Summer is rapidly approaching (or at least, it is if you don’t live in the UK 🙂 ) and we have started thinking about how we should spend our holidays. Kids in France get EIGHT WEEKS off in summer (even more in secondary) – you parents who moan about holidays being too long in the UK don’t know you’re born.
Anyway, last year we rented out our house for five weeks (which is also available for rent this year) and had a fabulous time travelling around France. We’re hoping to do something similar this year, and I have just signed up to Homelink to see if we can find some swaps, although I have a feeling we may have left it too late this year.
When someone talks about going to the mountains for their holiday, it’s natural to assume they’re going skiing. But the mountains are also a fantastic place for a summer holiday – we visited Lake Annecy Ski Resorts last summer to find out what they offer. And the answer was, just about everything.
Lake Annecy Ski Resorts are made up of four resorts – La Clusaz , Le Grand Bornand, Manigod and St Jean de Sixt less than one hour’s drive from the stunning Lake Annecy. While many French resorts are purpose-built and not exactly famed for their architecture, these resorts are real towns and villages, surrounded by working farms and in the main made up of pretty wooden chalets, proper town squares and cute little churches.
We were never bored. After playing mini-golf and learning how to do archery (to arch?) Toby, 10 and Livi, 8, joined in with a free sailing lesson which takes place once a week. Another day we took the cable car to the top of the mountain, visited a mountain farm to taste reblochon cheese and then walked back down. The next day we tried the summer luge (a kind of bobsleigh but without the snow and ice) and devalkarts – this involved being pulled up the hill on a ski lift and then rolling and bumping back down to the bottom. We also went swimming, tried out the zip wire and our Carte Detente Plus cards meant that the kids could have as many goes on the bumper boats, trampolines and mini quad bikes as they liked. Other things which we wanted to try but didn’t have time to do included paragliding, mountain biking, walking with donkeys and spending the night up the mountain in the teepee.
We stayed the first two nights in Le Grand Bornand, at the newly-renovated Hotel Les Ecureuils, a friendly three-star hotel with a lovely outdoor pool, sauna and hot tub. Our family room was traditionally decorated and brilliantly, had a heavy curtain which divided the room so you don’t have to get up and go to bed at the same time as your children. It’s also right in the centre of town so everything is within easy reach.
The second two nights we stayed at Au Coeur du Village in La Clusaz – the area’s one and only five star hotel, very much aimed at families. Fifty of its 57 rooms are suites, and all the suites have a separate bedroom and bathroom for the children (in the family suites, the children get a whole separate floor to themselves). Despite the luxuriousness of the hotel, it has a relaxed, unpretentious feel and while its restaurant Le Cinq is very much fine-dining food, there were lots of very small children there when we visited and no-one cared if they weren’t behaving perfectly. Our kids were particularly delighted with the little wooden game left on their pillow at bedtime along with chocolates.
On our way back we spent a day at Lake Annecy. The lake is surrounded by grassy beaches, some public, some private – entry to a couple of the private beaches was included in our Carte Detente Plus but if you don’t have one, it only costs a few euros – this isn’t the Cote D’Azur. The lake perhaps isn’t ideal for tiny children as you can’t really paddle (or at least you couldn’t where we were) but Toby and Livi loved jumping off the diving board and sliding down the slide into the water and at you can also hire pedaloes and kayaks at various points.
The mountains in summer are a kind of well-kept secret – accommodation is cheap (it can be as little as one quarter as what you might pay in the winter), it tends to be warm and sunny without being oppressively hot and there is plenty to do for both children and adults but it’s not crowded as coastal resorts can be in the height of summer. What’s not to like?
For more information visit www.lakeannecy-skiresorts.com