Sunday, February 19, 2006

Ahh, the Alps

For two weeks during winter, much of Paris clears out for the Vacance d'Hiver (not to be confused with August, when all of Paris clears out).

With the superb French train system you can be whisked from burbs to bergs in about four hours. This time we went to the La Clusaz ski report and stayed in a sleepy village of Manigod.

We knew we were in a small town when we found that the street going up to our chalet was not plowed, meaning that we had to schlep luggage, groceries and kids up and down an icy hill all week.

The view outside the chalet was one of those extraordinary, only in the alps visions of endless snow-capped peaks. The chalet next door to us had a big barn and the whole neighborhood was dotted with picturesque (and thankfully odor-free) manure piles next to each barn, often accompanied by a sign advertising Reblochon cheese for sale by the farmer.

The la Clusaz ski resort is really a collection of 6 or more small skiing operations, each with 3 or 4 lifts and a couple of restaurants.

The food is excellent, as long as your idea of excellent includes vast amounts of melted cheese. The top 3 specialties are fondue (melted cheese with bread), raclette (melted cheese with potatoes) and tartiflette (melted cheese with potatoes and bacon). Every meal concludes with a broad selection of local - you guessed it - cheeses. Who could ask for more?