The French Alps is well worth a visit during the summer.
You associate the beautiful French Alps with winter skiing holidays, don’t you?
Val d’Isere and Chambery conjure up images of snow, skis, snowboards and crisp winter days. But these areas are just as beautiful in spring, summer and autumn.
I took an August trip there last year and was staggered by how much you can do when the sun shines.
Great hiking, cycling and fabulous restaurants all combine for a wonderful activity holiday.
After an easyJet flight to Geneva from Edinburgh, I was off on a two-hour drive to Chambery where I stayed at boutique hotel Le 5.
For me, it was too noisy and I wouldn’t recommend it, but if you visit chambery-tourism.com/1710-accomodation.htm, you’ll find dozens of other suggestions.
This trip was all about walking, cycling, eating and sampling wine bliss!
This region has so many amazing eateries. One was the new gastro restaurant Le Carr des Sens in Chambery (visit carredessens-chambery.com).
Recently opened by a young couple, the food is beautiful, fresh local produce and a huge bargain.
The historical city of Chambery is charming and provides stunning views of the French Alps.
Founded at crossroads of ancient routes through the Dauphin Burgundy, Switzerland and Italy, it’s a town of 125,000 residents with a beautiful old quarter and winding pedestrianised streets and alleyways.
In terms of sights, I enjoyed visiting the Chteau de Chambery, dating back to 1285 and a stronghold for the House of Savoy.
It was the site of the 1684 marriage between Victor Amadeus II of Sardinia and Anne Marie d’Orlans, niece of Louis XIV.
The most famous landmark in Chambery is the beautiful Elephants Fountain, built in 1838 to honour local Benot de Boigne’s feats when he was in India.
The Cistercian Abbey of Hautecombe, founded in 1135, is also worth seeing. It’s one of the burial places of the rulers of the House of Savoy.
And don’t miss the Cathedrale Saint-Francois de Sales which has an amazing 6,000 square metres of trompe l’oeil.
Early doors on Saturday, I toured the local market which takes place every week and is a great place to pick up some delicious local cheeses and saucisson.
The afternoon was a bit of cycling to the local vineyards followed by a tasting of the lovely Savoie wines while looking at the very vines that produced them.
Bernard Vissoud is a qualified viticulturalist and a font of knowledge who offers tours by car, bus, foot or bike all year round in English (visit alpes-flaveurs.com).
You can hire an electronic, battery-powered bike for just six euros for half a day in town.
Dinner was at Michelin-starred restaurant Le Bteau Ivre located in nearby Bourget, by the lake.
Bourget, a village of just 4,000 inhabitants, has a staggering four Michelin-starred restaurants.
Charming chef Jean-Pierre Jacob also runs cookery classes and the food there is amazing.
Using herbs and plants from his garden, his mixture of flavours is unique and absolutely delicious.
They also have rooms there and it would be a lovely place to stay (visit hotel-ombremont.com)
From Chambery, it was off to Val d’Isere. This stunning resort is best known for winter skiing but it’s absolutely ideal for hiking, cycling and tennis outwith the winter.
If you’re happy on two wheels, cycle the legendary Col de l’Iseran. For those not super-fit cheat a bit and hire electric bikes to get you up the 2,770 metres.
A good lunch stop is at l’Atelier d’Edmond which opened in summer 2014.
Located at the bottom of the Fornet-Pissaillas slopes, 2km from the resort’s centre, it’s got a Michelin star yet you can eat for around 30 euros (visit atelier-edmond.com). We stayed and ate dinner at the charming Les 5 Frres. It’s a new luxurious guest house with beautiful spacious rooms and a great restaurant which serves simple but tasty homemade cooking. Rooms from 60 euros per night per person (visit les5freres.com).
In the summer months, Val d’Isere is a veritable mecca for walking.
As the winter snow melts you can choose from a number of routes ranging in difficulty, from easy child friendly walks to challenging day long hikes.
As an incentive to get you out and about in the summer the resort offers free lift passes so you can take a cable car or gondola up the mountain and then start your walking.
So, eat well then work it off the perfect recipe for a great break.