A New York family reports back from a ten day journey to France and Italy, including stops in Chamonix and Venice. Traveling with another family, they explored the winter sights from snow-capped mountains to small shops along the canals. Check out her take on the hotels they loved and how you can plan a winter European getaway. Writer Jill G. is a stay-at-home mom who calls NYC and Montauk home and the world her oyster.
Chamonix, France which is about an 1.5 hours outside of Geneva, Switzerland was our first stop. L'Heliopic is a wonderful contemporary, family hotel and spa right in the center of the village in the French Alps. There are connecting rooms, though our friends weren’t able to secure them (family of five) and settled for two rooms next door to one another. The rooms are on the small side, but comfortable with a King bed and pullout sleeper chair. Our room had a small balcony, and the bathroom was modern, but snug. But there is no reason to spend too much time in the room because there are plenty of beautifully appointed public lounge spaces for both adults and children. One of the highlights is a playroom for younger children offering unlimited candy (yikes!) and juice boxes. There is also a wall of headphones offering all different types of music, a library with giant chess table, DVDs, books and free popcorn. The restaurant has an excellent kids selection featuring local produce and a huge wine selection for the adults. The lounge is loaded with cozy chairs, couches, tables and a fire place to warm up by on chilly nights. Overall, the decor is soothing and sexy in an understated way.
The spa is a nice escape and children are welcome to use the pool/jacuzzi at certain times. The town center which is filled with charming restaurant is within easy walking distance and the whole place is surrounded by gorgeous snow capped mountains. My husband enjoyed the skiing immensely, but I unfortunately I have to stay local with a sick kid, but I made do. The hotel was a good refuge and I was able to relax with fabulous spa treatments. Bonus: I have a local French doctor’s phone number if you need it!
This small boutique hotel has huge rooms that sleep a family of four, but you can easily fit a family of five with room to spare. The bathrooms are marble and gigantic, which isn't common in Venice. The overall vibe in the hotel is traditional in style, but small and neat. There is access to a small canal where you can get picked up by water taxi (arranged through the front desk), and gondolas can be hired just a few blocks away. It’s only a five minute walk to the Rialto Bridge through charming back alleys. We explored lots of high end shopping in the sleepy back alley right around the corner from the hotel. St. Mark's is only a five-minute walk in the other direction. After seeing the big hotels near St. Mark's, I am so glad we chose this one with the charm and the winding back “roads” instead.
It's important to note that there is an easy-to-open door from the lobby into the canal, so keep an extra close eye on the little ones. While the hotel doesn't have a lot in the way of amenities, I would say it was a very good deal for a good location.The concierge was helpful, and the breakfast was perfect.
Outside of Milan, Italy
On our last night with an early flight, we chose to stay at the best little hotel, a mere ten minute drive to the Milan airport. I dreaded the idea of staying in a soul-less airport hotel on our last night in Italy (a Saturday at that!). The four-star hotel featured a fantastic restaurant which turned out to be very trendy and popular with the locals. All of this in a tiny walled village close to the airport!