* I was invited to Courchevel as part of a Press trip
There is something about winter that lends itself well to an escape, isn't there? We often chat about it in our house - where would we go? - although we are still bound by school holidays for the next few years at least. But then, there are two of them in the winter months so travel is often on my mind. The post festive slump paired with grey and dark days are not really my favourite I'm afraid, try as I might to embrace them.
Add to this with my love of the mountains (don't get me started, it's becoming something of an obsession...) and I could get carried away dreaming of mountains, snow, and an escape from the heavy skies of home. So it came as a very welcome break indeed last week to be travelling to the French Alps.
I was invited by Alpine Escape, along with my fellow blogging friends Catherine and Abi, to visit Courchevel and stay in their luxury accommodation, experiencing some of what they have to offer during our trip. I do love an adventure!
We stayed in Moriond, possibly the sunniest of Courchevel's villages due to it's location on the mountain - fairly high up and facing the right way. Moriond offers an excellent mix of direct access to the ski slopes and Aprés ski options to suit different tastes.
Every sunrise and sunset was beautiful, pastel shades of pink and yellow giving way to bright blue skies and cold sunshine, or the twinkling evening lights in the villages on the slopes surrounding us. I could happily have breathed them in for many more days than we had to enjoy.
We stayed in The Loft which is a self catered apartment, sleeping up to 10 people. It is fully equipped with all the home comforts you might need, it even has an indoor hot tub should you wish to relax after a long day on the slopes.
The Loft has a bright, open plan living, kitchen and dining area, with a wraparound balcony outside. The views are incredible, from a high vantage point it looks out over the valley to further mountains beyond.
The Loft's interior is a contemporary take on the traditional Alpine chalet. Pale, wood clad walls with modern furniture give a homely feel. The kitchen is of a minimal design in a clean white, perfectly functional without being obtrusive in the open plan space.
There are large windows and glazed doors on all sides making the most of that view, while inviting you out onto the balcony. Although it's cold out there in January and so warm indoors that you might be tempted to simply enjoy the view from behind glass.
to ski or not to ski?
Although this was not my first time on the Alpine slopes, I am not a skier. Happily though, Courchevel offers plenty of options for those of us who don't fancy hurtling down a mountain on slippy skis - or for those who simply fancy a day doing something different!
There are indoor swimming pools to be enjoyed. Husky sledging in the area. There are Fat Bikes (as the name suggests, they have 'fat' tyres) which can be ridden on some slopes.
But for us it was an afternoon with Pip of the Alps.
We were treated to a snow shoe adventure, lead by the lovely Pip, whose knowledge is extensive. She pointed out many animal tracks - including hares and wolves - as we walked and how we could recognise which animal made which. We listened for birds and admired the lichen - a sign of clean air - that grows from the branches of some trees.
I wish I could share the sound of the snow, it was fairly magical as it had thawed a little and re-frozen several times over recent days creating a hoar frost on the surface. It glistened in the sunlight and made a beautiful, soft tinkling sound as we walked.
The view from the top of the climb was well worth the effort, in fact I would have happily carried on for longer than our two hour walk. It took us approximately an hour and a half to climb up, and more like twenty minutes to come back down! Pip encouraged us to find fresh snow and just have fun, it's quite different walking a trodden path and walking on fresh snow.
Most of us fell over at some point - I did so quite spectacularly on the way back down. There comes a point when you know you're going to go, in slow motion, and it's impossible not to just laugh at yourself.