Skiing in the Magnificent Rhone-Alpes Region
Chamonix, France - January 30, 2015: Bar and street view in Chamonix town in French Alps, France at winter time, people walking. Mountains on the background, Photo by Nataliya Nazarova, Shutterstock.
Rhone-Alpes is a huge region that stretches between Burgundy and Provence in France. It includes Lyon, which has been described as the capital of the French gastronomy, St. Etienne and Grenoble. Although it lacks fame compared to Paris and the Cote d’Azur, the Rhone-Alpes region is getting more and more attractive for Brits who want to relocate or, simply, travel as tourists.
Rhone-Alpes is the perfect place for everyone who wants to go skiing in one of the most famous winter sports destination in the world. The prestigious Chamonix, which hosted the first winter Olympics in 1924, is one of the oldest ski resorts in France. Some people call it “the gateway to the European Cascades.” The Chamonix commune includes sixteen villages and hamlets, all built at more than 1,000m height. This may sound very high, but imagine that the Mont Blanc’s north summit is part of the Chamonix village. The Mont Blanc is the tallest mountain west of Caucasus with 4,808m in height!
The Chamonix commune is well known to every ski and mountain enthusiast. If you like the adrenalin rush that skiing off-piste offers, then you can use the cable car lift and access the world-famous Vallee Blanche ski-run. For those that don’t know much of winter sports, this ski run is 20kms of pure skiing ecstasy with a vertical descent of 2,700m. It is valued for its stunning sceneries and wilderness, that provides an unforgettable and magnificent experience.
Chamonix isn’t just a place for winter sports. In case you are a laid-back type of person who prefers warm weather, you can visit it in the summertime. A variety of activities in the area will satisfy every taste and need. In general, temperatures in Chamonix, during the summer, are 5-6° Celsius higher than those in South England. White water sports such as rafting, canyoning and kayaking are very popular to summer visitors. If you like riding your mountain bike back home, then Chamonix will be ideal for you, providing a multitude of trails than can get you very high up on the mountain. For those who are really into extreme and dangerous sports, it should be noted that Chamonix is the birth place of paragliding. Big thermals, glaciers and high peaks make the valley one of the best flying areas in the world.
Chamonix is the kind of place where you can bump into many celebrities, just by going out for a cup of nice hot coffee. All the famous and important French families own properties in the valley. Some of them are the owners of Peugeot, Patek Phillippe and Tattinger among others. British royals such as Prince William and Princess Beatrice spend time in the resort together with Sir Richard Branson and his family. Going to a club in Chamonix might bring you in front of Boy George and several other European and American celebrities.
The Rhone-Alpes region might be the perfect destination for spending your winter holidays, but it’s not only about that. Lyon, which is the capital of the region, is a gastronomic and historical city with a vibrant lifestyle. Only a few people know that the city played a very important role in the creation of cinematography. The brothers, Auguste and Louis Lumiere, invented it in the city when they shot the first 46 seconds long movie, showing workers living their factory, in 1895.
If you would like to have a weekend break in old Lyon, which is considered an UNESCO world heritage site, you can use the Eurostar train and reach it in just a 4 hour and 40-minute trip from London. If you want to save some time, you can trust British Airways or EasyJet to fly you there from every major airport in Britain.
The Museum of Miniature and Cinema is a unique concept that every Lyon visitor should see. The museum is housed in the “Maison des Avocats”, a famed 16th century building that is now a UNESCO world heritage site. There are over 100 miniature scenes exquisitely crafted by renowned miniaturists and a unique film exhibition, that focusses on special effects techniques. The collections extend in 2000 square meters of exhibition space.
The museum is located at the centre of the old city. At the foot of the Fourniere hill, the Vieux-Lyon district is one of Europe’s most extensive Renaissance neighbourhoods. There you can enjoy the Gothic architecture of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptiste and the medieval buildings called “hotels particuliers”, which were used predominantly by Italian bankers and merchants when they arrived in 15th century Lyon.
As many travel bloggers write, in Lyon you can stroll until your feet hurt. The charming centre area seduces you to go out and explore the “traboules”. These are narrow covered passageways connected to the biggest streets of the city, which in the past were helping workers and merchants reach as fast as possible the river Saone, avoiding the harsh weather conditions. Lyon’s tradition says that nobody is a true citizen unless s/he knows every single passage. Of course, this doesn’t include visitors, so you can enjoy discovering the forty “traboules”, that are currently open and free to the public.
Last but not least, Lyon offers a wide variety of restaurants, in which you can indulge in different flavours. But you won’t feel a true “Lyonnais” unless you go to a “bouchon”. This is a type of restaurant that serves traditional Lyonnaise cuisine, such as roast pork and duck pate. We wouldn’t recommend going there if you are a vegetarian, because, in contrast to the nouvelle cuisine, the served dishes are meat oriented. The municipality of Lyon tries to protect the traditional “bouchon”, so only twenty of them are officially certified. It’s not so difficult to locate them walking around the city centre, since they all have a sticker in display showing a marionette with a glass of wine in one hand and a napkin bearing the Lyon crest in the other.
A trip to Chamonix and Lyon can combine sports, sightseeing and a taste of new gastronomical delights. The Rhone-Alpes region boasts many of the most popular and most prestigious ski resorts in Europe. Lyon, the capital of the region, is a city worth visiting for its monuments and Renaissance scenery. We suggest you arrange a quick getaway there when you feel the need for escaping the British routine.