Rhône-Alpes, a nature tourism hotspot
Need to get away from it all? Then come to Rhône-Alpes! The second largest region in France (in terms of surface area) stands out for its incredible diversity: a great place for mountain climbing, it also boasts lakes and spa towns, and let us not forget Lyon, Saint-Etienne and Grenoble, the region's main cities.
Since 2008, Franck and Isabelle Brelivet have managed the INTER-HOTEL l'Iroko, a 3-star boutique hotel in the marina on Bourget lake, just a few minutes from the centre of Aix-les-Bains. Hailing from Brittany and Alsace respectively, they both fell in love with the region and its "enchanting surroundings", with the lake on one side and mountains on the other.
Come to Rhône-Alpes and meet good, honest people. Franck Brelivet sees in this region "all of the charm of the sea and the leisure activities associated with it... while enjoying an exceptional quality of life near to the mountains!"
Nature and discovery in Rhône-Alpes
With more than 60% of its territory taken up by the Alps, there are plenty of places to choose from in Rhône-Alpes. Something of a biker, Franck Brelivet delights in telling people about the rides and hikes they can do in the mountains, such as "the Savoie region wine route or the views from the Dent du Chat and Mont Révard, which culminates in the Mont Blanc mountain range and Bourget lake...".
Near to the Col de la Colombière, in Haute Savoie, the town of Scionzier, not far from Cluses, is a major stage of the Tour de France, the perfect location for accessing the many winter sports resorts. "The Rhône-Alpes region has something for everyone, young and old, families and friends. You can soak up the charm of the old town of Annecy, the region's tourism capital, with its narrow streets and its festive atmosphere in summer". The town is famous for its lake, of which the water is said to be "the purest in Europe". Further around the lake, you will find Annecy-le-Vieux, a holiday resort with the lake's largest public beach where you can take part in numerous water sports.
Further south, near Pont-de-Claix in the department of Isère, Grenoble enjoys an incredible setting. "At the end of each street, a mountain," declared Stendhal. The opportunity to take part in a range of mountain sports and the proximity of the ski resorts make it a real haven for tourists who want to stay in the mountains.
In the department of Ain, you will discover the farming country of Montrevel-en-Bresse, whose "Volaille de Bresse" chicken is the pride of the whole town, Bourg-en-Bresse, Montagnieu and Oyonnax.
Head further south to the splendour of the Ardèche countryside, with its deep gorges and canyons and its climate, which make this department particularly appealing. To appreciate all of the beauty, take a trip on the Le Vivarais tourist train, the "Mastrou". As you leave Tournon-sur-Rhône, near Tain-l'Hermitage, take in the magnificent Ardèche scenery, as far as Lamastre, the last stop on the journey.
Wellness breaks in the Rhône-Alpes region
The region's many lakes and spa towns are perfect for wellness and relaxation. Nestled in the heart of the Alpine massif, the towns of Aix-les-Bains, Evian-les-Bains and Thonon-les-Bains are great spots for a wellness break. The altitude and the mountain climate led to the development of many health resorts, favoured by the 19th century aristocracy, and the town of Saint-Blaise, near Saint-Julien-en-Genevois, is one of the few remaining examples.
A land of heritage
A stay in Rhône-Alpes will enable you to immerse yourself in the history of Savoie and Haute-Savoie. Chambéry, La-Roche-sur-Foron, Sévrier, Gaillard and Corenc in Isère are all towns that bear witness to a past forged by a strategic geographical location, at the crossroads of the main European economic routes, a mountainous region once populated by the Romans. In Faverges (by Lake Annecy), archaeological digs revealed the presence of ancient Gallo-Roman baths.
In the department of Drôme, the remains of the city of Montélimar reveal a rich cultural past, and the Château des Adhémar, which dominates the city, is a true treasure. It is a shining example of the architecture of the Middle Ages. If you head north, you will find the charming and authentic Rochemaure, classified as a "village of character". Some thirty miles from Valence, passing through Châteauneuf-Sur-Isère, make sure you stop off at the "Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval" (Postman Cheval's Ideal Palace) in Hauterives. At this surrealist site, a symbol of "naive" art, retrace the footsteps of a postman who spent 30 years building this castle from stone he collected on his rounds.
Not far from Annonay, you will discover Davézieux, the town the Montgolfier brothers came from, as recognised in the town's coat of arms. Near Lagnieux, Montagnieu invites you to explore its vineyards. Take a break from tasting the local wine and enjoy a relaxing stroll near to the Bugey lakes. On the border with Ardèche and a stone's throw from Châteauneuf-sur-Isère stands Valence, considered to be "the gateway to Midi". The town has retained much of the charm and authenticity of the south of France with its colourful markets, pedestrianised streets and "Provençale" way of life.
Last but not least, Lyons, of which an area of the city centre measuring 2 square miles is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Inhabited for over 2,000 years, it was the capital of the Three Gauls of the Roman Empire. France's second largest city has a wealth of tourist attractions. Although Villefranche-sur-Saône is the economic capital of Beaujolais, this is often wrongly attributed to Lyons. But it has plenty up its sleeve! It is the city of the "Bouchon Lyonnais", which is not only a restaurant in which you can savour many Lyon specialities, such as the local dumplings, but also a great place to socialise.
In the surrounding area, the towns of Meyzieu, Belleville, Massieux, Corbas and Décines-Charpieu provide many low-cost accommodation options for a stay in Lyons. Half way between Lyons and Saint-Etienne, the historic centre of Roanne is worth a visit. The town's pedestrianised streets are great to explore with Italian architecture, historic places and the castle keep.
Not far away, pay a visit to Mably and walk to the Gravière, a great place to take a stroll and watch the birds. Very close to La Ricamarie, the town of Saint-Etienne has been classified as a City of Design by UNESCO. The permanent exhibitions, the City of Design and the modern art museum are all testament to the town's creativity and cultural dynamism. While visiting the surrounding area, discover Fourme de Montbrison, a cheese that is the region's pride.
Gastronomy and mountains, city and nature, the Rhône-Alpes region has something for everyone. There are many INTER-HOTELs in the region, so why wait?