Here’s what we did for half-term skiing in France for a family of four – kids 7 and 10. Faced with a choice of sitting in the car for best part of two days each way or selling the car to fund the exorbitant half-term flight cost - we decided to go for the train! Not our first time on the train, so I know the kids love the travel time with us playing games and watching the scenery go by.
We were holidaying with two other families and had booked a self-catering chalet in Morzine through Snow Fox Morzine (www.snowfoxmorzine.com). Chalet LaFleur was Sunday to Sunday so I wanted to get us from Stroud to Morzine in time to get some skiing in on Sunday then get back on the following Sunday ready for school next day. I booked all our travel online: Great Western, Eurostar, Loco2.com, Premier Inn, Novotel.
So, Friday after school we drove to Kemble (big car park) station and took the train into Paddington. We’d left late with no tea so into the Mad Bishop and Bear for a good kids menu and decent pint of London Pride. Then Hammersmith and City Line across to St Pancras. Stayed overnight at the Premier Inn – decent, convenient and good value family room with a view of the British Library. Leisurely start Saturday morning, 5-min walk to St Pancras, and onto the 9.24 Eurostar to Paris with a croissant and coffee to keep us going. Smooth trip to Paris Gare du Nord playing games.
We have used a taxi across Paris in the past but I wanted to try the RER-D option this time. On paper it is quicker but with half the ticket machines not working it took quite a while to get to the platform. Busy but not silly getting on the RER and a quick trip around to Gare du Lyon. We allowed over two hrs for the transfer as wanted plenty of slack and the chance to sit down for lunch – which we did with ease in Gare du Lyon before securing some excellent pastries at Paul and boarding our TGV in good time.
Next stage of the journey was a TGV Lyria to Geneva – my son entertained with exclamations of delight at the view as we went through the hills approaching Geneva. My cunning plan was to stay Saturday night in Geneva before an early transfer by car on Sunday morning to Morzine - Skiidy Gonzales arranged via Snow Fox Morzine. Our children love picking whatever they like from a buffet breakfast, and Novotel has proved itself on other trips, so had booked Novotel Central Geneva – a short walk from the train station. Nice dinner in the Novotel bistro bar and a full night’s sleep – again a good value family room.
Novotel outdid themselves with the breakfast as bizarrely they had a candy-floss machine going: VERY happy kids. Easy transfer to resort in just over an hour with not a traffic jam in sight. We met Kirstyn from SnowFox at the stunning Chalet LaFleur, did a quick change and then Kirstyn helped us quickly secure passes and kit. We used StarSki (http://www.star-ski.fr/en/) for rental and they were amazing all week – a short walk from Plenney lift and a really attentive, personal service every day. On the slopes by about 11am but we really weren’t rushing at all. Our friends flying from London arrived mid-afternoon, despite a very early start and did not ski. Our other friends were driving from Luton and had left really, really early the previous day, also did not arrive in time to ski – much smugness from us.
Morzine was great with amazing snow and we had a couple of really lovely sunny days, a couple of cloudy ones and unfortunately some rain, quite a lot of rain. Skiing in heavy rain is not an experience I wish to repeat – though slopes and lifts were empty and snow held up well. I am putting the strange weather patterns down to Global warming and this gives all the more reason to travel better! We had kitted our children out rather on the cheap (we thought) in TOG24 kit from Swindon outlet centre but it stood up to even heavy rain incredibly well and was complimented by our gnarled ESF instructor after a particularly wet lesson! Our Chalet was really nice and in central Morzine but uncatered so, as we were on holiday, we ate out a few times, cooked simple stuff for the children ourselves (nearby Casino supermarket was very good with nice fresh fruit/veg) and booked freelance in-chalet catering from Chez Michelle Morzine – whom we highly recommend!
We needed to do the return journey in one day, but with the time difference it works. We set out about 7.30am Sunday from the Chalet with a car transfer to Geneva, and easily made the 9.30 TGV to Paris. Our driving friends left the previous afternoon, our flying friends left at 6am. An RER-D transfer across Paris again, lunch from Paul and onto the Eurostar just after 3pm. More games and so forth on the trains - plus snacks galore! Into St Pancras and attempted to take the Hammersmith & City Line across to Paddington – here we hit our first real issue as unfortunately it wasn’t running, daddy should have checked – so minor diversion via Baker Street and Bakerloo line and problem solved. With time to spare before the next direct train to Kemble we revisited the Mad Bishop and Bear where the mini-burger is quite a hit and I got a sneaky pint of Pride in again. Back to Kemble, in car and home about 8.30pm. Fourteen hours Morzine to Stroud, you can’t do that by car.
Quicker, easier and more fun than driving, WAY cheaper than flying and without the painfully early starts – plus we got an extra day on the slopes and helped avert global warming (well, a tiny bit)! Total travel cost was £400pp including parking at Kemble, Eurostar and TGV trains, two hotel nights en-route and the Geneva car transfers.
Top tips: book early, allow plenty of time in Paris, good train activities, lots of snacks, take it easy. We managed (including 2 pairs of ski boots) with 2 suitcases with wheels + rucksacks for all and didn’t feel we had skimped.
Really appreciate all the great advice on SnowCarbon and that Daniel is so ready to encourage or advise! Hope this helps – keep up the good work.