When Bermuda resident Martin Williamson retired his route was not to the couch. Oh no, his wife, Kimberly, had other plans. Plans that included walking across every country in Europe. Their first? France. Their walking expedition took them through St Gervais Combloux and Megeve where they ended up buying a house. The house turned into five apartments. Martin and Kim have one, sold the other three and have one more for sale. Check out this new page for more information on the apartment.
But where’s Combloux, you ask? What is there to do there? Let Martin tell you in Bermuda Abroad.
Our first target country was France using the famous GR5 (Grand Randonee 5) which runs from the Hook of Holland to Nice. France has a huge network of long distance paths and this one was perfectly placed almost running through our village in Belgium.
At the end of September 1998 we were crossing the Col de Brevent north of Chamonix (about 2000 meters altitude) and the snow had already arrived. We were not prepared for these conditions and we knew that the GR5 route south only got higher so when we arrived in Chamonix we planned a reroute via Albertville and Grenoble that should be snow free.
Our reroute took us through a beautiful region of Haute Savoie via St Gervais Combloux and Megeve.
I had visited Megeve many years ago but I had forgotten how unspoiled the area was.
In 2003 after moving to Bermuda we decided to go back to the area and spend some time during the ski season.
The three villages I mentioned are all linked by a ski area called ‘Evasion Mont Blanc’, so named because you have spectacular views of Europe’s highest peak from all over the ski area.
The area is relatively low compared to the major resorts with the highest point at only 2000 mts, however it benefits from a local microclimate caused by Mont Blanc which ensures good snow fall.
As a result of the altitude the villages remained relatively unspoiled when the ski boom of the 70’s and 80’s ruined some of the higher resorts. This is what gives the area it particular attraction.
Admittedly the skiing is not too difficult with only about 5 black runs on the 450km of pistes but there is plenty of opportunity for avalanche free off piste if you are looking for adventure.
Skiing in this area is often about deciding where to go to lunch with an abundance of mountain restaurants. These converted ‘alpages’ are all family run and compete vigorously for the title of best cuisne.
Megeve is considered (by the people who live there) very chic and is sometimes described as St Tropez with snow. As a result the property prices are sky high and there is and very snooty atmosphere. Something that I doesn’t appeal to me. However the shops and restaurants are great and I occasionally succumb to the primary Megeve pastime; people watching from the coffee shop with the best chocolate in the world.
St Gervais is an attractive town which has recently undergone significant renovation of it’s old ‘Belle Epoch’ buildings. Has thermal springs and was quite a resort before skiing (for fun) was invented. However we found it a little claustrophobic nestled on the north-west side of Mont Blanc.
Combloux is a true mountain village with only about 2000 permanent residents and 4 or 5 working farms that still produce excellent cheese. The village sits on a natural plateau at 1000 mts. And has wonderful views of Mont Blanc.
We rented an apartment in Combloux for two seasons before we decided to buy there. Combloux is definitely not Megeve (but it is only 4km away) and as a result the property prices are much more reasonable. Combloux still has easy access to the pistes and if you want boutique shopping it’s only minutes away.
In addition to skiing the area offers fantastic walking and mountain biking and Chamonix, the epicenter of European mountaineering is only 30 minutes by car.