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Posts Tagged ‘PV-holidays Vars’

Staff review: A trip to Vars

October 25, 2010 4:20 pm
posted by Sarah

A Trip to Vars at the End of the Season

Pierre & Vacances Assistant Project Manager, Jeremiah Lejade is the winner of our London Calling competition. He tells us about his trip to Vars with his girlfriendin April.

“Last April I decided to make a quick trip to the mountains to satisfy my urge to get some snowboarding in before the end of the season. I researched many spots while keeping in mind personal constraints, such as my late season departure (I was leaving for the last weekend of the ski season) and the fact that I had no car.

Furthermore, my girlfriend was coming from the south of France while I was arriving from Paris. I eventually decided on Vars as the resort was located fairly close to Marseille, and offered a fairly close access, by train, to the resort. I met up with my girlfriend at the train station of Montdauphin Guillestre which was about 6 hours from Paris and 5 from Marseille. I had arranged for a cab to meet us upon our arrival which I strongly suggest if arriving late at night. Calling a cab ahead of time was great foresight on my part as the area is not very densely populated and arrangements must be made so that everything goes smoothly.

The cab ride was very quick but somewhat expensive at 45 €. Most arrive at this location by car which is much easier and thus recommended. Nevertheless the train and bus combo is very doable for those who are on a budget. After the 25 minute cab ride we were at our residence called Pierre & Vacances – Résidence l’Albane.

We arrived late at night so the residence manager had arranged to leave us the keys in the safe outside, which we had no problem finding. Definitely call the residence ahead of time if you have special circumstances as I did. They were extremely helpful and accommodating but this is one of those situations where being prepared is always best.

Once my keys in hand, we found our apartment with little problem and entered our room. The apartment was clean and it had a balcony so I was pleased. I rented the 3/4 person apartment even though we were only two because I wanted some extra space and it wasn’t much more expensive. There was one bedroom but if we had to sleep two more on the pull out sofa it would not have been a problem whatsoever.

The apartment was fully equipped and gave me the sensation of a home away from home. They had clean sheets waiting for us (which are nice as often, when renting, you must either bring the sheets or rent them) and the fully equipped kitchen allowed us to cook a little snack with some of the food we brought, before calling it a night.

The next morning we went downstairs to talk to the welcome desk and make sure everything was in order. They welcomed me and explained where we could rent our snowboards within walking distance. They even gave me a voucher for 30% off all rentals. They pointed out their outdoor pool and explained that once our boards rented we could store them in the locker room in our designated locker (that locked with our room key). I was there to hit the slopes and was ready to get going but I noticed before leaving that the welcome area was bustling with people playing on the pool table while others lounged on couches or played the couple of arcade games available to renters. It looked fun but I wanted to get to the mountain.

As I exited the residence in the sunlight I noticed we were ski in/ ski out. This could not be more perfect, as again, I had no car. We quickly rented our boards and then got to the mountain. I pointed out earlier that we arrived on the last weekend of the season which had many advantages and some disadvantages that I will discuss later.

The advantages came first as we practically had the whole mountain to ourselves. The snow was excellent, but the Alps had gotten a large quantity of snow that year, so maybe we were just lucky. Either way we experienced no lines and seemingly had the whole resort to ourselves. I have to say that this may have been the highlight of the whole trip. Great runs, few people, and great snow left little to complain about. We even stopped for a bite in one of the restaurants on the mountain and had a pizza and beer while tanning on the warm April afternoon (2 beers and 2 pizzas ran us about 30 €).

We even had a pretty funny adventure during the day. I am the type of snowboarder to often go off trail and through the trees. I love the deeper snow and the added obstacles. The slopes are all very well marked but hey, I’m stubborn. I ended up discovering this amazing untouched bowl and was pleased to see that my girlfriend had followed me to take advantage of the great find. Unfortunately my stubbornness to break the rules led me to the edge of the slope on a fairly exposed side of the mountain. The result was that there was no more snow at all after the bowl!

Needless to say we had to unbuckle our boards and walk down the mountain to the road. Our run turned into a fairly difficult hike but it was an unforgettable adventure. Nevertheless, I would recommend simply following the slope signs if you don’t find my adventure intriguing. Check out some of the pictures I have of the bare slope that we had to trek down.

We ended up making it back to a ski lift and as the slopes were preparing to close we headed back to the left side of the mountain. We snowboarded right up to the door of our locker room, locked up our belongings and went back to nap in the room. I initially wanted to relax in the heated pool but exhaustion had set in.

I pointed out that we napped because by the time we woke up we hadn’t eaten and it was almost 9PM. This is where the end of the season disadvantages came in. I had not expected everything to be closed so early, which I was told is not usually the case. Nevertheless the quest to find food was on. We had a kitchen but the SPAR supermarket in the center of town closes at 7:15 PM. We set out anyways in hopes of finding a restaurant.

A quick 10 minute walk led us to the center of town where the tourism office and all the restaurants are located. This would have proved extremely practical except again, everything was closed. We asked around and with a little luck we found the one restaurant that remained open. I only point out this late season disadvantage because when there are few people in the village the merchants and restaurants have very little incentive to stay open late. I find this normal, and if I had at least gone to the supermarket we would have been able to cook in our own apartment.

My mistake soon turned positive as to my pleasant surprise I found a nice little restaurant called la Marmotte. They were not too expensive, although at this point I would have paid anything for some food. They specialized in regional “saveurs montagnards” which is basically flavors of the mountain region. But they had everything from pizza, crêpes and a large selection of meat dishes. Perfect!! We had a great time and walked home content ready for another day of snowboarding.

The next day I realized I had to check out of the residence, and I encountered yet again a problem with the resort closing. The residence could not store my bags as they were also closing. This was a major inconvenience, but the welcome desk took matters into their hands. They called the tourism office and asked them if they would store our bags until we left at night. I believe the residence should have been there for their clients (ie. me) until the resort was officially closed but I do appreciate their active help in this matter.

We walked our bags down to the tourism office in the center of town, which gave us the opportunity to talk to the employees working there. I suggest stopping by their office sooner than later as the office’s sole purpose is to aid people visiting. They have tons of great information and interesting deals as well as complete website that one can consult prior to their trip ( I learned, while dropping off my bags, that there are 5€ busses that provide rides to the train station. This option was not available to me late at night when I had arrived but, after receiving the bus times from the lady at the tourism office, I was very pleased to learn that I was going to save money on my trip home. Definitely get the bus times if you ever go to Vars and are arriving by train. After snowboarding we returned our equipment and ended up catching the last bus down to the train. I grabbed the overnight train back to Paris. It was longer then on the way (9 hours) because sleeper trains are slooooow. But this was a great option as the train has bunks and it is direct!!! I fell asleep instantly and when I woke up I was home and well rested.

Overall, my stay was excellent. I enjoy quick adventures and I always take the good with the bad. In this case I tried to point out the parts of my trip that were complicated but overall it was all good. Pierre & Vacance l’Albane is simple, nice and very well located. When in the P&V apartments you are in your own space and will be bothered by nobody. Just going to the supermarket first thing makes you completely self-sufficient in their apartments. This is a major advantage as the mountain resort is small but overall has everything.

The slopes were great, the people were awesome (which in my experience is not always the case with the French) and the trip was a success. I could easily see myself staying a whole week or two. I would have taken advantage of everything this village has to offer but my time was too short.

I personally like how empty the town was but I was told that when it fills in mid season there are a plethora of nighttime activities such as night clubs and bars. Vars is a true mountain town, so go for the slopes but immerse yourself in the beauty of nature with the surroundings of a fun, little village that provides activities for all ages”

Jeremiah and his girlfriend stayed at Residence Pierre & Vacances L’Albane.