If you watch the YouTube video below and you’ve seen any of James’s other vlogs, you’d be forgiven for thinking he’d had 10 too many on an après session the night before – he seems haggard!
However, James doesn’t drink and the ‘three days cooped up because of Storm Eleanor’ wasn’t the entire story either. We were broken.
Roll back to January 2018.
We are both waterproof types and we were desperate to get skiing. We had two days worth of ski passes booked and yes, the weather was stinking – but snowmads don’t care about that kind of stuff. We were however well and truly trapped. To find out why, read on.
In this blog you’re going to learn a little about Le Grand Bornand and a little about what can happen to a van that’s far from designed to motorhome ski.
Madder about cows than Milton Keynes, let’s start with the fabulous commune of Le Grand Bornand. It doesn’t matter what type of motorhome or campervan you’re in, or whether you seek the off-grid freedom of a facilities-free aire, or the relative comfort and energy security of a campsite – there’s something to suit everyone at Le Grand Bornand.
This place is a cheese lovers haven – in fact the whole area is steeped in a cheesy artisanal history that is literally making me salivate as I type. We had by far the best Raclette we have ever had and as we now consider ourselves experts in the field of alpine cheesy dinners, this is a heavy statement. Hotel Restaurant Les Glaïeuls is the joint if you’re interested – make damn sure you’ve got an empty belly before you go because you’re going to want every nook and bodily cranny vacant to fill with cheese and delicious other things when you dine out here. Alternatively, you can follow the Google Maps directions from the aire which will send you on a 15km uphill detour; result in a hanger-induced row; and you will have burned so many calories that by the time you discover you walked straight past the door 5 minutes from the aire, you’ll actually be entitled to order twice. Fact.
Also worth noting that the very traditional Maître’D will think nothing of you tripping through the door in motorhome chic – knee-high Sorel boots (Get these you have to have them); salopettes; thigh-length jacket; and rosy cheeks that clearly didn’t park outside and stroll in after a dip in the chalet hot tub.
What else can we say about the town. Authentic. Traditional, but not kitsch and the kind of place where you pause more than a second as you walk past the estate agent window… you know the kind of place where you think…. “I wonder if…”
Well we don’t know how the skiing is at Le Grand Bornand – perhaps someone who does know can comment below! There are lots of XC skiers around and loads to do besides alpine skiing – skating, tobogganing and a tonne of walking with or without snowshoes. We have severely let ourselves down when it comes to Le Grand Bornand and it’s first on our repeat list for next season. Although read on and you might cut us some slack!
What we do know about Le Grand Bornand:
The aire as you’ll see in the video below, is basic. There’s a fancy public toilet a minute down the road so you can ablute there and save your cassette and water but otherwise nothing worth noting – let’s call this urban wild camping. Details in the video.
The really good thing about Le Grand Bornand as a place for motorhome skiing is that
a) it’s incredibly easy to get to with no switch backs to negotiate and
b) there’s a back-plan if you discover you’re not cut out for wild camping in a hurricane.
Campsite l’Escale is the perfect place to recuperate – as we, and Viv and Jason of DaysAway both found out together as we sheltered from the storm and nursed sick vehicles. What’s more, there are some interesting RVs on site which will make you appreciate your own 21st century creature comforts!
Before regaling you with our ‘s4i!t-list’, we’ll start with the ‘every cloud list’.
🐮 We met Viv and Jason – awesome, fascinating people who helped us to put on our big boy pants and soldier on
🐮 We hung out at the best tourist office with awesome people who are so passionate about their area, it was really fun. They also pulled out all the stops to get us out of our fix
🐮 BEST RACLETTE EVER
Now that’s out of the way, here’s the list of s4!tty things that happened to us in Le Grand Bornand:
😡 Storm Eleanor battered us into submission – this was the second (but by no means the last) time we had serious conversations about whether we could continue with our season long adventure, just a few weeks in.
😡 Sleep deprivation – 4 nights of what is usually the pitter patter of rain on the roof just morphed into Chinese water torture because…
😡 We were stuck in all day, every day for our entire stay until we gave in and moved to L’Escale.
Why you ask? Well something that on the face of it is an innocuous and fairly trivial matter became extremely debilitating and threatened to royally mess up our trip.
Imprisoned by a door that won’t lock. Ironic.
The handle of the habitation door broke. The entire mechanism failed in several places – and having fitted the replacement ourselves, we can safely duduce this can only be attributed to the poor standard of materials used.
So rather than whinging about this issue and why it happened on a brand new motorhome, we thought we’d just fill you in on the consequences because they rather took us by surprise and there are lessons to be learned.
YOU CANNOT LEAVE YOUR VAN. Not and remain insured both for the vehicle and its contents – that’s everything from your iPad to your pants!
What this meant was that James and I could not leave the van together – not even in a petrol station.
Imagine the scene. You’re in the middle of an internationally news worthy storm; you’re fast approaching a national French holiday; you’re waiting for a replacement part which may or may not come sometime this year (no tracking number available); this is very definitely not the first crappy thing that’s happened to you in this so-called ‘epic adventure’; and critically, this is the exact point at which you realise you’ve grossly underestimated your Nandos Sauce and Salad Cream consumption for the 5 months you’re away.
Essentially, we became prisoners at a point in life where we should have felt ultimate freedom.
I’m not going to lie. It nearly broke us.
Thank god for the distraction of some other poor sods having a row with their van. Viv and Jason had some battery issues that had caused their immobiliser to get stuck on so we all decided to settle into ours with a box of wine and a good old fashioned rant about the world! Hilarious times had by all!
Thankfully Storm Eleanor passed, our door handle unit arrived (8 days later), Viv and Jason manged to disconnect their immobiliser, and nobody lost their minds entirely. It was however a close call.
What we learned
- You need 19 litres of Nandos Sauce more than you imagine if you’re going to France (Don’t mess about – you can get 1L bottles here on Amazon for SIGNIFICANTLY less than you can pick them up in the supermarket)
- If we’d taken enough gaffa tape and super glue, we might have been able to seal the chuffing thing up and forget about it
- Sometimes, a catered chalet with a hot tub can seem really quite appealing
- The build quality of a great many coach built motorhomes is poor at best – this is not news to anyone who has owned one at the entry level of the market
- There’s no such thing as too much cheese