Medieval village of Yvoire, Lake Geneva

Hello to my friends and followers. Today I thought I would tell you a little about my trip last year to Yvoire, on the shores of Lake Geneva.

Yvoire is a small medieval village which has existed for around 700 years or so. That’s a long time by any-ones standards! For about 20 years it has been part of the Most beautiful villages of France association and it’s easy to see why as it really is very pretty. It’s around 30km north of Geneva itself and around the same distance west of a place called Evian where they make water. Or they put it in bottles anyway. Next time we go to France I’m taking a load of empty bottles and filling them in the lake .. I can’t believe the lake isn’t 10 or 20 people deep all the way round trying to make their fortune selling empty fizzy pop bottles full of Lake Geneva. Am I missing a trick?

Anyway, here’s a few pictures from our day trip. It was a hot and sunny day and we had a picnic under the trees by the lake, then went for a walk around the town. This is where we sat for our picnic. It’s quite a view – that’s Switzerland over there in the distance.

Lake Geneva at Yvoire

The water is sooo clear. The lake itself is shaped like a croissant and covers an area of around 580 km square. Some of it belongs to France and some to Switzerland. I’m not sure how they keep their own water? Maybe there is a huge fence down the middle?

Lake Geneva at Yvoire

This is me (obviously) with the 14th century Chateau d’Yvoire behind.

Yvoire, Lake Geneva

They have flowers everywhere. It really is lovely.


Oooh a bear shop. How exciting.

Yvoire, Lake Geneva

The church of St Pancras. There’s been a church there since the 11th century but it’s been rebuilt lots and this steeple was put up about 1854, which is still quite old.


We were going to go on a boat but didn’t have time.

Lake Geneva at Yvoire

What a beautiful day it is.

Boat on Lake Geneva at Yvoire

We just managed to get a picture of this swan about to take off.


Here’s a few bits and bobs if you fancy visiting Yvoire too:

This is the boat tour we were going to go on but didn’t have time: Clicky here

Yvoire tourism website: Clicky here

There is a big pay and display carpark off Rue des Bouchets which you get to from the D25. There is a little path down to the water from there or you can walk straight into town – it’s just a hop, skip and a jump away. This map shows a carpark by the roundabout but if you zoom in a bit and click “hybrid” view on the map you can see the car park I’ve mentioned to the right of the town.

We’re going back to stay in the same places again this year so I hope they will take me back to Yvoire and that I get to go in the bear shop this time.

All the best,


Categories: A Bear in France, Bear Travels | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Merry Christmas from the Lakes

Hi everyone,

I’m on a little holiday in Ambleside in the Lake District. It has stopped raining finally so we might be able to do a bit of walking tomorrow.


I hope you have all had a wonderful Christmas and not eaten too many crisps. I’ve eaten way too many crisps and my Santa jacket is a little tight!


P.s. My secretary has promised to crack on with typing up all my trips for the blog in the New Year. Some people need to examine their priorities!

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Scenic drive around the Vercors

Looking at a road map of the French Alps it really is difficult to decide where to go and where to miss out. It is quite easy to pick out a spectacular route but it’s also very easy to simply not have the time to cover everything you’d like to see. After two days of sightseeing around Lake Annecy, mainly on foot, we had decided to spend this day in the car and pick out a loop taking in some of the amazing gorges, towns and mountain passes that the area has to offer.

Driving route around the Vercors

This is the route we planned around the Vercors Regional Natural Park (it doesn’t show getting to and from Grenoble from Saint Jorioz). Google Maps says the round trip from Grenoble should take just over 4 hours; the round trip from Saint Jorioz is estimated at just under 7 hours. If you include time taken to stop and walk about and take pictures you need to be out really early in the morning.

The route takes in the amazing Gorges de la Bourne, the Pont de Goule Noire which spans the gorge, the town of Pont en Royans with its hanging houses, the spectacular views at Col de Roussett, the really quite beautiful Gorges des Gats and the city of Grenoble. We had planned to visit the caves of Choranche before reaching Pont en Royans but had to abandon the visit due to time getting on.

Gorges de la Bourne

If you imagine the Gorges de la Bourne weaving between the cliffs behind me in the picture above you will get an idea of how spectacular they are. Unfortunately it is almost impossible to find a safe place en route to park a car for a moment to take photographs so I will have to rely on the people over at the Alpine Roads website and show you some of their pictures (much easier to park a motorbike). There is a 3.5metre height restriction on a very long section of the road because the rocks actually overhang so far in many places and some canopies have been constructed where rockfall occurs. Much of the D531 road is breathtaking and a must-do if you’re in the area. If you are thinking of going anytime outside the height of summer try and find out if any road closures are operating – they do a lot of work to the roads outside the main tourist season.

Pont de Goule Noire

This was the first opportunity to park the car safely so we hopped out and took a look around the bridge that spans the gorge here.

Pont de Goule Noire

Pont de Goule Noire

The view from the bridge is stunning.

View from Pont de Goule Noire

Pont de Goule Noire

The car seems tiny.

Gorges de la Bourne

We drove across the bridge and through the tunnel towards our next stop, Pont en Royans. You can continue straight on without crossing the bridge directly to the Col de Roussett should you wish.

Pont de la Goule Noire

There are few places to park right in Pont en Royans and if you want to get the best view of the hanging houses you will want to be at water level a little further down river anyway. From the photo below, if you continue on the road you can see going straight ahead (not across the bridge to the right and into town) after a minute or so you will come across a ridiculously tight turning on your right hand side which takes you down a narrow ramp where you will find a large carpark on your left. We couldn’t see anywhere to pay so I think it might be free? From there it’s a two-minute walk to the river where there’s lots of picnic tables and a play area for children (but not really for bears). You can also cross the river back to town.

Pont en Royans

Pont en Royans

I’m not too sure how much I would want to stand on one of those balconies to be quite frank. But it really is very pretty, and quite dramatic with the mountains behind.

Hanging houses of Pont en Royans

The next part of our journey took us along the D518 from Pont en Royans down towards the Col de Rousset via the Grands Goulets tunnel and the towns of La Chapelle and Saint Aignan en Vercors. We had seen amazing pictures of the tunnels on Les Grand Goulets (just by the village of Les Baraques en Vercors) but sadly I believe the road has fallen into serious disrepair and is now closed, having been replaced a few years ago by the tunnel through the mountain.

Col de Rousset 1254m

After the Grands Goulets tunnel the road opens up into a wide valley which eventually starts making it’s way back uphill again towards the Col de Rousset. When you reach the Col de Rousset tunnel look out for the exit out onto the viewpoint as you really don’t want to miss it. If it’s a clear day you really are in for a treat.

On our way down the road and round all the hairpin bends there are 2 kinds of cyclists; the ones going downhill that look like they’re having great fun, and the one’s going uphill who look like they, well, aren’t. There’s lots of grimacing cyclists all over this part of France. Every time we passed them on the way uphill I wanted to open the window and shout encouraging things at them …but I suspect the sight of a small yellow bear cheering them on is more likely to have them fall off their bike to be honest so I kept quiet.

The view from the Col de Rousset viewpoint at 1254m.

Col de Rousset

So onwards we go and we continue down the road to the town of Die and then take the D93, then the D539 towards the Col de Grimone. The D539 is stunning and some kind (or mad) person has cut box hedge periodically ALL the way along. It must take them days!

Gorges de Gas

Gorges de Gas

Gorges de Gas

As you near the village of Glandage the gorge becomes much narrower (and prettier) until you find yourself going through a small section of more tunnels and canopies. I don’t recall seeing any height restriction signs but the road through the Gorges de Gats with the overhanging rocks and narrow tunnels seem much tighter than than the earlier Gorges de la Bourne. Suddenly you exit the last tunnel and the road opens out again and takes a long, steady climb towards the Col de Grimone (1318 metres).

After the Col de Grimone it was more or less main roads up to the A51 back towards Grenoble and then Annecy and as such we didn’t take too many pictures as time was getting on and we had a long drive back to the campsite.  I hope you enjoyed the drive around the Vercors region with me.


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Waterfall and cave at Seythenex

All this visiting is a tiring business. So far we have driven most of the way down France, around Lake Annecy, visited Annecy itself, Semnoz ski resort and the Gorges du Fier. Phew! All in just 3 days. Our next stop was the waterfall and cave at Seythenex which is just south of Lake Annecy halfway between the end of the lake and the town of Albertville. The cave and waterfall are open May to September, generally between 10am and 5pm and cost 7Euros per adult to visit (small yellow bears are, as always, admitted free). You can get all the specific dates/times/prices etc as well as location details from the Cascade et Grotte de Seythenex website. The cascade is pretty spectacular and drops about 45 metres. There is a viewing platform at the top where you can get some great views.

Cascade de Seythenex

Slightly downstream of the cascade on the footbridge

Cascade de Seythenex

The huge cascade at Seythenex

We climbed a LOT of steps to get right to the top. I got carried most of the way thankfully otherwise I might still be climbing now!

View from the top

The view from the platform at the top of the cascade.

and down

Some of the steps to and from the viewing platform.

Cascade de Seythenex

It really is very noisy…and very wet. That chap will be fairly damp by now I imagine.

And even more steps down and then back up again. It’s stupidly noisy by the bottom of the cascade. You have to shout to be heard by the person (or bear) next to you. And you get a bit wet too if you stand there too long.

The view back up the steps

The view from downstream

We went on a tour in the cave too. There is a liberating lack of overbearing (no pun intended) health and safety regulation here. In England there would have been danger signs everywhere and we would have been made to wear hard hats and listen to a long detailed safety brief, accompanied by some sort of pamphlet. Now the safety brief in French sounded a whole lot longer than the one we got in English (we were the only English people/bear on the tour) but since we emerged into the light at the end of the tour totally unscathed I can only deduce that our short briefing was perfectly adequate for purpose.

Once inside the cave the guide did his thing with the rest of the group in French, sent them off ahead and then offered an abridged version in English to us. Then he would run off ahead to catch the rest of the group, leaving us to slowly make our way along after him in the dark with our little torch and so the cycle would continue. Our guide was a thoroughly nice and enthusiastic chap who made me quite ashamed that his English was way better than my French. I must learn to speak more French before our next visit.

The cave system at seythenex

Map of the cave

Entrance to the caves at Seythenex

Cave entrance

Amazing patterns

Rock formations in the cave

Grotte et Cascade de Seythenex

An Alpine house just the right size!

Grotte et Cacade de Seythenex

Main entrance / reception building

Even the ticket office is picturesque

Even the ticket office is quite pretty

When we were about to leave there were some people there with big film cameras, all wearing harnesses and hard hats and things. They went up to the zip wire that goes across the cascade and I noticed that since we came back they have a new promotional video on their website which wasn’t there before we went so it might be what those people were filming. It is a wonderful place to visit if you are in the area.

On a practical note, there are a lot of steps and you can’t really avoid them if you want to see the cascade so if steps aren’t really your thing then there isn’t much you could do here. There are 2 carparks, a cafe with a terrace, picnic area and souvenir shop. To do the cave tour doesn’t cost any more than the general admission price. It can be quite cold in the cave so it would be beneficial to take an extra layer even in warmer weather and wear some decent shoes. I’m a bear so I don’t need shoes but you should definitely wear some.

Our next day out was a bit of a road trip down the Gorges de la Bourne to Pont en Royans and to Col de Roussett – I’ll tell you about that next time. Thanks for reading.


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Hot Air Ballooning

I’m taking a quick break from writing about my adventures in the French Alps to tell you about our recent Virgin hot air balloon trip. It was an early birthday surprise for one of the hooms and it was very exciting. I’ve been on an aeroplane but I’ve never been in a balloon.

We had to get up REALLY early and get to the launch site at Evesham in Worcestershire by 6am. When we got there we got to help to unpack our balloon out of it’s big bag and everything. It was great fun.

Here’s me with our balloon before it has any air in.

Hot Air Balloon

Then we have to get air into it somehow. Who knew that you have to fill a hot air balloon with cold air first! Two of the other passengers held open the bottom of the balloon while two big fans put the cold air inside.

Hot Air Ballooning

It took ages for it to start to fill up. There was another balloon going up too.

Hot Air Ballooning

Then our pilot started to fill the balloon with hot air. I was a bit worried it might catch fire.

Hot Air Ballooning

The other balloon took off just before us. It was all very exciting. We had to get into our basket so we couldn’t take pictures of our balloon taking off. One of my hooms got their foot stuck trying to climb into the basket. It was really funny, but we didn’t get a picture.

Hot Air Ballooning

It was really, really hot under the flames. Our pilot, Des, has to use the flames to keep the balloon floating in the air. He says he can only really make the balloon go up and down and it’s the wind that decides which way we go. We could end up anywhere.

Hot Air Ballooning

Up, up and away!

Hot Air Ballooning

That other balloon is a long way off already.

Hot Air Ballooning

It’s a long way down. And it’s very quiet. I bet most of those people down there have no idea there’s a huge red balloon flying over their house?

Hot Air Balloon

The fields are pretty … they look a bit like a patchwork quilt.

Hot Air Ballooning

We can see all the way around the Malvern Hills in the mist. It all looks so peaceful.

Hot Air Ballooning

This is us in our balloon. Say cheese! Can you see me?

Hot Air Balloon

We are getting a bit lower now because Des is trying to find somewhere to land. We spotted two deer running in one of the fields under the balloon.

Hot Air Ballooning

When we flew over these horses Des made the balloon go back up in the sky a bit. He says horses get easily scared by the balloons and they can hurt themselves so it’s best to stay high up and out of their way.

Hot Air Ballooning

Des found a field for us to land in and then we had let all the lovely hot air out of our balloon. One of my hooms and 2 other passengers went to hold onto the end of the balloon while it deflated.

Hot Air Ballooning

And then we had to tidy our balloon away to put back in it’s bag 😦

Hot Air Ballooning

And there it is put away. You would never know it was up in the sky about half an hour ago. That’s pilot Des trying to pull the bag shut while some other passengers push the last bit of the balloon in.

Hot Air Ballooning

When we were packed away we all had a glass of fizzy lemonade. It didn’t taste much like lemonade though. Maybe it was something else? (edit: It was champagne apparently. Obviously bears don’t drink too much champagne so I had no idea). We had travelled about 6 miles in the balloon and I thought we might have to walk back to our car, but Ground Crew Dave had come to pick us up in a little bus while Ground Crew Colin took the balloon and basket back on the trailer.

When I got home I decided to have a go myself. Do you like my balloon? The hooms wouldn’t let me out of the house in it in case I floated away.

Hot Air Balloon

Perhaps being a balloon pilot isn’t for me? I crashed. But to be fair I did manage to land on a cushion AND the right way up!

Hot Air Balloon

Thank you so much to the Virgin balloon crew (Pilot Des and ground crew Colin and Dave). We had a brilliant morning and maybe one day we will get to do it again.

I hope you enjoyed my ballooning pictures.


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