Anyone who has spent time in the French Alps will have heard of Beaufort. This sleepy town in Haute-Savoie is famed for its eponymous cheese, a fruity (and pricey) twist on gruyère that features heavily on the menu of every mountain restaurant from Morzine to Méribel. Since the middle ages, local farmers have grazed tarine cows on the valley’s high summer pastures, and then churned their milk into giant 45kg rounds that are matured for over six months as part of a carefully guarded, legally protected, tradition. But while almost every skier has tucked into a fragrant fondue or a pungent savoyarde pizza, the source of all that stink remains an overlooked left turn to the majority of winter holidaymakers, who beat a well-worn path to the super resorts of the Three Valleys or Espace Killy. I’ve come to see what we’ve all been missing. At first glance, it’s understandable that tourists head elsewhere: there are few restaurants and shops here, and little in … [Read more...] about Beaufort, the Alps’ best-kept skiing secret
Stopped me in my tracks
Er, where? Megève is in the south-east of France, near the Italian and Swiss borders, and emerged as a popular ski destination for the rich and famous in the 1920s. While the resort is still favoured by the affluent – it even has its own airport – a holiday here isn’t prohibitively expensive. Despite the relative size of both the town and the skiable area, it retains an old-fashioned charm and “hidden gem” status. The journey by car from Geneva airport takes a little over an hour: Ouibus regular transfers cost around €50. Why try it? For those who hate crowded pistes and lift-queue scrums, this is the place. On sunny weekends there’s an influx from Geneva, and school holidays can see the place packed out, but at all other times Megève is incredibly quiet. Most of the lifts could do with an upgrade, but there’s still no bottlenecking to speak of, and there’s bags of space on the pistes. Skiers with the patience to deal with … [Read more...] about Great little ski resorts: Megève, France
After a long ascent via hairpins through smaller and smaller villages in the Swiss Alps, the bumpy track around the mountainside eventually petered out into a stony path, indicating we had reached the end of our journey. I had the sinking feeling that we were in the wrong place. There should have been a collection of high-design chalets around here somewhere, all floor-to-ceiling glass and exposed concrete, according to the website images. But all I could see were a handful of dilapidated wooden farm sheds. I bundled the toddlers out of the car and walked closer, worrying that we had accidentally booked somewhere very basic and inappropriate for them and their grandparents. A discreet sign reading “Anako Lodge” reassured me; we were where we were meant to be. At the back of the first hut, we spied a couple in a wooden hot-tub, wine on a table beside them. Then our own little hut, the Mayen à Madeleine, where a peek inside revealed modern interiors – like the … [Read more...] about Swiss Alps: old huts to chic chalets
To their fans, night trains sum up the best of the European project. They are time efficient, environmentally sustainable, and irresistibly romantic: you go to sleep in one country and wake up in another, possibly having made friends along the way. In public at least, Europe's politicians and railway companies agree: in December 2009, many of them ceremonially boarded a specially commissioned "Climate Express" from Brussels to the UN climate summit in Copenhagen. Yet five years later, sleeper trains are being silently phased out across the continent, while countries elsewhere in the world are modernising their services. Deutsche Bahn, the German rail provider, confirmed this month that its City Night Line sleeper trains on the Climate Express route would cease from 1 November, while the night train that connects Paris to Berlin, Hamburg and Munich will be stopped from December. The Amsterdam to Prague and Warsaw sleeper will be cut back to run from Cologne to Warsaw and Prague. The … [Read more...] about End of the line for Europe’s iconic night trains?
1 Born 60 years ago today, Bob Dylan weighed in at 10lb and arrived with a harmonica strapped around his neck. Just kidding. 2 His family lived in Duluth, Minnesota, but moved to Hibbing, near the Canadian border, when he was six. "No interstate highways, just country roads," he recalled. "Once in a while a wagon would come through town with a gorilla in a cage or a mummy under glass." 3 His real name is Robert Allen Zimmerman. He adopted the surname Dylan in 1958 in homage to Dylan Thomas. He was not, as some suggest, named after the rabbit in The Magic Roundabout, a much more coherent figure. 4 His father, Abraham (Abe), worked for family-owned furniture and electrical businesses; his mother was Beatrice (Beatty), and his sibling, David, co-produced the 1975 album Blood on the Tracks. 5 He gave his first performance at the age of five at a Mother's Day party. He sang Some Sunday Morning and Accentuate the Positive. Nobody shouted "Judas", mocked his religion, or demanded that … [Read more...] about Hey, Mr Sexagenarian