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Thu 16 Nov 2017 04:02 PM

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Review: Affordable luxury in the French Alps

We try Au Coin Du Feu chalet in ski resort village Megeve in the Mont Blanc massif

Review: Affordable luxury in the French Alps
A winter vacation does not have to drain your finances, even if you like your getaways luxurious.

A winter vacation does not have to drain your finances, even if you like your getaways luxurious.

Au Coin Du Feu, which translates into 'by the fireside', is a reasonably priced chalet set within 500m of the centre of Megève in the Mont Blanc massif - considered one of the world’s most prestigious winter holiday destination - where a suite can cost up to $11,300 per night.

Luckily, prices for single rooms at Coin Du Feu start at $170. Judging by our experience at the property, we found that it offers value for money.

We chose to fly from Dubai to Geneva Airport as it was the closest to the village, Morzine, where the chalet is located. It took us 30 minutes by car to get there, but the drive was worth it.

The winding roads leading to the chalet were lined with masses of snow-covered fir trees. We visited in February last season, when lows of -15 degrees Celsius made for seamless skiing (the hotel is a five minute walk from the Chamois Ski Lift, which takes guests straight to the vast Portes du Soleil ski area), while the weather was just warm enough for strolls in the town’s centre that houses souvenir shops, fashion boutiques and high end restaurants.

Modern yet cosy rooms

The chalet itself, designed in a rustic-chic theme, boasts 17 bedrooms with traditional wooden schemes complemented by mountain views. We were settled in our single bedroom swiftly after arriving.

But as we waited, baked goods and a cup of hot cocoa were waiting for us in the chalet's lodge-style lounge.

Designed in leather interiors, chandeliers and an open fireplace, it made for a relaxing and romantic setting. Because the hotel has a limited amount of guests, its staff take extra attention to improve their stay.

As we were taken to our bedroom, situated on the first floor, we passed through hallways decorated with framed sketches of vintage-style models, dressed in diamonds and fur.

The chalet had a modern yet antiquated vibe. And our room was no different. Despite having up-to-date utilities (such as a flat screen TV), it was designed in classic interiors and cosy, plush furniture; making it cosy and intimate.

After relaxing, we headed back downstairs to try the fine-dining restaurant located near the lounge. It boasted floor to ceiling windows that offered more snow-caped mountain views.

It is the restaurant where we had breakfast and dinner. The food, made with fresh local produce, is as delicious as it is diverse. Cuisines such as Indian and Italian were among our favourites.

We especially liked the tender spicy chicken curry, served with a creamy and rich legume purée. The chalet outdid itself when it came to its food. While we tried two restaurants in town, we preferred the hotel's menu, which changes on a daily basis.

Homely wooden interiors

The staff at the chalet might have played an important role in our preference to dine at the chalet, as the waiters and waitresses were genuine and made frequent, pleasant conversations with guests, creating a homely feel.

Even the owners, Paul and Francesca, hosted regular billiard games in the upstairs library to keep guests entertained. The small, family-owned chalet boasts what greater high-end hotels lack: a genuine, laid-back atmosphere, with a ‘nothing is too much trouble’ approach to service.

It is worth mentioning that the couple went out of their way to drive us to activities. These included ice diving; which took place in a frozen lake where temperatures were as low as -24 degrees Celsius.

We booked our session through Au Coin Du Feu, but recommend this activity for the adventurers, not the faint hearted.

First-timers or amateur divers are equipped with a wet suit and oxygen mask, and are strapped to a professional via a rope. They are free to roam around under the thick ice, which comprises several holes for to swim to and from.

The experience is enjoyable (the feeling of being under the ice results in an instant adrenaline rush), but take caution if you have claustrophobia. It can take some time to swim from hole to hole while underneath the ice.

Fine dining in the Alps

For a more relaxing activity, opt for skiing. The Mont Blanc massif has some of the world's smoothest runs that cater to beginners and advanced skiers.

It was our first time to try the sport, so the hotel was very helpful in booking several skiing lessons with different schools, and at a discounted rate too.

Interestingly, some of the slopes go directly into the hotel's backyard, resulting in a hassle free return trip. However, the lifts to the slopes are merely a 5 minute walk, either way.

The slopes' are also filled with restaurants and bars great for snacks or after-ski dining. Compared to other winter destinations, the area is much cheaper, with a cup of coffee costing $2.

To relax after skiing, we recommend heading to the hotel's garden terrace, where an outside hot tub awaits. If you are not low on time, visit the spa's sauna and Turkish bath beforehand.

While we visited Au Coin Du Feu during the winter ski season, the chalet and its surrounding area is a great summer destination, where temperatures reach warm highs of 15 degrees Celsius and activities include mountain biking and rock climbing.

The chalet is a cosy, family-friendly option, where a reliable nursery and childcare is provided to offer parents some quality time. However, the property also works for larger groups of friends looking for an affordable luxury winter vacation.

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