When a man and his accordion turns into one hillarious party!
Imagine the fresh air of the mountains, the sun slowly setting and looking forward to dinner at a hillside chalet restaurant with alpine folk tunes gently accompanying a delicious and very French repas.
This was my vision for the evening ahead as we drove up through the forests of the slopes of Pré La Joux to our booking at La Folie des Neiges. We had seen the advert for an evening with “Mikael and his Accordion” and imagined that he and it would provide a pleasant backdrop for our evening, something fun towards the end of our holiday and perhaps a distraction for our children to allow Mum and Dad to linger a little longer over supper. The poster displayed Mikael in his 'lederhosen' sporting an alpine hat with feather, balancing his instrument as if playing to the nearby cows. All very tranquil.
We had eaten at La Folie des Neiges before over the winter ski season, and knew it to be a welcoming destination, combining a modern interior in a traditional chalet. The restaurant is perched on a lovely spot half way up the mountain, easily accessible by car and from the neighbouring chairlift during the day. With seats on the deck looking back down towards the village it is a very satisfying vantage. However what followed will remain one of the most memorable and entertaining of dinners.
Inside the staff are of course welcoming and, as we arrived at around seven o'clock, we were the first evening guests to arrive. Drinks followed and mountain melodies drifted pleasantly around the restaurant as Mikael quickly provided some atmosphere. We perused the menu and a few other tables became occupied. The dinner offering is not untypical of the area: plenty of meats, salads, traditional cheesy fondues and a steak frites for les enfants (which they love!).
The accordion is a very versatile instrument and we enjoyed the traditional French country songs and dances interspersed with some impressive yodelling. You can feel Mikael's enthusiasm in his performance and his perpetual broad grin. Mikael passed the tables and exchanged a few pleasantries; we amused or confused him with some staccato French. A song ended and beyond our chit chat there was now a gentle hubbub across the tables. We anticipated a pause and perhaps our food.
Not so. Mikael was gesticulating in our direction, his face beaming encouragement... come outside... do we ski? Not expecting such direct instructions and confused by the question in the height of summer, we obeyed. Mikael had assembled a small gaggle of bemused diners and cajoled us towards two sets of planks, each set with five sets of toe straps. "Toes there... and you ski together... left... now right...". Squeals of embarrassment in French and English and hoots of laughter from the bystanders followed as the two impromptu teams shuffled, accelerated and occasionally collapsed as we raced back and forward together on our team 'skis'. Boys versus girls, parents vs children, an extra challenge with some facing backwards - Mikael kept changing the rules and we all fell over again. All very funny. Thanks were exchanged, backs clapped, the fallen lifted off the floor. Back for my steak?
No! More games followed and with an infectiously happy leader who could not join in? Mikael pointed in my direction, "L'Écossais...!". That's me up again then... Somewhere in all this we did eat? It was lovely and we enjoyed a great meal but the fun continued all around us, frequently involving us. We were introduced to an alpine birthday drinking song - everyone downs a glass when the accordionist sings out their month! Couples were tied in knots and challenged to separate without undoing the knot. It's possible but not obvious... By this point several bottles had been flowing merrily. There was the spoon on the string that raced up and down trousers, t-shirts and blouses in a frantic attempt to beat the other team. This is France, not Britain, and there were no inhibitions amongst our mixed company in assisting the spoon's progress!
The party games continued. Blowing up rubber gloves stuck on top of your head. Party songs, the Macarena and yes we were dancing, followed by more accordion and cossack style moves from us led by ever buoyant Mikael, all in the middle of the restaurant floor. It was an unimaginable conflagration of student party, alpine lockdown and traditional French restaurant.
As the dancing continued we tiptoed out with the children who had been having a ball on the sidelines. My cossack moves were colliding with a scrumptious desert. Time to find the car, and with the sober one at the wheel, trundle slowly down the mountain again. Not just a night to remember - this had been a whole new experience!
At Clarian Chalets we aspire to create wonderful family holidays.
We aim to make “fabulous” happen.
Have fun with your family this summer!