The “Chalets Secrets”, an exclusive address in the French Pyrenees – Meanderings through France n° 130
By Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
Whether for summer or winter holidays, the “Chalets Secrets”, is one of these special places that you will only give the address to your very best friends. Otherwise, keep this secret, secret! say Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
Luxury holidays in the heart of a charming ski resort
The “Chalets Secrets” is a small hamlet recently built on a sunny slope of the Pyrenees at about 1600 metres above sea level. Recent but not new! The 15 chalets have been made from ancient mountain barns and chalets, the oldest one dates back to 1613. They have been carried to this small Pyrenean village from several European mountainous countries and turned into luxury accommodations for skiers, hikers or mere tourists expecting both sporting and comfortable holidays. These chalets combine the quality and charm of old materials with an elegant decoration and modern technology.
The hamlet is located in Bolquere, a charming ski resort close to Font Romeu one of the most popular French ski resort in the Pyrenees. Bolquere and Font Romeu share a vast ski area designed to fulfil beginners as well as experienced skiers. From alpine skiing to snowboarding, ski cross, ski-joering or cross-country skiing and from skating to snowshoe walks, everyone finds there many ways to exert oneself. In summertime the hot Catalane sun will be there to remind you that you are in Southern France enjoying its wonderful climate. The area is one of the sunniest ones in France and allows many outdoor activities such as hiking, riding, biking, canyoning, rafting, fishing, golfing, paragliding…
The “Chalets Secrets” can welcome small and large families. There you will enjoy the privacy of your chalet as well as the common sauna, Turkish bath and the Jacuzzi. You can also privatize the big lounge for a tasty diner by the fireside prepared by local caterers. But you can also cook your meals in the fully equipped kitchen of your chalet and, if weather allows, have lunch or diner on the terrace enjoying the stunning view over the Pyrenees. Relax and feel free to let go… http://www.leschalets-secrets.com/
What to see, visit and eat nearby
Villefranche-de-Conflent, an impressive fortified town
Located at the foot of Mount Canigou the highest point of the French Pyrenees at the bottom of the River Tet valley, Villefanche-de-Conflent is one of France most beautiful villages. It was fortified in the 17th century during Louis XIV reign when France and Spain fought to gain control over the area. The stern medieval and Renaissance houses are surrounded by high rampart and walking along the former round path you will get a good view over them.
The one thousand steps stair-way -hidden tunnel dug into the mountain- will take you to Fort Liberia, a stronghold that overlooks the village and used to protect it from Spanish enemies. It’s a true treasure of 17th century military architecture and is now listed on the UNESCO World Heritage.
Evol, a small charming village
It won’t take you long to visit this tiny pedestrian village but it well deserves to do the side trip from the main road that follows the River Tet Valley. The medieval houses toped with typical stone roofs huddle together at the foot of the church surrounded by the peaceful cemetery. In summertime Evol’s inhabitants make a point of decorating their houses with an abundance of flowers and the village is prettier than ever.
Mont Louis, another historic memory
This fortified village was created ex-nihilo by Louis XIV, in the 17th century, in order to prevent Spanish invasion through the Pyrenees. It still is a garrison town and commando squads come to its National Training Centre from all over the country. The rampart has the typical star shape of all the fortresses designed by Vauban, Louis XIV famous military architect. Thanks to an amazing sunshine a huge sun furnace was built there after WW 2. It was the very first of its kind to be built in the world and inspired many others built after it throughout the world. Guided tours are organised all summer long with real demonstration of the big parabolic mirror that can reach a temperature up to 5400 Fahrenheit!
“Lassus”, a typical Catalane restaurant
Located in the same village as the “Chalets Secrets”, Bolquere, this simple but genuine restaurant proposes homemade recipes cooked with local fresh produce. Don’t expect sophisticated decoration or starchy service! Focus on your plate and you won’t be disappointed. As the owners say: if you want French fries don’t come here! The menu often changes according to the chef’s inspiration. Homemade foie gras, duck stew, 2 pounds beef rib for two, rum baba… And many other hearty delicious dishes to devour after a day on the slopes! http://www.restaurant-lassus.fr/en-fr/
More information about the region: http://www.tourisme-pyreneesorientales.com/en
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Text ©Annick Dournes
Photos ©Frederic de Poligny & Annick Dournes