To give you fair warning, I’m going to break the review of this event into 3 parts, just to
tantalise you give you a good all round look at the retreat. For this part, I’m going to look at the location, venue and overall setup, then later this week I’ll look at the sewing, including the class I taught, and finally the things I learned from my fellow retreaters (well I was there to learn too!)
I think I can safely say Elita has one of the most stunning locations you could imagine for a retreat. Nestling at just over 3,250 ft in the heart of the French Alps, Montriond is a snow sports paradise in the winter, and a walking and cycling haven in the summer. During the spring and autumn though, it is invaded only by a bunch of quilters taking advantage of the huge Chalet Ste Marie, a picture perfect wooden chalet near the centre of the village. The whole thing might make you think you had inadvertently stumbled into a scene from Heidi, and I half expected to see Julie Andrews skipping over one of the mountain tops, a string of dirndl clad children in tow. Anyway, mixing my mountainous countries apart, it really was beautiful. Here’s a view from the balcony outside the main sewing room (or the salon at the owners might otherwise refer to it!) A little someone had to photobomb…
And then he found a new friend further down the balcony:
As mentioned above, the Chalet Ste Marie is on the larger side, sleeping up to 24 guests, although we agreed that about half of that was probably the optimum number of quilters you’d want, in order to avoid sewing over the top of each other! The bedrooms are a mixture of singles, twins and doubles across 2 floors, some en suite, and some with a bathroom across the hall. I felt slightly guilty each night for climbing into this bed and disturbing the nicely made up bed that the ladies who run the place arranged every day! Each guest is provided with a bar of locally handmade soap along with their towels, and at the end we were lucky enough to be offered some leftover bars of lavender soap that the owner wanted to use up.
The chalet is fully catered, with breakfasts of yoghurt and fruit, croissants, pain au chocolat, and bread/toast and jam. Lunch was a buffet of salads, local meats, cheeses and pates, with a welcome addition of soup on the chillier Saturday, while cake was served for a snack mid-afternoon. Dinner was a full four-course meal each evening, all deliciously prepared to cater for a variety of diet requirements. Tea and coffee was always available, along with water and soft drinks, with wine being brought out to the dinner table. I think I might have been waddling more than usual on the way home…
And, just in case we starved, Chris made us some lavender cupcakes, and Nancy brought half the US output of M&Ms:
Charlotte, the owner, and Sarah, the manager/chef, took those of us that needed it to/from the airport, gave those that fancied it a lift up to the local lake for a walk or photos, and pretty much catered to our every whim. Full credit to them for not eye-rolling at the state of the thread-laden rugs at the end of the weekend!
For the sewing, half the salon had been sacrificed to the sewing tables that Elita had brought up for everyone to use as work tables, while the other half sported the two long dining tables, one being used as a prep/teaching/cutting station and the other for the actual dining. In an adjacent small room (normally the TV room) the TV had been hidden and the sofas pushed back to allow for another couple of cutting tables and pressing tables. The front room sported a collection of sofas that we lounged on during our break times, usually while attached to some kind of electronic device hooked up to the in house wifi, and intermittently it was set up as a nail salon!
Optional massages took place in one of the attic rooms, and the hot tub was open to all each evening on the lower deck. If you want a weekend of sewing and pampering, this is definitely the place for you! The next retreat is next April, contact Elita for further details.