It’s that time of year – 🎄 the Christmas trees and lights are going up in the centre of towns and villages, and we are beginning to think of 🎁 gifts for family and friends!
This year, of course, is very particular. We won’t have the joy of wandering through 🥨 Christmas markets (which is normally a highlight for MBFF!), many of ✨ the end of year events have been cancelled . . . And there are still many questions: will we still be in confinement in December? Will we get to spend the holidays en famille? When will (or even will) ⛷ the ski resorts open?
There is much uncertainty, but we are all trying to make the most of a very strange time.
Here, chez MBFF, we are thinking about writing our 🎅✉️ letters to Santa very soon. And getting 🎁 presents bought, as our local shops are needing more time to get organised.
And I am thinking about how to support local businesses as best as possible at this difficult time! And hence, I have put together this article for you with 🎁 some suggestions about where to source your Christmas gifts locally! (note: I’m really sorry if you are a local artisan or shop, and I have left you off the list; I don’t know you all!). Will our local shops re-open later in December? We can’t be sure, but most shops have adapated to the current confinement, and have sorted themselves out with an online buying system, where you can ” click and collect “. Please think of them before the big online platforms!
[ 🎁 ⇒ see also the FB page Chamonix Local Gift Guide, which has put together a fabulous list of local artisans of the Chamonix Valley – bravo! ]
Letters to Santa
I have designed 🎅✉️ a letter template for writing to Santa, using the fabulous Canva. If you would like a copy of the pdf print version, please let me know, and I shall send it to you (French or English). Please email me on: email@example.com;
So, your ✉️ letters are written, but where to send them to 🎅 Santa? I know of TWO locations 🗻 au Pays du Mont-Blanc; please let me know if you are aware of others!
- La Jardinerie de Taconnaz (Taconnaz, Chamonix Valley) – see FB page;
- La Place Charles-Albert (Sallanches) – amid the Christmas decorations, you will find a small wooden hut and yellow post-box!
A couple of years ago, MBFF went and 🌲 cut down our own Christmas tree at La Maison Pugin in Reignier. The experience was so lovely, and it felt good knowing that our tree came from 🌲 a local Christmas tree farm! We also went on a Sunday when there were lots of other activities organised: 🧁 cupcake decorating, 🍷 mulled wine . . .
This year, 🌲 Maison Pugin has adapted to the strange times, and you can choose and buy a tree online, and they will deliver the tree to your front door!
[ ⇒ to read more about la Maison Pugin, and MBFF’s experience cutting down a tree, see article here ]
Remember, also, your local garden centres 🗻 au Pays du Mont-Blanc, like the 🎄 Jardinerie de Taconnaz, with its Christmas market post-box, and 🌰 roasted chestnuts at the entrance!
Christmas and 🧸 toys mostly go hand-in-hand for our children! But where to buy locally during these strange times? Many of our toy shops have set up a “click and collect” system for this upcoming holiday season. There is the bigger 🧩 Joué Club in Sallanches (see FB page here), but there are also some lovely smaller shops:
🧸 Sallanches – there are a couple of lovely toyshops in Sallanches, and here at MBFF we use them both regularly (even when not in confinement days! 🎲 Terre de Jeux (FB page) is superb for board games, Pokémon (and other) cards and 🤹♀️ juggling items (you may have also seen them with their games at family festivals), and Age Tendre et Jouets en Bois (behind Monoprix; website) has lovely wooden toys and creative activities. These two shops have launched together a « service de drive ».
Another option for ordering board games and puzzles is 🎲 Oika Oika. Have you heard of this organisation? People choose to be representatives, and they then host games nights to introduce the games. We went to one last year, and had a lot of fun (obviously, the games nights are not happening right now, but you can still order through a representative; our local one is here);
Books & Stationery
Ahh, 📚 books – what superb presents! Everyone in my family receives at least 📚 one book at Christmas! Thankfully, there are ways to avoid ordering from that giant online company that I shall not name (which I used to use liberally in my less reflective life!).
📚 Chamonix – you’ll find the 📚 Librairie Papeterie Jean Landru and 📚 La Maison de la Presse. You’ll also find stationery and toys here:
[ good to know: Instagramer Cham Addict has been talking to the different Chamonix restaurants, shops and designers this week . . . and poster designer Encrages was interviewed, as the artist’s work is currently being showcased at 📚 Librairie Papeterie Jean Landru. Beautiful work, isn’t it? ]
📚 Sallanches – there are two bookshops here, open to order and collect (and also selling beautful stationery and toys): 📚 Librairie les Carnets d’Albert (on the main square and so friendly! FB page here) & 📚 Livres en Tête (FB page here);
Papeterie Abac – if you are looking to buy ✏️🖊🖍 stationery and creative items, then Papeterie Abac in Sallanches is superb. You can currently order items via the website;
📚 Megève – here you’ll find Scarlett (FB page here);
Home déco & artisan goods
There are so many fabulous 🎨 designers and artists here 🗻 au Pays du Mont-Blanc, and here are a few suggestions. (I don’t know you all, so I’m sorry if you’re not on this list!). There are also some lovely shops selling locally-produced works.
🎨 Studio Rusc is an incredible co-working workshop for artists, located in Cham Sud. Normally, you’ll see potters, sculptors, life drawers and jewellery-makers at work if you pass the window, and you can also buy locally-prodcuced work. In non-confinement, the studio offers workshops too. I’m not sure what their set-up is at the moment for buying goods, but please get in touch with them directly / website;
Rêves d’Hiver – is a lovely concept shop selling all sorts of home decoration goodies. When I lived in Chamonix, I bought many a present here! / FB page;
David en Alpage – is a local designer, who is inspired by the mountains to create cushion covers, lampshades and small bags / FB page;
Without the annual local 🎄 Christmas markets this year, our local artisans will find it really hard to sell and show their work to the public. Please think to get in touch with them directly.
There will also be some 🎄 virtual Christmas markets . . .
🎄 Mon Petit Chamonix virtual market – see here;
🎄 Marché de Noël virtuel de la Haute Arve – see here;
🎄 Marché de Noël à la Ferme in Megève – this local market had its début last Christmas . . . I didn’t make it on the day, but I’m told it was magical! This year, there is a virtual market planned! / FB page;
Baby & Children’s Clothing and microfibre ski pistes maps
There are severtal talented (and local) baby and children’s clothes designers . . . here are a few that I am aware of:
Attire d’Ailes (Passy) – artisan goods, including kids’ headbands, snoods, and more / FB page;
Passpoils & Cie (Sallanches) – FB page;
papayéou (Annecy) – I recently discovered the rather wonderful papayéou (based in Annecy), which makes gorgeous blankets and cushions for babies, the designs inspired by the surrounding moutains / FB page and website;
Artisan soap & toilettries
Here 🗻 au Pays du Mont-Blanc, we have some local handmade soap producers, who are creating absolutely beautiful products. Here is a selection:
Mont-Cocon Chamonix (Chamonix) – this soap-maker (with a superb name!) has appeared recently, and taken Chamonix by storm with her beautiful soaps: ” Mont-Cocon Chamonix est une boutique de cosmétiques écologiques, faits main et zéro déchet. Tous les bienfaits nécessaires pour notre corps sont dans notre environnement. Nos produits sont entièrement naturels, bon pour vous et pour la terre. ” / FB page and website Christmas gift page;
Savonnerie la Cordée (Chamonix) – this soap-maker is also producing beautiful handmade soaps, some on a cord, for easy drying! / FB page;
There are some fabulous 💍 jewellery-makers au Pays du Mont-Blanc, many of them combining 💎 local crystals into their work, and inspired by our majestic peaks!
💎 Galerie Café des Aiguilles – at this café-gallery, you’ll also find jewellery for sale (for example, Michelle Webster Jewelry; who creates beatiful jewellery, inspired by the mountains and nature) / contact the café directly to see how it is functioning during confinement! / FB page;
💎 Bijouterie Claret – another location recommended by Cham Addict, this Horloger-Bijoutier has been running since 1888, across 5 generations! They design and created their own work as well as being a shopfront for other commerçants / FB page;
💎 The Lost Crystals – this designer collects Chamonix Valley crystals and makes them into beautiful sterling silver jewellery / FB page;
Kørus Creation (Domancy) – a friend of mine launched her own jewellery business a couple of years ago, after spending several years working at local jewellery shops. I always knew she had talent, but this has developped even more greatly since she has begun to take private orders! / it’s probably a bit late now to have something made in time for Christmas, but she has plenty of items in stock, and for kids too! / FB page;
When Sylvie was just starting out, she showed me some of her early work . . . I fell in love with this tiger (I am the Chinese Calendar’s Year of the Tiger!), and suggested she get in touch with my husband around the time of my birthday . . .
There are some 🎨 great designers upcycling in the Arve Valley (ie using used or discarded material and items to make brand new products).
👛 Le Repère des z’héros (Sallanches) – you’ll find some of these goods at this super shop (sans emballage!), as well as a great selection of drinks bottles! / FB page;
👛 Redeem Equipment (Passy) – is the place to go for outdoor and climbing accessories: chalk bags, belts, purses . . . / ” Notre objectif est de réduire notre impact environnemental, créer des objets beaux et écolos afin d’encourager les gens vers un style de vie qui respecte notre planète. Nos créations sont issues de déchets textiles industriels et des particuliers. ” / FB page and website;
Desserts, Chocolates & Coffee Beans
Another idea for a gift is to offer 🍫 a chocolate advent calendar, a box of chocolates, macaroons or perhaps a Bûche de Noël? If a patisserie or chocolate shop also functions as a boulangerie, then is authorised to open at the moment. Other shops have developed a drive-by approach, where you order and then pick up. Here are some ideas:
🍫 La Chocolaterie Ancey / Aux Nougats du Mont-Blanc – is a veritable institution in Chamonix! Known originally as the « Maison de Nougat » back in 1821, it was taken over by the Ancey family in 1892. Philippe Ancey still welcomes you into his little shop world of: chocolats, nougats, macaroons, candied fruit, honey and jams . . . / FB page / address: 60 rue Joseph Vallot, 74400 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc / tel: 04 50 53 09 79;
🍫 Qosmic Chocolate (Chamonix) – ” Bean to bar chocolate maker based in Chamonix. Using ethically sourced, single origin cocoa to make simple and delicious bars of chocolate. ” / FB page;
☕️ Moody Coffee Roasters (Chamonix) – as well as being a cute coffee-shop with delicious cinnamon rolls and other sweet treats, Moody also sells coffee beans! / FB page and website;
Sallanches & Passy
🍰 Zanin – is another institution locally, selling cakes, chocolates and macaroons / there is a branch in Le Fayet and a newer one in Sallanches / you can order and pick up at the moment / FB page;
🧁 Lydie’s Cake – Lydie makes custom-made cakes, as well as cupcakes and chocolate / FB page;
Along the quais in Sallanches, you also have two chocolate and cake shops:
🍫 Les Gourmandises de Manon – this shop in Passy specialises in artisan chocolates / FB page;
For cakes (and chocolate) you have: Aux Petits Gourmands and Sérac Gourmet (FB page) famous for its Merveilleux dessert, and rightly so! (FB page)
In Megève, you could try:
- Les Glaçons de Megève® – these delicate praline meringues are a speciality of Megève; for the last 112 years, they have been made, based on the recipe of Barthélémy Vigliengo / tel: 06 01 73 88 99 / more information;
- Le Comptoir du Père Sotieu – cakes, cholates and macaroons / FB page;
Food & Drink
🗻 Au Pays du Mont-Blanc we have some superb local producers: farms producing goats’ cheese, honey, confitures and saucisson (Maison Pineau (Magland) – fabulous!), a local saffron procucer in the Chamonix Valley (!) (Safran du Mont-Blanc) and we have🍺 beer brewers and gin makers . . . (and lots of secret gnole-makers too!).
There are several commerçants that bring together many of these local producers:
- La Fruitière des Producteurs du Mont-Blanc (Domancy) – FB page;
- Coopérative Fruitière en Val d’Arly Savoie Mont Blanc (Flumet) – based in Flumet, but several shop fronts au Pays du Mont-Blanc / FB page;
Here is a selection of the beer and gin makers:
🍺 Big Mountain Brewery (Chamonix & Passy) – website;
🗻 Altitude Gin (Chamonix) – website;
🍺 Le Blaireau qui Brasse (Passy) – website;
🍺 Bière Bachante (Sallanches) – website;
🍺 Marmotte Beer (Saint-Gervais) – website;
🗻 Distillerie Saint-Gervais-Mont-Blanc – « The highest distillery in Western Europe, producing hand-crafted gin. “La magie de la montagne, fruit du travail à la main et de l’amour pour la planète.” » / website;
And then, there are the fabulous local commerçants selling all these super locally-made drinks (and some of these are offering for sale advent calendars too!):
- 🍺 Big Mountain Bar (Chamonix) – website;
- 🍷🍺 Cha Cha Cha (Chamonix) – FB page;
- 🍷🍺 Le Verre Gourmand (Passy) – FB page;
- 🍷🍺 Conroy vins & spririteux (Sallanches) – website;
- 🍷🍺 V & B (Sallanches) – FB page;
A family experience
Of late, I’ve often opted to offer experiences (rather than objects!) to my family as birthday or Christmas presents. I’ve offered subscriptions to magazines (inspired by a magazine subscription from a friend at the birth of my first son; such a great present!), annual subscriptions to museums, and theatre tickets. Obviously, the latter of these are not really viable at the moment, with the arts suffering so much due to the pandemic . . .
But, many of our local businesses are offering bons d’achat for later visits, so check with them. Here are some ideas:
🐺 Traîneaux de Chiens – I offered my family husky sled ride a few years ago, and we all loved it. Here are the local companies offering this experience:
- 🐺 Huskydalen (Les Houches) – see website;
- 🐺 Les Granges de HeÏdi (Passy & environs) – see website;
- 🐺 Les Voyageurs de l’Hiver (Les Contamines-Montjoie) – see website;
🐺 Canirando – my elder son absolutely loved his afternoon with his 3D-Nordic husky . . . Here are some of the companies offering this activity (spring to autumn);
- 🐶 Huskydalen (Chamonix) – website;
- 🐶 Les Granges de Heidi (Passy & Cordon) – website;
- 🐶 Au Mont du Villard du Nord (Megève) – website;
- 🐶 Voyageurs d’Hiver (Les Contamines-Montjoie) – website;
- 🐶 3D Nordic (Flumet) – website;
🐎 Horse-riding – how about booking a lesson or an outing? You could try one of these:
- 🐎 Centre Équestre du Mont-Blanc (Les Houches) – website;
- 🐎 Les Ecuries d’Antan (côteaux de Passy) – see website;
- 🐎 Le Cheval de Feug (Combloux) – website;
- 🐎 Les Ecuries du Duc (Combloux) – see website;
- 🐎 Les Ecuries des Fiz (Le Fayet) – FB page;
- 🐎 Centre Equestre Les Contamines-Montjoie – during the school holidays / see here;
Or perhaps 💦 a massage or a visit to a spa? (I still have a couple of bons to use, which date back to before confinement!). Or how about something a bit different: 💦 a flotation session? Did you know that in Domancy, you can book to have a float at 💦 The Heron’s Nest? You can also offer gift cards, starting at €45; see FB page and website for more details.
And there are some great yoga teachers 🗻 au Pays du Mont-Blanc; so how about booking a 🧘♀️ yoga lesson? (for example, Anicha Yoga in Sallanches!).
There are 📷 many talented photographes in 🗻 au Pays du Mont-Blanc. Have you ever thought of booking a family session?Many of these photographers will organise a photo shoot out in nature!