5 Lasting Memories of Haute-Savoie
It’s official – its ski season. Many Brits are packing up their salopettes, bound for the slopes with their skis over their shoulder and SPF lip balm in their back pocket. Many will be heading for Geneva, which serves as a hub airport for connections to the ski resorts.
Guest blogger Rachel Malham shares her favourite memories of the region
I was lucky enough to live in the French region of Haute Savoie (pronounced ‘Oat savwah’) – just along the lake from Geneva – whilst studying French at University. If you are heading off to the French Alps this season, here are 5 reasons why I think you should visit the region:
1. The mountains
You can’t miss them. They’re breathtaking and beautiful. From Abondance to Avoriaz, the region’s many ‘stations de ski’ offer bright dazzling vistas of powdery snow under cobalt blue skies (at least that’s how I remember them – fingers crossed for good weather!). At night the resorts have a range of bars and restaurants for your après-ski needs – the atmosphere, the clean Alpine air striking a note in your lungs and the wood-paneled, snow-topped local architecture will have you forgetting your daily grind no time. Chamonix is one of the most famous ski resorts and well worth a visit just to gape up at the majesty of Mont Blanc. (You could visit of an evening even if you are not skiing there – provided you have a car, Haute Savoie is quite easy to get around).
2. The lakes
Lake Geneva (or Lac Léman as the locals call it) is one of the largest lakes in Western Europe. The views are stunning. If you return in summer then swimming,kayaking and other water sports are all available, but in winter a visit to the spa town of Evian-les-Bains (yes, where the water comes from) followed by a ferry boat or pleasure cruise across the lac to Lausanne is an afternoon well spent. Don’t forget your passport though as you are crossing into a different country and out of the EU. More wonderful views await you on the other side. It’s a local legend that ‘le lac donne sommeil’ – the lake makes you sleepy – so expect a great night’s rest after your visit! Lac d’Annecy is also beautiful and worth a visit.
3. Old towns
Annecy is the biggest city in Haute Savoie and its ‘vieille ville’ – old town – is a picturesque labyrinth of cobbles, pastel-coloured buildings, canals and winding streets overlooked by the Chateau d’Annecy. The bright turquoise lake reflects the snow-tipped mountains that surround it. Also in Haute Savoie, boarding Lake Geneva is the medieval village of Yvoire.
As long as you like cheese, you’ll love Savoyarde cuisine (even if you don’t there’s amazing bread, pate, chocolate…you’ll live). The region’s most famous dish – la Tartiflette – is a gourmet pie made of regional cheese (Reblochon de Savoie), cream, onion, bacon, potatoes and more cream. It’s delicious. Other great regional favourites include Raclette, consisting of a great wheel of cheese made from cow’s milk, sliced down and grilled at the table onto slices of potato. Another DIY-at-the-table dish is La Fondue Savoyarde. Just keep hold of your skewer and don’t worry about the mess!
In Les Carroz and Samoëns ski resorts, there are branches of a great deli called Le Grenier Savoyard where you can buy all the cheese, chocolate and charcuterie thatyou can carry to keep your memories of Haute-Savoie going that little bit longer. http://www.greniersavoyard.fr
Aprémont de Savoie is a delicious dry white wine from the region – a great companion to the cheesy Savoyarde dishes. Beware if you are offered an ‘eau de vie’, as you may get more than you bargained for (as I did, mistakenly translating directly into ‘water of life’ and expecting water). I quickly discovered it’s a double-distilled fruit brandy. Génépi is a regional liqueur that has its roots in Savoie which you might be offered as an aperitif. Enjoy! And don’t forget when you clink to say ‘Santé’ to look the other person in the eye, like a true Savoie local would.
Rachel Malham is a writer and performance poet based in Highgate, North London. In 2012 she co founded Rhymes with Orange, a spoken word night based in the upstairs room of a local pub. By 2015 the show sold out at the Edinburgh Fringe. Rachel’s latest enterprise, www.WordplaySessions.co.uk, brings people together to create, write, perform and be inspired.