LUSSO Gets it’s Lay-Ho-Di-Lay Oh-Di-Lay-He-He on, in Geneva
A Winter staple indeed. But what’s this? I find myself en route to The Alps slap bang in the middle of Summer. This feels all kinds of wrong. Had my editor been coerced into sending me here having taken advantage of the local plonk? Negative. The Alps are becoming increasingly popular as a year-round destination – and not just so that chalet owners can earn an extra few bob, but because sans snow, this place is a whole new world.
Portes du Soleil is dreamily located between Mont Blanc and Lake Geneva and just as in the colder months the area has something for everyone, the summer brings even more to the plentiful holiday table. The Sun Doors boast a whopping thirteen ski resorts spread across fourteen valleys and four hundred square miles, making it one of the largest ski areas in the world, alongside neighbouring Les Trois Vallees.
However, on this little escapade it was Morzine that caught our attention. Whilst in winter it is every bit the picturesque Alpine town, as the sun melts away the snow, the place is truly transformed. Lush greenery takes hold and the valley becomes a rich paradise – something straight out of a children’s book – a panorama made complete by the town’s perfectly central open-air pool. Take a wander thirty minutes North through the forest and you’ll find yourself in Montriond. A typically historic Haute-Savoire commune, Montriond comprises of a scattering of chocolate-box chalets round a 16th century church square graced with the ever-essential boulangerie, a bar and a sweet little tabac. Fans of foreign TV drama might well be reminded of Canal+ thriller The Returned (Les Revenants), and so they should – it was filmed nearby and the setting holds a striking resemblance to the beautiful yet eerie mountain location used throughout.
Just a pastry-fuelled stroll away is Lake Montriond, a crystal clear gem of a lake after which my temporary home just so happens to takes it’s name. And about that! My base for the duration of the trip was La Ferme du Lac Vert – a magnificent property, lovingly renovated and decorated to a sympathetic and rather whimsical tee courtesy of the Lady of the Lac, the very fun-loving rosbeef, Mme Lucy. Having won a holiday to the area eleven years ago, Lucy and tirelessly supportive husband Rob fell in love with the town. Then non-skiers, the dynamic duo embraced the Alpine life and thanks to Swiss ski instructor and soon-to-be best buddy cum business partner, Nicolas Evequoz, they were soon trained up good and proper.
Team GB scouted out their dream project and began converting an uninhabited 19th century farmhouse in Montriond into a luxurious chalet. The journey really has been a labour of love, with evidence of their journey proudly hanging (literally) throughout the property. An antique bicycle found in the grounds now sits in amongst the rafters, suspended from the ceiling like a piece of art. Albums too, document the build, allowing visitors to see what once was and just how incredibly far the proprietors have come.
Upon entering the property, the eye is immediately drawn to a grand spiral staircase, custom designed and sculpted by a local artist, that runs all the way up through the impressive atrium-meets-art gallery on the first floor and further still to the fabulous open-plan living space above. The walls creak with charm, cuckoo clocks chime at leisure and cowhides sit alongside untreated wood as a prominent reminder that the chalet was once part of a cattle farm. The traditional décor comes with a twist – the backdrop of furs and antiquities dotted with Lucy’s bovine-based paintings and, rather aptly, Cowshed products. The ground floor houses a three bedroom apartment – perfect for those wanting a little more privacy, space and their own terrace, no less – while the rooms on the first floor are perfect for treating yourself (as I did), for sharing, or indeed for taking one of your lucky little darlings along for the ride.
A dark metal wolf sculpture (a gift from the staircase monsieur) guards the door leading from the atrium to a large terrace complete with hot tub. The views are picture perfect and the clear, still mountain air makes deep breathing in my terrace-top yoga class the following morning absolutely heavenly. A vast dining/living room spans most of the third floor and, as evening sets in, becomes a remarkably cosy space – all lanterns, candles and, naturally, copious amounts of vin rouge and local cheese – with a separate media room for late night screenings and keeping the children entertained. A long, wooden dining table lit by Moroccan chandeliers would later become a hub of chatter as the sweet, sweet nectar flowed and we were served a delicious eight course meal by Masterchef runner upper, Sharif ‘Cheify’ Gergis. We feasted on grilled Brittany scallops, foie gras with sweet and sour peach, roasted Chalon quail with black pudding, and saddle of lamb accompanied by gingerbread and broad beans. A highlight was without a doubt the dessert – pistachio and tonka bean crème brulee. Delicious. Veggies and small people are catered for if required, and, thanks to a bit of experimentation, I can confirm that alt dishes are equally as tasty.
Alongside the chalet sits a mazot: a small, windowless hut in which people would traditionally keep their most valuable possessions away from the rest of the house and any potential fire. Apparently theft is not an issue round these parts! La Ferme’s mazot is, at the time of writing, being converted into a second self-contained apartment de luxe. On receiving a tour, I am informed that thankfully, windows will be added.
A delightfully friendly and very close-knit team will genuinely do their utmost to ensure you have a brilliant stay. Incredibly helpful, no ask is too big for these lot, with local activities planned and customised to individual needs. The activities on offer will no doubt bring back memories of school French classes as you partake in a spot of parapenting, realise your deep-rooted dream of white water rafting, and lord about with some l’equitation before setting off for a spot of cyclisme. Talking of which, the area is fast establishing itself as a mecca for plucky mountain bikers wanting to try their hand (bike?) at some of the steepest tour de France routes around. For those who after something more thrilling still, Morzine offers the chance to experience Via Ferrata in all of its mountain scaling glory. Using small iron steps, this handy form of rock climbing was invented by Italian soldiers in the Dolomites and taken up throughout Europe during WW1. So, why not make the most of local facilities and scale the so-called Elephant Head Mountain? It’s very high. Still not thrilling enough? You could always go canyoning or indeed opt to fly face first across the Chatel valley at 100km/h on the amusingly titled Fantasticable. Perhaps not one for the faint hearted. Certainly not one for me.
There’s still plenty to keep them calm sorts entertained though. Should you not feel quite up to throwing yourself through the sky/into the rapids, you might prefer hiking in the mountains. Switzerland can easily be accessed by chairlift – yes, really – and there are many-a Hills Are Alive moments to be had as you skip through the flower-filled meadows. Several local spas offer fabulously indulgent treatments that definitely hit the right spot after a day of oh so strenuous walking. A visit to Les Gorge du Pont du Diable is strongly recommended. This cave-like gorge has, over-time, been hollowed through limestone, leaving a boulder bridging the gap between two villages, Le Jotty and La Forclaz. Though dangerous, hundreds of years ago, the boulder provided a short cut between the two, avoiding a four kilometre detour. People often fell 120m down to their death in the river below, their fellow villagers blamed it on the devil (obviously) and the name Devil’s Bridge Gorge stuck.
It’s certainly worth noting just how close to Geneva Airport Morzine is, and that in just over an hour from landing, you’ll be arriving in the ‘Gateway to the Sun’. So, whether you’re hankering after a week of activity or if you prefer to get your thrills from food, views and wine – like yours truly – Summer in the Alps really isn’t that weird at all. And the perfect place to try new things? A base of both luxury and personality? La Ferme du Lac Vert is definitely a good call. You’ll probably be back come ski season too. A tout!
La Ferme du Lac Vert, Morzine. For more info, visit their website www.skizeen.com Tel +44(0)1483 890 044.