Dad, give me a break – you can’t expect me to go to the Alps at four weeks old!
Hardcore fans of the Momentum Blog will remember that back in 2011, I set out to discover if driving to the Alps with a three month old baby was a viable option compared to taking a commercial flight.
But my family has grown since then. Emma is now two, and with Emilia (11) and new arrival Max (four weeks old), it was going to be a bit trickier this time out.
The stakes couldn’t have been any higher. My 50th birthday party, like my 30th and 40th birthdays before it, was set to take place at the Maison Vieille refuge in Courmayeur, at an altitude of 2000m. You probably think I’m mad, and even more so when you consider that it would be a black tie event, at night, and accessible only by snowmobile and pistebashers.
With many of my closest friends also on their way to celebrate with me, it was going to be a real challenge to transport my entire family from Putney to a high-altitude mountain hut in the Italian Alps.
First question: do we fly or drive?
With all the gear needed to care for a newborn baby, and lessons learnt from 2011, it was a no brainer. We’d drive once again, this time, stopping for the night halfway down France to give everyone a break. Doing it in one go – 11 hours door-to-door from London – would have ended in certain disaster.
Clever roof box from Thule if you have storage problems. This number is waterproof and when done with can be folded and put away.
Astonishingly, with a family of five it is still cheaper to drive than to fly, even when you include the cost of an overnight stay en route.
For those on a budget, the best halfway house is the Hotel Val Moret near Troyes (about 3 hours from Calais). You can pull up right outside your room and pay only 90€ for the whole family. That doesn’t include dinner, of course, but the Val Moret has such an awesome destination restaurant, it’s well worth paying for. The a la carte menu features perfectly-cooked beef from the local farm, whilst a well-chosen kids menu kept our little ones very happy indeed.
Pulling up oustside our bedroom at Hotel Val Moret.
The restaurant at Val Moret as we arrive.
The restaurant after Emma making enough noise!
For those who want to enjoy the Champagne region in greater depth, stop in Reims – just a 15-minute detour from the motorway. Hotel de la Paix, which is in the heart of the historical town, has an underground car park (so no need to empty the car) and some excellent restaurants and shopping in close proximity.
If you fancy doing any tasting then most of the famous Champagne Houses are less than 20 minutes away. My favourite is La Maison Ruinart, which is one of the oldest of the lot.
In fact, we opted to stay in Reims on our return journey, giving us the chance to visit the excellent Christmas market there.
As for my bash, little Max was a star and neither the altitude nor the snow bothered him one bit. A natural-born skier if ever there was one.
Note on travel costs:
Eurotunnel – Approx £150 ( this depends on the time you chose) . We took the mid-day train.
Tolls both ways: Euro 152.40/ £126
Fuel ( diesel) both ways, almost two tanks: £300
Mont Blanc Tunnel: £42
vs Family of 4 flights which would cost at least £150 per person = £600
+ car hire for 7 days ( Golf STW) £370
Total £970 and that does not include fuel and the tolls.
And now, some photos:
Leaving grey UK
And we finally make Courmayeur
First stop. The Prive for a Negroni and some bar snacks.
Blue Max? Well, he could have got cold – but we wrapped up warmly for his first visit to the Alps.
The party arrive at Maison Vieille Refuge to be greeted by Giacomo.
And who says it was too ambitious to take a 4 week old baby up the mountain?
NB: Momentum Ski can organise parties at Maison Vieille for small and large groups. Fore more information email amin[at]momentumski[dot]com