Val Thorens (Les 3 Vallées)

• Town • Food • Shopping • Feeling •

I missed this town as soon as we had left; it enraptured our ski holiday.  Although I at first was disappointed by the lack of an equivalent to our beloved Coop from Switzerland, that turned out not to be the slightest problem.  Val Thorens has two artisan bakeries, local cheese and meat cooperatives and an awesome market.  The town is literally made to ski, so the slopes are easily reachable from everywhere.  I heard some areas are very loud at night, however Le Sérac, the big apartment building at the top of town wasn’t.  In fact it was so peaceful, it didn’t even get internet most of the time 😉

FROM PUBLIC RESTROOMS TO SPAS:  Our temporary home, Le Sérac, not being a 5-star hotel still had all necessities for this vacation… well at least after we ran some errands.  Renting towels at the laundromat was no problem, when you knew it existed.  And sure enough the public toilets right next door are very helpful once you discover the absence of toilet paper.  But you’re still allowed to make use of those hotels… They have wonderful spas to retreat after an exhausting day of skiing; or in my case the fall down Grand Couloir (read more about that here).  And if I were compelled to take a day off skiing, I sure would explore the big sports center, maybe play some squash, learn to dance…

JOGGING: I could say it’s not really possible – people should be here to ski 24/7, to be exact

Eat, Ski, Sleep, Repeat

24/7 and not train for a marathon; at least in the winter… but it was feasible.  The farthest I could get from home (before encountering a cars-only tunnel) was 1,5km.  But by exploring every parking lot and dead ending street it added up to short of 8km.  So three mornings I managed to run, coming home to prepared omelettes before heading out for another full day of skiing.  Omelettes were the savory switch of a breakfast – the other days we always had some sort of porridge!

SKI RENTALS:  I can do no more than recommend Zenith Ski Shop to anybody coming.  They only have one branch but the service is wonderful and the prices are unbeatable. We rented two pairs of handmade wooden skis (that originally cost more than 1600€) for 13 days and it cost less than 400€.

 

THE FOOD SCENE:

Pies from La Cime Gourmande (on March 14th, 2016)

BAKERY: La Cime Gourmande was a huge improvement to what we could get in Saas-Fee (where we skied the last years). It’s one of the two artisan bakers in town.  And to make it quick, these are the most incredible treats and baked goods you can get:
pies: lemon-meringue, plain apple, chocolate pear, or any of the “ganache” chocolate pies
– crispy, chewy and truly majestic almond croissant (with a thin bread pudding like centre)
– fluffy, soft and buttery brioche (my sis’s all time fav, and my 2nd choice after the almond croissant)
– any Sablé (cookie) – perfectly sweet and buttery, but that’s what makes a cookie good
– let’s call it caramel-donut in English, but it’s much less greasy than a donut and that luscious caramel ooze, aah, it’s an awesome awakener after a long day of skiing

But aside from these treats or typical baguettes, croissants and macarons we loved their hardy, nutty Pain du Nordique.  It’s rustic rich flavor complemented all the toppings that transformed it into the next day’s lunch; with its soft but dense structure well suited to trapping a stack of anything I could think of between its slices.  Our next favorites were the weekly Pain aux Noix or Pain aux Beaufort.

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Sandwich Prepping (but that bread wasn't as good as the Pain du Nordique)
Sandwich Prepping (but the bread above wasn’t as good as the Pain du Nordique)

MARKET: Lucky us, we had the bi-weekly market right in front of our doorstep, on Place de Péclet.  (Update 2017: now it’s on the main street in front of the church).  Mainly occupied by cheeses and meats with samples that take care of your first dinner course, you can also get french-made nougats, nuts, seeds, dried berries, or pickled veggies.  We discovered the world of tommes (e.g. super stinky Tomme au Marc de Savoie), all variants of Beaufort (our favorite being the oldest alpage) and multiple different raclettes: pepper, mushroom, truffle, mustard, smoked and “of the goat” (these latter two where the most notable).

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It was most fun shopping at the market for sure, but the passionate cheese and meat cooperatives were outstanding as well, especially the one

GROCERY SHOPPING: I preferred Sherpa over Carrefour. You’ll find all you need: grains, nuts and dried fruits by the bulk and regional Savoie specialties. They have a different soup or stew, freshly prepared to take home as well as local soups by the “Savoie” brand.  One day we had the beaufort soup another day the nettle-potato soup. Easy, quick and delicious 😜 (Ok that sounds like an ad, but they were really worth repeating!).

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The only necessary grocery that only Carrefour Montagne sold was Ovomaltine Crunchy (the ultimate swiss chocolate spread for athletes).  And there actually is an organic store, but given the size of this town, 8 à huit, was quite a trek, so I only went there once.  It feels a bit more like a gas station kiosk but has its own charm. The guy working there was squeezing himself a grapefruit juice while I admired their small selection of still Christmas decorated nutella jars, local chocolates and craft beers to gift back home.

Sometimes I think I can’t make pretty breakfasts in vacation, but even a town just made for skiing proved me wrong    ⤵︎

 

EATING OUT:
• We only tried on place in town, Face West . It was on our first evening, after traveling for two days.  As an appetizer I got a cute pumpkin filled with Tomme de Savoie, oyster mushrooms and parsley – this was sublime!  Spooning warm, cheesy (but good, pungent local cheese) out of a soft and rich pumpkin, boy, I didn’t care about our main dish after that anymore. (Update 2017: unfortunately they don’t make that anymore). The second starter was the region’s famous onion soup which was simmered in Chimay Blue beer and topped with brown sugar – quite special.  My dad says “if we’re in Savoie, we have to try the tariflette” … so that chose the main dish. Potatoes melted over with Reblochon cheese and ham.  Definitely not my thing, but his.  Last but not least came the Lemon Meringue Pie, a very common dish in this area it seemed.  The meringue totally shocked me at first: it was gooey; more like melted marshmallow than what I expected of meringue.  However I think it complemented the juicy, sharp lemon base better than any other would. Not only the food, but the whole atmosphere at Face West, gave our weeks the perfect start.  It’s interior was fancy in a very relaxed and unpretentious way.  And they have the most beautiful water pitchers I’ve ever seen – I still wish I had those at home now!
• Update 2017: Alpenart is the new hit of Val Thorens, for me at least. A fusion of art, and modern twists on regional dishes with the friendliest service, and a relaxed fine atmosphere. -> Post coming soon!
• Bucket List 2018: On an evening walk I also did some restaurant scouting, most are quite touristy, but a few did tempt me: La Joyeuse Fondue and La Fondue (yes, these are two different places) seemed nice and secluded, but most of all Au Mazot striked me; it looked very rustic, alpine and cute.

 

 

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