Travel: La Ferme du Lac Vert is the most luxurious chalet in the known universe
A boutique hotel and luxury ski chalet, in La Ferme du Lac Vert Geoff Hill experienced fine food, great skiing, good company and – a first for him – being roughed up by someone from north Belfast
I'VE been wondering recently what to do with all the begging letters when I win the lottery. After reflection, I think I'll keep sending them, but in the meantime, I'll be off to a well-deserved break at the most luxurious chalet in the known universe.
Like many happy things, it came about by serendipity: almost two decades ago, English couple Lucy and Rob Mundell entered a competition in a national newspaper to win a ski holiday in Morzine by answering the question: “Where is Morzine – France or Switzerland?”
“Switzerland,” said Rob.
“Rob's always wrong,” thought Lucy, and put France.
She was, of course, right, and off skiing they went – and hated it. Thankfully, they decided to give it another go a month later, this time with the kids, loved it, and returned for eight years, then decided they may as well buy somewhere and renovate it.
The somewhere turned out to be a Savoyard farmhouse built in 1842, run as a small hotel from 1926 to 1990, then abandoned.
When the couple looked at it in 2010, it was boarded up and derelict, with no floors, plumbing or electricity, and lesser folks would have run away screaming.
Instead, with Lucy's keen eye as an artist, they've transformed it into a stunning combination of style and cosiness, all wooden floors, white walls, wrought iron and stone staircase, open fires and exposed beams on which sits Lucy's eclectic and growing hat collection.
Other quirky touches include chairs covered in Second World War Swiss Army blankets.
After a grand tour by Tipperary man Tadhg Ryan, who runs the chalet with easy charm, we collapsed into giant sofas in front of the fire for Bakewell Bellinis courtesy of the chalet's Laura Pollard, like one of the eponymous tarts dissolved in prosecco, then sat down at an ancient table for a feast rustled up by chef Tom Burton and sous-chef Grace Jasmine, an English rose as lovely as her name.
It was as good as dying and going to heaven, but without the awkward dying bit.
After a sleep of angels on a bed as big as soft as a cloud, we were decanted elegantly into a luxury Lexus and whisked to the slopes by driver Matt Richards and the chalet's Swiss ski concierge Nicolai Avequoz.
The mountains on which we skied all day were once owned by the Duke of Savoy, whose ambitious plans to build a chateau and monastery were scuppered by the fact that the locals were great at wooden lodges, but wouldn't know a flying buttress if one walked up and introduced itself.
Undaunted, he shipped in a load of builders from Brittany, many called Baud from the area of that name, and as the Duke paid them in land, most of them stayed on.
Halfway through a glorious morning of blue runs and matching skies, we stopped for hot chocolate at a lonely mountain hut called Lapisa whose owner lives there year-round and makes his own sausages, cured ham, cheese and cake.
He brought out scrubbed wooden platters heavy with delights, and as I savoured possibly yet another slice of combined cow and goat cheese, beneath the surface of tanginess, the ghost of another taste danced elusively.
Then it came to me: it was the gentian violets from the meadow below us, where the animals had grazed all summer long.
Lunch was in Le Chaudron, where owner Sandrine Duchemin's Bernese Mountain Dog wandered about trying and failing to look starving, and where after a digestif of salted caramel schnapps, like liquidised Werther's, it was an effort to rouse ourselves for an afternoon testing ourselves on red runs.
It was only the thought of another feast from Tom and Grace that kept us going.
The next day, moving from the Morzine slopes to Les Gets brought heavy snow and biting winds, and it was a relief to stop in mountain restaurant La Pika for hot nosh.
Pikas, as I'm sure you know, are like small rabbits and live in the Himalayas on a sparse diet of grass and small flowers. As a result, they're not known for their sense of humour, and I don't blame them.
By this stage we were all a bit wet and cold, so a show of hands soon had us speeding back to the chalet.
Sadly, at some point we lost Áine, one of the group.
“Do you want me stay and look for her?” said Mark, her husband.
“It's OK, I'll do it,” said Tadhg.
“Grand job. I'll go shopping, then,” said Mark.
Even worse, when Tadhg found Áine, it turned out she'd disappeared because she was looking for Mark.
Thankfully, by the time divorce proceedings were instigated, I was back to the chalet having a massage from Kerri McAuley, who turned out to be from north Belfast.
She may have been small, but boy, was she strong. It was the first time ever I'd been beaten up by a woman from Ardoyne, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
As indeed I had the whole stay. So when you get that begging letter from me, just send back enough for a short break there. I wouldn't want to be too greedy.
:: Getting there
Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) flies daily from Dublin to Geneva, with up to three flights on Saturday and two on Sunday. Fares start from €49.99 one way. When you get there, the chalet's private transfer takes 80 minutes.
:: Staying there
La Ferme Du Lac Vert has two rental options. The main chalet, La Ferme du Lac Vert, can accommodate 24-30 guests across 11 ensuite bedrooms.
:: Rental for up to 24 guests for a seven-night stay on a half-board basis is from £895 per person sharing. Peak weeks are mostly reserved for sole occupancy, but during certain weeks of the season the owners offer individual room reservations and short breaks from Sunday-Thursday and Thursday-Sunday. Short breaks begin at £580, and discounts apply for children.
La Petite Ferme, beside the main chalet, sleeps up to six in three bedrooms and is available on a sole occupancy half-board basis, with prices starting from £990 per person, including private chef and all the services associated with the larger chalet such as an outdoor hot tub, an in-resort shuttle service, wi-fi, FreeSat TV and Netflix, toiletries, bathrobes and slippers.
Catering includes breakfast, afternoon tea and a five-course evening meal including wine on all but one evening. See lafermedulacvert.com for details.
:: Where to eat on the slopes
Lapisa, Le Chaudron, La Pika for its barbecue grills at noon and 3pm, Le Vaffieu for its duck stew. No websites, so just ask locally.