Saying good night to the mountains, the sun throws his most beautiful rays to them, that they may not forget him till the morning – Johanna Spyri, the author of Heidi.
When I heard that we would be visiting the Alps, the first thing that came to my mind was the iconic children’s book Heidi. I could still picture the spectacular mountainous backdrop, green meadows, little wooden houses and white goats. Somehow, thinking of the Alps has always awakened the little girl in me. I couldn’t wait!
It was a beautiful morning and after a six-hour drive from Paris, we arrived at our destination, Le Jarbay, a charming ski resort situated at Mont-Saxonnex. The resort is set amidst the gorgeous natural beauty of the Alps and the whole scene was shockingly accurate to my memories of Heidi. The resort was so calm and quiet that we thought we were the only guests there. Apparently, these types of chalets are mostly busy during the winter season, and during the summer they can only be rented for a minimum of one week. At Le Jarbay, each chalet is divided into a fully furnished two-bedroom apartment.
Courmayeur, the Top Choice for Skiers in the Alps
We went to Courmayeur, a gorgeous ski resort in Italy just by the French border. It took us about an hour to get there by car through the famous Mont Blanc Tunnel. The journey on its own was a joy!
Courmayeur is a breathtakingly beautiful town with typical Alps characteristics of wooden architecture, dynamic landscape and colourful flowers at every turn. One of the main things to do here is to go up to the heart of Mont Blanc through the extraordinary engineered ropeway called The Skyway (which they claim to be the eighth wonder of the world!). This world-class facility stops at three different stations, all located at different altitudes, with the highest station being at 3,466 metres. When we arrived at the final station and went to the terrace, we were embraced by the majestic view of the peaks, which seemed to be at an arm’s length. What an amazing feeling to be so high up and so close to the summit of the tallest mountain in Europe. I can’t help but imagine how difficult it is for climbers to struggle for weeks to climb up to this level. I was there for only five minutes before I started to think of a hot shower.
Village of a Million Activities
Our next destination was Les Contamines, another charming village at the foot of Mont Blanc. The village proudly owns the largest leisure park in the region, with activities such as golf, a climbing school, swimming and rowing.
We took the ski lift up to Pontet Leisure Park, which boasts a gorgeous little lake. It was located next to a delightful restaurant with open terraces and long chairs. The emerald green water of the lake was incredibly transparent and the whole area offered astonishing views of pine trees, hills and mountains.
We enjoyed an Alpine lunch experience of Tartiflette (potatoes, lardons and Reblochon cheese), followed by homemade blueberry tarts, before the kids went on a pedalo ride around the lake. We were tempted to go for a swim but the icy cold water convinced us to be happy just to dip our feet.
Finally, the Hikes!
On our last two days, we finally went hiking. As beginners we chose some of the easiest tracks available. Although it all depends on the track, it is recommended that you get the right hiking shoes instead of just wearing your old sneakers, so when the hike gets rough, you won’t slip and sprain your ankle.
Our first trail was up a 300-metre steep hill at La Pointe d’Andey of Mont Saxonnex, which offers a magical panorama of Lake Geneva and Mont Blanc. The climb was okay and we had numerous stops to drink in the view, but the rocky terrain made it challenging. It was a wonderful reward when we finally reached the top of that hill! Everywhere we looked was beauty beyond words.
Picnic by the Lake
What a contrast! Our second hike was fun but still a good workout. This time we were not worried about falling off a cliff or stumbling upon rocks. It took us about 40 minutes to hike to Lake Benit. We crossed a forest then entered a meadow where summer flowers abounded. And there it was, my Heidi picture come to life! Laid in front of me were pretty little wooden houses and farms. Soon after, we arrived at the lake just in time for our well-deserved lunch.
The Alps are definitely awe-inspiring and I was sad to leave. Surrounded by all that natural beauty, all I wanted to do was stop, breathe, listen to the hypnotizing silence and take in the extraordinary sights and sounds and sensations. In my heart, I knew without a doubt that I would be back, sooner … if not later.