On Tuesday 17 May, Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre and Conferencing hosted 80 staff, family and friends for the first ‘community paddle’ evening on the riverfront.
Bisham Abbey staff member Alona, connected with local families, many hosting Ukrainian refugees and approximately 20 families gathered on the lawn to share the river front activities provided free of charge by Boat Rental Thames.
Bisham Abbey’s manager James Ewart commented, “We wanted to showcase to our staff and local community the wonderful riverfront we have here at Bisham Abbey. Boat Rental Thames offer all sorts of activities to help people to experience the river, be it on a paddle board, kayak or electric boat. Many of our staff haven’t had the chance to try these and to have so many local Ukrainian families join us as well made for a very special evening in the sunshine.”
Guy Fisher, Owner & MD of Boat Rental Thames added, “we expected to be hosting staff and their families and were absolutely delighted that so many local families supported the evening by bringing their Ukrainian guests. It was a real pleasure to show everyone all of our river craft, the new water bikes were a big hit and the younger family members were able to take a trip out on our skippered electric boats.”
The evening saw over 50 people take a boat of some kind on the river, over 80 guests shared the BBQ and drinks organised by Bisham Abbey on the lawn.
Local boy Walter, was delighted to be gifted this Boat Rental Thames t shirt, the Ukrainian family who are being hosted by the boys family, insisted he be given it for their kindness!
Located between 1,200 and 3,200 meters above sea level, the Vallée des Belleville with its flower filled meadows rises up to snow-capped peaks, from the authentic village of Saint-Martin-de-Belleville to the lakes of Les Menuires, the green meadows give way to the blue colours of the glaciers and the peaks of Val Thorens.
Discover these three unique and contrasting areas via the free shuttle buses and lifts accessible to all, making trips between each resort extremely easy. Explore the valley by its many trail paths or by a mountain bike – find the secret valleys of Deux Nants and Les Encombres or discover the Belleville traditions.
The new Pointe de la Masse cable car is 3,318m long and covers a height gain of 1,050m at a speed of 7m/s or more than 25km/h. It is one of the longest in the Vallée des Belleville, but also one of the fastest in France and only the second one of its kind in the country. Hikers can go up to the top in less than 8 minutes and enjoy incredible views and hikes. Open from 9th July 2022
New eMTB bike track – ‘Via 3 Vallees’
This new cycling track is 34 km long and is asphalted from Courchevel to Val Thorens, passing by Méribel and Les Menuires. It’s both accessible to families on electric bikes and other riders on normal mountain bikes. It is dedicated to cyclists and stays away from hiking paths. One section is still to be completed, this new track opens for summer 2022 for bikers to experience the ‘Via 3 Vallees’. The whole valley offers 260km of bike tracks, with a new training area at La Croisette, ‘The Ludizone’ in Les Menuires.
Explore Vallee des Encombres
Relatively unknown, the Vallée des Encombres is accessible by mountain bike or on foot solo or with a guide. When leaving Saint-Martin-de-Belleville, head towards the Châtelard hamlet, with its tiny, winding alleys and renovated chalets. Stop at the Gittamelon refuge in the hamlet at 1700m, this family chalet turned refuge is one of the last private refuges in the Alps. A typical mountain hut, it sleeps 18 and belonged to the grand-parents of Marc Jay, the current guardian who has run it along with his wife Anne-Sophie since 1993. The last ascent leads to the summit of the Col des Encombres at 2,325m with 360° views of the Ecrins massif and the high summits of the Vanoise National Park.
Tarentaise Baroque Music Festival at La Bouitte in Saint Martin de Belleville
La Bouitte – a 3 Michelin star Belleville restaurant, hosts the 31st edition of the Tarentaise Baroque Music Festival. The Vallée des Belleville is a hotspot for alpine baroque architecture – with 36 chapels and churches -enjoy a Michelin-starred dinner accompanied by music performed by soprano, Maria Cristina Kiehr, and harpsichordist Jean-Marc Aymes from Concerto Soave. Chefs René and Maxime Meilleur have a great rapport with the musicians who will taste each dish a few minutes before the guests, and then play music which takes into account the emotions that the food evokes. It is a true musical, culinary and wine focused experience.
Glacier hike and the Three Lakes circuit
From the top of the new La Masse lift, after a fast eight minute ascent to 2,804m enjoy a 3hr 30 descent, via the Three Lakes Circuit taking in the Longet Lake, Black Lake and Crintalia Lake. From the heart of the Vallée des Belleville, you are surrounded by majestic alpine peaks that are reflected in roughly 15 mountain lakes spread out in this exceptional area. Enjoy breathtaking scenery in the Lou Valley. Or take a guided day walk above Val Thorens to the Chavière glacier.
Kilbert Silvestre and the Black Honey Bee
Born in the Vallée des Belleville, Kilbert is a mountain guide and ski patrol member in winter and has been a beekeeper in La Biellaz since 2006. His grandparents already had beehives in Saint Marcel when he was just a boy, so the interest came naturally. He has been fighting to protect the black bee in Savoie. It is now threatened by hybridisation waves, a phenomenon that makes bees more fragile and less resistant. He also owns a hundred production beehives in the Vallée des Belleville and participates in a project to breed queens which allows him to give local beekeepers in the valley an isolated strain of black bees. The beehives are kept with respect to the bee’s life, so the honey is harvested with care and sold in shops of the actual producers and in local Vallée des Belleville markets. You can visit his “honey house” in la Biellaz with the Bureau des Guides.
Key Diary Dates:
Every Monday: Solar workshops at the top of the Cime du Caron at 3200m
1-3 July 2022: Ultra Cycling Tour de la Vanoise – Team or solo long distance cycling event
16 July 2022: Craft Beer Festival, Saint Martin de Belleville
28 July 2022: Dinner & Concert at La Bouitte, Saint Martin de Belleville
30 July & 20 August The Tougnete Climb – depart Croisette @1800m to bike to 2304m
5-7 August 2022: Val Tho Summit Games: Trail Running for all ages, Val Thorens
Four fantastic bike and run events kick off Summer 2022 in Val Gardena – with its three main villages – Ortisei (1,236 m), Santa Cristina (1,428 m) and Selva di Val Gardena (1,563 m) in the heart of the Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with over 600km of bike trails.
11th June 2022: Sellaronda Bike Day & the Dolomites Saslong Half Marathon
The Sellaronda Bike day is a celebration of everything cycling as the roads on the Sellaronda will be closed to cars, allowing cyclists to take over.
The whole event boasts 53 km, while a 1,600 m elevation gain awaits those willing to complete the whole distance. Cyclists of all ages and levels will have the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful, free to attend, cycling tour featuring unique views on traffic-free roads, as the Sellaronda and its passes around the Sella Group will be closed to cars. The second date of the summer Sellaronda Bike day is 17th September 2022.
On foot, the Saslong Half Marathon takes place on the same day. For experienced runners this route, stretches from its start point at Monte Pana, extending between 1624 and 2363 m, with 900 m elevation. After reaching the Comici Hut the athletes will run across the City of Rocks to Passo Sella boasting a breathtaking view across the Marmolada. The asphalt-free trail winds its way across an environmentally protected area.
18th June: HERO Südtirol Dolomites
The HERO Südtirol Dolomites in Selva Val Gardena represents one of the hardest mountain bike events for amateurs and professional cyclists. The competition is spectacular and a great opportunity for international professional athletes and ambitious amateur cyclists to come together, allowing them to pursue the same dream: race and conquer one of the two demanding distances. All participants can choose between two distances stretching around the Passo Sella and Sassolungo:
The classic distance comprises 60 km and 3,200 m elevation gain.
The marathon distance boasts 86 km and a total of 4,500 m elevation gain.
Selva Val Gardena represents both the start and the end of the HERO Dolomites. Both the classic and marathon edition will take participants around the Passo Sella at the feet of the legendary skiing carousel, the Sellaronda. The day before the HERO Südtirol Dolomites, children can take part in the “HERO Kids” – starts in Selva Val Gardena and is a great event for younger cycling fans that will put their skills to the test in a friendly ‘competition’ where all that matters is having fun on two wheels.
25th June: NEW Val Gardena Family Bike Day
Part of the “Respect the Dolomites” projects, the first edition of the Val Gardena Family Bike Day will be held on Saturday, 25th June 2022. A day dedicated to cycling, explore Val Gardena in a green and sustainable way on two wheels. The route starts from Ortisei and takes you to Plan, in Selva Val Gardena, cutting across picturesque S. Cristina. The itinerary features different check points and sightseeing highlights, as well as spots where you can refill your water bottle and tank up on energy with a quick snack. Collect stamps at the checkpoints and sightseeing spots – only three required – to receive a small treat at the end of the itinerary.
with “Accueil Velo” – Cyclists Welcome – accreditation
OVO Network, chalet rental specialists in the French Alps, is increasing the number of its chalets that have the Accueil Vélo (cyclists welcome) accreditation.
Aside from skiing, the French Alps are renowned for their amazing cycling routes and events; biking enthusiasts will find no end of adventure for both road cycling and mountain biking, with challenging climbs, great views, and flatter valleys for all abilities.
Tim Andrews, founder of OVO Network comments, “The number of cyclists coming to the Alps continues to grow each year. The chance to cycle some of the famous cols and to follow in the tracks of the Tour de France are a major attraction for road bikers.
“But what these cyclists also want is a comfortable base to return to after a long day in the saddle. That’s where our chalets are proving very popular. Many are well equipped for cyclists, with secure storage, cleaning facilities, bike repair areas and extras such as hot tubs and saunas to help ease tired muscles.”
In response to the growing demand for high end cycling chalets, OVO Network is working with its chalet owners to help more properties gain the Accueil Vélo (cyclists welcome) accreditation. To achieve this, chalets must pass several checks, such as proximity to cycling routes and secure bike storage, which many OVO Network properties already have.
Andrews adds, “Accueil Vélo is aiming to help France become the world’s top destination for cycling tourism by 2030. We want to support this by encouraging our owners to apply for the accreditation. According to YouGov, 1 in 5 UK adults watched the Tour de France in 2021, so we know the demand for accommodation suitable for cyclists is there.”
OVO Network works closely with all its property owners to help them to maximise the potential of their chalets. With a strong demand from cyclists, chalet owners have increased occupancy rates, especially for the low seasons of spring and autumn shoulder seasons when cycling is at its best.
Upcoming cycling events in the French Alps include:
5-12 June: The Criterium du Dauphine [stage 8 passes through Thones & Le Grand Bornand where OVO Network properties are located]
11-12 June: Le Belier NEW Mountain bike event in La Clusaz
10-12 July: Tour de France [stage 9 Chatel, stage 10 Morzine – Megeve where OVO Network properties are located]
The following chalets are ideal for cyclists and/or already offer Accueil Vélo accreditation:
* Chalet Crechoua in La Giettaz – A new five bedroom, five bathroom chalet set in the pretty mountain resort of La Giettaz with easy access to fantastic cycling, including the famed Col des Aravis. The chalet has bike storage, an electric bike charger, a hot tub and a sauna, as well as Cool for Kids Extra facilities such as swings and table tennis. 7-nights rental from €1990.
* ChaletsCaramel & Nougat in Manigod – These two luxury chalets have everything a cyclist could want and have the Accueil Vélo accreditation. Set just off the famed Col de la Croix Fry, which is regularly part of the Tour de France, there’s great cycling on the doorstep. The two chalets share an indoor pool, with both having a hot tub, and Caramel also having a home cinema. 7-nights rental from €3090.
*ChaletsMacaron and Meringue in Le Grand Bornand Chinaillon – Le Grand Bornand is regularly a stage finishing point in the Tour de France, and these two designer chalets have the Accueil Vélo accreditation. Semi-detached, making them a great option if you’re holidaying as a large group, each has its own hot tub, secure bike storage, and easy access to world-class cycling. 7-nights rental from €1690 for Macaron and from €2490 for Meringue.
French Chalet specialist OVO Network launch their summer season with a record number of properties available to rent and rather than preventing growth, state that the pandemic has increased the popularity of both renting and owning chalets.
As the world entered an era in which people wanted to escape to nature, to get in touch with loved ones, or simply to reconnect with themselves, renting a chalet in France has grown in popularity. Plus, now, more than ever, owners of chalets are benefitting from renting out their chalets year-round.
Louis Andrews, Operations Director of OVO Network comments, “This winter season has seen a huge increase in demand – both from the French market and from overseas visitors.
“Fresh air, healthy living and accommodation with private facilities were key requirements at the height of the pandemic – luxurious Alpine chalets tick all of these boxes. As a result, demand for many of our properties was so great, that at certain periods we could have sold them several times over. Also, with our ‘OVO Verified’ status our guests are guaranteed the safety of their money when making chalet bookings with us*.
“Throughout the pandemic we took a bold stance to expand our programme, rather than reduce it. We took on new properties, introduced new destinations such as St Gervais and Chatel and more owners chose to work with us because of our expertise in the chalet rental market. This has paid off, with our chalet owners attracting strong bookings throughout the ski season and going forward into summer and autumn 2022.”
OVO Network has availability throughout the year at nearly 300 chalets across the French Alps, including:
Grand for Groups, Le Grand Bornand
Chalet Happyview in Le Grand Bornand – Enjoy a pool, gym, home cinema and sauna at this lavishly restored 440m2 chalet from which to explore the Aravis mountains; there are also Cool for Kids facilities.** Sleeps up to 23 guests. Stay 7 nights from 12th June for €6390 [£5394/£235pp], €8490 for 20th August 2022.
Offering wonderful views of the beautiful Manigod valley, this spacious chalet offers a jacuzzi, games room, TV lounge and an impressive master suite. Sleeping up to 11 guests, there are also Cool for Kids facilities.**
7-nights rental from 16th July 2022 – €3590/ 7-nights rental from 27th August 2022 – €3290
Rocalillie Lodge has incredible views of Mont Blanc, an outdoor pool and hot tub, a sumptuous cinema room and is set in a large garden just outside St Gervais les Bains. Sleeps up to 14 guests. 7-nights rental from 25th June 2022 – €4290/ 7-nights rental from 27th August 2022 – €4590
Property Owners looking to rent out their own chalets via OVO Network receive a complete marketing, booking and management solution that makes it easy to successfully rent out a chalet. Dedicated to the Alps, OVO Network provides a sophisticated solution that covers everything from high quality photography and tailored marketing to bilingual guest communications and legal requirements. Plus, OVO Network owners can use their property whenever they choose.
**Cool for Kids- OVO Network Cool for Kids chalets offer a range of facilities for families holidaying with children, including black out blinds, bottle warmers, games and toys, plus extras such as Playstations, table tennis and table football.
VoulezVous Stay in Tignes, At Easter? Offers from the resort’s newest hotel & most striking chalets
VoulezVous, Tignes’ newest hotel, has some great offers in place for Easter holidays, with complimentary upgrades thrown in, subject to availability. For example, stay for a week (9-16 April) and pay for just six nights, with rates starting from Euros 391 (approx. £322) per night for two people sharing a double room on a half-board basis. Alternatively, families can book a Junior Suite that sleeps two adults and two kids comfortably paying Euros 571 (approx. £478) per night on a half-board basis.
VoulezVous – Spa swimming pool & Privilege guest room
VoulezVous, which opened in December 2021, is a totally new build property in a great location in Tignes Le Lac, being just 50 metres from the slopes and 200 metres from the lift. In stark contrast to much of the traditional accommodation in the resort, VoulezVous has funky contemporary interiors and styles itself as an entertainment hotel.
There is live music in the Icebreaker bar every Thursday to Saturday, the Il Savoia restaurant combines the best of French and Italian cuisines, and there are two private rooms that can be hired by families or groups for film nights or karaoke sessions. VoulezVous has its own Ski Salon where it’s possible to rent and buy equipment, as well as pick up lift passes, and there is a 600 square metre modern spa, complete with indoor pool and water jets, Jacuzzi, steam room and sauna, as well as a Technogym-equipped workout room, for post ski relaxation.
For those who prefer to stay in their own private accommodation when they ski, there is Carte Blanche, a range of exquisite chalets with striking, imaginative interiors that provide amazing levels of comfort, as well as a full concierge service. The chalets can be rented on a catered (B&B or half-board) or self-catered basis.
Carte Blanche : Chalet Rock ‘n’ Love & Chalet Husky
This Easter, Carte Blanche is offering a 25% discount on various chalets at the Black Diamond Residence, as long as the Excellence package is purchased. Excellence includes a VIP welcome, signature breakfast, afternoon tea “après-ski”, a daily selection of wines, evening meal, the assistance of the guest experience team, daily housekeeping services and a “Clarins” beauty package. Rates start at Euros 1500 (rather than Euros 2000) per night, with the chalets sleeping between 8 (Banksy Chalet) and 19 (Raven Chalet) guests.
VoulezVous and Carte Blanche are two of the core brands belonging to Les Etincelles, a new – and fast expanding – collection of properties, all based in snow-sure locations in the French Alps, that includes hotels, chalets and residences; many are ski in-out and all are within 200 metres of the slopes.
The company currently has properties in Tignes and La Plagne, but Les Etincelles is aiming to have accommodation in another six high-altitude French resorts (namely La Rosière, Les Arcs, Les 2 Alpes, Alpe d’Huez, Val d’Isère and Val Thorens) within the next five years.
Tignes is in the Savoiedepartment of the Rhône-Alpesregion in south-eastern France. Known as a snow-sure ski resort, it has the highest skiable area in Europe, as well as the longest ski season. Along with neighbouring Val d’Isère, it forms the “Espace Killy” ski area; together they create a single skiable area of over 300 kilometres of piste.