In 25 years I’ve never been bored.” How many of us can say that? But that’s what Paul Eyre commented to his wife Francesca just a couple of days before I visited them at their lovely chalet hotel, Au Coin du Feu, in the ski resort of Morzine.
Like Living France, the couple are celebrating their own anniversary – a quarter of a century living and working in the Alps. Yet when Francesca arrived in the small mountain town she had no intention of moving there full-time. Enjoying a working break from her catering business in London, she met and fell in love with Paul, who was spending a winter season in the ski town.
Within a year they’d decided to combine their talents – she as a chef, he as a quantity surveyor – to run a catered chalet. At first, they rented a chalet and spent a few years growing the Chilly Powder business, before taking the plunge and building their own chalet right by the ski lift to Avoriaz. Paul designed the building and visited every day – being a quantity surveyor came in handy, especially when he totted up every last brick and tile and discovered they’d been overcharged £40,000!
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Running a chalet business in the Alps has enabled Francesca to pursue her love of the outdoors, and to give her children the freedom to roam. “I couldn’t live without being outdoors now, I could never live in the city,” she says. “The seasons are so dramatically different here. In winter it’s white and cold; in spring all the flowers come up, it’s stunning; in summer you have the heat… and there are all the different sports, from skiing in winter to running in summer. It’s very varied.”
While Francesca was active as a child, living in the mountains has really allowed her to embrace the sport, including ski, touring and cycling. Being so busy with the chalet though has meant she doesn’t get out on the slopes as much as she’d like. “Paul doesn’t even have a ski pass anymore,” she says wistfully.
Luckily, the mountains have come to mean much more to them than just skiing. In particular, it’s been a great place to bring up their three children, Ben, now 21, Eloise, 16 and Jamie, 14, who are completely bilingual. They have all excelled in sports, which Francesca doesn’t think would have been possible if they’d lived in a city. Eloise has won medals as a downhill slalom skier, and both the boys play ice hockey.
“The thing we love most about living here is the quality of life for our children, the freedom they’ve had,” says Francesca. “It’s very safe. If they had any problems, on the mountain they know most of the pisteurs, in Morzine they could go into a shop and borrow a phone to get through to me, or catch a lift with someone if I forgot to pick them up! It’s been fantastic.”
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