Today’s guest post has been written by Catherine Cooper, a freelance travel journalist specialising in France, skiing, family travel and hotels. She has lived in France for over 10 years and loves exploring new places, both in France and other countries. You can see examples of her work at www.catherinecooper.net or follow her on Instagram or Twitter. Catherine was hosted by Savoie Mont Blanc and Annecy Mountains during her trip. For more information, please visit www.savoie-mont-blanc.com , www.lac-annecy.com , www.annecymountains.com and www.chambery-tourisme.com
Easily accessible from the UK via Geneva Airport, it’s easy to think of Annecy, Chambéry and Savoie Mont Blanc as places you only visit in winter, heading for ski resorts. But as I discovered this summer, there’s much more to the area than that.
Annecy is best known for its lake – the third-largest in France, with plenty of beaches for relaxing and swimming as well as other water-based activities including pedalos and sailing. There are both public and private beaches, with the private beaches usually only costing a few euros and having facilities such as loungers, water slides, bars, restaurants and more depending on which you choose. There’s also a very pretty old town to explore.
Around 30 minutes away is the small town of Thônes, where as well as plenty of hiking and a sweet little forest trail for kids to help them learn about the local trees, you can also scale the near-sheer Roche a l’Agathe de Thones via via ferrata if you’re brave enough (my kids were – I wasn’t).
A little further into the mountains you get to the ski resorts of La Clusaz, Grand Bornand and Manigod, which have plenty going on during summer whether you want to take things easy with a hike or at the large, outdoor public pool at Grand Bornand or try something a little more adventurous, such as paragliding. We opted for an electric bike ride with local guide Laurent. The beauty of electric bikes is that you can go almost anywhere, and get as much or as little exercise as you like by altering the amount of ‘help’ the bike gives you.
The Savoie Mont Blanc region now has 30 Michelin-starred restaurants with a total of 48 stars – more than any other region in France apart from Paris, apparently. We tried out Restaurant La Martine on the banks of Lac Bourget (which is even bigger than Lac Annecy, if less well-known), which has had its Michelin star for 30 years. La Martine is in an excellent location with a stunning view from its terrace and a menu including plenty of local produce (including a large trout which had been caught that day in the lake when we visited), all beautifully presented.
Even away from Michelin-starred restaurants, we ate very well while in the area. Highlights included one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had at Talinum in Thônes, where everything is made from scratch and La Cabane just outside the town which sits in a lovely spot in the forest and specialises in dishes made from freshly-cooked trout. In Annecy we stayed and ate at the Imperial Palace – not a budget option but well-worth splashing out on for a special occasion. There’s also an excellent brasserie in the old town, Brasserie Brunet, run chef Laurent Petit who also has a two Michelin-starred restaurant in the town.
The Savoie Mont Blanc region also has a thriving wine industry with many vineyards offering visits and tastings. We were show around Domaine Dupraz by Jeremy Dupraz who speaks fluent English and has recently given up a high-flying IT job to return to the family vineyard. As well as tastings, the domaine also offers BBQs and lunches cooked by Madame Dupraz.
There are also many beautiful places to stay in the region, whatever your budget. The Imperial Palace in Annecy is beautiful and in an excellent location, and we really enjoyed an evening in its casino. We also loved Chateau de Candie near Chambery which is a pretty 15th-century chateau with outdoor pool, or the Chateau des Allues, a high-end chambre d’hôte nestled in the vineyards which offers friendly hosting and excellent meals prepared using ingredients from the organic garden.