Thursday, July 4, 2013

Valley of Wonders...Limone

This appeared in The Robb Report...
                              Honeymoon alert: Limone - Valley of Wonders

Not for nothing is this extraordinary destination in the heart of the Italian Alps known as The Valley of Wonders – they really never cease! The wonders! Today, this incredibly beautiful valley whose history goes back to Roman times, attracts skiing enthusiasts from across the world. With 80 kilometres of slopes and 15 ski lifts, Limone Piedmont is rapidly acquiring a reputation as the premier skiing mountain resort, with beautifully appointed chalets dotting the alpine scenery. What makes this area even more alluring is the ancient history behind the lush valley. The Romans created a trade route through the rugged range, making it possible to reach the slopes of Col di Tenda taking the Via Augustea. In the Middle Ages, it became a key stopover for caravans of traders from Savoy. From the end of the nineteenth century, Limone was recognised as an attractive tourist destination.Years later, with a convenient railway connection to the French Riviera, and the introduction of  Italy’s first ski lift here, Limone Piedmont took its place as a top ski resort that sees international celebs enjoying the perfect slopes.  In fact, so ideal are skiing conditions here that Limone was selected as the perfect venue in the Alpine region to host the Italian Championships. In 2006, Limone also hosted  a competition during the Turin Winter Olympics.
Nestling cosily in the heart of this picturesque region, is a very special chalet called ‘Wonderfall’, which boasts of seven luxury themed suites inspired by the unique design traditions of America’s Wild West ( think Montana, Wyoming….). And here’s where the connection to America kicks in… but ssssh! It’s one of the valley’s best kept secrets. Kate ,  part owner of  Wonderfall Chalet , is the cousin of Princess Grace of Monaco. Kate who is also blond, beautiful and elegant ( it runs in the family!), built Wonderfall Chalet twenty years ago when she fell in love with the area. Today, Kate and her partner Didier, divide their time between Wonderfall and ‘Stars and Bars’ their very popular restaurant near the Monaco harbor. But it is their brainchild, the stunning Four Seasons Wonderfall Chalet, which is their absolute pride and joy. And why not? The beautifully appointed Four Seasons Chalet is spread over 1400 sq meters, and is rented as a whole  unit. Given that skiing has become the new Polo for India’s young and adventurous, a resort like this one makes perfect if pricy sense! It is undoubtedly an inspired and inspiring honeymoon destination, but it also ideal for those in search of a perfect break during a hectic European jaunt. Now that sociable honeymooners often travel in packs and prefer to take their bff’s with them, what better than to book a sprawling chalet that offers just about everything  ( from a resident chef who customizes menus and offers superlative cuisine, to fabulously well appointed themed suites) to make it a memorable, heavy duty bonding holiday – even if skiing and adventure sports are not your main thing.
The best way to get to Wonderfall is by helicopter ( the chalet has its own helipad). Not only is this the most exhilarating 20 minute chopper ride (1500 euros for 5 passengers) you are ever likely to experience, but at 1300 metres above sea level,  and the 360 degree vistas that are nothing short of breath taking, trust me, it is worth the steep price. To your right you can enjoy the most spectacular views of the French Riviera, with the glittering Cote d’Azur  kissing the beaches, and just over the next snow clad peak lies Italy! Sandwiched in between these two contrasting visuals is the jewel like Principality of Monaco. A unique and fascinating combo which makes it possible to start your day lazing by the sun drenched pool in Monte Carlo, then jumping into a HeliAir chopper and heading for some energizing skiing down those amazing slopes with  20 feet of fresh, powdery snow, followed by going for an après-ski  drink around a roaring fire,  enjoying  canapés and an aperitif  while relaxing in the large family lounge at Wonderfall Chalet, and then heading back to the Casino in Monte Carlo to try your luck at the tables. Oh, not to forget a nightcap at the buzzed American Bar at Hotel de Paris next door. If you still have the energy for some more serious partying, there is Buddha Bar down the road, or the world famous  Jimmyz across the Opera House.  This is just for starters!
My own recommendation is to start with a weeks’s stay at Wonderfall Chalet. During summer, when the snows melt, the valley is transformed into a sylvan paradise, with a gurgling waterfall ( Cascate del Piz) that drops down right next to the chalet. There are forest trails to explore and horse riding with expert Alpine guides. Nature walks in and around the chalet attract die hard romantics, who spend hours wandering around the woods that circle Wonderfall Chalet. Since the chalet is less than a two hour drive away from Monte Carlo, it is easy to nip down for an evening on the town and get back for an after dinner cognac at the chalet, which, incidentally, boasts of an exceptional cellar and a well stocked humidor. The resident chef prepares menus of your choice and uses the freshest local produce. At lunch, I  sampled smoked wild boar stuffed with melting cheese , while others at the table heartily tucked into their sirloin steaks! The staff of eight at the chalet work seamlessly to make sure your stay is both enjoyable and comfortable . In case your party includes young children, activities like a kiddie party under Red Indian tepees, are organized for them. While adults can take Yoga lessons, enjoy Spa treatments, or just relax in the outdoor Jacuzzis and sauna near the private pond. Massages come at 70 euros. But Yoga and the Spa are included in the price. Aha – the price. It is indeed pretty hefty. Hold your breath – the rate per night for the chalet is a staggering 10,000 euros (25k for three nights).Benjamin Boutemmy, the ever smiling chalet manager, along with his team, ensure you are never bored! During the salubrious summer months, one can go rafting, cliff climbing and canoeing, apart from taking riding lessons at 30 euros per hour.
The best way to get the most out of the Alpine trip is to include a decadent weekend at the historic Hotel Hermitage in Monte Carlo, either before or after Limone. The Honeymoon Package at L’Hermitage is particularly charming, with lots of lyrical and romantic flourishes thrown in. None of this is modestly priced, of course. A junior suite with a jacuzzi on a terrace that overlooks the Port of Monaco, is the ideal way to break into the laidback Mediterranean lifestyle that defines Monaco. Not only can you enjoy great views of fantastic yachts of the staggeringly rich and the fabulously famous bobbing around in the harbour, but you can do so while sipping  Cristal Roederer champagne and nibbling Laduree macaroons while immersed in the outdoor Jacuzzi. The prices for this indulgence start at 1274 euros a night. Don’t gulp or blink! But think of the romantic potential it offers  love birds celebrating l’amour  in as magical a setting!  The Hermitage Hotel (280 rooms, 26  suites, 24 junior suites) offers free access to the swish Monte Carlo Beach Club and the Thermes Marins Spa (which boasts of the best health food menu ever at the  attached Hirondelle restaurant). Once you are done with lavish beauty treatments at the Salon Bleu, you can soak in the pleasures of a traditional hamam, before heading out for a one hour photo shoot with a professional photographer ( 360 euros for the session with the CD of images).To help you get into the mood for the lovey dovey pictures, buckets of  perfectly chilled bubbly are always on stand by! There’s no better way to feel like a celebrity couple! 

This is the life, honeymooners sigh, as they head to the Casino yet again , for a final fling at breaking the bank! And just in case you have forgotten to pack your tux or evening gown, worry not  –  the best couture houses are but a few paces away. And while you are in the mood to splurge, why not pop in to the Cartier boutique downstairs to take a look at their latest, limited edition ‘Crash’ watch? Unless, of course, neither time nor cash is of any consequence at this stage…in which case, surrender to excess at every level… after all, that’s what honeymoons and holidays are meant for.

7 comments:

Tushar said...

Jhakaas जूते, Jacket and चश्मे..
And post written by?

Ambika said...

WOW!
Honeymooners are sure going to maul the place. Sad! It should be your own private gateaway;

Abhirami Muthu said...

God, after reading your description of each and every aspect of this decadent place, I am ready to sell an arm and a leg just to experience this place for one night. You live a charmed life :) More than that, you look happy as a kid in a toy store.
On a different note, have you considered doing a travel documentary for TLC? I think it would suit you perfectly.

Jogeshwar said...

Nice picture, could you please post some more pictures of Limone complementing your write-up.

Ashok Roy said...

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udbuzz said...

Ms De I think you saw a different movie. So I don't blame you for the scathing review that you wrote for the movie 'Raanjhanaa'' Because the other million people who saw the movie, seemed to have quite liked it.

I will send you tickets to the Hindi movie Raanjhanaa, as you seem to have perceived the movie to be South Indian, considering you thought the name Raanjhanaa was the way the South Indians say Zoya. Wow, racist much? Ignorant much?

I’d assume, since you are a renowned writer and an ‘aware’ person, that you would have known that the movie title, Ranjhanaa is just simply another way of saying Raanjha. (the popular male counterpart of a well-known love story, Heer- Ranjha). There’s always Google ( a well-known search engine, that spews answers to simple questions like – Raanjhana meaning.

One of the funnier moments in the movie had khadi-clad, jhola-totting students from a popular university, discussing their opinions on various social causes over cups of masala chai. Ms, De, I think I saw you amongst them. Were you that lady clad in that designer sari with artfully done hair and sharing your views and opinions on “ why Kundan is a chor”? You should’ve pointed out that it was you, the director would’ve at least rolled your name in the credits.
So for the rest of the million of us who got teary-eyed at Kundans sacrifice, and who liked the movie (of course there were bad moments in the movie -- like the not-one, not-two, but three wrist-slitting incidents) you are saying that we don't have the brains and the intelligence to see the movie for what it is and you are the only one with the required brain power and social consciuousness. Aaah you were just trying to say that you are superior.

Yes, the movie was intense, the political drama could have been edited, the slashing of the wrists is a definite no, but I really don't think that you need to add yourself to the slashers’ list just yet. Relax Mrs. De, and have a masala chai, it’s just a movie. It may have not been your kind of movie, for us mere mortals, it was a love story. Tragic or candy-floss romantic, we Indians love our love stories. And we liked Raajhanaa.

teju said...

@ udbuzz, you were too decent in your comments about this bitch's sleazy opinion of everybody and anybody if they are not in her good books. Looks like she has been offered a free ride to this Italian place and visible clearly that she was paid for her views which ofcourse stinks, like her wrinkled pussy. I will treat anybody and everybody the day she stops writing and its high time she stopped testing our tolerance level