The Wordrobe takes the plunge and tries an adventure the Eleven Experience way in Le Miroir, France
“Now, make sure to grab the paddle when you see it,” a wetsuit-clad French man shouts from the inflatable raft now disappearing behind me. “Or else you’ll end up being taken to the rocks!”
One 25-year old, one wild alpine river, two feet facing upwards in front and one head hovering above the water. All in the name of Eleven Experience, the luxury adventure company that aim to push its clients right out of their comfort zones. Or, in my case, their inflatable rafts.
Founded in 2011 by high-flyer Chad Pike, Eleven Experience is a travel brand with a bit of an edge. Think incredible properties, combined with excellent service, sumptuous chef-cooked cuisine and adrenaline-based activities to make Bear Grylls come knocking. Operating lodges, chalets, beach houses and farmhouses in exotic destinations worldwide, they provide adventures for those who like to be pushed – before relaxing within the luxury of their exclusive residences afterwards.
Which is what brings to me to Le Miroir in Tarentaise Valley. It’s an alpine part of the world known for its winter beauty but in fact, makes an equally worthy contender for a summer destination, too. In the dewy glow of early September, it’s beautiful. Gloriously cloudless days combined with watercolour painting sunsets – England could learn a lesson or two.
Chalet Pelerin, a four bedroom property perched at the top of the valley is my home for the three-day trip and offers everything from its own private chef to a heated indoor pool and sauna. With 180-degree views worth drooling over, the walls are clad in alpine luxury – with antlers aplenty, landscape photographs and wooden beams that add to that cozy forest home feel. Named after iconic French mountains, the en suite bedrooms are even more beautiful, completed with huge sprawling king size beds covered in faux fur covers.
There’s scarcely time to take it all in however, as Eleven have prepared a non-stop itinerary that’s filled with the very best the valley has to offer. The adventure begins on our second morning (we spent our initial afternoon exploring the nearby delights of Annecy with its buzzy eateries, boutiques and restored castle).
Awaiting is a guided electric mountain bike tour from the chalet to Bourg St Maurice. I myself am fond of a bike (years of childhood Centre Parc holidays have been instilled in my veins) and the morning makes for ideal sporty heaven. And thanks to the bikes’ electric motors, one with minimal effort involved too as we soar upwards through the trees and glide seamlessly across the tracks beside the river towards our next activity.
Which brings me back to the raft. And the wetsuit. And the current.
“Who wants to try swimming from the raft to the end of this section?” Our guide had challenged. Well, when in Rome. Or raft. 18km of wild rapids to tackle, it’s an afternoon of adrenaline, teamwork and plenty of splashing. Paddling furiously through the water with other vessels in tow (some even capsizing) we only slow down to avoid the occasional beast of a rock.
Feat not quite finished, one challenge remains. The chance to climb from the raft and jump from a Roman bridge into the water. Somehow again, I find myself with feet perched precariously over the side, inwardly cursing my spontaneous streak as I take the plunge and fling myself from the top – but trust me. If you love adrenaline – this is the holiday for you. It’s one to get your blood racing.
When we return to the chalet later on, it’s to the smell of pizza cooking in the wood-fired oven courtesy of our chef Nathaniel (specially tailored to our tastebud preferences, of course). Surrounded by the stars, we dine alfresco with faux fur blankets, twinkling lights and flickering candles. One word – dreamy.
Eleven take the travel game to new heights – 3500km heights, to be exact. We cross the border to Italy the following morning and embark upon a guided glacier hike via the soaring Skyway Monte Bianco. Offering a taste of winter in summer, Mont Blanc is incredible. You’ll feel like you’ve entered another world entirely as you crunch across its crevice-creased surface.
Sky-high hike completed, we raise glasses at Auberge de la Maison in Courmayeur – a beautiful wood and stone Italian restaurant/hotel offering everything from lake trout to delicately plated pasta. Sit outside for the best view, and order the crêpes filled with Fontina PDO for something naughty.
It’s our final dinner, however, that really impresses. Hosted at the company’s Alpage (a private mountain hut nestled within a secluded valley) we arrive to an outdoor Champagne reception with a difference – the sight of a roaring campfire, completed with bubbly and nibbles. Inside the rustic building awaits our chef, who serves creamy fondue with a head torch fastened to his forehead. He twirls hot cheese around skewers of bread whilst the group sit eagerly around him, hands outstretched like children awaiting presents. The little building booms with laughter and chatter before we feast at a table laden with beef and perfectly crisp dauphinoise.
Jeans now seriously snugger, the show’s not quite over yet. The sky suddenly lights up with fireworks set off by Robin, the chalet manager, who peppers the night with flashes of colour and showers of sparks before it’s time to head (or in my case, roll) back to bed at the chalet. On the richter scale of incredible experiences, this trip offers an 11. Grab your suitcase (and potentially a paddle) and let the games begin.
Make it happen
Cost: Rates at Chalet Pelerin start from £574 (plus local taxes) per person per night based on a private buy out rate of Chalet Pelerin for 10 people sharing on a full experience basis. Price includes private concierge, full guide service, all gear for activities, lift passes, in-house meals, all house alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, daily housekeeping and airport transfers to/from Geneva.
Bookings: Phone 0208 102 9800 or visit www.elevenexperience.com to make a booking
When: The Summer season runs from 15 Jun – 15 Sep 2018
Written by Sophie Ritchie. See more of her writing here.