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I hadn’t been to the French Alps in 20 years when Kaitlin asked me to join her on a road trip through France and Switzerland together with Audi and Best of the Alps. The last time was during secondary school when I studied French, and we were doing an exchange program with a school in Ugine near Albertville. I lived with a local family for a whole week! Although, an avid Francophile, I never mastered the language. Another thing I couldn’t learn was winter sports. Despite being Norwegian, I can’t claim to have been born with skis on the feet as most of my fellow countrymen. I used to snowboard, but eventually realized I sucked at it (could only turn left) and quit. About five years ago, I went to the Swiss Alps with my work colleagues and decided to swap over to slalom skis instead. I won’t claim to be very good at that either, but at least I could turn both ways and had a lot more fun. However, that was my first and only time downhill skiing, so I was excited to go back … (this is a lie, I only joined because Kaitlin is fun to hang out with). Unlike me, Kaitlin is from sunny California and has lots of skiing experience. Makes total sense.
The first stop on our road trip was Megève in France. We stayed at the Les Loges Blanches – a four-star hotel with cozy mountain suites, a heated outdoor pool, and barrel sauna. I’m not much of a breakfast person, but Kaitlin is, so obviously, we got up each morning to enjoy the most important meal of the day. Wouldn’ t wanna risk that anyone gets hangry. I’m happy to say they had a simple, but very good selection of bread, hams, and local cheeses. As well as made-to-order crêpes, American pancakes, and various egg dishes.
Glaçons de Megève
We explored the wonderful little town of Megève and found the tiny store Glaçons de Megève, where a family has produced a hand-made confectionery for more than a hundred years. Glaçons de Megève means the ice cubes of Megève and refers to a praline of chocolate, hazelnut, and almonds which is coated with a fine, thin layer of crunchy meringue. Sweet, salty, creamy, nutty, and delicious. Today, Isabelle Vigliengo is the store-keeper who guards the family recipe that dates back to 1909 (that’s the year my great-grandmother was born!).
One Michelin-Starred Restaurant La Table de l’Alpaga
For lunch one day, we went to the five-star hotel Alpaga, where chef Anthony Bisquerra is in charge of the restaurants. He invited us into the kitchen to watch him cook a few courses. Unfortunately, his one-Michelin starred restaurant La Table de l’Alpaga was not open at the time, but he made us a dish from his menu anyway. A creamy mushroom soup served with a tuile of buckwheat, and a raw egg yolk. Autumn in a bowl! Afterward, we enjoyed a great meal in the more casual bistro – l’Onyx. I ordered the pâté en croute, which I have never tasted in France, and loved it.
Three-Michelin-Starred Restaurant Flocons de Sel
No doubt, the most respected chef in this part of the Alps is Emmanuel Renaut. His three-Michelin-starred (since 2012) restaurant Flocons de Sel lies in the five-star hotel by the same name (it seems to be a trend with great hotel restaurants in this area). The hotel is designed by Emmanuel’s lovely wife Kristine, who welcomed us upstairs in the lounge where we enjoyed our snacks. The first thing we noticed as we entered the place was the Michelin man. Statues of Bibendum, and copies of the Michelin Guide was placed all over the hotel and restaurant. In the lobby, in the hallways, upstairs, and downstairs. I almost expected to find them in the restrooms too. Clearly, the Michelin Guide has an extraordinarily high standing in this area. After the snacks, we joined chef Renaut and his team in the kitchen, where they prepared us one of their seasonal signature dishes of artichokes and black truffle.
Chamonix-Mont Blanc, France
The highlight for the trip on my part was to re-visit Chamonix-Mont Blanc, where I also went on my school trip in 1998. I don’t think you are able to appreciate the beauty of a place at age 14. I certainly cannot remember the stunning view of this city and its surrounding landscape. Arriving early in our Audi Q8 after a short drive from Megève, we checked into Alpina hotel, which must have the most perfect location smack in the middle of town. The design is awesome, with balconies designed to look like cable cars when you view them from the side.
Eating a Mont Blanc at Chalet 4810
Here, in the shadows of the tallest peak in Europe, Mont Blanc (4810 meters), we had to eat a Mont Blanc dessert – the famous pastry with chestnut purée and whipped cream. Our local guide showed us the best place in town for just that, Chalet 4810, which, as you may have guessed, is named after the mighty mountain. We also got a cup of hot chocolate, because it’s Kaitlin’s favorite (ok, mine too).
Hand-Made Skis by the Rabbit on the Roof
One morning, we paid a visit to Peter Steltzner, aka the Rabbit on the Roof. Steltzner is an American expat from California, who has lived in France for more than 30 years, which you can tell from his accent. Peter makes some of the most beautiful skis in the world from Ash wood. Each pair is handmade and takes days to finish. Thus, he can only do between 60 and 80 pairs per year. Obviously, that means the prices are high and waiting lists long – as they should be.
Eating a Traditional Tartiflette at 0’74 Café
We had many traditional French and Swiss meals during our trip. From cheese and meat stock fondues to raclette and tartiflette. The common denominator in them all is cheese. I couldn’t help to think that the cheese industry must be booming in this area. If the locals eat half as much cheese as we had this week, it should be enough to keep the area’s milk farmers going for generations.
Train Ride to Glace de Mer (Sea of Ice)
Chamonix was grey and overcast when we arrived, but on the morning of our ascent to Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice), the clouds had disappeared and revealed the stunning mountain range surrounding the city. In order to get to the glacier, which is the longest and largest glacier in France and the second longest in the Alps, we had to take a train. Or the Polar Express, as Kaitlin and I named it once we saw how it looked. Departure was at 10 AM from Gare de Chamonix-Mont Blanc, which must have one of the most beautiful train station views in the world. Truly, a Wes Anderson moment. Of course, Kaitlin had to get a cup of hot chocolate for the ride from a small café truck parked next to the platform. It turned out to be the best cup of cocoa we had on the trip (and we had many).
Luxury Spa at QC Terme
After the exhausting and challenging glacier climb (not really), we figured we deserved to treat ourselves to a spa experience at the brand new QC Terme spa in Chamonix. I haven’t been to a lot of spas, I’ll admit, but I’m having a hard time imagining how you can beat the view from this heated outdoor pool. Having the entire Les Drus mountain range, with the dazzling Aiguille du Dru (the needle) as a backdrop while floating around in an infinity pool, is something I’ll treasure for a long time. Inside the spa, there’s a bunch of different hot and cold baths, water massages, and both traditional and modern sauna options.
Crans Montana, Switzerland
Late in the afternoon, on our final day in Chamonix, we packed our bags once again and hit the road in our galaxy blue Audi Q8 to drive to Crans Montana in Switzerland. To me, the name sounds like the crown of mountains, which is exactly what it looked like – a valley surrounded by a mountain wreath. The next morning, I got to test my ski abilities again when we took the gondolas to the top of Crans Montana’s ski resort. Matterhorn was nodding at us from a distance and our only way down was with the help of a narrow strip of semi-rigid material worn underfoot to glide over snow (Wikipedia‘s definition, not mine). I’m thankful to Kaitlin for making me brave my fears once again. I do enjoy skiing, I just forget that I do in the five years that pass between each ride.
One-Michelin-Starred Restaurant at Le Crans Hotel
My last lunch on this trip was enjoyed at the one-Michelin-starred restaurant of the five-star hotel Le Crans (are you keeping track of the stars?). Unfortunately, I had to leave the group halfway and head back to Oslo for an important meeting (sometimes, adult life sucks).
Kaitlin continued her adventures in Grindelwald in Switzerland. Head on over to carnivorr.com to read about her experiences there, which included a train ride to the top of Europe! I was glad that I had already climbed Jungfraujoch during an earlier trip to Interlaken with my family. At an elevation of 3454 meters, the Jungfraujoch railway station is the highest in Europe. I’ve also included the YouTube video made by one of the other influencers that joined us on this trip – Cars With Luke – because I found it stunning and awesome.
What’s your favorite destination in the Alps? Please share in a comment below.
This post is sponsored by Audi