In 2021 Michel Berthier, who had been running the hotel which had been in his family since 1903, handed over the reins to Martin Devictor, a local man and founder of the Mont-Blanc Collection. The group’s teams are thrilled to take the hotel on and excited about contributing to the history of this century-old establishment which, over the years, has welcomed travelers, resistance fighters and villagers.
“The story of Mr. Berthier, the owner up until 2021”
Mr Simond sold the bistro opposite the railway station to my grandfather, Antoine Pautasso, who had been born in Oulx in Italy.
My grandfather was a cook, who had learnt the trade working in big hotels in Italy.
Whilst he was living in Modane, where he had bought a restaurant, he was given the address in Le Fayet by a sales rep. Keen to leave Modane because his restaurant and his cellar flooded each year, what really won him over were the two boules’ pitches, shaded by acacia trees.
He went on to gain a reputation for his cuisine, with a large local clientele.
During the war Antoine ran the hotel with his wife Jeanne. Their daughter (my mother) Elsa married René Berthier (my father), a railway worker who drove the train from Chamonix.
My parents, Elsa and René, joined the resistance. The hotel became a meeting place for resistance fighters.
My grandfather had kept his Italian nationality, even though he was Marshal Pétain’s cook in 1914 and had therefore served in the French army during the war.
The hotel was threatened by communist resistance fighters, from the FTP. The informed resistance stood guard at night and eventually made a deal that saved the hotel from a possible arson attack.
Antoine died in May 1961 and his daughter Elsa Berthier inherited the hotel on the 17th of October 1961.
My parents Elsa & René offered ‘bar, bed and breakfast’.
They were good years, and it was the heyday of skiing.
The Mont-Blanc Tramway, leaving from just in front of the hotel, was crowded and brought so many customers those tables and chairs were set up in the road.
The boules games made for a lively atmosphere and made the hotel the village gathering place. Hotel guests became loyal customers and firm friendships were formed. My grandmother, Jeanne Pautasso, was still helping.
It was during this time that I decided to take over the running of the hotel. At first, I wanted to work for a big hotel chain, but my family soon changed my mind.
After a few months in Geneva, Paris and London, I returned to Le Fayet for good and on the 5th of March 1976 I began to run the hotel, with the help of my parents and my grandmother.
It would take me 2 years to get a loan and build the current 20-room building with the underground garage. At first only the 1st floor was finished. Two years later the 2nd floor was done, 5 years after that the 3rd floor was completed and the lift was installed 10 years later in 1989. The hotel got its 2-star classification.
As the years went by we continued to develop the hotel:
In 2021 it was time to retire and I was happy to hand things over to Mont-Blanc Collection. With the first owners of the hotel being the Simond family from Chamonix and the latest owner being another Chamoniard, Martin Devictor, the Hôtel des 2 Gares maintains its perpetual tie to Chamonix. The soul of the emigrants, from Piacenza to Oulx, remains strong and we can follow the Berthier family on their journey to Chamonix in JP Deslandes’s book ‘Nous les vivants’, which traces their family history between the Hôtel des 2 Gares and the Hôtel du Montenvers.
The story continues
A young couple of passionate hoteliers, Kevin and Magali Richard, have taken over the operational management of the hotel and have made it their mission to provide their guests with an unforgettable stay.
Mont-Blanc Collection undertook renovation work in autumn 2021. The ground floor has been reconfigured and redecorated, as have the rooms, based around a theme of crossroads and travel. Our interior architects, Thierry,and Sabrina Cantereau, wanted to highlight the existing heritage whilst bringing a touch of modernity, without compromising the family spirit of the place. The graphic and decorative theme is a balance between two key features – the train and the mountains. In tune with this we kept the ‘local’ theme with a station bistro that serves as the inspiration for the common areas and boasts several notable features.
The train is a call to travel, the blue building in front of the hotel, a sort of Russian Datcha, invites the traveler to go east. From the station platform, you can set off for Chamonix, then onto Switzerland, Austria and why not even further? The antique ornaments around the hotel share the memories of these imaginary journeys.
The mountain theme remains strong too. We’re in the valley, at the foot of the mountains, on the edge of the mountain pastures, an ideal spot from which to contemplate the surrounding peaks.
Once again, this is where it all begins.