MY HAMLET, UP AND DOWN THE HILL
As you retrace the paths of my history, you will get lost in forests of fir trees that have seen lines of farmers and peasants. On the rings of my old wood sawn into beams and planks, transformed into facades and furniture, you will read stories spanning a hundred years. For before I was spread out in gardens and chalets, before I received people with enthusiasm and warmth, I was huts and attics, shacks and ramshackle farmhouses stuck in the impenetrable paths of the two Savoies. It was therefore necessary for a couple of hoteliers to gather together what was scattered and to give me the title of mégevan, I who came from regions whose picturesque heritage is my essence - from Passy to Chatel, from Manigod to the lands of Abondance. But it was accompanied by a handful of strong men who came down from La Giettaz that Jean-Louis dismantled, stored, numbered and consigned the smallest part destined to perfect my skeleton. The aim remained vague, but the obstinacy was clear: to dismantle about fifty properties. I say it without blushing, a little mischievous, my refinement was built on bartering. Cubic metres of planks for pallets of breeze blocks, a quantity of abandoned clinker for a slap in the hand, and always a glass of booze to warm the bodies and seal the agreements. My construction was epic and led by a team of furious people ready to increase my scale when I was just a cardboard model. While the roof of one of my houses was emerging here, the foundations of another were being poured there. And soon, the entire Sibuet family was able to pose with me for a first photo with a farmhouse feel, where I stood proudly in a cottage surrounded by a flamboyant lawn. I can tell you now: off-camera, cement mixers and shovels were still working on the site so that my hospitality could finally blossom.
Whereas the time was when hotels were limited to summary overnight stays, I was designed so that my guests could enjoy entire days at my place. Jean-Louis' hollow nose and Jocelyne's full head allowed me to grow at a good pace, exploring new confines through my emblematic tower and my underground corridors. I still had to fill my case with the stamp that reconciles opinions, I still had to breathe into it the tumult of what we call real life! For more than a decade, Nicolas and Marie's life consisted in crossing my hamlet from one side to the other, along the interiors embellished by these treasures from another age that their parents brought back from distant hunting grounds. My hostess, for her part, fashioned my rooms one by one, so that they were like no other. Expressing her instincts as an apprentice stylist, Jocelyne dressed my walls with her naive Douanier Rousseau paintings, and dressed my light fittings with shades woven of wool and subtlety. Adornments that refined my elegance by which chests, cupboards and shelves from another era were harmonised. A way of playing with tones and fabrics, of subduing my rusticity without ever stifling it. This is how the panache of my art of living was imprinted on the retinas and on glossy paper, from Europe to America.
MADE OF THE SAME WOOD
I have a solid reputation as a hedonist, and my great restaurant, like its variations, never ceases to cook the crowned quartet of my terroir: for crozets and cheese, I am the apologist! For mushrooms and polenta, I am the specialist! I can't be too formal when it comes to gastronomic joys. There will always be room for an extra plate of food, the occasion will always be right for a casual outing or for dressing up in your best evening dress. In addition to the knowledge of bombast, I also learned about rejuvenation. If my spa became as famous as my meals, it's because I was one of the pioneers in this field. I was given a temple of silence, well-being and anti-stress, where the scent of edelweiss could be detected. The voluptuousness of the birch tree has joined the magnetic granite in my alcove dedicated to Pure Cosmetics.
My energy is similar to that of the teams who have been working hard for decades to support me. Together, we joke and we like to say that some of them are almost part of the furniture! And I already feel indebted to these future talents who will allow me to grow in age, without ever growing old. The Sibuets also know how to take special care of me. When I started out, they even took up residence on the upper floors of my main building, before moving away to one of my adjoining chalets. But they can attest that leaving the nest is not the same as respite. My alarms used to rouse the whole household from bed, which was then dedicated to the role of watchman, and to which Nicolas and Marie did not balk. I also remember that these two helped with the preparations for the deadlines that have marked my years like a ritornello. At Christmas, each one of them worked hard to turn the oranges into amber apples with a few cleverly planted cloves, which were enough to fill me with the scent of the festival. I confess that I have taken away many meetings from this family to allow others to experience exceptional moments. To make up for my childhood spent between two doors, the siblings made my morning buffets and snacks an extension of their cellar. This is how it was when I was both office and home.
From this eventful youth, I draw the bubbling that continues to animate me. What a pleasure it is to shelter the dreams of new, ephemeral occupants! What a pleasure it is to observe a staff taking care of my paths and my atmosphere! There are more than a hundred of them to carry my affable Savoyard voice, to embody the diligence of my welcome to the customers who cross my threshold. With them, I have experienced the emotion of seeing genealogies that have remained faithful to me grow, that of seeing Marie and Nicolas become thirty years old and gain in responsibility, until they take the reins of my destiny. Their parents have told me how proud they are of them, certain that it is easier to build than to maintain. It is true that I am growing old, but with my feet firmly planted in the soil that saw me grow. So the sister who used to have fun coating the rims of the glasses with sugar is now the guarantor of the smooth running of my business. Her palate ensures that my gratins are just like Granny Fernande's, and that my thick apple pies continue to be delicious. I also remember the fearlessness of the brother who jumped from my snowy roofs, then from post to post, accepting all the work I had to offer him. He learned to make two out of one, and carried out timely work with the sole aim of rehabilitating me while maintaining the tenets of my identity. A balance to which I certainly owe my longevity.
TO YOUR GAZE, I WAKE UP
It is difficult to escape the sirens of standardisation. However, I got my five stars by not fitting into all the boxes of this distinction. So to speak, I never shine better than in contrast, by respecting the rebellious spirit that founded me; by letting my tenants taste the jolts of adventure in my experienced Land Defenders; by preferring the patina of antique furniture, even if it means putting their functionality to the test; by letting the woodworms sculpt their work in my woods, and assuming their apparent irregularity.
Underneath my impeccable looks and expert service, there are imperfections and familiarity of the family guesthouse. Oh, I know that my habit of nestling luxury in simplicity is a bit of a drama for some, but I reaffirm that these are all the attractions of my charm, a charm modelled on that of the seasons, the succession of which allows me to ratify my traditions. As soon as the winter cold takes hold of my exteriors, the aura of the mountain commands me, and the tales seem to engrave on my features the setting of their legends. I am filled with the exploits of freestylers and the bowls of snowploughing pros told by the crackling fire. And in the intimacy of my little bar, a good-natured folklore is established. Families celebrate the new Flocon on the suit with freshly picked herbal teas and tempting sweets. Nearby, friends toast as I wrap myself in a thick white coat, delighted to enjoy the milder weather when the weather conforms to their Dark'N'Stormy. Then my entrance locks and my windows close as the general thaw sets in, only to be reopened to the summer panorama. The geraniums devour my balconies and look down on their companions growing below - gentians, rhododendrons and arnicas. While the festivities of Sainte-Marie are being prepared, with an atmosphere that is more guinguette than stilted, I finally inaugurate my banquets at the Alpage; a piece of terrace closely watched over by the peaks of the valley, which one would reach with applause, so much so that it requires an effort of deserving ascent.
Here, my guests enjoy casseroles, grilled meats, and a view that convinces them to return the following year. Although the falling leaves and the arrival of the autumn glow signal the departure of my last holidaymakers, I would not dare to take leave again. This is the time for insiders to discover a confidential beauty written in ochre within my walls. In the end, what matters is the cycle or the harvest, the desires or the reasons. The only thing that matters to me is the astonishment of the elders whom I see falling back into innocence; the only thing that matters to me is the wonder of my young residents for whom I will always be ahead of the game; from the dreamers who find me on a pilgrimage to their childhood memories, to the regulars whose friend I am always ready to enjoy a few moments of rejoicing; from the eager guests who use my place setting between two social events, to the couples who discover me as being devoted to fidelity for a moment, there is no encounter that I cannot honour. I am not a loner. I do my utmost to ensure that everyone finds in me what is theirs. My Farms are so many fields where the present is cultivated without worrying about the future. And if goodbyes are inevitable, I am certain that the ties are also inevitable. A conviction reinforced by this sweet nostalgia - believe me, it takes hold of those who pack up and leave me, leaving behind them a last wish: to stay a little longer.