An Alpine vibe, mountainous hills and a medieval château make for a superbly picturesque holiday spot. Not unusual for France, local cheeses are to die for: there's Beaufort, Gruyère and Reblochon, just to get you started, of course.
By
Kirsty Manning-Wilcox

5 Jul 2013 - 11:07 AM  UPDATED 24 Sep 2013 - 9:36 AM

Bonjour from Annecy
Annecy is a medieval city to the north of the French Alps in the district known as the Haute-Savoie, just 35 km from Geneva, Switzerland.

Why go?
Escape the summer heat and enjoy the lake country. The city is constructed around a medieval château and has canals running beside some streets. There’s a real Alpine vibe here with a Swiss touch. These mountains are the perfect place to visit if you like fishing, camping, hiking and foraging.

Must eats
All this clean mountain air makes for big appetites! Seasonal specialties include: cep and morel mushrooms, veal, root vegetables, juniper and trout from the lake. With all this juicy grass for grazing, cow’s milk cheeses are popular. Try Beaufort, a hard, mild cheese like Gruyère that is often used in fondue. You’ll also find Beaufort in sauces paired with fish in this Alpine region. For something stronger, Reblochon is a soft, stinky washed rind cheese that goes well in potato gratin mixed with port or bacon.

Serious Francophiles book ahead to stay at the fancy Flocons del Sel hotel and restaurant in the nearby village of Megève. If a stay is out of the question, try the three-course lunch menu, featuring the area’s specialties, at the Flocons bistro.

Must drink

Remember this is Alpine country so it’s a real struggle to get the vines ripe – meaning there will not be the boldness, richness and perhaps the higher alcoholic levels seen in wines from other areas. That said, often the whites tend to be dry, delicate and light so look for Roussette or the more recognisable pinot gris. Mondeuse can also be a light white, but more often served as a light, fruity red. The local pinot noir also goes well with the local cheeses and mountain herbs like juniper used in the cooking. To take the edge off the cool mountain air, grab a bottle of the famous Dolin vermouth de Chambéry, where the distinctive aromatics and flavour comes from a secret blend of the local Alpine herbs.

Best food souvenir
A fishing rod, waders and net for fly fishing in the lakes. A fondue set from the Annecy Fromagerie Cremerie du Lac.

Getting there and around
The nearest major airport is Geneva, and buses leave with Swiss efficiency at least five times daily. There is a local train network through this mountain region, and buses head out to local villages like Chambéry and St-Gervais. Lyon is two-and-a-quarter hours away and Paris is nearly four hours, with transfers.