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Friday, 22 January 2016

COURCHEVEL - Doris Visits Courchevel


Skiing, wine tasting, eating out and .....

In the winter Courchevel is a ski resort, and in order to ski it has to snow. Whilst we would all like to ski in blazing sun, soft fluffy snow underfoot, and that does often happen, this was not the week. So, in the words of many a song we were often chasing the sun and breaks in cloud, moving from above the cloud to below the cloud. With a number of valleys that is easily possible if the lifts stay open. Courchevel is sold as part of the Three Valleys but there is a fourth Valley and more than four levels and villages all with their own style.

Once again the alps had had sparse snow up to and over Christmas and when we headed out (party of 29) it was week two of 2016. Whilst real skiers will watch snow reports and flock when the snow has dumped, we are amongst actors and we go when the business is still in shut down.

Our week was just one week earlier than we skied St. Anton in Austria last year, then gifted blazing sun and good snow. Yes this was the week it had to snow, which meant skiing in cloud and snow. Flat light means not seeing the undulations and it is harder work.

1850 is the main Courchevel area with every designer you can think of, but few bars. The main miss for me on the whole resort is that the lifts are still a little old compared to Austria where there are covers you can pull over when windy, cold and snowy, and they do not have heated seats. The skiing is easy and not as extreme as Austria or the drop down to the sister valley Meribel.

1650 has less shops, more bars and is where we hired our skis.

1550 is just below 1650 on the bus with the new multi million euro complex AquaMotion where there are seven pools. Our filming there was limited because the lens kept fogging. Their own advert is all graphics, but the web site is here. I am sure it is full during the summer with more varied family holidays but this was not a school holiday period and we counted three people in the 7 swimming pool and slide complex. If you feel like some R and R they have a spa and treatment rooms. Also a hairdressers to sort out helmet hair.

Despite tough weather my Ski Tracks app showed 30km two of my 6 days and 0ver 18km other days so it was not all bad. But whilst mentioning apps, Courchevel ski map is an active app showing where you are on the mountain which is very useful. The other thing about Courchevel is that there are signs generally pointing the way to head to get to certain areas rather than lift maps at the tops of lifts which you may be used to.

Wine tasting ....
This was not an evening to drink a lot, nor was it an evening to sell you wine. I guess they know most have full baggage allowance and free wine with meals in the chalets. It was a basic class on how to taste wine. First we tasted salt water, sugar water and water with lemon before smelling various numbered bottles that were as wild and difficult as burnt smell, green pepper as well as more understandable smells. The idea was to understand your receptors and where they are and which ones react to what. Then we learnt to smell the wine, taste and then why they spit; to send the smell and effect in the reverse directions and hitting different receptors first. Apparently we have 252 receptors in our nose. Three whites were tasted, three reds, then we finished with a glass of pink champagne. The two hour course ended up being three hours and dinner was delayed.....

Eating out. As we were in two separate chalets we were fed very well in the evening by Megan, a seasonaire on her gap year having got all A's and A stars at A level. But all seasonaires get a night off and we booked a restaurant in La Praz which is a low village in the group just ten minutes away but with the hugely expensive taxis in Courchevel is was a 40 euro trip each way.
However recommended in the Daily Telegraph Ski Magazine as one of the 40 best restaurants in the alps we were intrigued. LE BISTROT is run by Antoine Bouchard in the Rue de La chapelle which you can ski down to and is not far from the tele siege de la forêt.
The design and the service are both quite special and worth the visit and for meat eaters it is a treat. Two of our party shared a beef dish which they finished despite its size, washed down by a very nice red wine. Another had the duck and one the pasta sprinkled with truffles which was voted special. However, as with so much of France they do not understand a vegetarian and we had had 3 semi flexible non red meat eaters but the menu was still restricted to trout which was nice, but sweet or pasta. The sweet potato soup was a little like cream and butter soup with sweet potato so it is not a place for vegans.

Courchevel 1850 has few bars but some interesting coffee shops with great cakes and some nice hotels. 1650 has many quick and reasonably priced restaurants and many bars that serve food. Some if which have comedy nights and live music nights. The village of 1550 is smaller but not without some interesting places to explore. But, with the evening meal in the chalet deal most restaurants you will test will be on the mountain. The Casserole just up from 1650 is a very pleasant restaurant where as the Bel Air is slightly less formal.

On the way down to Meribel, from the people mover at the top is la Folie Douce which has both a very well serviced table restaurant as well as an attractive bar with a very well stocked adjacent self service. Here is where the après ski starts, and they either have a DJ or a singer or two backed by a guitarist. The music is a little younger than the places with live bands and punching the air is encouraged by a number of choreographed dancers in matching interestingly styled jackets that help keep the cold at bay.
A ten minute ski down gets you to le Rond Point where they do have veggie food, simple chicken or red meat burgers as well as the live band to take the après ski through to 1900. The band when we visited were great and many people ended up dancing on the tables. A real fun atmosphere.

I would appreciate you finding and following me on Facebook DORIS SHADES and on Twitter as DorisVisits.

Episodes of the dark comedy series Shades Of Bad, where Doris, me, deals with her husband leaving her by becoming a serial killer who works from home. The book is also available as a paperback.

The series can be viewed from the web site www.shadesofbad.com or YouTube.

A LIST OF LOCAL CONTACTS - also check in the comments sections here and of the films on YouTube for locals bars, restaurants, tours and amenities who have connected.