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Napoleon’s Road to Glory

When I woke up this Monday morning, I heard the Mont-Blanc calling me: “come, come close to me, ride on my slopes, breathe my fresh air”. And since I am lucky to be surrounded by a group of crazy and spontaneous friends, all I needed to do was write a few whatsapp messages to plan the week-end ahead. Friday, finally came, and we all left at 6.30pm to head for the road Napoleon.

Because on the road Napoleon, not far from Chamonix, there is a farm called Crêt Napoleon: a unique spot which took me ages to find since I am not a lastminute.com type of person. As I never keep my treasures for myself, allow me to tell you its story, whispered to me by some old pieces of stone and wood.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Ferdinand was one of the first manufacturers of wooden skis, ski sticks and sleds  in the region of Chamonix. He passed on his company to his son Fernand who was so afraid of foreign investors that he refused to sell the patent to other manufacturers, one of which later became the brand Rossignol. However, the know-how, love of wood and authenticity remained within the family. Jean-Claude, now the third generation, in turn, passed down those values to his two children: Fabienne and David.

One day, an opportunity to buy an old abandoned farm came up and Ferdinand’s descendants jumped at it without second thoughts. The work started in 2007, a long battle on the road Napoleon to save the old wooden floor, some wooden boards, a few furniture, as well as the facade of the farm. They also discovered a beam that was dated “1816”, which was the year the original farm was built. But very fast, it became obvious that there wouldn’t be enough wood to renovate the place! But for Fabienne, her husband and her brother David, renovating with some new wood was simply out of the question. So their friend Pierre-Alain, a building craftsman, came to the rescue: he found an old abandoned Swiss chalet ready to be dismantled. Among the pieces that he salvaged was a staircase where each stair was built inside the trunk of a tree, as well as some sculpted beams. David took each piece and magnified them, without changing the core of the design. The rest of the construction was found in secondhand markets such as 19th century old doors as well as a rare table which now became an incredibly long dining table on the first floor. They also decided to furnish the place with another staircase, this time built by their own grand-father Fernand. Finally they found and installed an original Richard Le Droff fireplace from 1970.

It took more than 1’460 days, that is more than 4 years to end this family project: they had to overcome the cold of each winter, the risks of potential frost and many other isolation issues. During the final months, Fabienne decorated the farm (she also took care of every single coating, joints, treatment of the old wood, etc.): in each room she managed to build a bridge between contemporary and traditional design which made the place so harmonious.

Each time I go there, I need to take some very important decisions: jacuzzi, outside heated pool or sauna? All with an amazing view of the Mont-Blanc. The boys in my tribe usually spend a lot of time in front of the home theatre which is located on the ground floor (with a flat TNT and satellite TV but all this is Chinese to me) whereas girls usually simply feel the atmosphere while reading on the first floor (and eventually gossip of course). We all gather together in the open kitchen where one could easily cook for the entire village of Chamonix: it’s so big and so well-equipped. Four rooms in total are available: two suites, one located on the ground floor, the other one on the first floor. The remaining two rooms, each with a shower, are located on the second floor but are totally independent because even though we do love each other, we sometimes just need to have our own space; plus some of us do snore Big time, so we prefer to be really far from each other when we sleep.

On the road Napoleon, there is a farm called Crêt de Chamonix, the spirit of a family of craftsman (and craftswoman) where you can hear the old stones and the old wood whisper to you a true love story.

Route  Napoléon 1126, 74400 Chamonix
Min. stay: 2 nights / Total occupancy: 8 people
Price: starting from 600€/night, depending on the season
More pictures available on our Pinterest gallery

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