Slope side hole in the wall snack bar with prices to reflect. BUT has fantastic spicy home made soups. "La patronne" travels to India a lot and brings home stocks of exotic spices. The soups are a welcome break from the usual resort offerings of saucisson and fromage and really hit the spot at lunch. Great for a quick aperitif too. Try Peche mignon (like a kir but with peach liqueur)
Place du Tour, Le Tour, near Chamonix
Google map: bit.ly/10ks8zM
Rustic slope side restaurant for fondue and house specialty "croutes aux fromages". Run by the Ravanels for generations. The fondue is the best you will get and the service is super friendly. A genuine hang out for the locals. Great value (12 euros for a fondue made with beaufort cheese, wine by the "pichet" from four euros) and quality all round.
Slopeside in that it's right at the bottom of the home run in Les Houches so you can literally ski onto the top terrace. Funky, kitsch, big and a large inside area for apres ski make it a great stop. They do lunch specials and though evening meals maybe push towards being a bit pricey its all wholesome English/French fusion cuisine so there's a lot more choice than just tartiflette and variations there of.
Live bands play regularly and if you're down in family-friendly Les Houches as opposed to knees-up Chamonix, you'll be thankful for the Kitsch Inn offering a bit of liveliness!
It's an online ski (and snowboard) hire calculator that shows how much you could save by renting in the UK and then picking up skis in France. It compares rental costs versus ever increasing airline baggage fees.
A lovely little Italian place off the main drag in Chamonix which does spectacular pizzas. I had the marinara which was huge and had a beautiful tomato sauce and the dough was just perfect - thin, a bit crispy, bit squidgy. Glass of perfect temperature Barbera topped it all off nicely. The other clientele ranged from gnarly looking climber types, to families and couples. Low lighting, no fuss decor and you can eat at the heavy wooden bar if you want. In a town where eating out generally leaves you broke it's good value, unpretentious and tasty.
To me, the 105 mile Tour du Mont Blanc encompasses all that is great in the 'great outdoors' - from the majesty of the spiring mountains to the fresh sweet smell of the alpine ﬂora, the piercing blue still glacial lakes beneath the grandiose glaciers, the gushing torrents racing to the deafening waterfalls, the loud whistle of the invisible marmot juxtaposed with the silent grazing of the charming ibex - the ancient past that time has not forgotten. The TMB really is to reach the sublime; what isn't there to love?
This is an energetic trek taking in the best of the French, Italian and Swiss alps, crossing three high mountain passes, sleeping in a variety of remote mountain huts such as Lac Blanc, Rifugio Elisabetta and Refugio Bonatti to boutique guest-houses in the busy towns of Chamonix and Courmayeur. Be ﬂexible and organise your own trek using the cicerone guide written by Kevin Reynolds - he became a bit of a hero to us. Then to top it off, why not paraglide from the Aiguille du midi - I thoroughly recommend it.
Cicerone Guide: www.cicerone.co.uk/product/detail.cfm/book/532
Google map: bit.ly/JkliOu
A selection of the numerous mountain huts:
Information for the Aiguille du Midi:
An opportunity to get right up close to Mont Blanc- Europe’s highest mountain.
Grand Balcon Nord 6.5 km – allow three hours.
Chamonix in the French Alps is one of the best known centres for walking in the summer and rightly so.
One of the most spectacular yet easiest walks is the Grand Balcon Nord which has you strolling through a veritable rock garden at 2000 metres and even offers the possibility of meeting a marmot or two.
From Chamonix take the Aiguille cable car to the half way point at Plan de l’Aiguille which is the starting point for your route - although it is spectacular, and literally breathtaking, due to the altitude, to take the cable car right to the top station – and then start your walk on the return journey.
The well signposted rocky mountain trail undulates north east, meandering through miniature rhododendrons, gentian and azaleas, with stunning views down to Chamonix and over the narrow valley to Plan Praz and La Flegere standing at 1877m - this is the Grand Balcon Sud and another fine walk affording views over Mont Blanc and Les Aiguilles (the needles).
As you reach the junction of the path to Montenvers mountain railway you can take the route directly there or turn right and zig zag easily up the extra 150m to grab great views of the stunning pinnacles of the Aiguille Vert at 4122m, Les Drus and the Mer de Glace (sea of ice).
Catch the picturesque little train from Montenvers back down to Chamonix. Remember to check what time the last train and cable car operate as it’s a long walk down!
This walk can be done in reverse and an early start will give you the opportunity to watch the sun come up from behind Les Aiguilles.
Breezy runs a cosy, relaxed catered chalet close to Chamonix town. Fantastic food and flowing wine. Her intimate knowledge of the valley is invaluable when it comes to making the most out of your precious ski or snowboarding holiday.
UCPA, with centres in most of the big name French ski resorts, provides amazing value, all inclusive, outdoor activity packages.
In winter, you can ski, snowboard or even learn to speed ride. In summer, you can try mountaineering and other activities.
Most packages include full-time coaching, the technical equipment you require, lift passes and full board accommodation.
The centres are basic, but clean and adequate as a base, while the food is outstanding and plentiful. Beer and wine is also far cheaper than in most bars or hotels.
As an introduction to an activity, the courses are ideal. Better yet, for off-piste guiding, nothing compares for value. A week will typically cost about £600 plus transport, but you needn't spend a penny more in resort.
The cheapest transport option for a group may be to drive from the UK, but bus operators also link up to London. Outside of school half-term weeks, flights to gateway cities like Geneva can also be obtained cheaply from the usual budget operators.
Highly affordable hostel which manages to still be conveniently located near the centre of town. A simple, but excellent, breakfast is included in the price. The bar (stocked with an impressive selection of scotch) is a seasonaires favourite, especially in spring when the enormous patio with breathtaking views of Mont Blanc really comes into its own. The New Years Eve party, the Boss des Bosses race weekend and the end of season party in early May are the best possible times to stay there and enjoy the atmosphere.
This place was AWESOME. Home made meat pies and samosas and massive fresh salads made everyday! Great value hearty main meals, curries etc to takeaway too. Probably has Chamonix's best vegetarian food options and by far the best coffee we had in Chamonix.
This bar makes the best cocktails I've had in Chamonix and has some good DJ's on and some fantastic party nights. Just don't forget your credit card as they're not cheap!
90 Rue des Moulins
74400 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France
06 09 12 19 52
Google map: bit.ly/bzCt5X
A great bar/club- funky tunes, small and cosy, goes all night long. When the two brothers get on the decks it really goes wild! This place seems to hold some of the best party nights in town.
Rue des Moulins, Chamonix
Google map: bit.ly/dznrJo
It's actually in Argentiere, up the valley towards La Tour and from what I can tell, used to be a bit of a dive. But it's been totally overhauled by it's new owners and is rad! Lively with a great menu - the Indonesian pork was lush and a plain spaghetti, tomato and basil was really delicious. There is a back area with a big oak table and blackboards with the daily specials written in chalk. Not overtly English but not all tartiflette and chalet-style either. Worth checking out.
216 Rue Chalet Straton, Argentiere, Chamonix
Google map: tinyurl.com/yby3s43
A small restaurant in La Balme, recently converted from a series of old cow sheds. It's near the bottom of the Aiguilette (a short red run with a button lift). There's a lovely sunny terrace and they do great value lunches for around €10. Try the assiette de pisteurs, a huge plate of salad, rosti, goats cheese on toast and lardons.
00 33 683 33 86 61 (Booking is essential)
A rustic restaurant in Les Houches, just off the Col de Voza run (accessed on a signed track through the trees). It's an old farmhouse lovingly converted by an Australian woman, Julie, and her French husband, Claude. Excellent homemade slow-cooked dishes; about €15 for mains
It's at 3842 metres in the cable car station at the top of the Aiguille du Midi. Advertised as the highest Savoyard restaurant in the Alps (I'm guessing it's the highest in the whole world!) The food is good and the views of Mont Blanc and the Chamonix Aiguilles are fantastic. You basically get a real taste (albeit very much a lite version) of the experience of high-altitude mountaineering. The downside is that it costs 41 euros to get up there.
This is a fantastic refuge with a great views of Mont Blanc, at 2352m, a few hours uphill climb from Chamonix. What makes it so great is the food. Their speciality is long cooked Pig's Cheeks, marinated in wine overnight and then slowly braised throughout the day with herbs, garlic and more wine. Served with immaculate roast potatoes it's the perfect fare after a long hard day's mountain walking. And their huge chunks of rustic mountain cheese are worth the visit alone, not to mention their red wine and deserts.
Aiguilles Rouge, Chamonix 4 50 53 49 14
You'll find that with a family or group it's cheaper to hire a car from Geneva than it is to get a transfer. It'll also allow you to get around the various resorts from Chamonix without using (see: waiting for...) the ski bus. Did you know that Courmayeur is only 30 minutes from Chamonix through the Mont Blanc tunnel!
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