At first sight, the town of Megeve is beyond-belief picturesque: narrow, winding cobblestone streets, tiny squares lined by ivy-covered buildings, and a fourteenth-century church with bulbous bronze-green bell tower. Megeve bans autos in the town center but has hiking trails and a cable car that ascends to breathtaking 12,600-foot views of Mont Blanc.
A cluster of chalets above a stream outside town, Les Fermes de Marie is more like a mountain village than resort hotel. Collected from farms in the area, 300-year-old lumber, carved wooden columns, and antique furniture conceal the resort’s concrete infrastructure. There are eight lodges, the restaurant Grand Salle, and a spa building complete with an indoor swimming pool. Furnished in a mix of Savoyard and Ralph Lauren styles, no two rooms are alike.
It’s easy to see why the king and queen of Sweden stay here in a private chalet during the ski season. In summer, when the high pastures are alive with tinkling cowbells and flowers bloom everywhere, accommodations at Les Fermes de Marie are priced well within the range of a four-star hotel. What you don’t get are crowds, organized fitness classes, and Americans. Summer clientele are an international mix of Italians, French, and British; only about 4 percent are American. The main attractions are pure mountain air, warm, dry climate, and great food. Families are welcome, although there is no program for kids other than hikes, sports, and a six-day climbing course offered by the Megeve tourism office.
Mountain herbs and flowers fill “the beauty farm” with sensory pleasures while you are enjoying an aromatherapy massage or facial. The all-natural treatments use beauty care products made from plants, essential oils, and biologically neutral bases. There are ten private treatment rooms in a rabbit warren below the reception area, all done in wood logs, stone, and terra-cotta tile. For exercise, a small gym offers bikes and treadmills, and there is a glass-walled swimming pool that overlooks an herb garden.
Men are treated to a personalized regimen at Les Fermes. The six-day fitness package alternates sessions of relaxing massage with skin care, hydro-massage baths, and seaweed wraps. Other programs for men and women include hydrotherapy and skin care. Altogether, forty-five different treatments are available a la carte.
Lodged in one of the wood-paneled chalets, you will find an array of antiques plus a big soaking tub in the bathroom. Fluffy white bathrobes are provided for lounging on the sunny terrace or balcony. The hotel compound is on several levels, surrounding a small garden where aperitifs and meals are served. The main dining room, a cozy grill, and a specialty restaurant offer enough variety that you may never need to request the dietetic menu.
Accommodations: Sixty-nine rooms in Alpine lodges for 150 guests. All have private bathroom with modern amenities. Furniture is French-country antiques, wooden armoire, walnut table, rustic bedspread, lounge chairs. TV, telephone, clock/radio are standard; no air-conditioning needed. Dogs and children allowed.
Meals: Gourmet menu served in three restaurants. Breakfast buffet includes eggs cooked to order, cereals, cold meats, cheeses, coffee. Lunch and dinner feature nouvelle cuisine. Dietetic menu on request.
Facilities: Hydrotherapy tubs, Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room, Vichy shower, pressotherapy, exercise studio, indoor heated lap pool.
Services & Special Programs: Swedish massage, Thai massage, shiatsu, reflexology, seaweed wrap, mud packs, body gommage, G5, lymphatic drainage, hydrotherapy bath, jet sprays. Yoga class, excursion for Alpine luncheon, workshop on mountain plants led by a naturalist.
Getting There: From Geneva, by car on Autoroute A-40 via Sallanches (sixty minutes). By train from Paris, TGV to Lyon, connection to Sallanches (three hours).
What’s Nearby: Chamonix, Le Montenvers, Mer de Glace glacier, Mont Blanc.