Insider's Guide: The French Alps

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The Independent Travel

In the second of our series of Insider's Guides, Chris Thompson, managing director of Alp Active, which offers activity holidays in the Portes du Soleil area, gives his tips on holidaying in the French Alps.

1 In Evian, on the shores of Lake Geneva, you may be tempted to buy a bottle of the world-famous water. Save yourself a few euros and do as the locals do; take empty bottles to the drinking fountains where the same mineral water gushes out and you can fill up free of charge. There are two fountains close to each other on Avenue des Sources.

2 In Chamonix, don't miss the Aiguille du Midi cable car, which whisks you up to a viewing platform just below the peak of Mont Blanc. The view is stunning, but don't forget a jacket. It may be 30C-plus at ground level but at 3,842m it will be below freezing. At €42 (£37) return, it's not cheap, but you will remember the experience for the rest of your life.

3 Savoie's slopes are normally associated with ski runs, but in summer, 2,000 hectares produce the local white wines such as Apremont and Crépy. Taste your way around these vineyards by renting an electric bike at Chambéry station and following the waymarked Route des Vins.

4 The Portes du Soleil domain is made up of 12 resorts. They include the Savoyard villages of Morzine, Les Gets and Châtel, as well as purpose-built resorts such as Avoriaz. In summer, most chairlifts remain open, and for just €1 a day you can get a Multipass, which allows unlimited use of them. The pass will also get you into the pools, ice rinks, museums, tourist trains and more. Bus transport between the villages is also free.

5 The Savoie Mont Blanc area has 29 Michelin-starred restaurants. Some open their kitchen to share their secrets. For example, in Courchevel , the renowned Chabichou (, with two Michelin stars, invites people to spend some quality time with chef Michel Rochedy.

6 Fancy a swim with a difference? Head for Combloux, where you will find the Biotope swimming lake. The water is filtered naturally, using nothing but reed beds and plants that grow in special areas in the margins. This produces water purity claimed to be higher than "normal" swimming pools. And there are fabulous views of Mont Blanc, too.

7 Try downhill cycling from Arc 1950 to the village of Villaroger. The route passes along forest tracks and there are lots of hamlets to explore. On the way back, take the easy route and hop on the funicular train and then catch one of the inter-resort buses.

8 The wonderful Jardin des Cinq Sens in the pretty village of Yvoire on the shore of Lake Geneva stimulates the senses because you can smell, touch and taste your way along the carefully laid out pathways.

9 Lac du Bourget is France's largest inland lake, perfect for swimming, boating and fishing.

10 The spa town of Aix-les-Bains was once a favoured retreat of Queen Victoria. She had such an affinity for the town that they put up a statue of her. Feeling peckish? The nearby village of Bourget du Lac has four restaurants with five Michelin stars between them.

To find a holiday in any part of France, visit the website of Abtof (the Association of British Travel Organisers to France ) at For more Information on the area, go to