How is it possible that we have lived in Switzerland for more than ten years and NEVER visited Verbier? We were scratching our heads over this one and couldn’t understand it!
Fortunately the chance to rectify this situation came along last weekend and what a discovery!!
We arrived on Friday to the newly refurbished and very stylish Hotel de Verbier which is right in the heart of the town. The Swedish owners have added some lovely touches from home, combined with traditional Swiss features to create a really beautiful place. The reception area is a warm and cosy spot and wait until you see our rooms!
We were given two rooms next to each other which could be opened up for use together by closing a door at the end of the corridor. This is very practical and gave us all plenty of space to spread out. The rooms are really nicely decorated with stylish touches, modern appliances (like the iPad in each room, coffee machine and fabulous showers) with a traditional feel - we loved the exposed stone in our room and the fluffy rug on the floor giving a homely touch. In the bathroom we found wonderful toiletries, and the robes and towels all smelled delicious. These little touches really make a difference!
Since we had come directly from collecting Elio from school, we went straight down to dinner on our arrival (our plan was to get there early to avoid bothering too many people if Elio decided to scream). The hotel restaurant is called La Nonna so we expected pizza and pasta but oh, we were so wrong. This is another level of Italian dining! We were given a nice large table with plenty of space for Elio's bulky pushchair, and were guided through the menu. It took Jean and I an age to choose from all the delicious dishes but we settled in the end and I chose burrata with lard, honey and chestnuts, while Jean took Tonno Tonnato which was equally delicious. Following that we both tried a delicious pasta dish with gambas carpaccio and stuffed octopus. It was all delicious. The children had chicken parmagiano with chips and home made tomato sauce which they demolished in seconds. Worth mentioning that the restaurant has a large cocktail menu which we would like to try another time, perhaps without the children in tow :-)
The restaurant has a cool modern feel with fun decor and the service was excellent and very efficient, even when it got busier later, and we all felt well looked after.
We were all asleep in record time and woke up early the next day to begin our first adventure.
First on the agenda was a didactic with with Cherries who we met in the hotel lobby. From the first moment, it was clear this was going to be a fun experience and we followed her up to Sonalon where we would begin our walk. We put Elio in his new baby carrier which is especially adapted for those with reduced mobility and we set off. Cherries had kindly brought Jean and I some crampons for our shoes which really helped us to walk in the early spring snow which was a bit slushy underfoot. We were lucky to have a gorgeous sunny day which meant we could really enjoy the views of the valley while Cherries explained a bit about the area and our surroundings.
Jude and Alba liked her immediately, she is very easy company, lots of fun and very knowledgeable so it was a pleasure to chat to her as we walked along. She had given the children a little booklet with pictures of animals we might find in the mountains and their footprints so that they could keep their eyes open as we went. After a little while we stopped to set up a science experiment to see which kind of material would keep us warmest in the cold weather by wrapping up bottles of hot water in various different textiles. We would come back to these on the way down and discover the winner!
We learned a lot about nature and our next task was to find some flowers to make our own tea! We were looking for little yellow coltsfoot flowers which we added to Cherries’ flask to infuse while we went in search of our next ingredient which was some pieces of pine tree. We found an obliging tree and took turns picking a small piece to add to the flask before making our way back down the path. We stopped at a sunny spot to sit and drink our tea (which was delicious by the way and even the children had two cups each) and some of Cherries lovely home made dried apple slices before we headed back to check the progress of our experiment. The thermometer confirmed that Elio and I were the winners with our choice of woollen hat which kept the water the warmest, so we gave ourselves a smug high-5 before setting off back to the car. If you are looking for a really entertaining way to pass a morning, get the children involved in nature and learn a thing or two, this is perfect!
Back in Verbier and we collected some lunch from L'écurie restaurant opposite the hotel. They have a wonderfully extensive take-away menu and the children took some chicken nuggets while I had goats cheese salad and Jean took a terrine followed by some chicken with mushroom sauce. The portions were really generous and the food delicious. We decided to eat it on our huge sunny terrace and this was a lovely moment as we discussed the things we had done that morning and planned the afternoon. First on the agenda for the children was a bit of a rest after the walk so we let them play with the toys they had brought with them for a little while before heading out again.
Next stop was the Ferme du Soleil which is a great little visit with the children. There is plenty of parking and a little play area out the front, along with a shop and restaurant (not open at the time of our visit) but since we didn't have much time, we went straight to visit the animals behind the main building. You can go inside the barn and visit the animals there which include ponies, chickens, rabbits and goats. This was paradise for the children who couldn’t decide which was their favourite, and enjoyed chatting to the curious goats who came to say hello. We were able to take Elio inside in his pushchair which was very practical. Outside you can see the calves and some very large impressive cows who took a shine to Elio and tried to lick his pushchair, much to his amusement. It’s a great spot with wonderful views and well worth a visit if you are in the area.
The final activity of the day was a cheesemaking workshop which we have been desperately excited about since we read the programme! We arrived at the Laiterie de Verbier and parked outside. The workshop is usually restricted to 4 people but since Elio wasn’t actively participating, we were able to keep him in his pushchair next to us so that he could watch what was going on.
We were greeted by Marc Duboisson who speaks French and English fluently but we opted to have the workshop in French. Marc is great. Very relaxed with an engaging style and brilliant with the children. Once we were kitted out in our protective clothing, we began by talking a bit about what cheese consists of, and where the ingredients come from, before Jude, Alba and I set about making our very own cheeses. While we were waiting for the cheese mix to separate, we went down to the cave to look at their impressive cheese collection. Here we learned a bit more about how the cheese is treated and stored and could see the cheeses in various stages of maturity which was very interesting.
Back upstairs and we were ready to finish our cheeses by straining them and getting them ready to be stored for a couple of weeks (Marc will post them to us when they are ready - keep your eyes open for the finished result and a video of the experience). Lastly was the very important cheese tasting part of the programme where we were able to try a selection of the cheeses from the laiterie. Elio was happy to be able to participate in this part and Jean and I enjoyed a glass of wine with Marc while we chatted about cheese, Verbier and life in general.
All too soon it was time to leave and head back to the hotel for dinner. We absolutely loved this experience, it was just the right length, great pace, informative and hands-on which was just perfect for the whole family - Jude and Alba really enjoyed it and were able to manage most of it without too much assistance so they were both really proud of themselves. A really fantastic group activity if you are looking for something a bit different.
Back at the hotel restaurant and Jean and I decided to try a selection of delicious starters for dinner as we had eaten rather more cheese than we intended and the children were keen to have the same chicken they had tried the night before. We had another really enjoyable evening and fell into bed nicely tired after a lovely day.
The next morning we were up early for our next adventure. We set off just before 9am for the short walk to the cable car which would take us up to Les Ruinettes. Here we were starting one of the most beautiful walks I can remember to date which took us from Les Ruinettes to La Chaux.
It was snowing gently and the light was beautiful as we followed the path which offered us views of the valley, with mountains as far as the eye could see. It was so peaceful and beautiful, a real moment of disconnecting from everything and enjoying our surroundings. It's a mostly flat walk and we had Elio in the back carrier again, however he was less happy about it this time and got very upset towards the end of the walk so we had to adapt our plans a bit for the next part.
We were due to both try the Mons4zipline but with the snow, cold temperature and wind combined with Elio’s screaming we decided only Jean would do it and I would try and calm Elio down in the meantime. The queue for the activity was fairly quiet at the time we arrived (around 11am) so Jean was able to get his equipment and go straight up to Mont Fort where the line begins.
He said it was a really exhilarating experience but he found it hard to breathe at one point with the wind and snow catching his breath. I imagine on a clearer day the views would be spectacular, but on the day of our visit he couldn’t see much. I would definitely like to give it a try next time we visit in the summer.
We were due to get some food for lunch from Le Dahu restaurant at La Chaux but there was a long queue and by this point Elio was really distraught so our mission became to get back to the hotel as soon as possible. This was pretty straightforward with a few changes of cable car and we grabbed some sandwiches en route and soon Elio was wrapped up in a warm towel with some food in his tummy.
The Hotel du Verbier kindly let us keep one of the rooms a little longer so we had a base to eat lunch, following which we went for a little stroll through the town. It’s a really pretty place, extremely well kept, clean and tidy with lots of lovely boutiques, restaurants and bars (obviously not open at the time of our visit). We imagined it must be really spectacular in the middle of winter when its covered in snow.
The last item on our agenda was Alba's favourite; a horse riding session! She and Jude have tried riding once or twice before and Alba is very much in the thick of her pony obsession so she was desperate for the hour when we could head to meet Jessica at the Equestrian Centre of Verbier. When we arrived, the children were led into the stables to meet their ponies. Alba's excitement was tangible as she and Jude delightedly led their new friends outside for a brush and tidy up before kitting them out with saddles and stirrups. Jessica showed the children how to care for the ponies and it was nice to see them looking so confident. Jude looked like a pro as he mounted his pony and Alba managed a charming scramble onto her steed before they set off for their walk in the mountains.
Elio and I tried to follow but the ground got a bit muddy and difficult for the pushchair so we turned back to wait at the car. The children looked so proud of themselves when they arrived back at the stables and really loved the experience. Once they had dismounted, they led their ponies back into the stables and gave them a snack before saying a reluctant goodbye. The whole thing lasted an hour which was just the right amount of time for everyone and makes it an easy activity to add to your trip to Verbier.
We were really so happy to have finally discovered why Verbier is such a popular choice for visitors. It's just full of things to do aside from skiing so it's a great family destination. We tried so many exciting experiences and met some wonderful people making it one of our favourite weekend trips so far. We are already planning our return in the summer and can't wait to see in again in its sunny glory. Thank you to everyone who made this fabulous family trip possible.
Route de Verbier Station 61
Hotel de Verbier
Place Centrale 2 1936 Verbier Switzerland