"Our children now have the ski bug!"
We had a really fantastic week, and will definitely be doing it again. Thanks to Daniel and Snowcarbon for the recommendations. In fact, we have already provisionally booked L’Accroche Coeur for February next year!
The journey was definitely more fun than the monotony of airports and transfers. It wasn't without a few unanticipated stresses though, but on reflection it was still a great all round experience, and having done it once you learn how to make it easier next time round.
As you know, we were too late to book the Snowtrain so went the more leisurely route of Loughborough, St Pancras, Eurostar to Lille, overnight stay in Lille, then to Lyon and Bourg the next day. Loughborough to Lille was fairly uneventful and hassle free. I suppose this is because we're used to Eurostar and how that works. I'd booked one of the hotels next to the station in Lille as well, so that was easy and the girls loved it.
Lille to Lyon by TGV was again good. We were lucky in that we'd positioned ourselves in the right place as the TGV train pulled in so were first on an able to get our luggage in with no problem. We had a two hour wait in Lyon, which seemed long at the time but was sensible as it allowed for any delays, gave us time to eat and gave us time to work out the station layout etc so we could get to the next train easily.
It was the Lyon to Bourg train that was not as enjoyable as the others. This train had no seat reservations and the facility for luggage storage was limited. Needless to say, we were unfortunate and did not get any seats or anywhere to safely place the luggage. Luckily, there was a lady who gave her seat up so our daughters could share it. My wife stood close by, and I was sat with the luggage by the doors. We were only like this for about an hour and a half until some people got off, which allowed us to sit together and enjoy the mountains as they came into view. The other problem with this train is that it was held up en route, causing us about a 30-minute delay getting into Bourg. We had booked the last Altibus of the day to take us to Les Eucherts which was scheduled to leave about 20 minutes before we finally arrived in Bourg. We were really worried that we would miss this bus and be stuck in Bourg St Maurice, but kept on thinking that all of the Altibus' business was on the train so it surely must have waited. Luckily it had, and we headed off up to La Rosiere – albeit slightly stressed.
One of my other goals for the journey was to get to Les Eucherts in time to collect the ski's etc before the Intersport shop closed. I thought the train delay had blown this, but the Altibus dropped us off just outside the Intersport shop which was still open. We managed to pick up all of the equipment before heading off to L’Accroche Coeur, which was great as it saved us having an even more hectic first morning.
L’Accroche Coeur was a fantastic, friendly hotel and Les Eucherts a brilliant family resort. As you know, L’Accroche Coeur is a short walk from the main chair lift and ski school for the girls making things as hassle free as possible. It is difficult enough getting children anywhere on time so not having to catch buses was a huge bonus, and by the time the week was over we had finally managed to get to ski school with time to spare - it did take some doing though! Whilst the girls were doing their lessons, I was then able to explore the whole south side of the mountain at my leisure, which was great. The lifts were also readily available, with hardly any waiting time. The girls would then show us what they did in their lessons in the afternoon, and we also did some sledging, forest walks and generally fun stuff. All in all, I am pleased to report that our children now have the skiing bug!
The trip home was a long day, leaving Bourg at 8.15am. Again, it was the Bourg to Lyon train that was the problem. The first three carriages had been reserved, which we were not informed about until trying to sit in one of them, by which time any available seating had more or less been taken. Hayley, my wife, went off with the children to find some seats while I followed up with the luggage. We eventually found two sets of seats close to each other, but it was not an enjoyable experience. Very poor signage and communication by SNCF.
We arrived in Lyon on time, and again had a few hours to wait for the next train. It was easier this time round as we knew what to expect and were better prepared. Lyon to Lille was also uneventful and enjoyable, although there was delay.
Again, any delays in arriving at Lille were taken up by the buffer we had between tickets, so this was fine with us. It was just getting to be a very long day. We were pleased to get on the Eurostar and head back to St Pancras.
The final twist in the tale was that the St Pancras to Loughborough mainline was undergoing maintenance over the weekend. We knew about this and had booked an alternative route via the Kings Cross to Newcastle train. We just hadn't anticipated that Newcastle were playing Crystal Palace on Saturday and that the train would be full of drunken Newcastle fans. Fortunately we only had the one stop, which was delayed meaning we missed our connection to Melton Mowbray, but we were back in the UK and did not expect anything better.
One of the main points that we learned concerned luggage. Not having skied with the children before, it was difficult to determine exactly what we would need. Our last skiing holiday was also in Canada, which was - 25 degrees and the Alps are a bit warmer than this. Needless to say, we overpacked and had the difficulty of managing this when changing trains. Again, this is something we can learn from and not repeat!
All in all, we had a fantastic week away and the girls are hooked. The trip was good fun, although the return was tiring. We have already provisionally booked L’Accroche Coeur for next year, and will look to book the Snowtrain to Bourg for this trip.
Thanks again for your fabulous recommendations and helping us organise what will hopefully now be an annual family event.