Explore the Beautiful Giffre Valley…

Having admired the spectacular views from the Chalet’s balcony, then explored the garden, lawns, forest, hot tub & tree house, you can start to discover why the Giffre valley is so admired as a holiday paradise.

This lovely valley with its river threading down the center starts at the geographically spectacular “fer a cheval”, a horseshoe circle of vertical mountains over which plunge numerous waterfalls fed by the glaciers above. The river slips past quiet alpine villages and alongside the steep flanks of the mountain sides which are themselves dotted with chalet farms, terraced meadows and cows with bells. This idyllic rural scenery was “discovered” back in 1850 by the Englishman, Alfred Wills, president of the Alpine Club. After years of mountaineering in Switzerland and the French Alps, he discovered this valley of pastrol bliss and declared.
“When chance took me into the valley I found it so beautiful that thenceforward I hardly knew how to keep away from it”.
Wills built a chalet for himself and his family to enjoy his “Happy Valley” and even though today many holiday chalets have since been added by more English and French families, the tiny chalet farms and cow bells have happily remained unchanged.

Walks from the chalet door…

The tracks that pass behind the house allow you to walk freely for miles past the little fields, chalet hamlets and forests. One of the delightful things about the Alps is that you are free to wander pretty much anywhere, through grass meadows or forest trails, and you won’t be disturbing anyone. In the winter, you won’t even be touching the ground, just tramping a metre or more above it.

In summer the only thing that might block your way are the small cow herds in tiny pastures fenced by single strand of low electric fences – you can mostly skirt around the cattle or hop over/under the wire to get past.  In any case cattle are bred to be very gentle for easier milking. They are much loved by their owners and still adorned in traditional cow bells. The trails pass the door of the chalet and through the woods all around, and you can walk right up or down the mountain without crossing a single road. Flowers including orchids are everywhere in spring and summer, and of course please don’t pick the rare ones! The main tracks are marked with signs and there is a special walking map available from the Mieussy village tourist office and a copy in the chalet. A walk to the mountain top above the chalet takes about 3 hours. It’s an adventure, taking in a historic mountain cave, steep cliff path with safety cables, a black ski run, a famous ridge walk (adrenaline rush from vertical drops are guaranteed) right up to the final assent on the peak.

Spa, Swimming, Climbing Centre

at St Julien en Genevois – Vitam Parc
30 minutes from Mieussy village. Perfect if you and your kids want a thrilling day or if it is a rare grey day in Summer. I wish they could build an identical one near Edinburgh (sigh).

Imagine a new glass shopping centre with a massive indoor climbing wall that confront you on entering and this is connected to a bath temperature swimming pool complex with flumes, soothing bubble jets, geysers, inside and outdoors. The whole place is sparkling clean, safe, and an architect’s delight. Spa – for an extra price you can enter the adults only world of saunas, steam rooms and book a pampering massage. You can still meet/check up on the kids who are watched over by a team of life guards.

 

Summer Lakes & Hot Days

In the summer temperatures can soar to 36 degrees, so you might want to find a cool lake to swim in. There are plenty to choose and many have picnic benches, canoes/boats for hire, lifeguards, tree climbing and other great family activities, all in a parkland setting.
On hot days you can set the chalet shutters to deflect the sunlight. By late evening the temperature starts to drop quickly because of the altitude and this makes sleeping much more comfortable than much of France. Chalet Le Moulin has parasols for eating out on the balcony table and also for the terrace dining table. For outdoor cooking there is a Weber BBQ, a wood fired pizza oven and even a simple  stone circle barbeque. There are rattan sunbeds for the terrace and Peruvian hammocks for setting up between forest trees or under the balcony. There is even a chair hammock (good for reading) on the terrace.

Lac Bleu

The Lac Bleu center in Morillon has a lake with a sandy beach, an excellent tree climbing center and lots of other activities including horse riding, tennis, Olympic trampolines. Perfect for families on hot days. A short swim in the lake will show you why its called Lac Bleu. The outdoor swimming pools in Samoens is a great place for children on a hot afternoon, with even more to do there. Also we discovered Les Carroz has a beautiful outdoor pool, and its own tree climbing with easy and expert routes and climbing puzzles to solve.

Rock Climbing for the family

You can get guided rock face climbing near Samoens, called “via ferrata”. It’s

Adventurous Mountain Walks

Even young children, aged 6 or 7, can manage a long days walk into the high mountains. With plenty of stops and picnic you can even overnight in a mountain refuge chalet, which is like Dinner with Bed & Breakfast in a dorm room but some family rooms are increasingly available. Away from the lights of the valleys, you can watch the setting sun turn the mountain tops golden.

The little chalet farms still have tiny herds of cows with bells. In the high Alpine pastures you can glimpse wild chamois goats, marmots and avian raptors.You can guaranteee Europes spectacular scenery, mountains, glaciers, streams, cute chalets, horses, butterflies, crickets all wrapped up in glorious scented pines and warm sunshine.

Paragliding

Do try it. Magnificent views and an adrenaline rush for the rest of the day. It is as close to flying like an eagle as you can get and no more scary than sitting on a chair lift. About 90€. Available from our village of Mieussy and others too.

Valley Verte (the green valley)

The next village along is the famous pastoral bliss where families are all living the good life. Explore the curving roads past rural hamlets set in a scenery that makes the Lake District seem dull…

Downhill mountain biking.

Les Gets (20 minutes drive). Hire the specialised kit and have a go. People rave about it and if your youngest is tough and can handle the brakes well, a family can start on the simple green downhill runs. We loved it and Becky was only 7. Not to be confused with ordinary mountain bikes.

Mountain Bikes

Cycle the mountain tracks and paths…the scenery is glorious and the routes as fast and furious as you like. Very young kids? Hire a carrier and do the riverside tracks between villages. There is plenty to see and fun to be had on a gentle terrain.

Climbing in the trees.

Drive to Morillon (15 minutes) at the Lac Bleu. Separate course depending on age. The 10+ years plus course has a superb zip wire there and back across the lake. Some of the climbing puzzles would keep anyone amused. Nice safe course for 3+ years.

Cheese & Wine

Our village is the home of Reblochon cheese, and the biggest village shop is the deli/cheese shop which daily makes batches of cheese everyday. The Savoie wines are lovely too and can be found here or in the local supermarket and at low prices. Also slip across the border to sample the Swiss wines which are almost never exported and being exceptionally good and all disappear into Swiss cellars.

At local restaurants try the cheese melted in fondues, grilled in Raclette, roasted as in Tartiflette Reblochon style , or just with baguette and a fruity red wine at your own picnic in the mountains. There is almost no point trying the other thousand or so distinctive cheeses of France. It is more than enough to stick to Savoie and focus on mountain cheeses. These are classic Tomme (cow manure skin, semi soft and varied), Reblouchon (soft creamy, wet socks runny when at its best) and Abondance (hard, from the lost abandoned valley near Chatel), Beaufort ( mature hard cheese and my favourite) What about Comté, Etivaz (Swiss but I can never resist). Ask at the Mieussy cheese shop, keep cool in garage, never in fridge, 9 degrees. The shop will vacuum pack cheese in plastic (ask “sous-vide s’il vous plait”) for a flight home but unwrap immediately so the precious microbes can breathe once again.

Lac Montriond

Swim or walk round or bike around this pretty lake and area. At the end of the lake drive the road up the mountain to the village and admire the goats, the views and the chalets. Buy your ‘chamois leather’ here.

Ice skating

There is a new big rink at Samoens or a monster sized rink at Morzine. Canadian ice hockey is here and it’s exciting to watch. Learning to skate is fun if you dont mind falling occasionally. Kids should take plenty of ski wear and gloves for padded landings.

Beautiful Annecy – the Savoy Capital

Markets, and ancient streets, filled with boutiques, lakeside and canals.A great place to browse on its markets days.  About 50 minutes, takes you to France’s most favoured lake and town. A recent poll showed this is where most French people would like to move to if they could. Head for the old town (Veille Ville) and choose a car park on the edge of the walking district and see why for yourself. Wander the ancient town which is at its best on market day (Tuesday, Friday or Sunday – mornings until 1pm). Then have lunch by one of the canal side restaurants, choosing wherever the locals go. Leave the afternoon free for the boutiques or to explore the castle, or hire a small motor boat (alarmingly easy), or in high summer swim in the lake. Annecy has many major events to watch, see the tourist office.

Lyons

Capital of France for cuisine and ancient Roman command center for controlling the Gaulish tribes. Its a 2 hour drive but the view from the top of the Roman amphitheatre makes it worth it and the ancient city is beautiful.

Lake Geneva Medieaval Township

The secret scented garden in Yvoire on the edge of lake Geneva is a genteel mediaeval village, beautifully preserved with pleasant cafes. Its definitely charming. Granny loved it.

Evian

The world’s most exported water is by lake Geneva about 30 minutes past Morzine. World renowned championship golf course – home to the celebrity masters. This rich spa town hosts many events and from here you can also cross the lake to Switzerland by ferry. Go via Annemasse then round the south shore to Evian, and come home via the back roads winding through the mountains heading for the chalet.

Geneva

Explore the old town, buy a watch, visit the natural history museum, take a cruise on the lake, walk the pier out to the fountain on the lake, buy some handmade chocolates.

Try the “carrouge” district to explore the bohemian/boutique art quarter. (Fulham/Chelsea equivalent if you are from London)

Chamonix

Glaciers and views of the Europes biggest mountain.
45 min to get here. Take the mountain railway, Montvers, to the Glacier, great views, walk inside the glacier, see the crystal museum. All very touristy but you have to do it.

Restaurants – Michelin quality – Auiguille

Lunch or Dinner at renowned Aiguilles du Midi – the highest restaurant in the world, the one and only! And very cool. You could just go for the view.
Don’t forget a nice lunch in the Michelin restaurant with balcony on the river down in the town centre of “Cham”, called the l’Atmosphere.

Alpine Zoo

Called the Parc de Merlets. You can see all the high altitude mountain animals and in a beautiful place, facing Mont Blanc just before Chamonix.

Italy

Drive through Mont Blanc tunnel to Aosta for lunch (takes 1.5 hours) – 45 minutes to the tunnel itself, about 15 minutes through it, then charge down through mountain tunnels for 30 minutes. Excellent Italian delicacies like fresh pasta ravioli and some wonderful snazzy Italian boutique shopping here in the little roman lanes. A real contrast in language, style and culture.

Circular Road Tour – three countries in a day

You could pass under Mont Blanc and have a perfect lunch in Aosta, then swing over the Gottard Pass into Switzerland before whizzing back along the motorway perhaps stopping at the world’s biggest chocolate factory – Vevey or maybe dinner in Montreux, both on the lakeside of lake Geneva, then home skirting round Geneva and back to Chalet Le Moulin. Three countries, three languages, cultures, some amazing scenery and food!