As you intrepid skiers head off to the mountains for your last fling of the season, or you early bird hikers strap on your boots for some alpine air, try if you can to visit Morzine, about an hour east of Geneva and a little further north of Chamonix.
There’s lots of reasons to visit which include great skiing in one of the largest ski areas in the world, charismatic wooden chalets, amazing summer walking and trails and an even better French language school that adds a new dimension to your visit. The Alpine French School in the centre of the town is the place to go to give your legs a rest and your mind a stretch and you’ll find they offer a whole selection of different French classes, courses and workshops to add to your holiday on the slopes.
Combining alpine sports and learning a language is a heady and wonderful mix but you’ll need fine food and fettle to keep you up to speed. And as you’d expect from anywhere that until relatively recently used to be a small farming and mining town in the tough mountain terrain, it has some great local dishes.
Breakfast for the slopes – Croix de Savoie
If you’re in France, the chances are you love a croissant but before you start up the slopes why not give this local speciality a try. A croissant style pastry in the shape of a cross, with custard and sprinkled with sugar this is breakfast for the hearty. It’s a particular favourite of my French teacher Lucille at the Alpine French School and is equally good as a pick you up before you head into class in the afternoon.
Lunch and La Raclette
The food here is designed for the landscape. In other words, it’s wholesome, earthy fodder inspired by a peasant lifestyle (and budget) and consumed to give you the energy and strength you need for the mountains. And La Raclette is no exception. Raclette is both a Swiss and French cheese. It’s semi hard, made from cow’s milk and tastes smooth and creamy, a bit like Gruyere.
Lots of the restaurants in Morzine (and in fact throughout France) serve La Raclette as a dish and as you collapse at the table after a hard morning’s graft on the slopes, this is the sustenance you need. Recipes vary from chef to chef but expect potatoes, charcuterie, cornichon, peppers and French bread with the round Raclette cheese then grilled and the melted cheese scraped over the plate. Aromatic and reviving, it’s better still with a red wine perhaps from nearby Alsace or a good Pinot Noir.
Finish the day with a Tartiflette
As night falls, along with the temperature and a fresh dump of snow, the lure of cosy, laughter filled restaurants is hard to resist. And why should you? You’ve worked hard on the slopes and harder in class and it’s time to refuel. Think potatoes, lardons, onions and Reblochon cheese all baked in the oven for this local dish. Again recipes vary, but at the end of a long day, as your legs start to ache and your brain slightly fades, pulling up at a table with friends old and new and a dish of Tartiflette to ease you into the evening, has to be the recipe of the wise.
You can find out more about the Alpine French School at www.alpinefrenchschool.com and you can email them or call them at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0033 450 79 08 38. Courses and classes and alpine activities are available all year round.