Newest Review: ... a music system and we had the benefit of both a dining room and a kitchen diner. In Winter, Chalet Martin offers almost full-board but be... more
Meribel...in the summer?!
Member Name: Drifter_2000
Advantages: Cheap, plenty of outdoor pursuits
Disadvantages: Bit of a ghost town, insects galore
The Alps aren't an obvious summer destination, but me and some friends were looking for somewhere that we could have choice of activities like white-water rafting, mountain biking and gorge walking. During the summer months, hundreds of ski chalets sit dormant in the French Alps and you can get some cracking deals on them. We found a good deal at chaletmartin.com and decided to take the plunge.
For the week, we paid £600 for a group of 6- not a bad deal, we thought. For this price, we got a spacious chalet with a bedroom each (most with ensuite), and a pleasant garden with a barbecue. My room even had a mezannine, although as I later discovered this just provided a hiding place for local wasps and other critters. The living room was equipped with satellite TV and a music system and we had the benefit of both a dining room and a kitchen diner. In Winter, Chalet Martin offers almost full-board but be prepared to self-cater in the summer. The chalet is designed to sleep 12 so you could end up paying as little as £50 a week if you were prepared to cram in.
Our chalet was in Le Raffort, a small hamlet that was a 5 minute drive (or a 20 minute uphill walk) from Meribel Village. We flew into Geneva and hired a car at the airport. Meribel is a two and half hour drive from Geneva, and Chambery made at ideal point to stop for a picnic and some food shopping. The hamlet is conveniently located on the bus route, and a slightly irregular service connects you to the nearby resorts.
Activities-wise there was plenty to do within driving distance. We went white-water rafting just outside of Moutiers, while Meribel Mottaret (a short drive away) was an ideal base to hire bikes and take the lift up to 'the slopes' (just a steep gravel path in the summer!). There was also a driving range and with a summer ski pass you also get free admission to Meribel's ice rink. Lift passes were available for around 45 euros a week from Meribel's tourist office which is still fully staffed in summer. We were also able to enjoy the usual Bastille Day celebrations, which happily coincided with our trip. Word of advice- make sure you get insurance- even in summer. One of my friends had a biking accident and needed basic treatment in Moutiers hospital. The dressings for a minor injury amounted to Euro60 so make sure you're covered.
My main gripe was with Meribel town itself- the phrase 'ghost town' comes to mind. Having visited the Austrian lakes during the summer season I was expecting something like that- quaint squares, lots of little cafes and the gentle 'bustle' of visitors. About half of the cafes and bars in Meribel were closed and remained closed during our stay. There's also the seasonal wildlife, that no one really warns you about before you go. Our chalet had a mild fly infestation which we had to deal with as well as the occasional curious spider and a wasps nest was just outside of my window.
My advice would be to stay somewhere a bit more populated, like Chambery. The place had everything- cafe, bars and shops, plus plenty of outdoor activities centering about the lake. As we passed through on the way back to the airport, I couldn't help but think 'Here's where we should have stayed'. Meribel was a worthwhile experiment but next time I'll be skiing down the pistes rather than skidding down them on a dodgy mountain bike.
Summary: You're better off in Chambery