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I went on my very first skiing holiday this year and Villard de Lans and Correncon exceeded all my expectations - it was fantastic and I would love to go back again.
We flew to Grenoble with Ryanair very cheaply and stayed in an area called Cote de Baum (sorry if my French spelling is a bit dodgy!) We were right at the bottom of a chairlift in a rented apartment. Villard de Lans is the larger village about 15 minutes drive away, Correncon is smaller and Cote de Baum is really just a few apartments and chair lifts rather than a village in it's own right. It was possible to get the chairlift to the top of the mountain and ski down to Villard but you need to find a way to get home!
I was informed by others much more knowledgeable than myself that the mountain isn't that high in comparison with other French ski resorts. Apparently this meant the snow might not have been so good but we were lucky I guess and it was perfect for us. Another issue was the fact that if it was cloudy there was less chance that you could ski above the clouds as you can in other places. There were a couple of days when we did seem to be stuck at cloud level and it was really hard to see anything but on the whole the weather was alright.
We hired a car and it was pretty useful but there were bus services between the towns. We didn't use any public transport but there were bus timetables in the tourist information shop- the bus services seemed pretty limited out of peak season though. One night we tried to get a taxi but it never arrived, we got the feeling that taxis were limited in the area but again that could have been due to the fact we were there at a quiet time (or maybe it was our questionable French skills)
I think it was about 2 hours drive from the airport on a motorway for about half of it and then a windy road up the mountain, there was one toll but it wasn't too expensive.
We struggled with our limited knowledge of French as we didn't realise English speaking visitors were such a rarity. We got our message through most of the time and the people were patient with us and didn't laugh too much! It just proves how rubbish we are in this country for assuming everyone will speak English - LAZY!!! It wasn't really a problem - but you might want to consider learning a few words if you are planning on getting lessons there as the instructors' English was about as good as our French.
The most important part of the holiday! The skiing for begginers was excellent but the more experienced people were getting a bit bored towards the end of the week.
I was however informed that there was some off piste opportunities and as we rode on the chairlifts we could see some people weaving in and out of the trees - it looked really cool!
For begginers like me the skiing was brilliant with lots of beginner zones to start out on and then plenty of green and blue runs once we got a bit more confident (I even did a few reds and was extremely proud of myself!) During the week the runs were nice and quiet but we did notice a big increase in people at the weekend which made it harder to avoid crashing!
For Europe i was pleasantly surprised as everything was cheaper that I expected - ski hire, food and lift passes weren't cheap but I had been expecting them to be a lot worse. I think that the lower prices were due to the fact that it's really only French people that go there and they don't really have the option of ripping off the gullible tourists as you get in other places.
This holiday was undoubtedly my best culinary experience ever! Again I think this is down to the fact that the resort isn't geared towards foreign tourists. Everywhere we ate was fantastic - even the little cafes up the mountain were great.
My definite favourite was a place called Paul et Joseph - down a small lane just off the main Square in Villard. The food was delicious and locally sourced but best of all was the live music and beautiful decor. I will remember that meal for a very long time!
Another notable restaurant was in the Hotel du Golf in Correncon - not cheap but it definitely broadened my food horizons (steak tartare and foie gras) and the staff were so friendly. Although it was pretty fancy there was a laid back family atmosphere.
In Villard there were also lovely little bakeries and butchers as well as a small supermarket on the main square. We bought some bread and lasagne from a butcher shop and had a lovely meal in one night
The chair lifts and cable cars were brand new and there were lots of piste maps on boards for the navigationally challenged (me). I was also impressed by the information boards which showed accurate weather and chairlift status (but maybe you get this kind of thing everywhere and I am just easily impressed).
There were a few ski schools and some kid's areas. On the tourist website there are other things such as a swimming pool but we never did anything but ski so I can't comment on those.
We got our lift passes just outside our apartment and the cards worked in your pocket so there was no fumbling about everytime you needed them. Ski hire was also located just outside our door in Cote de Baum (but I'm sure there were loads of other places in the villages). The people in the ski hire were less than friendly but the equipment was good and they exchanged a pair of boots that broke without much hassle.
In Villard the shops were so pretty and full of high quality items rather than tourist tat. There were furniture, clothes, jewellery, pottery and probably others that we didn't get round to. I bought a lovely ring and a vase and it was a great day out just to wander round.
Both villages retained a great deal of French charm and it really felt like we got to see a glimpse the real France. I'm sure in the summer you could spend many a day driving around up there and stuffing yourself full of lovely food.
As you can probably tell I enjoyed my first skiing holiday immensely and I think the location had a lot to do with that. If you are thinking of going somewhere different I would highly recommend it.