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5 MAIN REASONS TO DISCOVER THE FRENCH ALPS
Europe’s cleanest lake, Lake Annecy, offers fun for families, couples or singles alike. Most lake-goers only get in the water during the summer months when the temperature reaches 25 degrees Celsius. With activities such as swimming, diving, waterskiing, wakeboarding, and sailing everyone will find something that sparks their interests. Charming villages, like Talloires, Menthon St Bernard and Veyrier, surround the lake’s 35 kilometer shoreline. Perhaps the most appealing town is Annecy with divine places to see for example the photogenic Palais de l’Isle, also called “old prison,”in the centre of the Thiou canal, the Château d’Annecy, and the lovers’ bridge, the Pont des Amours. The bike path that boarders the lake makes it easy for cyclists to ride from town to town shopping, eating and enjoying the ambiance.
With respect to history and cuisine, Lyon is indisputably one of the richest locations in France. The Croix-Rousse district of the city, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one reason why Lyon was known at one time as the “silk capital of the world.”The district includes structures like Lyon City Hall, the Fontaine Bartholdi, and the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon (Lyon Museum of Fine Arts) which houses paintings by renowned artists such as Picasso, Rembrandt and Bourdelle, as well as priceless Ancient Egyptian relics. Lyon has been labelled the “culinary capital of France”as well because of its gastronomy and local delicacies like salade lyonnaise, andouillete and marrons glace.
Those experienced cyclists looking for a challenge and a chance to feel like a pro can find just that on the cols in the Rhone-Alpes region. These mountain passes, including the legendary Alpe d’Huez, have been ridden by celebrated cyclists in the Tour de France. This long and difficult 14 km climb with 8% gradient and 21 hairpin bends has been championed by Lance Armstrong twice in its many Tour de France appearances. Other note-worthy cols include the grueling Col de la Madeleine, Col des Saisies, and Col de la Colombière. Vigorous bikers endure these climbs for the thrill, views from the top, and of course the bragging rights that come with it.
Outdoor adventure enthusiasts will find paradise at Chamonix Mont Blanc. The highest mountain in France has plenty to boast about when it comes to outside activities. From skiing, ice climbing and snowboarding in the winter to hiking, rafting and paragliding in the summer, one will never be left wondering what to do. Mountain bikers also flock to this town for the countless single-track courses. Downhill cyclists will enjoy taking the chair lift up the mountain and experiencing the excitement in their bones as they descend down on their bike at high speeds. A ride no one wants to miss is Mont Blanc’s cable car which takes you through the mountains where you will witness incredible views.
The Drome-Provence department offers the best of both the Provence region and Rhone-Alpes region. This is where the weather changes and the clouds give way to the clear blue sky, as well as where the lavender fields begin to appear and the mountains become rolling hills perfect for cycling. The natural environment is not the only great interest of this region, there is the cultural heritage present in every town. For example, travel back to the medieval times when you visit Le Poët-Laval, a town that has remained in the same condition since the 15th century, with no roads just paths and stairways. You must bike to the settlement of Grignan to observe the majestic Château de Grignan surrounded by lavender fields and vineyards. A few other towns worth noting that will not disappoint include Valreas, Dieulefit, Crest, and Nyons. The off the beaten track routes of this region rich in lavender and fruit production are perfect for cycling vacationers.