Christmas recap just in time for Valentine’s Day- and it was a White Christmas for the books! We were lucky that our family were generous to return for one last European Christmas, this time in the Four Valleys, at an Airbnb in La Tzoumaz. The valleys (specifcally Vebier) are one of the most famous areas in the Swiss Alps and notable particularly among the poshest British set, including the British Royal Family, and the other British Royal Family, the Beckhams. Regrettably, no celebrities were seen on our trip – just this little star!
You might remember last year we rented an Airbnb close to downtown Chamonix, France for an incredible Christmas in the French Alps, and this year, we decided to keep it French speaking, but to try the Swiss ones. We found a spectacular listing that was a “lift’s ride away to Verbier” – truthfully it was a bit more difficult than that, particularly for our non-skiers. However, in exchange we got a really fantastic house with very attentive owners and the most sensational views.
It’s called “Chalet Skyfall” and they really committed to the theme – James Bond was everywhere (with every actor featured but Roger Moore!) The well-equipped kitchen and spacious living room area were perfect for our large group, and it was great with a baby to sit by the tree warming up by the the fireplace watching Christmas movies, Skyfall, and The Shawshank Redemption – because that last one really captures the holiday spirit.
The bedrooms and bathrooms were all extremely comfortable and modern as well. It differed from Chamonix in that we were very much perched in the mountains, so it wasn’t convenient to go grab a coffee or grab a beer in town. Trade-offs everywhere but we’re glad we got to experience both (and particularly in the order we did things in with little James along for the ride.)
I can’t overstate how jaw-droppingly amazing the views were right from our windows.
Views from our kitchen window!
The only tricky piece – while it was prominently featured in the listing that the hill up to the house was very steep, we figured it was just an over-precaution for liability’s sake and wouldn’t be an issue. However, we were blessed with tons of snow, which meant for tons of ice, and walking up each time (particularly when carrying two weeks worth of groceries and luggage) with a baby and a pregnant SIL (yes, we are over the moon excited that James gets his first cousin this summer!!) was actually quite exhausting and treacherous. So once we were in for the night, we were in!
As a result, we did a lot of cuddling up and cooking in- the ladies in particular were amazing in sharing meals and bringing USA grocery store favorites and chocolate so our table was always full of cookies of all sorts (including stunning gingerbread “people” from my BIL’s sweet mom) and naturally, Toblerone! For those interested, Verbier has a really active apres-ski and nightlife, but that just wasn’t our vibe with our 10 month old a ski lift’s ride away! Verbier is also really light on cheap bars, (affordable) shopping, and traditional t-shirt shops, which is something to keep in mind.
Anytime James did take the chairlift to town, he loved it!
Apart from lots of couch time we did take one adventure – dogsledding! It was a little difficult to get to the jump off-point and our weather wasn’t as clear as we hoped – but we had a really cool experience with this company – who have relocated to Norway, but often spend holidays in Verbier, so it’s worth reaching out if are interested in a peak vacation time! The dogs, aged 1-7, were adorable. While perhaps you might be morally fundamentally opposed to dogsledding, I hear you. However, these sweet dogs were very well taken care of – they lunched on filet mignon after our voyage and got lots of hugs from us and their owner! It was too funny to hear the puppies respond to counting and commands in French – it of course makes sense, but a an American it just never quite occured to me!
It was a true “pinch me” moment as we glided around the mountain – realizing I was dogsledding through the Swiss Alps, something in my wildest dreams I would not have imagined just a few years ago.
We spent Christmas day in our matching Christmas jammies (PS – this is our second year in Old Navy pajamas – so comfy, price is right, and pant lengths come in longs for tall people!) and attempting to take photos on self-timer… (the beautiful sun was so bright we could hardly take photos indoors and James didn’t get the memo to smile!)
and then having champagne and fondue and raclette on the deck and soaking up the sunny skies and snow!
James started the week in the prime of early separation anxiety but soon got used to the arms of his familiar family. He loved the snow, learned to wave, really started cruising on furniture, and couldn’t get enough of the endless flowing of attention! Our families could not have been more giving to us as always – James was fully showered in adorable outfits (including his first jean jacket!), interactive games and toys (including his dad’s first ever Christmas train set from his amazing grandparents that you can see here!) and the sweetest books. We also did a Secret Santa for the adults this year using Elfster to virtually “pull names out of hats” and we had the perfect combination of pithy and sweet gifts – including socks with James’ face for B.
As our family started to filter out, my oldest LYLAS galpal (seriously, we were friends when people said LYLAS seriously and meant it) and her sweet husband and adorable little girl M came to stay and ski. From the time we were seven until we started holiday sharing with our husband’s families, each and every Christmas she and I would rush to each other’s houses to recap our cookie bakes, family time, and generous haul from our brilliant Santa/parents. It made my heart sing to see our little ones soaking up the Christmas spirit together, however wordlessly it might be! We are so appreciative that they made the long trip with M.
We also got them these personalized books being forever advertised on my Facebook and Instagram and can give them a rave review! I also caved and got James a “Christmas Eve box” in the haul I mentioned in my last post. In many European countries, Christmas Eve is the biggest part of the celebration (it was for our family growing up, too!) where you often receive a box with a new Christmas book, pajamas, and hot cocoa. I couldn’t resist getting James his own box. My sister also got him a book with her voice recording since she doesn’t get to read him too many bedtime stories from New York City!
With the help of grandparents, I got three ski days in, though I was more tentative than I hoped after a year off! Our best day was December 26th – tons of fresh powder that hadn’t been skied over yet, sunny skies, stunning peaks and not too crowded slopes (as the week went on, it got a bit skied off and the skiers piled in!) Absolutely the best conditions of my life and I’ll never forget that time with my sister – it’s been over a decade since we learnt to ski together and it is such a special memory I’ll forever treasure.
The rest of the week got a bit more crowded and skied off, but the views were still gorgeous and it was wonderful to have time to ski with B and some friends from Geneva! Verbier is a premier ski resort and it showed …
on sunny and foggy days!
Indulge me one B&N centered photoshoot.
I would be remiss not to mention the food scene – Verbier is not lacking in good mountain fuel (the singer James Blunt – remember “Beautiful” – has a restaurant here.) We had our best “on the slopes” meal at La Marmotte (and I strongly recommend Chez Dany where we went last year on our last pre-James trip!) and B gives an A+ to the chicken nuggets at Ice Cube – which has amazing views. It was wild to ski near Chez Dany and remember I WALKED up the slope 9 months pregnant with James, and that day, I was out skiing and he was nearly 10 months old cruising around the chalet. James is in a sweater made for him by my talented mom!
It was such a memorable way to spend James’ first Christmas altogether with family. As we reflect about now officially leaving Switzerland this spring, it is not lost on us at all that our families and friends sacrificed lots of savings and vacation days to ensure we were never lonely here, and that they were by our sides to celebrate some of our most meaningful days. It will be equally wonderful to usher in the season next year with them back in his “home country” for good. Suffice to say, we won’t ever forget all their efforts, nor James’ first very glamorous holiday season! To mark the occasion, we also had a photographer come to take some family photos! I was really hoping for one really great photo of B, James and I under the tree with all smiling – but as most parents can attest to, it’s truly impossible for everyone to look good at the same time.
While it’s a poor complaint – the weather was also way too sunny outside that we were all pretty squinty! In retrospect, I would’ve pushed back and advocated for us all to keep sunglasses on for the deck photos.
However, we got some really sweet pictures, and the well-deserving grandparents got the best shots!
With his aunts and uncle too! I know I can’t really be objective but we seriously have such attractive families.
In order to have wonderful holidays like this means you have to spend the rest of the year earning them 🙂 so B has been in his most hectic time of year, and as a result we have been in Geneva since New Year! But, it’s wrapping up and bizarrely enough, we will be celebrating James’ first birthday very soon! We have decided he will need to see the Matterhorn before his time in Switzerland comes to a wrap, so we will be ushering in his next year in Zermatt. From there, we are still deciding what else to see before we leave. Unfortunately, so many of my dream vacations in are best for summer. So if you have suggestions of anything else to see in Europe that’s best for March and April – please shout! At present we have decided to see as much Switzerland as possible.