We wrote – who said “romanticized?” – the history of the Pré-Catin. A story of gold, love, friendship and mineral water to read below.
The Dan epoch
The chalet Le Pré Catin story is first of all that of Daniel.
It all started in the 19th century. In summer, Bessaners make hay in Savoy, in winter, they are coachmen in Paris. The tradition continues, Bessaners of the 20th century will be taxi drivers in Paris suburbs.
Little Dan lives in Paris. He makes friends with the son of a colleague of his father who comes from Haute-Maurienne and finds himself spending his summers in Bessans with the grandparents of the friend. The ancients teach him the mountains, the flavors of Savoyard cuisine, the happiness of the great outdoors. Dan is a good student.
Later, the young Dan studied the resistance of materials in Paris, made the revolution in 1968, lyed low for a while in the city, worked as an expert in a ministry, was bored.
The young adult Daniel learns that Bonneval-sur-Arc is looking for a cook for Criou, the altitude restaurant on the slopes of the ski resort which, in 1975, reached the age of reason: 7 years old. The call of the summits is too great, Dan resigns from the public service and takes up the challenge.
Dan will make the Criou refuge a Mecca for gastronomy and culture. In terms of gastronomy, it is the best restaurant in Bonneval-sur-Arc. The mayor does not hesitate to take the officials by skidoo to dinner at Le Criou. In terms of culture, it is the highest cinema in France (2100 m a.s.l.). People come to see the arthouse films in the chairlift, they leave late at night by sliding on the track which brings back to the village on skis, in sledges or … on garbage bags. Children enjoy it. They would still love it, but it is now prohibited, it’s allegedly too dangerous.
It was around this time that Dan met Josiane. Josiane works in a leisure center in Italy and comes to Le Criou one evening with friends. The warm atmosphere of the place and – why hide it – the larch liqueur, bring hearts closer and Josiane is embarked on the adventure. Regularly, she comes to join Dan who picks her up when the train stop at the border. It’s not a train station, but it’s closer to Bonneval-sur-Arc and more fun to get down there, under the very noses of customs officials, than at Modane train station like other travelers. She ends up settling in Le Criou for better and for worse. Especially the best.
Years go by, Dan and Josiane begin to have experience and the mayor asks them to set up an inn in the village. The resort lacks restaurants. Beyond 50 covers, it is possible to obtain subsidies. Fifty is a lot, but Dan is up for it.
The town hall offers a location next to the former CAF chalet.
CAF agrees on the condition that Dan takes care of destroying the old chalet which is in ruins.
It is said that Dan would have financed his chalet with the legendary gold bowling balls that he would have found in the rubble and that he would have sold twice the price of gold, the delicacy of the carvings, especially those of the jack would have amazed a Marseille collector. If you have the opportunity to visit the old port, ask a fisherman the question, he will be inexhaustible on the subject.
Dan brings down the ruin but the CAF president changing every year, each new president believes himself a duty to raise the stakes. After two presidencies, the price of the land became exorbitant. Having demonstrated that the Alps record of the price per square meter was reached, the mayor of Bonneval-sur-Arc brings the CAF to reason. The work can begin.
The plans are drawn by an architect. Dan is in charge of the work with 5 masons from Bonneval hired for the occasion.
The work began in May 1981. The chalet was “off snow, off air” after 6 months.
The stones are chosen and picked up in the mountain and then lowered into a dumper, as all bonnevalers did at the time. Dan held a lot with it, they are mounted by a sixth mason, Italian, like dry stone walls.
The frame, is made with huge larch trunks, recovered at the foot of an avalanche lower in the valley.
The tiles are made with terracotta parefeuilles from Provence. All the tilers take Dan for a fool: The parefeuilles are porous, perfect by the pools, but in a restaurant? Dan will lay them himself and saturate them with linseed oil and turpentine.
The Lauzes come from the demolition of a military building in Italy. We are in 1981, but already in sustainable development: recycled, local, natural materials. Dan is ahead of his time.
The result is superb.
The first customers of the restaurant were welcomed in February 1982.
From the first year, success was there. Dan cooks authentic food with real bits of Dan’s heart in it. For teatime, gourmands flock from across the valley for Josiane muffins. All the gastronomic guides applaud. Le Pré Catin even obtains a Michelin guide bibendum. In winter, it’s full of skiers, midday, afternoon tea and evening. In summer, it is even more crowded, several services are done.
Out of season, Dan manages the vacation rentals of his neighbors. In some ways, Anne skies today in her footsteps.
50 place settings is heavy. Dan, over the years, begins to run out of steam and Josiane threatens to plan a muffin lockout. The couple are looking to sell their business. No one is interested except the promoters. “Sell my soul to concrete builder? Never,” says Dan. “Do you want me to show you how I made Molotov cocktails in ’68?” Dan is angry. “Do you know the difference between a paving stone from Saint-Germain-des-Près and a flagstone from the Alps? Go your way!”
Let’s go back a little bit,
The year is 1994. Stanis, an old sea dog, asks friends for the details of an architect. They recommend PL, a young Breton architect. Stanis asks him for advice on his bathroom. PL is not thrilled but it is a lean period and contracts infrequent.
PL procrastinate, wait, postpone, but ultimately, the proof of the architect is in the drawing, Stanis’ bathroom is drawn the night before the day he undertook to return the project. PL arrives on time, Stanis is late. PL who does not like whiskey but who is polite, gulp two scotches offered by his wife. At the presentation of PL’s project, Stanis is enthusiastic, “A boat cabin ! It’s all I love. Deal !”. As a deposit, Stanis gives PL two mallards, “from his hunt in Sologne”. PL throw both of them to Cecile who does not want them, the two ducks being neither plucked nor emptied. PL then launch them to his mother-in-law.
The finished bathroom is magnificent.
Stanis then offered PL to restore his family home in North Brittany, a former granite fisherman’s house on an island cut off from the world 12 hours a day. Watching the angers of the ocean from a construction site creates links. A magic project according to PL. Stanis likes and then entrusts PL with the realization of his house in Rennes and then of his office.
At the turn of the century, Stanis asked PL for advice on buying a chalet on a mountain that resembles a desert island: Bonneval-sur-Arc. A first chalet is planned but PL does not like it. Stanis finds a second one.
An appointment is made at the Auberge du Pré-Catin. Stanis who has not lost his old habits is late. Dan receives him in the tea room. It’s their first meeting. Dan and PL are said to have had more than tea that day.
PL likes the chalet, Stanis buys it. PL writes the plans for René who is in charge of the works on site. PL and Stanis come to the interseason to renovate the chalet. They are the best customers of the Auberge du Pré-Catin. Dan is watching for their arrival. “Are you coming for the soup?” The three make the perfect pair. They quickly become friends.
The PL era
We are in 2003. The PL mission at Stanis is coming to an end but Dan and Josiane have retirement plans, as we saw above. They wish to plant roses in Normandy. PL goes to see their house in Cotentin, carries out two renovation plans, but Dan and Josiane must first sell their inn.
There is only one buyer: a property developer who intends to force the walls outwards and cut the hostel into small pieces to fit 50 beds. In short, a promoter offers Dan without blushing to cut up his baby. Dan sees a red rag.
There remains the phone a friend: PL and Cécile call Dominique and Catherine who seem interested. It does not drag: 15 days later they are on site and are won. They pick up another couple of friends, with whom they will buy the Pré-Catin and transform it into a holiday chalet. There is even a fourth couple on the case. PL initially plans 4 apartments but ends up with a project for only 3. There is land and the fourth one will be built slightly larger, if not much larger. It will be the chalet Michka but that’s another story.
The Pré-Catin renovation project is ready. To simplify a little, let’s say that the tea room will become apartment 3 (PC3), Dan’s apartment PC2, the restaurant PC1, the kitchen of the hostel will serve the common. The idea is to keep the soul of the inn. Dan and Josiane sign the sale.
The team that renovated Stanis’s chalet is kept for the Pré-Catin. Everyone is already run in. The transformation will be carried out in 6 months. the only one that doesn’t get used to it is Santos the dog : for years he will run to Stanis’ every time he wants to go home !
Except for the dog, everyone is happy. The three families meet at the chalet several times a year to ski or hike, sing in the summer and dance in the fall, eat diots or chocolate fondues, drink mineral water from the Alps or blueberries juice, playing with words or cards, remaking the world or staining the walls.
When they are not there, you are lucky to be able to stay in this historic monument. We welcome you here: Click on the buttons “Pré Catin 1, 2 ou 3”.
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