I admit it. I’m a snob. Not in a ghastly way, you understand. But when it comes to travel, I like to swerve the beaten track, mix with interesting people and stay in five-star comfort. Don’t get me wrong, I can camp with the best of them. (OK, so it was a yurt in the grounds of a stately home.) But give me Hermès toiletries and 24/7 room service and I’m a very happy hotel-bunny.
Being asked to review a luxury hotel in Megève, the Rhônes-Alpes resort described as upmarket, exceedingly glamorous and ever-so-slightly pretentious, sounded the perfect assignment. Seduced by a romantic weekend away and the chance to sample the prettiest pistes in Europe, Mr Smith was delighted to offer his two cent’s worth on Le Lodge Park.
At first sight, the hotel confounded expectations. Built from rough-hewn logs and stone, it is less Alpine glamour and more Rocky Mountains toughness. The distinct look continues into the lobby where we were greeted by a riot of animals – on the walls, on the columns, on the chairs and on the floors. Everywhere was an orgy of antlers and deer heads, of zebra- and leopard-prints, of cowhide and ostrich. It shouldn’t work, but somehow it does – and quite brilliantly.
Our suite, complete with the obligatory animal body part outside the door (stag feet, this time), was well laid-out with a large bedroom, sitting room with a real fire perfect for a pre-dinner a glass of wine, and spectacular wraparound views. Unconventional attention-grabbing touches included steel chairs, leather walls and tartan motifs, appreciated by a Scottish Mr Smith.
Dusk falling, it was time to explore. Thierry, the concierge, is charm personified, offering great advice on getting the most out of our weekend. (The only disappointment was that there was only one massage appointment left in Le Lodge’s spa. Note to self: book treatments well in advance.)
Belying its mediaeval appearance, Megève was, in a way, the original purpose-built French ski resort. Its entire existence is down to Baroness de Rothschild and her desire to create a ‘Saint Moritz français’. The mid-1920s saw the resort become a second home for European royalty. Indeed, so enthusiastically did the beau monde embrace Megève, that by the 1950s Jean Cocteau had taken to calling it the ‘21st arrondissement of Paris’. Stars may have decamped to other galaxies (Courchevel is the place to go, although I think it lacks the history, character and atmosphere), but still Megève’s remains a big draw for the well-heeled.
Sightseeing tour over it was back to Le Lodge for dinner. One of the hottest tickets in town, that’s another advantage to staying here. The elaborate, feather-fringed dining room promises a culinary tour of the world, via spare ribs, king crab and sashimi. And truffles. Lots of them. Luckily both of us are partial to a spot of tartufo, and we happily feasted on carbs laced with them.
Wishing to enjoy a day’s snowboarding to the full, Mr Smith advised me he wanted an early night. Unfortunately the lure of Jazz Les Cinq Rues, Haute Savoy’s answer to Ronnie Scott’s, proved impossible to resist. The next morning, we plump for room service. As reception was constantly engaged and we were in urgent need of caffeine, we resorted to using our mobiles to call the hotel. Luckily when our petit dejeuner did finally make an appearance, it was worth the wait. The coffee was spectacular, sweetly scented with the flavour of freshly roasted almonds.
At last it was time to hit the pistes, something of which there is no shortage in Megève. There are 300 kilometres of marked trails, served by 81 lifts (some admittedly looking a bit past their sell by date), and snow parks and a half-pipe are available for snowboarding. In search of more challenging runs we headed for the steeper, bumpier, untended terrain at the top of Mont Joly. L’Alpette, situated on the Rochebrune massif, was perfect for lunch. Hamburgers to die for and an extraordinary dessert buffet a delight to behold. In the afternoon they crank up the music and you can hear it cascading down the mountains.
Sated, we decided to check out Megève’s legendary après-ski scene with a couple of schnapps at La Calèche, before heading back to Le Lodge to soothe our ski-weary bodies with a steam in the hammam. Fur-covered chairs by the open fires on the hotel terrace are irresistible, and it took a huge amount of willpower to head off in search of dinner.
With 81 restaurants, you won’t go hungry in Megève. Fondue at Chez Alice is fun, as is La Sauvageonne, on the outskirts, and the legendary Flocons de Sel, recently awarded a third Michelin star. Drinking is equally big business in Megève. The town is littered with enough wine and cocktail bars to satisfy the most demanding hedonists. As the night wore on, it became clear that this Mr and Mrs Smith were no match for the brighter young things intent on partying until dawn, so we left them to it.
Retiring early proved wise when we were not so much roused as dragged from our slumbers by the sound of church bells outside our bedroom window the next morning. Still, it got us up for our last morning. Craving a challenging final session, we headed for Le Jaillet, the least-visited area and home to the best off-piste skiing in Megève.
Our fun weekend in the Alps proved all too fleeting. Le Lodge with its entertaining and edgy take on a rustic ski lodge is full of surprises and certainly did more than enough to satisfy this hotel snob. All that’s left to do is convince the youngest member of this particular Smith clan that this summer she needs to swap her Disney All-Star Music Resort for an Aman Resort. Then we’ll be firmly back on track.