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Lac Léman is the largest of the French lakes, but it's not entirely in France. Its southern shore is largely French, at the foot of the Alps , while its northern shore is in Switzerland.

It's a lake that really looks like a sea. When you stand on the French shore and admire the Swiss hills opposite, the expanse of water is immense. It is criss-crossed by all manner of boats, including those of the Compagnie Générale de Navigation sur le Lac Léman (CGNL). Sometimes they look as if they've stepped out of an old film from the early 20th century, and this slightly old-fashioned style makes them stand out against the blue waters of the lake.

The French side is wedged between the foothills of the Chablais which fall almost sheer to the Lake Geneva and the sometimes stormy waters of the Joran, the violent wind that blows across the lake from the Jura mountains. The mountains behind Evian are known as the Lake Geneva Alps.

Finally, an anecdote. Two French expressions have their roots here. Il n'y a pas feu au lac" ("There's no fire on the lake"), meaning that it's not yet time to go and leave everything behind, comes from the glowing sunset over Lake Geneva. The blazing color, reminiscent of fire, signaled the end of the workday. And "faire ripaille", meaning to feast, comes from some famous feasts held at the Château de Ripaille by Amédée VIII, Duke of Savoy!

Around Evian

AlpAddict in Evian-les-Bains
Evian-les Bains - Photo: ©MaruokaJoe - stock.adobe.com

Evian-les-Bains, world-famous for its bottled water brand, whose logo recalls the Alps of Lake Geneva, is above all a spa town.

We'll go in search of the springs in the town itself. At the buvette Cachat, you can see the water flowing from a fountain after crossing the mountains... At the same time, you'll discover the old town with its spa town facades: in the style of Belle Epoque palaces or villas that certainly have a thousand stories to tell. Palais Lumière, Villa Lumière, casino, theater, parks and gardens and, last but not least, the harbor... There's everything you need to stroll through the town, which is at its best in summer. For the more romantic, we recommend a visit in autumn or winter, when the cold mists cover the lake and give the silent city a mysterious air.

A few kilometers to the east, right on the border with Switzerland, you'll discover an unusual village. Saint Gingolph. Half in Switzerland, half in France. Only one church and one cemetery to share, but a real border post between the two parts of the village.

The hinterland aroundEvian-les-Bains offers authentic mountain scenery. The Val d'Abondance, as far as Châtel, offers access to the Portes du Soleil ski area, and is dotted with typical villages and hamlets with wooden chalets and pretty churches, all set against a backdrop of pastures where cows of the Abondance breed graze silently and lazily, their milk used to make the famous cheese.

But there's also the lesser-known but equally beautiful Pays Gavot, whose capital Bernex is dominated by the towering silhouette of the Dent d'Oche.

Finally, how would you like to ski down the slopes while admiring the blue of Lake Geneva ? It's possible in just a few minutes from Evian, at the nearby resort of Thollon les Mémises.

A crossing to Montreux or Lausanne could be a good opportunity to discover the Alps behind the town ofEvian. As you step back, the mountains rise up and the town seems tiny beneath the Alpine immensity. Or take a boat to the next stop: Thonon.

Around Thonon-les-Bains

AlpAddict in Thonon
The port of Thonon-les-Bains - Photo ©mimpki - stock.adobe.com

Thonon-les-Bains is the economic center of this region. The former capital of the Chablais region, Thonon-les-Bains has a museum where you can learn about the history of the region.

The town center and the nearby riverbanks just outside the town offer lovely walks and interesting historical visits, including the famous Château de Ripaillementioned above.

The Thonon-les-Bains hinterland offers access to the Dranse valley, where you can discover the Devil's Bridge, the ruined abbey of Saint Jean d'Aulps, the village of Morzine and the resort of Avoriaz.

You can also stroll through the more "pre-Alpine" landscapes of the Vallée Verte , which is also home to ski resorts including Les Habères.

Lake and mountains are intrinsically connected in this region, and you can quickly move from sunny lakeside strolls to snowy mountains where spring has yet to arrive...

Around Yvoire

AlpAddict in Yvoire
Yvoire on Lake Geneva - ©stephane - stock.adobe.com

Yvoire, one of France's most beautiful villages, has lived up to its name. A small medieval jewel, a small port, a medieval walled garden, all in an architectural unity that earns it millions of photos every year!

Not far from here, you can relax on the most beautiful sandy beach on Lake Geneva, that ofExcevenex. This sunny spot, a little further away from the mountains, is almost like the sea.

As we all know, a lake is even more beautiful when you can admire it from above.

While the Thollon les Mémises plateau offers a view of the Grand Bassin, you can admire the Petit Bassin (the narrower part of the lake just in front of Geneva) from the summit of Mont Salève. From up there, the view sweeps over much of the Haute-Savoie and Jura mountains, including Mont Blanc of course. Below, the lake, and at its western end, the city of Geneva.

On our way back down from Mont Salève, we'll take a stroll through this Swiss town, which we'll describe in another article.

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