A Week in the French Alps (and my skiing saga)

img_4612

The week between Christmas and New Year’s, we headed for the mountains to the family friendly resort of Le Grand Bornand.  Unfortunately this was the third winter in a row that there has been no snow at the end of December in the Alps, but luckily the resort had snow cannons so the boys could still do the ski school we had signed them up for.

We stayed in the basement apartment of a chalet that we had found on AirBnB and the accommodations were cozy and charming.  The family who owned the chalet was so sweet and they even left a bottle of local wine and a wheel of local Reblechon cheese for us.  The village in the Haute Sauvoie region is one of the largest producers of this cheese and you can see the little farm shops selling their cheese throughout the village and its surroundings.

img_4668

We never really went on vacations when I was growing up, let alone winter vacations so it’s a new experience for me.  Living in Geneva, this type of holiday is now pretty much mandatory and as a family we have really enjoyed the winer fun!  The boys love staying busy with winter activities-this time it was ski school (first time for the little one and the big one was so pleased with himself and his great progress)-and in the afternoon we had some relaxing time playing games at the chalet, sledding, or going for an easy hike.  It was great and quite relaxing!

Before we left we had debated canceling due to the lack of snow but I’m so glad we still went.  There was enough manufactured snow to keep us busy and we had gorgeous sunshine every single day.  After a gloomy couple of months in Geneva, it was wonderful to soak up some Vitamin D!

img_4633

And here goes my skiing saga…

img_4699

This is my third season skiing since we moved here and I feel like I am not really much better than when I started, nor do I enjoy it any more.  Learning to ski as an adult is hard!!!  I can’t seem to get out of my head and get over the fear factor and the whole time I’m skiing I feel anxious.  I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to feel like that, but I don’t know how to get over it.  Meanwhile my kids make it look so easy and have no fear…my older son (who is 5!) has already far surpassed me and my abilities.  I feel torn between wanting to stick with it and conquer my fears and just giving up and sticking with the winter activities I do enjoy like snowshoeing and winter hiking.

I do know that every year when the ski season is over I feel so happy to have my weekends back again!  I thought it would just be something we did while we lived in Geneva, but now that the boys have learned how to ski (and I see how important it is to get confident while you’re young!), I feel like ski holidays might become a part of our lives.  Definitely not yearly but enough to keep up their skills.  Will have to decide if I will continue or just be content to enjoy the mountains and the aprés ski.  Anyone have any advice?!

img_4698

img_4720

Whether skiing or not, I do love the mountains and feel so lucky to live only an hour away from such gorgeous mountain scenery!

c2812d-5133

Visiting the Christmas Markets

We had a busy and fun Christmas season around here!  Since we were traveling in the U.S. for the whole month of December last year, we missed out on all the Christmas markets so this year we were extra excited to check them out.  I think we hit all the popular ones in the area and by the end of our quick post-Christmas break to France, I was a bit glad that the season was over.  But it was fun while it lasted!

IMG_6704

  1. Our first stop was to the one holiday place we squeezed in before our trip home last Christmas since they are open year round-Le Hameau de Pere Noel, a.k.a. Santa’s House!  This place is really adorable and the level of detail they have put into it is great.  You go from room to room of Santa’s childhood and current homes and even see the room where the elves live complete with elf-size beds, tables, and food.  Santa’s kitchen looks like he’s just stepped away from an extravagant feast and there is an infirmary where an unfortunate reindeer is recovering from too much Nutella.  At the end, the children creep past “Santa” who is snoring in this bed while he rests up for the big day.  There’s a sweet little creperie where you can enjoy a crepe and hot chocolate before mailing off your letter to Santa at the post box and then stop by the shop on your way out to pick up some sweets or Christmas trinkets.

2.  Next, I was lucky to get away with the ladies for a day trip to the Montreux Christmas Market, probably the most popular market in the area.  The setting for this market is just stunning with the lake and the snow-covered mountains, but I have to say that I was disappointed with the actual items for sale-nothing that interesting and way overpriced!  Despite the lack of any actual shopping, we still had a great time drinking vin chaud (hot wine), wandering through the crowded stands, having a long, lovely lunch, and just enjoying uninterrupted conversations for once!  I would still recommend this market just for the lovely setting, but don’t expect to do your Christmas shopping here!  😉

3.  The Village des Flottins is advertised as an alternative to the Christmas markets and it is in Evian, France.  This was probably my favorite of the season just because it was so different-it really was like stepping into a fantasy book.  Elaborate creatures were created by these huge, carved sticks, woodland characters were walking around among the crowds and playing instruments, fires were burning in metal cans, and candles were everywhere.  Many of the structures were made for kids to climb, sit, and play in and there was an alleyway that had different games and inventions for the kids to try out (for free!).  The boys went on the most magical carousel ride where the music was played from an old-fashioned, hand-crank machine.  The people working at the carousel were all in costumes and they blew handfuls of feathers into the air as the children went around.  It was really so unique and we all really loved this market.  There was nothing for sale except for a stand with food and drinks, but the tiny streets of Evian have some lovely shops that were open longer hours for the holidays.

4.  The last big market we checked out was in one of our favorite towns, Annecy, France.  This market was not huge but in a pretty setting along the canals of Annecy with the mountains in the background.  At night, there is a light show on the Hotel de Ville that’s really fun.  We got some vin chaud and chocolat chaud to enjoy while we watched and it was really the highlight of the market.  There were lots of interesting stands at this market and Annecy itself is a great little town for shopping with a large mall and lots of unique, small shops.  There was also an ice skating rink at the smaller market near the shopping mall.  Annecy is beautiful at any time of year, so we knew this market would be one not to miss!

We weren’t quite ready for the Christmas season to be over, so the day after Christmas we went to one of the cutest little towns in France  which happened to have five Christmas markets that stayed open until New Year’s Eve.  I will recap our trip in the next post!

Fete de L’Escalade

It’s been a busy, fun holiday season and wow has it flown by!  We started off December with the biggest Genevois celebration, the Escalade.  We missed out on this event last year since we were visiting  the U.S., so we were excited to see what it was all about.

IMG_6996

Basically the gist is that every year the Genevois celebrate a failed siege on their city by the Savoie in 1602.  Legend has it they were alerted in the night of the attack and a woman helped launch the counter-attack by pouring her hot cauldron of soup on the invaders.  The celebration includes a 5k run the weekend before the actual event.  For the event itself, there are lots of festivities around the old town where people dress up in period costumes, sell hot wine, beer, and food, ride around on horseback, fire cannons and muskets, and basically take a step back in time.  There is also a parade and the kids all dress up for the parade and for Escalade parties at school.  Think the Geneva version of Halloween.

It was pretty interesting to see and did feel a bit like we had stepped back in time.

IMG_6916

Jonah loved the dress up party at school and the kids even got to help make vegetable soup to be sold to all the students and families.  Unfortunately Mason was sick for his dress up day, but luckily he’s still little so didn’t know what he was missing!  He was well enough to go downtown with us and was thrilled to see horses and ponies trotting through the streets!

IMG_7024

I think the best part of this tradition is the breaking of the marmite, a soup cauldron made out of chocolate.  It’s usually filled with even more sweets, so a sure-fire favorite for the kids!