French Alps in the Summer (or Winter!): Where to stay with the Family? Chalet Le Kiwi Vert in Samoens, Haute-Savoie.
In August we had a rather memorable holiday in the French Alps. Not just any old holiday either, a holiday with the whole of my side of the family. That’s 6 adults, a 3 year old, two 2 year olds and a 5 month old puppy. Mad? Maybe! I’m lucky that we all get along really well.
Why the French Alps?
We chose to go to the French Alps for 4 main reasons:
1. We all love the mountains, the French Alps in particular are so beautiful.
2. It was easy for us all to get to from Paris (6 hour driving) and from the UK you can drive or fly to Geneva and then get a hire car/transfer.
3. The weather was likely to be good (a few afternoon thunder storms at the beginning of the week, but otherwise we had temperatures in the 30’s).
4. We know a great Chalet in Samoens that you need to know about…. keep reading!
Over the last 15 years almost all of my mountain holidays have been to this region of France. In the winter it is exquisite, the skiing is fantastic, and the traditional Savoie mountain food is my favourite in the whole world. Tartiflette mmmm! I am never happier than when I am in the mountains. However, this holiday was different - I had never visited the French Alps in the summer before!
Samoens is a relatively small and beautiful mountain town, well catered to tourists, but without losing too much of is charm in order to be so. I was a bit concerned about whether there would be much to do in summer time, especially with our young children in tow, but we ran out of time and will need to go back again! I’ll tell you all about our adventures below.
Where to stay in Samoens? Chalet Le Kiwi Vert
We chose Chalet Le Kiwi Vert because the owners, Jane and Martin, are family friends and my parents had stayed there before. We knew it would be nice and I just have to share it with you.
Chalet Le Kiwi Vert is a 5 bedroom luxury Eco Chalet. This means it is heated by a ground source heat pump, has solar panels, and a log burner in the lounge (which would have been super snuggley in the winter). The cosmetics provided are all organic, with different fragrances in each bathroom. The low soap dispenser in the triple bedroom’s bathroom is an unscented Castile soap so perfect for the kids. Getting these elements of the chalet right, as well as the balance between comfort and luxury, is clearly a passion of Jane and Martin’s, and they really have done a lovely job.
I can’t go any further without mentioning the Eco hot tub (i.e. no chemicals and heated by the ground source heat pump - kind of cool we think) and sauna. Luxuries indeed. We didn’t use the sauna during our summer stay (that’s probably more of a winter thing), but the hot tub was used, being at its best when the sun was less warm, so in the morning and later in the evening. I think it would be really nice in the winter too, especially after skiing.
On the ground floor there is an entrance hall, with shoe and coat storage room, including boot warmers for the winter, a downstairs bathroom, an open plan kitchen/dining room, and a lounge. The kitchen has been designed to have only one entrance point though so it wasn’t difficult with the children. We cooked in the chalet every evening except one, and it is notably well equipt. There is also a BBQ available. Upstairs there are 3 lovely double bedrooms and a room containing 3 single beds, ideal for kids. Each has en suite bathrooms. Sometimes when you go to holiday homes some bedrooms are nicer than others and someone gets a raw deal. This is not so in Chalet Le Kiwi Vert - they are all of equal high quality, furnishing and finish. On the lower ground floor is a games room (we put my youngest daughter in the travel cot down there, using our baby monitor) with a double sofa bed in there too if a 5th bedroom is needed, laundry room and yet another bathroom.
All towels are supplied, and the bed linen felt soft and luxurious. There are also hot tub dressing gowns and an assortment of “crocs” shoes for use to access the hot tub. AND (I particularly liked this somewhat novel touch) almost all of the plug sockets in the chalet are dual french and english - how useful is that!!
Chalet Le Kiwi Vert has a lawned garden, and gravelled paths all around the spacious plot that the chalet sits within, which the children really enjoyed playing in. The perimeter to the property isn’t secured. We knew this in advance so were expecting it, but it is worth knowing as it did mean that we couldn’t leave the young children to play outside on their own as I would at home. In reality, I don’t think we would have done this anyway, just because of their ages in an unfamiliar environment they would be even more likely to get up to mischief!!
Children are very welcome at Chalet Le Kiwi Vert. We found it an easy space to live in with our 3 toddlers. For young children, as well as the travel cot, there is also a highchair that you can use, plastic plates and cutlery. There are travel stair gates available to help containment if required as the tiled stairs are beautiful, but hard. Make sure to request them if the are needed. I have suggested to Jane and Martin that supplying a potty and changing mat for babies/toddlers would be useful additions, and they are keen to make a stay as easy as possible for families with young children.
The UK T.V. was a real treat for us expats in Paris, my son couldn’t believe CBeebies was available at any given point of the day!! There is a games cupboard in the lounge, mostly for older children/adults, and downstairs a Table Football, and Wii, as well as some English DVD’s available.
It is very worth knowing that there is a Halte Garderie (this is like a creche childcare) almost opposite Chalet Le Kiwi Vert as well. I understand that it is often full, but worth a try. We didn't use this, but it is certainly very conveniently placed. You can also organise a nanny/babysitting service through the Chalet as well. A lovely girl who arrived as we checked out, to do the changeover, was also a qualified nanny - we will seek out her details next time we stay if we can, as she seemed lovely and the children were instantly taken with her.
The welcome pack was a nice touch, with Kiwi Jam made from the Kiwi vine growing up the chalet, cake, sparking wine and a bowl of fresh organic fruit. The chalet felt like the right size for all of us (6 adults and “4” children - I’m including my parents puppy in this as he was treated like their baby for the week!). Well behaved canine family members are welcome at the owners discretion, and there is likely to be a small extra cleaning charge if allowed. So if you want to have a whole family holiday then you can enquire about this with the owners.
Chalet Le Kiwi Vert really feels like a home from home, an easy place to all be and relax. It made our holiday in the French Alps, Haute-Savoie region, perfect. Weekly bookings start at £750 up to £4,500 for peak season weeks. Long weekends and mid week breaks are also available out of season, starting at £100 per night. You can book directly with Marin and Jane through their website: http://www.chaletkiwisamoens.com ... and keep on reading for a discount code at the end.
What is there to do in Samoens?
In the winter the obvious appeal is the skiing. And even for non skiers, there is plenty on offer during this season. But there is so so much to do in Samoens in the summer too. We ran out of time with a week! Samoens is a picturesque mountain town with everything you need (shops, yummy restaurants etc), and to my mind is the perfect size and with the right mix of things going on for a peaceful and fun holiday destination, with whatever amount of adventure suits your family. There are bigger resorts, like Morzine close by, which are great to visit, but I think Samoens retains its original charm better.
Here are some examples of what we got up to, almost all are within short walking distance of Chalet Le Kiwi Vert:
- Base de Loisirs (French for Country Park) with lots of activities - playground, water golf, bouncy castle, canoeing, river walk, and lots of cycling tracks, to name but a few.
- The Tourist Information co-ordinates lots of activities in the town and locally. You can get a leaflet which set out the ones for the current week and it is advisable to book. E.g. wine and savoie food tasting, crafts for kids, concerts.
- Catch the Telecabine up to Samoens 1600 and enjoy the mountain views. This was fun for the children but, to our surprise, all the cafes and restaurants we are so familiar with from skiing....were closed. Shock! So it was a bit of a brief visit with our accompanying little legs and no available "fuel". Without young kids, or if you are on mountain bikes, you really could have lots of fun mountain exploring. For me, it was peculiar to see the area I am so familiar with under snow, in the summer! There is a lot of development going on at the top at the moment, including a new lift, which will be great when it is all finished and may make it busier next summer.
- Carousel in Samoens town centre (and almost all town centres in the area that we visited). We love a carousel!.
- Outdoor Swimming Pool - this really is superb, and just around the corner (by the entrance to the Country Park), with a lane swimming pool, play pool, water slide, and area for little ones.
- Sports a plenty - cycling (there are lots of rental places for all sorts of bikes, including electric, and trailers for kids), walking, horse riding, and.....
- ....Tandem Paragliding (“Parapenting” in French). I did this on our last evening with Pegase Air, which you can find next to the entrance of the swimming pool. I highly recommend doing this. There are many companies in the area, but I do recommend this one as we had a great experience and all our instructors spoke english well. It was relaxing and thrilling. I opted for some aerobatics too and that was a LOT of fun. I wanted more! It cost €80 each, plus €20 for a GoPro DVD. Keep an eye out on our Facebook and You Tube pages and in due course I will upload my video!!
- Cirque du Fer a Cheval - This is a short drive away in Sixt, but worth it. Utterly breathtakingly beautiful. This is a special part of the Alps and is most certainly not to be missed if you are in the area. The ice cream at the café is delicious. We took the children pony riding here, which was fab as we could just borrow the ponies and take them on a little 15 minute hack for €7 each.
- Drive over Col de Joux Plane, through the Geopark beauty recognised by UNESCO, and visit Morzine. There are lots of restaurants and shops here, another carousel of course, and we highly recommend the dry Toboggon run by the Telecabine (Gondola/bubble lift!) - thrilling for toddlers and parents alike!!
And on my to do list for next time we are in Samoens are to take the children on the little train that goes around the town, the Botanical Gardens (which my sister gave a thumbs up), the white water rafting on the river, and most certainly building up the courage to do the Via Ferrata climbing (it looks epic). There is also an impressive looking Ice Rink directly opposite Chalet Le Kiwi Vert. Alas, for obvious reasons (the weather being glorious!) this is closed in Summer.
I am confident we have only scratched the surface of available activities, and there are lots of other ideas here and in the Chalet folder (including a Massage company who come to you - must put that on the to do list!).
If you would like a holiday in Samoens, staying in Chalet Le Kiwi Vert, you can book directly through their website.
And, if you book directly through www.chicalpinechalets.com, there is a 10% discount available in 2018 for families who are friends of Five Little Stars, using the code 5LS2018.
P.S. Just so you know: I didn’t pay for this holiday because it was a gift from my very generous parents, (thanks mum and dad!) who did pay. We do know the owners though, they are good family friends, and they asked if I would review Chalet Le Kiwi Vert. Frankly, I was going to anyway given how useful this could be, particularly to our UK and French followers. The views above are, as always, honest and my own.