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The Rhone-Alps region of Eastern France

Regional Departments
Savoie, Haute-Savoie, Isère, Loire, Ain, Ardêche, Drôme, Rhône.

Main Towns
Lyon, Bourg-en-Bresse, Annecy, Chambéry, Albertville, Roanne, St-Etienne, Grenoble, Privas, Valence, Montélimar.

Bordering on Burgundy in the north, the Auvergne in the west and Provence in the south, the Rhone Alps is one of the most breathtaking areas in France with vast forests, lush alpine meadows, huge lakes, deep gorges and spectacular mountains that run down to a Mediterranean landscape and climate in the south. The French Alps, dominated by Mont Blanc, form the border between Switzerland and Italy to the east of this region. The stunning landscape and the challenge of the peaks have long drawn climbers and walkers in the summer and skiers in the winter.

Chamonix, both a ski resort and mountain climbing centre, is where the Mont Blanc Tunnel runs through the Alps to provide a direct link between France and Italy. Along with the ski stations of Vallois, Megève, Morzine, Val d'Isère and St Jean-de-Maurienne, it enjoys an international reputation, as do the lovely spa towns of Aix-les-Bains, Annecy and Thonon and Evian, both situated on the south shore of Lake Geneva.
Grenoble, lies in the Isère Valley, surrounded by mountain peaks and was the site of the Winter Olympics some years ago. It is a busy modern university town with a pleasant old quarter, good shopping, many parks and gardens and excellent ski facilities.

The Rhône river flows through the region on its way to the Mediterranean and passes through Lyon, the regional capital. The city is a cosmopolitan mixture of northern and southern influences, drawing on the inovation of the former as the center for the silk and technology industries, and the joie de vivre of the latter, which is reflected in its opera house, theatres and museums and its boulevards and architecture, gardens and general liveliness. It claims to be the gastronomic center of France and there are numerous restaurants, including several whose chefs are acknowledged to be the finest anywhere. Cafes, bistros and food shops abound and there is something for every taste and pocket. Daily markets sell fresh local produce, crafts and pottery and the city has a popular antique dealers area and tempting shops.

In the Ain, north of Lyon, are the the Dombes, a series of small lakes and habitat for a vast variety of birds. To the west are the Beaujolais vineyards of the Loire and the canyons and the wild beauty of the Ardèche. The lavender fields and olive groves and warmth of the Drome lie to the south.


A traditional snack in the bistros of Lyon is Machon, a salad of potatoes, lentils, or dandelion leaves and bacon with garlic sausage, chopped ham or cevelas truffè, a lightly cured pork sausage with truffles, served with jugs of Beaujolais and fresh bread. The dishes here are generous and varied, drawing on local produce, onions, fruit and vegetables and a wide range of charcuterie as well as beef from Charolais, poultry from Bresse and freshwater fish and game from the Dombes.
Butter, cream, milk and cheese come from the high alpine area of the Savoy. Fish from the lakes and mountain streams, game from the forests and mushrooms from the woods. The orchards are planted with cherry, apple, pear and walnut trees, and strawberries and raspberries are plentiful in the glades. Soups are made with sorrel, pumpkins, nettles or leeks as well as with cheese. The rivers provide the resources for a number of Savoyard dishes, fricassee of frogs legs with garlic, onions and vinegar, perch with red wine, quenelles. Casseroles made with pork knuckles cooked in hay, sausages, stockpot vegetables and chestnuts, chicken with crayfish and gratins, using cep mushrooms, leeks, cardoons and marrows and, cheese.
The great cheeses of the region include, Beaufort, Reblochon, Tommes de Bonneville, Boudane, matured in grape marc brandy, Tamié, made by Trappist monks, and Chevrotin and Persillé des Aravis.
The patisserie is rich and varied. Suisse, is a sweetened brioche dough flavoured with orange, made in the shape of a small man said to be Napoleon. Fruit tarts, pear rissoles, potato bread and marzipan tart from Lubeck, are others to look out for.

The wines of the Savoy have a long history and are not often found outside the region. They are all unmistakably mountain wines, mainly white and sparkling wines, and well worth trying.

The Loire produces a vast range of wines from sweet to dry, still to sparkling, rosé and many fine whites. The Beaujolais vineyards lie just to the south of Mâcon and the whole area is devoted to wine. Some of the best known include; Juliénas, Moulin-à-Vente, Fleurie, Chiroubles and the smooth, fruity Brouilly. Visits to the vineyards to taste are welcomed.

The Côtes-du-Rhone vineyards begin just south of Lyon and have been famous for centuries. Ampuia cross the river from Vienne, makes one of the world's greatest reds, Côte-Rôtie. Condrieu is another. Chateau-Grillet has only seven acres of vineyards and is the smallest Appellation Contrôlée in France, much sort after. Around Valence are the Hermitage vineyards. Further south are the Southern Rhone wines; Beaumes-de-Venise, Rasteau, Gigondas.


The Rhone Alps is a land made for sports fans and those with a love of the outdoors with some of the best skiing in the world in the Alps.
There is also a wide range of summer sports such as climbing, hiking, white water rafting, canoeing, hang gliding, paragliding, bungee jumping, hot air ballooning and cycling.
The Rhone Alps is the second largest golf playing region in France with more than sixty golf courses in exceptional settings.

Markets in all towns and villages throughout the region on different days. Excellent fly-fishing, angling and coarse fishing, in the lakes, rivers and mountain streams for char, trout, pike, pike-perch, carp. Rafting in the Ardèche and at Bourg St-Maurice in the Alpes. Exceptional golf courses everywhere. Several spas where you can relax. Walking, hiking, riding, cycling and mountain biking through wild and natural country. Routes are well signposted and topographical maps available in larger towns. In July, part of the Tour de France crosses the Alps. Potholing in the Vercors. The mountains, glaciers, canyons and gorges draw climbers from everywhere. There are beginners schools run by seasoned mountaineers, and experienced guides.
For skiers, there are numerous ski stations to choose from throughout the Rhone-Alps, all with excellent facilities. Most have a good range of apres-ski entertainment; swimming pools, skating rinks, trekking, snowshoe expeditions, night skiing, paragliding, activities and ski schools for children, nightclubs, restaurants, concerts and festivals and events. Cross-country skiing in the Vercors Regional Natural Park and in the Haute-Savoie and the southern Jura.


Generally long warm summers with temperatures reaching 30 plus degrees C. Cooler in the higher Alpes. Cold winters with good snow cover and usually bright sunny days. In the Provence Drome in the south spring comes early with hot Mediterranean summers and mild winters.


By Air
The main airports are Grenoble, Annecy, Chambery, Lyon, Geneva and St Etienne. There are also connections to Paris and other destinations.

By Road
Paris/Annecy - 4 hours.

By Train
TGV services from Paris to Lyon, Roanne, St Etienne, Annecy, Grenoble, Chambery, Valence and Montelimar.

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