This second and final review will cover Club Med People met and observed during our stay and then compare this club to other winter clubs and the other Club Med we stayed at last summer.
Club Med People
As one might expect given the high entry price, the folks one meets at Club Med tend to be well-off – not the sorts of folks that you run into everyday. Or at least not the sort that I run into everyday. So here’s a quick rundown:
- First off, there was Bertrand and his wife and three kids (the three kids theme was like a trend. Loads of families with three kids. A bit unnerving for someone that isn’t really planning on going beyond two…). We shared a dinner table and thence a conversation where I learned that it was his…13th (!!) time to Villars. In fact, he and his wife always went at New Year’s to the Club in Agadir and then in February to Villars. When I inquired as to his occupation: finance in The City. As Thom Yorke would say, “No surprises”. And it was thanks to Bertrand that the next person was there…
- Vincent Perez, a famous Swiss/Spanish actor and director with his beautiful Senegalese wife and an indeterminate number of kids. He was in fact vacationing with two other families so it was hard to keep the “who is whose” straight. This was his third Villars season. Apparently a friend of Bertrand’s wife in common with Vincent’s wife sold them on the Villars vacation idea and so here he was, for a third time. I spoke to him on three occasions. Really a nice guy and almost as baffled by the French as I am. Oh, in case you were wondering (as I was), NONE of the Facebook pages claiming to be his are real. He is NOT on Facebook although he admitted it might be a good idea someday…
- There was also a certain Dan who is a General Director at Microsoft responsible for the Rivio integration and having thus temporarily moved from Seattle to Denmark (where Rivio was based) for a three-year assignment. He was there with his wife and three kids (like I said, it was like a theme or something)
- Rounding out the folks we actually talked too, there was a nice family from near my wife’s parents house in Vésinet that also had three kids. The guy was really funny – I regret that our paths hadn’t crossed earlier in the week. They were accompanied by a quiet guy and his daughter. In speaking with him, I learned that he was an ex-physicist-turned-trader living in Paris in the fashionable 7th. At least I found one person (albeit just at the very tail end of my trip) with whom I could talk about G.E.B. and Einstein which I am still reading and just finished respectively.
- As for folks observed, there was an Algerian woman with three kids (one of which was a baby) that struggled with them all week alone until her sort of stoned-looking husband showed up late on Friday.
- There was also a Tunisian family with three kids of which the chain-smoking father looked like he belonged to the deposed Ben Ali clan or something. Apparently not according to a Tunisian G.O. whom I spoke to.
- There was another curious couple where the guy was in his late 50s, his companion (wife???) was in her mid-30’s and they had a 4-month old baby with them. He gave me this guilt-ridden comment once at breakfast that they could never conceive of vacation without the kid (this when I mentioned that we had left my daughter with her grandparents). I did run into them when we got off the train. The guy said something like “Shut up and just walk straight forward to the Novotel over there. There is a room in our name. Just go there with the kid and wait for me.” Strange, strange, strange.
- There were lots of Russians as well as a mixed French granny / Chinese step-grandpa with two kids in tow. I noticed them because of the collection of dead animal vests and jackets that the lady kept changing into each day. She probably traveled with three or four different ones.
- There was this other rich middle-aged blond lady that had this seemingly outrageously expensive ski suit – all black with gold zippers and a fur-lined removable bonnet. Holy smokes!
- Other than the aforementioned Dan, there were a smattering of other Americans there but I never really found the moment to talk to them.
Overall Review of Villars-sur-Ollons
I have to say that Villars was excessively expensive. I even kind of ripped myself off by not being vigilant enough in my reservation and overpaid for my ski equipment. That being said, the food was very good and sometimes even excellent. The service was very good as well. The Chef de Village, Barbara, said in response to my question that the thing that gave Villars its fourth trident (over the three tridents at previously reviewed Club Med Kamarina) was the food (here I agreed) and the free Nespresso machines (here I disagreed because I am not really a fan of Nespresso and preferred the real Italian expresso machines at Kamarina). Would I go back? I think I’d consider it if I could get the price down by not taking their TGV reservation and bringing my own rented (or purchased) ski crapola from Paris rather than paying their usurious rental prices. The fact that the Mini Club for my kids’ ski lessons was literally outside the door of the hotel, the hammam, sauna and outdoor heated pool and the great food probably won we over. The skiing conditions were terrible but that was just my bad luck I think.
Comparing Villars to Kamarina: Club Med to Club Med, I’d say that they were about equivalent except for the food for which Villars was far better. Plus, there was the hamman and sauna (although in 42C weather in Sicily in August, I probably wouldn’t have really used them much!)
Comparing Villars to Vacanciel Val Cenis or Courchevel: Villars is easily 2x more expensive than the mid-range Vacanciel chain. We did not appreciate the Val Cenis location (and it has since closed I believe) but we did really like the Courchevel one. As for comparing it to Villars, to get to the slopes at Courchevel, it was a five minute ski downhill to the lift. In Villars, it was a 20-minute train ride every 30 minutes. Advantage Courchevel. The Club for kids at Vacanciel did not directly offer ski lessons so the kids would have to go all the way down to the station. Advantage Villars. The food at Villars beats Courchevel hands-down. The building itself of Courchevel was a nice chalet kind of atmosphere compared to the grandiose palace of Villars. Lets call that one a wash. I think with young kids, if I can still afford it next year, I’ll stick with Villars or perhaps the new Club at Valmorel that will open this year. Later though when the kids are more independent, I’ll probably change my tune. Not sure that I will break the Bertrand record of 13….