ON TOP OF THE WORLD
Emma Lewis and family head to the French Alps for an active summer break.
Four-year-old Scarlett excitedly holds the binoculars to her eyes and peers through,desperately trying to see the marmots (groundhogs) in more detail. Around us, other families are pointing out the little furry creatures to each other as these mountain-dwelling rodents scurry around or stand,sentry-like on their hind legs, looking out for danger. Six-year-old Imogen,having had a turn with the binoculars, is now trying to catch the grasshoppers that are jumping around in the grass at our feet.As I look up at the jagged peaks around us and vast, open slopes stretching out below and breathe in the oh-so-fresh air,it feels a long way from our usual London Existence, where the kind of ‘nature’ we regularly see is crows or pigeons fighting over titbits of rubbish, the ducks in the local park or the odd fox slinking around apologetically.As a keen skier, I’ve been to this area of the French Alps before in winter, where I enjoyed the high, snowsure slopes, buta few years ago, I discovered that the mountains are amazing in a different way in summer. Of course there are the wildflowers, tinkling cowbells and amazing hiking routes that you see on postcards buy, these days, there are infinite other activities to lure you, from mountain biking and other adrenaline-fuelled pursuits such as white-water rafting, to trail-running,yoga retreats and villages packed full of fun activities for little ones and not-so-little-ones.
French Alps Map | Travel Map for the French Alps Photo Gallery
And that’s how we find ourselves at Arc 1950 in July – a stunning, relatively new,traffic-free, purpose-built resort that sits up near the mountaintops. Still too young to do the more physically demanding activities, my two girls take advantage of the free outdoor trampolines and bouncy castles dotted around the village. We also take them along to join in the impressive programme of free daily activities on offer including taking part in circus skills and biking sessions, face painting, watching a magic show and an incredible bike-stunts display, learning a street-dance routine and lots more. We also frequent the outdoor swimming pool that’s attached to our apartment block (with views of Mont Blanc, no less).‘And what is there for adults to do?’I hear you ask. My husband’s a keen mountain biker, so he takes off on a few afternoons to explore the 180 km of trails for all abilities – there’s cross-country,downhill or enduro to choose from. He Comes back with a big smile on his face each time. I try one of the free exercise classes and must say it’s excellent – it’s held outside in the main square, with views of the mountains – a refreshing change from a sweaty gym, and Imogen’s inspired to join in too!
My very short trail run oneday fails to make much impact on the huge area of trails that’s waiting to be explored(well, it is harder work at altitude!) but the amazing scenery is motivating and I find myself pushing on to see what’s round next corner, and the next, and the next husband also enjoys a free archery session another day, which Imogen is keen to try but it’s one of the many activities (including climbing, mountain biking and via ferrata for which you, not surprisingly, have to at least seven years old for safety reasons No matter – after watching daddy do rather well at archery, we enjoy a short trip up mountain in the gondola to Arc 2000, have a little walk to see the cows munching on the lovely pasture land and walk back down the mountain to Arc 1950 where we tuck into delicious fruit tarts.Got older kids? You can sign up those aged 12-17 for a Teenage Week pack,where they’ll be whisked away to enjoy daily adventures from rafting to rock climbing, leaving you free to do what you want – hooray.
Possibly the best thing for my burnt-out body and mind is when we put the kids in the Caribou’s kids club in the middle of the resort one morning and relax in the totally amazing Deep Nature Spa steam room,Jacuzzi and beautiful pool before having a divine massage. I soak up the peace and quiet as my body soaks up the aromatic oil, and my tired limbs gratefully receive the gentle pummelling. I lounge in the relaxation room for a short while afterwards, enjoying a rare moment to read my book, while my husband picks up the kids. It turns out they’ve been fora fun walk up the mountain during club and created pictures using the pigment from different flowers and plants for ‘ink’, and they proudly show me their creations when I meet up with them in a caféfor lunch.
We’re staying in self-catering serviced apartments in the centre of the resort, and the space is perfect for our needs. It’s very roomy, with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and an open-plan living and dining area, plus a balcony with dramatic views down over the village and up towards the mountain tops. We enjoy the simple act of walking two minutes to the shop to buy our baguette in the morning – the traffic-free streets are so safe for the kids to runaround in and the resort is amazingly compact. There are plenty of family-friendly restaurants and cafes to choose from, andwe alternate doing this and cooking simple meals ourselves. There are a few other Bits around the resort, but mostly we tuck in with the predominantly French holidaymakers.By the end of the week, I’ve relaxed into full-blown holiday mode – the weather warmed up and the idea of rushing to do anything seems alien – frequent coffee or ice-cream stops are a must and planning your next meal or fun activity is the most challenging thing your brain has to do. I Could get used to this…
Emma and family flew to Geneva, hired a car at the airport and drove to the resort (it took around four hours to drive there with a break at Lake Annecy en route).They stayed in the 5* Radisson Blu Manoir Savoie serviced apartments. Stay at least five nights in the village and you can choose three activities from the following for free with the Outdoor Card: fitness & aqua-gym; half-day hikes (adults and kids); mountain biking beginner sessions for children aged 8 to 12; archery. Visit arc 1950.com.
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