Perched up high in the Maurienne Valley of the Savoie Department you'll find a ski station surrounded by picturesque alpine summits - Les Karellis.
Google maps calculates that the trip from Lyon by car takes 2 hours and 12 minutes. We did it in 2 hours and 20 minutes, but then again, I rarely push our aging Renault to the maximum allowed speed limit of 130 kph.
Staying in the Karellis is easy. Visitors can choose from eight different types of accommodation - everything from Bed & Breakfasts with full room and board to individual apartments with fully equipped kitchens (fridge, microwave, coffee maker, electric stove top, kitchen utensils and all the necessary pots and pans).
Though most known for its winter skiing from November to early spring, the Karellis also opens in July and August to welcome families searching for an active, outdoor vacation experience. Kids and parents can all participate in a dizzying number of activities. Here are just a few (photos to follow in another post):
-Trottin'herbe (this is where you can speed down a grassy (beginner ski) slope riding scooters with fat, knobby tires)
-swimming / water aerobics
-mountain biking (rentals available)
-rock climbing (outdoor wall)
-football...um, make that 'soccer'
-accrobranche (a course through the trees that includes climbing up, over and through obstacles, and riding zip lines.)
If sports aren't really your thing, you can participate in wood working, origami, musical instrument making and silk painting workshops.
Many of these activities and workshops are included in the price of your stay. To participate in the others you'll need to buy individual tokens (to ride the ski lift up to 2,500 meters, for example) or buy a one-week pass for a minimal fee.
But it isn't only families in search of clean mountain air and high-altitude fun who come to the Karellis. Musicians come too. By the busload.
Every year the Karellis hosts an acclaimed musical festival called 'Cordes & Pics'. This year the festival ran from July 21st to August 6th and included 17 concerts in auditoriums and churches throughout the region.
The festival also organizes a two-week workshop given by renowned master teachers of violin, cello, flute, piano, guitar and accordian. This year there were over 140 students of all levels from across France and Europe who came to pick, pluck and play.
Whether you come to sun bathe by the pool, ascend high mountain peaks or learn to fold colored paper into fish and frogs, you will, at one time or another during your stay, take advantage of the Karellis 'village life'.
There are shops where you can buy clothes, souvenirs and postcards. There's a postal service, a disco, two restaurants, a pharmacy, a movie theater (tonight they played M. Night Shyamalan's 'The Last Airbender') and a mini-mart aptly named Sherpa.
There are even a couple of open-air bars where you can sit with a cold - or hot - drink, play a game of checkers or chess, or read a good book.
Before your stay is up you will surely be tempted to just sit or lay on the lawn and enjoy the stunning and peacful views of the nearby mountain peaks - arguably one of the most memorable aspects of any stay in the Karellis.