The Alpine ExperienceMelanie de Miguel
This is one of the views from my room in chalet Calluna, in Les Carroz, France. At 1200m the chalet is above the clouds, and even in the summertime, you can still see snowy peaks on the Alps all around. I had been invited to stay in Les Carroz, which is in the Haute-Savoie region, for 4 days to get to know chalet Calluna and its sister chalet Erica as a fabulous venue for a beading retreat. What a lucky girl I am! This is The Alpine Experience and it’s all run by a lovely couple called Nadine and Mark, together with their delightful staff, Jamie and Hannah – winter time is for skiing and summertime is for beading, lace-making, book-binding, water colour painting and embroidery, amongst other things!
I flew to Geneva where Nadine picked me up and we hit it off straight away. We headed up and up via winding roads through little villages into ever greener mountainsides, scattered with pretty, decorative, timber chalets. Upon arrival I took a deep breath as the sweet air was so fresh, and the birds were singing their hearts out. It was all so beautiful.
I settled in and we ate dinner, chatting all the time and getting to know one another – they needed to know me as a tutor too!
I slept like a log and the next morning, Nadine took me into the village of Samoën, still in Haute-Savoie, where there was a wonderful French market. This is a weekly event and is a lovely place for students to visit on one of the timeouts from the craft workshops. It’s good to have a little break otherwise shoulders can get a bit tensed up, plus it’s wonderful to take in a lovely new environment and all its inspirations. In beautiful sunshine, we perused the colourful stalls and breathed in mouth-watering aromas of the many different cheeses, saucissons and French delicacies.
Walking further into town, we looked in all the lovely shops, some with tempting eats and others with traditional and quirky, home goods. It was great fun poking around in all the little shops, looking for pressies to take home. Then Nadine and I walked up into the stunning botanical gardens, complete with rushing waterfall. From here one can get a terrific view down into the surrounding valley.
Next was an aperitif in restaurant Au Relais Septimontain and a delicious, light salad for lunch, with cheese of the Haute-Savoie region – Mmmmmmmm. Well, after that hectic morning it was important to have a rest, so I donned my lovely, soft towelling robe they provided, put my feet up on the lounger on the balcony at chalet Calluna, and beaded (there’s a surprise). Blissful beading on the balcony, bathed in sunshine – what more could I ask? No interruptions, except Mark serving up his scrummy lemon cake – that was a very welcome interruption. I could help myself to teas and coffees all day from the dining room area, so I didn’t want for anything. By 5pm wonderful aromas were drifting up from the kitchen on the ground floor, so I prepared for dinner. Our meal was superb as Mark is a very talented, haute cuisine chef. He can also cater for all dietary requirements.
Thursday I was shown around chalet Erica which not only houses guests, but is also the studio where the craft sessios are held; it’s only a minute’s walk away from chalet Calluna. The craft area is huge and surrounded on three sides by floor to ceiling windows and stunning views, so it’s well lit. Students can help themselves to hot and cold drinks at any time, and there’s an alcove for chilling and chatting on sofas with a TV and sound system. Mark and Nadine have worked really hard to make the craft sessions here amazing experiences. There are tables both inside and outside to take the weather into account, plenty of sturdy, standalone embroidery frames, comfortable studio seats and crafters’ magnifying lamps for all students. That saves a lot of space in your luggage!
Nadine and Mark showed me all of the rooms in both chalets and I found each room to have its own character. All were decorated very tastefully in the wooden chalet style, with lovely views and good light.
I took a long walk that afternoon and took lots of pictures of the many wildfowers all around – these were to show my mother because I can generally show her a picture of any flower and she knows exactly what it is. Afterwards, I was sorely tempted to have a laze in the outdoor jacuzzi, but it was a little too warm for that, so I just made do with some more beading on the balcony (sigh).
That evening was my last one there and some of Nadine and Mark’s neighbours came to visit. We had yet another fabulous gourmet meal courtesy of Mark, and afterwards we all played the board game Articulate! I hadn’t played it before but we had so much fun; it was a really lovely end to my visit.
I must say that from the minute Nadine picked me up until I boarded the plane to come home, I was treated like a queen. Nadine and Mark’s hospitality was warm and wonderful band I was very much made to feel part of the Alpine Experience family.
Having spent time there I was eager to join them and teach at this fabulous venue. So it’s in the diary – I will be teaching for the Alpine Experience from Oct 1st-8th, 2016. We’ve yet to decide the theme, but there will definitely be more than one project, so keep an eye out on my Dates and Events page.