Perched above Megève, Alpine hotel Alpaga takes the best of traditional chalet style, gives it a cool, modern overhaul, and throws in luxurious hotel frills such as attentive concierge service, a gastronomic restaurant and five-star spa.
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A fruit basket for Blackmith and SilverSmith members; a bottle of champagne for GoldSmiths
22, as well as six three-storey chalets with space for up to 12 people, and five apartments, sleeping up to six.
Noon. Earliest check-in, 4pm, but flexible, subject to availability. Chalet guests check in at 5pm and check out at 10am. Guests must arrive on Saturday or Sunday during high season (22 December to 13 January and 16 February to 17 March).
Double rooms from £373.85 (€417), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.50 per person per night on check-out.
Rates include buffet breakfast.
The hotel's Spa de l’Alpaga offers a range of massage and beauty treatments, but you’ll need to book. Alpaga’s concierge can organise restaurant reservations, carriage rides and taxis, hot-air-balloon trips and ski lessons.
Closing dates change annually, in 2020 the hotel will be closed from 14 June to 6 September.
At the hotel
Spa, with pool, steam room and treatment rooms; free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV and Le Labo bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Deluxe rooms strike a happy medium in terms of space and luxury. Ask for one in the restaurant chalet (rooms 10 to 19) for the shortest hop to breakfast or dinner. Families can opt for a spacious Prestige room (which sleep two adults and a child, or three adults), two of which have mezzanines. Or request interconnecting rooms; the hotel has a pair.
The spa's floodlit indoor pool has lots of fun surprises: massage jets and a bubble couch make laps a little more interesting.
Lined with dark stone and outfitted with a hammam, gym and a pool with massage jets and a bubble couch, Spa de l’Alpaga is a chic pampering den. Facials, body wraps and scrubs, manicures and pedicures, reflexology and massages are carried out in two treatment cabins.
Hiking boots for summer walks, ski gear in winter; giant sunglasses whatever the season. No need to bring a guidebook – the concierge has all the local knowledge you could wish for.
Minimum seven-night stay during high season. Alpaga runs a transfer service to/from town – just ring reception when you’re ready.
Near the buffet for breakfast. By night, head for the cosier left-hand side.
Mountain casual: nobody bats an eyelid at slippers and jeans.
At two Michelin-star bearing La Table de l'Alpaga (open for dinner from Wednesday to Sunday), the surrounds are smart – the staff, friendly and efficient; the French wine list, lengthy. Chef Anthony Bisquerra is particularly passionate about refined vegetable-based dishes and works with local artisans to source the best produce. The restaurant is closed on Mondays but you can enjoy their fine French dining any other night of the week. Less-formal L'Onyx is a chic modern space decked out with lemon and navy furnishings; its sophisticated 'bistronomic' menu is created using market-bought ingredients: quirky fish dishes, beautifully dressed meats and very decadent desserts are accompanied with super-cool cocktails.
The bar, located by the lobby, is open all day, and serves coffee, cognac and all strengths in between. A small menu of light dishes, sweet and savoury, is also available.
Breakfast is served 7am–10.30am; lunch between noon and 3pm, and dinner from 7pm until 10pm. The bar is open all day until late.
A short menu of hot and cold dishes is available 24 hours.
Geneva is the nearest airport to Megève (www.gva.ch), an 80-minute drive away – served by Swiss, British Airways, Air France and Easyjet among others.
Sallanches is the nearest station (12km), with direct services from Paris at weekends in winter, or via Annecy at other times (www.raileurope.com).
The A40 will take you as far as Sallanches, from where the road weaves onwards to Megève: access Sallanches via the A6 from Paris, the A5 from Calais/Reims, or A43 from Lyon. Hire a car from Geneva airport (all desks open until 11pm) or Sallanches train station with Avis.
Worth getting out of bed for
There are plenty of activities that exploit Megève’s snowy climate in winter. Hire ski kit from Ski Concept next to the Chamois lift (+33 (0)4 50 58 91 21), and take to the area’s intermediate-friendly slopes. Head to the Place de la Résistance and admire the town views while you lap the outdoor skating rink (2pm–8pm daily). Take a horse-drawn carriage ride around town and into the valley – there’s a ‘pony rank’ in the main square. For an eagle’s-eye view of the valley, book a hot-air-balloon ride with Alpes Montgolfière (+33(0)4 50 55 50 60).
On the mountain, L’Alpette has gastro standards as high as its altitude, and does brilliant burgers (+33 (0)4 50 21 03 69). For a change from Megève’s plentiful supply of Savoyard eateries, Le Restaunome at 201 rue de la Poste offers a globetrotting menu in a dark-wood contemporary dining room (+33 (0)4 50 55 86 24).
Lunch on melting flaky tartes salées, followed by hand-made meringues and truffles, at pint-sized patisserie-café, Le Comptoir du Père Sotieu, on Rue du Général Muffat St Amour (+33 (0)4 50 21 67 51).
The French for horse-drawn carriage is calèche. You may think this nugget only marginally relevant to anyone planning a stay in the upscale Alpine resort of Megève, best known for its five-star skiing and glut of gastronomic restaurants. But had my vehicular vocab been better, I might not have accidentally booked one within five minutes of arrival at the resort’s Alpaga hotel.
The mistake is mine. Guillaume the concierge is confirming our weekend arrangements in French, when he asks if Mr Smith and I want to ‘promener en calèche’ into town for dinner the following night. Feeling blasé about my powers of interpretation, I hear ‘walk’ but not the ‘en calèche’ bit. It is only when Guillaume picks up a pen to make a note of our plan to stroll into town that I realise we’ve signed up for something. Cue enquiry, explanation, embarrassment, then polite but firm refusal to take the horse and (tourist) trap.
Offers of twee equine tours aside, Alpaga makes an exciting first impression, its slick, contemporary Alpine style exuding the promise of luxurious touches and attentive service. By the time we’ve followed the porter through shades of cream and mink in the lobby, glimpsed the crisply linened tables in the restaurant, and ascended to our room, we are giggling with delight.
We find that our room itself – a Deluxe, located above the restaurant, with a balcony and mountain views – calls less for giggling, more for seduction. The decor is sumptuously touchy-feely, with textural detail galore. Faux-fur throw and pillows, a velvet armchair, unvarnished wooden floor and walls, and a slate bathroom all demand to be fondled (as does Mr Smith, judging by his come-hither sprawl on the bed). Even a painting in the bedroom – a modern picture of sheep – is daubed in rough-to-the-touch acrylics.
Bundled up in slippers, robes and swimwear, Mr Smith and I use Alpaga’s underground network of tunnels to get from our chalet to the spa, located in the basement of the entrance building, without ever stepping outside.
Mr Smith overrules my pleas for a massage, pointing out that, at these prices, the masseur must be on two euros a minute. I’m not sure whether to sulk or consider a change of career. We soak lazily in the warm spa pool, unwind to pruning point in the dark steam room, and float back to our room for a siesta before supper.
Dinner at Alpaga’s restaurant is another fantastic feat of texture. I start with a glorious glass of seafood – layers of shredded crab and pulped avocado, crowned by a moreish cheese crumble – while Mr Smith tucks into duck foie gras pâté?. We continue with perfectly pink filet mignon en croute and cod fillet with olive mash, both delicious, and all the better accompanied by a soundtrack of jazzy reworkings of pop tracks. We’re particularly taken with an Austin Powers-style version of ‘Rehab’ complete with jazz flute.
A cloudless indigo sky greets us the next morning; with fresh powder coating the pistes, the sunny conditions confirm it’s going to be a great day to ski. Which is just as well, given that it’s our only day to ski. Luckily, taking Alpaga’s navette to town, and nipping to Ski Concept to hire our kit right beside the Chamois lift means we’re on the mountain in no time, gently shooshing down tree-lined red and blue runs.
At twilight, restored by a steaming bath and a well- earned catnap, Mr Smith and I stroll arm-in-arm into town, delighted with ourselves for having body-swerved the jingle-bell cart ride. It’s a 25-minute walk, so perhaps we should have taken a cab, but we know we have cuisine savoyarde ahead of us (Guillaume has booked us a table at L’Alpage au Fer à Cheval) and we want to make room for all the cheese. A crackling wood fire and traditional decor greet us. It’s the perfect setting for a textbook Savoie feast.
Mr Smith and I are ushered to a cosy, candlelit table, where we tuck into a fondue so fine it makes me want to use words such as ‘heavenly’ and ‘simply tremendous’. We have smiles on our faces and cheese on our chins.
Well-to-do French families soon fill the remaining tables, the waitress disappearing under a pile of patent quilted jackets, aka doudounes, and floor-length furs. Mr Smith and I are riveted by Megève’s aristo set – fragrant billionaires here, fur-clad bottle blondes there – but if you cut through its flashy reputation (take a left by Hermès and go straight past Tod’s), there’s still a beautiful and charming resort beneath.
By the time we leave L’ Alpage au Fer à Cheval, the first snowflakes are beginning to fall. Undeterred, Mr Smith and I elect to walk home. Several wrong turns and 40 minutes later, we’re less than happy with our decision. The snow now falling thick and fast, we look like a couple of yetis – frost-covered, our cheeks red-raw with cold – as we pester the night porter of a (hopefully) neighbouring hotel for directions. ‘Are you in a car or on foot?’ he asks. ‘Er, c’est pas evident?’ I can’t help but smirk by reply. Thankfully, his instructions are better than his powers of observation, and 10 minutes later we are back at Alpaga.
It’s not the perfect ending, even if the frostbite on my nose is only temporary, but it is the perfect stay. We can imagine returning in June or July, say, when this low-altitude resort is covered in grass and wildflowers, its pine forests at their glossy summer best, the Alpine trails beckoning to be walked. Better still, we can really, truly consider returning in June or July: in the shadow of Mont Blanc, only 80 minutes from Geneva, Megève is much nearer the UK than we’d realised. And Alpaga is irresistible and close to town – especially if you take a horse-drawn carriage.