My Kind of Place: Megève, French Alps
Megève is old France at its classiest best – a magical village with a medieval heart and effortlessly chic atmosphere. It’s moneyed, certainly, but without the vulgarity you see in other glitzy resorts in the Alps. When you’re strolling through the main Place de l’Eglise, with its dazzling fairy lights, it’s hard not to sigh at the immaculate prettiness of it all.
It was the Rothschild family that turned this market town into an elegant ski resort in the 1920s, mainly as a French alternative to St Moritz. Nowadays it more than holds its own against its Swiss rival, with 325 kilometres of pistes and glorious views of Mont Blanc. And with so many of its visitors from Paris and nearby Geneva preoccupied with the village’s upmarket shopping and dining, you’ll find the slopes surprisingly quiet.
Megève is a year-round resort; in fact, some argue that it’s busier in the summer than the winter, thanks to a large network of walking and cycling trails, a golf course and summertime ski lifts.
A comfortable bed
The quintessentially British concept of catered ski chalets is still alien in Megève, and UK specialist Stanford Skiing (www.stanfordskiing.co.uk) has carved a niche with its collection of welcoming and friendly chalets and chalet-hotels. Its superior Les Clochettes, a few minutes’ walk from the Rochebrune cable car, has five bedrooms and a large inviting lounge. You can book by the room or take over the whole chalet. Prices start at €480 (Dh1,878) per person for three nights, including breakfast, afternoon tea and top-notch four-course dinners. Time your arrival for Sunday morning, and your transfer from Geneva is free.
For five-star luxury in sumptuous Savoyard style, cocoon yourself in Le Fer à Cheval (www.feracheval-megeve.com), with its regal echoes of a 19th-century hunting lodge. Its spacious rooms are wonderfully cosy, with traditional materials and plush fabrics, and the spa’s indoor pool is bathed in natural light. Doubles from €335 (Dh1,300) per night, including breakfast.
Soak up the glamorous history of the four-star Hotel Mont-Blanc (www.hotelmontblanc.com), which is just a few steps away from the Place de l’Eglise. It was a favourite haunt of Jean Cocteau, and they’ve named the restaurant Les Enfants Terribles in his honour. Stylish rooms stick to traditional decor, with a few quirky touches. Doubles start at €220(Dh851), room only.
Find your feet
Megève’s centre is compact and mostly pedestrianised, with people gravitating towards the twinkling Place de l’Eglise and the main shopping street of Rue Charles Feige leading to the outdoor skating rink. The tourist office (www.megeve.com; www.savoiemontblanc.com) is just around the corner from the Chamois cable car, from where you can access two of the main ski areas: Mont d’Arbois and Rochebrune. North of the centre is the cable car to the Jaillet ski area and some of the best views of Mont Blanc. Free ski buses connect all three ski areas.
Meet the locals
The raucous La Folie Douce (www.lafoliedouce.com) après-ski club arrived in Megève two years ago on top of Mont Joux, but you need to be a decent skier to get yourself back. Less elevated but more relaxed is the Wake Up Bar (0033 4 50 58 25 79) near the outdoor skating rink, a laid-back place for a drink and tapas. Catch live music at Le Jazzy’s (0033 4 50 21 25 30), a buzzing spot behind Au Coeur de Megève hotel.
Book a table
For a taste of the three-Michelin-starred cuisine offered at the Flocons de Sel outside the town, check out its village bistro, Flocons Village (www.floconsdesel.com). It has refined dishes such as seared scallops with risotto (€25/Dh97). For an excellent cheese fondue (€21/Dh81), relax in the funky interior of Restaurant Chamois (www.chamois-megeve.com). Try the truffle version for added decadence.
Face au Mont Blanc (www.face-au-mont-blanc.com) at the top of the Jaillet cable car lives up to its name. You get sublime views of Mont Blanc along with hearty beef and cheese dishes, including baked Mont d’Or cheese for €26 (Dh100).
Rue Charles Feige is the place for ski gear and swish winter wear, where you’ll find Quiksilver, Rossignol and Duvillard Lafforgue (www.hdblmegeve.com) boutique set up by two former champion skiers. Luxury outfitters AAllard (www.aallard.com) in Place de l’Eglise (next to Hermès) is the original home of ski trousers, created here in 1930.
What to avoid
If you want lunch in one of the smart mountain restaurants, book ahead. And driving in the village is more fuss than it’s worth.
Wallow in the warm bubbling waters of the new Espace Aquatique in the Palais des Sports. This large sports complex expanded in 2016 to include indoor and outdoor spa pools, saunas and steam rooms. There are also Olympic-sized swimming pools, skating rinks, gyms and sports halls, plus the extremely good-value Sports Café.
A return flight with Etihad Airways (www.etihad.com) from Abu Dhabi to Geneva takes seven hours and 25 minutes and costs from Dh2,640, including taxes. Private transfers to Megève with Megeveexpress.com cost from €35 (Dh136) per person and take about one hour and 15 minutes.