So, this year we rented a ski chalet in a town called Chatel, just over the Swiss border, in France. I confess. I had an ulterior motive. This is one of the places that Mr. Big and I are considering for The Great Chalet Purchase. Why, you ask?
1. It’s about ¼ of the price of a chalet in Switzerland.
2. It’s a family-friendly ski resort and, as you know, I have a growing family.
3. The food in the Haute Savoie (pronounced Oat Sahv-wah, not Sav-oye) is incredibly fattening and delicious. It consists entirely of pork, cream, potatoes and cheese prepared in a million ways. Occasionally, they throw in a duck liver for fun and so you will have something to spread on your cracker.
4. It is part of the ginormous ski area called the Portes du Soleil which includes Avoriaz and Morzine, but not so crowded as those two villages.
Actually, when I first booked the vacation spot, I didn’t even know it was considered a “family-friendly” village. I did notice a bunch of rug rats on the baby slopes, but that is normal. It wasn’t until we inquired at the tourist information office about the scheduled New Year’s festivities that I learned just how much Chatel catered to families.
Here is a play-by-play to New Year’s Eve in Chatel, France:
5:00 p.m. The DJ in the main place begins playing the ALWAYS WEIRD song selections that Europeans love. No one is there to hear him except families with small children. The FREE vin chaud and hot chocolate kiosk is running about 85% hot chocolate to 15% vin chaud.
6:30 p.m. The ski school instructors ski down the mountain directly behind the village with torches, single file. Really cool. By now, other people have shown up and the ratio of vin chaud to hot chocolate is improving. This is when we arrive. We are prepared. We have festive, sparkly hats and multiple bottles of champagne in our bookbags.
7:10 p.m. All of the families depart for dinner, either at their own homes or for the early seating at the restaurants. The rest of us depart back to our chalets to take showers and get ready for the “real” New Year.
9:00 p.m. We arrive at the restaurant for the second seating at dinner. The restaurant is mayhem. The first seating people have not yet left and the management is tearing their hair out by the roots. We don’t care. We are already tipsy.
9:30 We begin our lovely 5-course meal which Mr. Big and I especially enjoy because it is only costing us a fraction of the price that we would be paying in Switzerland. We’re like, “have whatever you want, kids! Caviar, no problem! Escargot with shaved black truffles? Dig in!” We feel like we are eating in the Dollar Store, compared to La Suisse.
11:56 The man at the table behind us casually drapes his linen napkin over the back of his head. Why? I have no idea.
12:05 a.m. The men and the young people are scooping up discarded balls to restock their ammunition. The moms are taking photos.
12:10 a.m. Small Son remembers that he was never served his cheese course. Forget it, Small Son. You are never going to see that cheese course. The waiters, waitresses, chefs and owners are all having too much fun. Look, there is one now under our table. Well, hello, server! Can I offer you a Styrofoam ball refill?
4:30 a.m. The children come home. Mr. Big and I stir but do not rise.
I am predicting that you see a lot more costumes and sparklers in Chatel ringing in 2012.