Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Smoking boars, hunting lodges and graffiti - new places to eat on the mountain

With things finally settling down snow-wise both on the mountain (a good few centimetres last night and more on the way) and in the chalets (staff problems resolved, I hope!)  I hope I can get back to some regular blog writing again.

Les Arcs has been criticised in the past for its lack of mountain restaurants. It is certainly true that in comparison to La Plagne they are rather few and far between, with only a handful actually located 'on the piste' rather than awkwardly placed within the resorts. So it's good news that two new establishments have spring up this season, plus the long awaited opening of the new Aguille Grive restaurant and hotel at Arc 1800 (it never managed to open last season because of problems with the EDF over the electricity supply, apparently).

Chalet Grillette interior
The Chalet Grillette  is also above 1800, beside the Grand Melezes piste and right under the Transarc lift.  It's a reasonably attractive stone-and-wood chalet-style building, but it's a  shame however it doesn't reflect the Arcadien  architectural radicalism that is gleefully demonstrated in the new Aguille Grive constructions.  The inside is more interesting, with graffiti-style murals by the local artist Pierre Grellon, who describes himself as a 'self-taught tagger'. Grellon's art-deco style alpine depictions have also been used  for Paradiski publicity and he also did the mural inside the tunnel leading to the Snow Park. More on the food when I've found a guest to take me there for lunch!

Le sanglier qui fume
Local skills and metiers are also much in evidence at Le Sanglier qui Fume (The Smoking Boar) at Arc 1600, just below the Chalet Beguin and under the Mont Blanc lift (access from Cachette or Mont Blanc piste). The restaurant has been built by a local firm, Charpentier Bute, using traditional techniques and materials. The menu looks really interesting, featuring of course boar sausages as well as home-made foie gras and a 'smoking boar burger'. Again, I can't wait to try it once I've saved up (cheapest thing on the menu is about €15 euros). The whole place has a bit of an unfinished look about it (there's not even a proper sign yet), but the huge south facing balcony ought to become a popular place to watch the sun descend below Le Cheval Blanc.

The Hotel Beguin in about 1965, with the old Biollet drag lift
The newest restaurant at Arc 1600 is located a few metres down hill from the oldest, the Chalet Beguinone of the few facilities pre-dating Les Arcs that is still going. It was once a small hunting-lodge, owned by the Montrigon-based Beguin family for generations. When the first lifts were constructed  to form the 'Courbaton 1750' ski area in 1961 (see previous blogs about this) Louis Beguin constructed a small drag lift himself, called Le Biollet, and refurbished the hunting lodge to provide 'shelter and nourishment' for skiers.  As one of only three eating place within the Courbaton 1750 area it quickly became successful, and in 1965 Beguin further enlarged the establishment to create a  30 bed hotel, bar and restaurant.

The Les Arcs revolution was then beginning, but Beguin was a skeptic, believing, along with others, that the development of Courbaton 1750 would be a better plan than Blanc and Godino's radical scheme for Les Arcs. Perhaps because he was an influential municipal councillor  he managed to avoid compulsory purchase (almost every existing building within the new Arcs domain was bought out, sometimes forcibly, in line with the Godino's 'total ski' management concept). With the success of the ski area and his hotel-restaurant Beguin was able to quit his hated job as an engineer and became a full-time hotelier. The Chalet Beguin still has the feel of a hunting lodge, and the 1960s about it: it's also a nice place to step back in time, sit and watch the sunset.

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