and not too loud – more like background music so you can still talk and enjoy company.
In terms of altitude the village is about 1600m so a good starting point but you can of course go much higher, up to 3000m using the intricate and recently improved gondola system that allows you to travel across to other resorts from the confluence of three valleys. So, Courchevel that hip spot of the rich and famous is less than a quarter of an hour away and well worth a visit.
On my way I had lunch at the supremely sited Le Panoramic restaurant, named for obvious reasons. Outside the terrace was adorned with people sunbathing inside a slick combo of distressed wood and killer views took command. Ski paraphernalia adorned the walls. The food was very good if a little expensive – the price of the view I guess.
This was a winter visit but you can do much more in the summer months. How about canoeing, mountain biking or parascending? Helicopter flights and horse riding is also popular. In many ways you can see the charm of Méribel more clearly when the snow has gone. The pretty chalet buildings, rolling green hills and streams come alive in the sunshine months. Hiking through the terrain can be rewarding with a little mountain hut selling refreshments just when you need them.
With your ski boots all packed away for the season it’s time to get out your hiking boots give them a polish and start planning your summer trip to the mountains that are not only beautiful to walk through but also even better viewed from a hot air balloon (yes, you can do that too)!
Specialising in hassle-free holidays throughout France since 1991. With 45 resorts offering upscale hotels, Alpine chalets, holiday cottages and self-catered villas with pools in its prestigious portfolio, Madame Vacances offers great value holiday options that cater for all styles and budgets. From family holidays to golf getaways and beach breaks along the French West Coast to winter escapes exploring some of the Alps’ top ski resorts.
Hotel Le Mottaret is right on the beginner’s slopes, and its south-facing terrace makes it perfect for après-ski or lazy afternoons too.
The hotel is in a perfect setting – beautiful scenery + sun drenched terraces and Jacuzzi. The rooms have views over the ski slopes.
Further information on your Madame Vacances accommodation can be found here: www.madamevacances.co.uk
Les 3 Vallees lift pass: Priced from €289 per adult for 6 days.
British Airways, from London – Geneva: Priced from: £87 return