A Week in Megeve — France
Stunning mountains covered in shimmering blankets of cool white snow and hearty delicious Savoyarde food await you in this picturesque Alpine town — the perfect family winter holiday
I believe that there is nothing quite like being in the mountains. There is a sense of quiet peace, a humbling reminder of humankind’s smallness and nature’s greatness on display wherever you look. The beauty of jagged peaks covered in fresh snow glistening in the sunshine and the majesty of pine trees standing tall like sentinels guarding over the valley reach deep into your core and relax your mind, taking you away from the noise of modern everyday life. Spend some time on a mountain, and you will be changed. And on this magnificent mountain, there is also amazing food, flowing wine, and your children, regardless of how much energy they have, will dive happily into bed at the end of each day, exhausted and content while you share a last brandy in the glow of the dying embers of the fireplace. Now that is something beautiful.
As anyone familiar with my family knows, our annual family ski holiday is a long-standing tradition. This year’s destination was the quaint but oh so chic alpine village of Megeve, nestled in the valley below the Mont Blanc massif in south-east France. Here you will find world-class food as well as local flavor, encounter a wide range of ski options, and see the most incredible almost 360° vistas I have ever seen. It’s breathtaking.
My first encounter with this iconic ski village was as a teenager, watching the movie Charade, in which Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant flirtatiously challenge each other in a suspicious chance meeting in Megeve. The mystery, glamour, and understated luxury fascinated me. (If you are unfamiliar with the movie, here is a great article from The Guardian about it: Charade: The last sparkle of Hollywood) I knew I had to go to this place. It was only a matter of time. In this case, almost 30 years of time, but finally, many years and almost as many other ski resorts later, I made it to Megeve this winter.
The town itself oozes charm. First put on the map in the 1920’s by the famed Rothschild family, you can find stores such as Hermes nestled next to local ski shops, bars, and the town’s outdoor ice-skating rink. The town’s Medieval center dates back to the 13th century and is a labyrinth of cobblestone pedestrian streets filled with gourmet shops, boulangeries, patisseries, and beautiful stores selling high-end skiwear and mountain home accessories. All beautifully appointed with a subtle elegance.
Despite it’s chic reputation, Megeve remains a pleasantly old-fashioned family town. One evening, two local youth hockey teams were battling it out on the ice rink while parents and tourists alike cheered them on. Much of the tourism is French, with a spattering of other European countries present and the odd American or Russian. This aspect was actually quite refreshing in an industry that seems to have exploded in recent decades. Megeve maintains the charm of warm French Savoyarde culture.
But let’s get to the real heart of it – the skiing. No, the food. Well, the food and the skiing. Both are spectacular. The resort itself is tucked into one of the many valleys in the shadows of Mont Blanc and boasts hundreds of kilometers of skiable area for every level. Most pistes are wide and empty. Avoid the French school holidays if at all possible, and you should encounter very few lines. As for the food, from hip mountain terraces bathed in sunshine like Ideal 1850, where the truffle pizza melts in your mouth and the steak tartare is heaven, to small hidden cottages serving up steaming bowls of freshly made sausages and rösti, Megeve has it all. We only made it to a handful of the many many choices, but they were all wonderful and each had it’s own unique charm. I’ve listed those below.
Finally, a note on where to stay. Megeve has some beautiful hotels right in the town center, as well as luxurious chalets scattered all around the village. Chalets tend to be more upscale, often with indoor pools and their own sauna. For more economical options, go local by contacting a travel agency in town, as many French do. No matter what you choose, you really can’t go wrong. Not even if the electricity in your chalet goes out right as you are serving dinner and you can’t seem to reach anyone responsible so you find candles and have a very romantic candle lit meal as the red wine flows freely and you then have a dance party using your iPhones until you finally find the mother switch which was hidden behind a wood panel in the wall that looked like every other wood panel except for this one had a cute straw owl sitting in front of it. Yep. As I said, family ski holidays are the best and the magic and charm of Megeve made it all the more special.
Where we ate:
As far as I’m concerned, food in a ski resort is as important as skiing. In Megeve, where many seem to agree with me, it’s necessary to book in advance to avoid disappointment and ensure you have a spot at the best places. The Megeve skiable domain is divided into three main parts: Mont d’Arbois, Rochebrune, and Jaillet. Of the three, Mont d’Arbois is the most extensive and therefore has the most restaurants. In this area…
Le Gouet is a rustic family run restaurant where the cheese is divine. Definitely go for the Tartiflette and don’t forget the hot chocolate for the kids. Chez Ernestine is a cozy place with an informal terrace. Great for burgers and a carafe of red wine, grab a seat early as it fills fast. At the top of the Mont Joux lift, you will find the rather expensive but quite in style La Fruitiere, part of the whole Folie Douce phenomenon. Do spend an hour or two after lunch one day at the Folie Douce. There is nothing quite like partying on the top of a mountain. You’ll want to splurge here, as champagne is the name of the game. The nearby Ideal 1850 is also very popular with the “in” crowd. The views from the terrace on a clear day are unbeatable and the food is very good. Finish off your meal with a coffee and a shot of warming liqueur by the wood fire. La Riviere is a tiny cottage with only a few tables and a wonderful dog to greet you as you enter. Meals are served family style and cooked in the kitchen next to the dining room. This restaurant is difficult to find and requires a bit of a trek through the woods, but worth the extra effort.
In Rochebrune, go to Le Radaz for excellent food at a good price.
In Jaillet, try the restaurant Face au Mont Blanc. The black truffle pizza was the best I’ve had and the complimentary Genepi shots upon leaving hit the spot. Generous friendly service everywhere.
Also, another option if you are lucky enough to have a beautiful day full of blue skies and white puffy clouds on the mountain, grab a jambon sandwich and a beer and find a spot in the sunshine for lunch. It’s quite special to be able to do this. Don’t forget to be silly and play in the snow while you’re at it.
And finally, no Savoyarde holiday is complete without Raclette and Fondue, and my favorite for this was L’Alpage, a cozy traditional restaurant in town serving heaps of warm melted cheese by the potful, literally. Definitely reserve here.
Tip: Did you know that you must always drink white wine with melted cheese? A nice crisp white is best. Other options would be kirsch or tea. Anything else is said to cause the melted cheese to coagulate in your tummy and cause indigestion. I personally like to drink plenty of white wine. No indigestion over here!