Posts Tagged With: France

Passes and Gorges of the French Alps

After a long day in the car the previous day when we drove all around the Vercors we decided to play it by ear a bit today. If you are staying near Lake Annecy it would be silly not to take a jaunt up to Lake Geneva since it is so near. Our (slightly indirect) route from the campsite up to Yvoire and back takes us to more mountain passes and gorges than you can shake a stick at.

This is at the top of Col de la Croix Fry 1477m. What a very pleasant morning it is. There are so many cyclists going up and down these roads the mind boggles….they must be quite mad. Personally I’m a bit tired just sitting in the car looking out the window.

Col de la Croix Fry

Then a little detour to Col des Aravis at 1498m

Col des Aravis 1498m

Given the choice I would rather not be sat in the road but I get put places sometimes and I don’t get a choice in the name of photography. Still, there’s Mont Blanc in the distance at a hulking great 4810m … like over 3 times as high as we are now. Wow!

Col des Aravis

And then off to Col de la Colombiere at 1618m

Col de la Colombiere 1618m

What a view. Woohoo!

Col de Colombiere

On the way back from Lake Geneva we stumbled upon the most amazing sight. It was the two chaps with cameras by the road that gave it away. Here’s my photographer hard at work, though my typist was more concerned, not that we had scrambled down this steep bank, but that we had done so with both mobile phones and the car keys in Bens pockets.

D902 from Thonon

D902 from Thonon

And the view the other way from the top of the bank … beautiful!


So we finally reach the Gorges de Pont du Diable or The Devils Bridge Gorge.  An amazing site, much like the Gorges du Fier we visited previously, cut out of the rock by the power of the river. It is located a little way after the amazing views in the photo above on the D902 which runs south from Thonon Les Bains on Lake Geneva. The car park and visitor centre are by the road and you have a long walk down to the entrance of the gorge. And you know what a long walk down means? You guessed it, a long walk back up again which feels even longer if it’s as ridiculously hot and humid as it was when we visited. If you’re not great on your feet or have only tiny little legs like me it may not be practical to get to?

The view from the first part of the walkway inside the gorge.

Gorges du Pont Diable

Here is the Devils Bridge in question, balanced above our heads.

Pont Diable

Hello, here I am. It’s a little gloomy so I’m hard to see.

Gorges du Pont Diable

Biiig trees clinging to the edge of the rocks above.

Gorges du Pont Diable

You have to hand it to the people who decided to put in these walkways for us to visit these wonderful places. They built the first wooden walkways here in the 1890s.

Gorges du Pont Diable

The rocks look kind of funny don’t they? Not really like rocks at all; kind of like a living thing.

Gorges du Pont Diable

And then back we went towards the campsite at Lake Annecy again, but via a slightly less picturesque route for the purposes of speed and getting dinner. A tired and hungry bear is not a good bear. Some of the other passes and gorges we went through on our travels include the Gorges de la Bourne,  Col de Rousset, Col de Grimone and the Gorges de Gats on our big drive round the Vercors.

I guess the only thing I haven’t told you about for this part of the holiday is going to Annecy itself and the lovely boat trip round the lake so I’ll do that in my next post.

Bear hugs,


Categories: A Bear in France, Bear Travels | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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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Semnoz and the Gorges du Fier

There are some wonderful places to visit around Lake Annecy (as if the lake itself wasn’t quite enough). Yesterday we took a drive around the lake which really is beautiful. Today we are visiting places away from the lake: La Semnoz ski station high in the mountains above Saint Jorioz and Lake Annecy, and le Gorges du Fier, an amazing site just a few miles east of Annecy. The drive through the trees up into the mountains to Semnoz is lovely. This is our first real experience of multiple hairpin bends and the hooms seem to be doing lots of “ooh-ing”, “aah-ing” and “wow-ing” at the scenery and laughing a bit when they drive round some of the bends. I’m not sure how normal this is but it’s pretty funny to listen to – you’d think they’d never driven round a bend before. It must look really pretty in the snow up here, but there’s none of that today. As we near the top the trees thin out a little until there are none at all and the view opens out across the top of the mountain.

Semnoz sits at 1699m (5574ft) and the views are amazing. There are ski lifts a short walk up the hill (short for the hooms at any rate, a mammoth trek for me) so we go and investigate.

La Semnoz

Hmm what’s that I wonder?

La Semnoz

*puff* *wheeze* that was a LONG way

The ski lifts at Semnoz

What a novel idea. Shame it’s not working today. A ride would have been fun.

Apparently when it snows humans come here to the top and then slide back down the hill on two sticks, then get the chair back up and slide down again and so on. Sounds like a hoot. Maybe we could try it one day. The hoom says it’s not a good idea she ever tries, lest she be stuck in a Bridget Jones-esque manner and get flung off the other side *chuckles*.

La Semnoz

I shall rest a moment on the ski lift – since no-one is actually using it for skiing.

La Semnoz

It’s a great view

There is a point on the road on the way back down the mountain where you can see nearly all of Lake Annecy. You can probably see our campsite too (memo to self: affix large sail-type flag to tent next holiday).  That cloud looks like a really big mountain. I’m pretty sure it IS a cloud anyway. It’s quite a view isn’t it. On a less pleasant note there’s also a lot of big black flies round this spot which led to lots of comedy thrashing about by the hooms that made me giggle.

Lake Annecy

The view over Lake Annecy and the mountains beyond

From Semnoz we drove towards Annecy then to Lovagny and the Gorges du Fier. The gorges are basically a narrow canyon carved out by the water over a long, long time with a walkway affixed to the rock face about 25m above the water. It’s really cheap to go and have a look  (no charge for small yellow bears and only 5Euros each for the hooms). Their website will tell you all about exact opening times/dates/prices and so on.  It’s pretty impressive to put a gangway up here on the rocks.

Gorges Du Fier

The start of the Gorges du Fier, picture taken from the start of the walkway.

Gorges du Fier

About halfway along the walkway.

They say the water can reach way up over the walkway when the weather is really bad. That’s kind of scary to think about. It’s a nice day today though and it’s not raining so I’m sure we’ll be OK. The shapes the water has made in the rock are really amazing

Gorges Du Fier

This is what the gorges look like from above

Phil climbing the steps at Gorges du Fier

I’m struggling somewhat with the steps

Faces in the Rock

Look at the face in the rock on the left hand side

The faces in the rock are linked to a local legend which goes like this: The Count of Montrottier wanted to check if his wife Diane was being faithful to him so he asked a young page boy to keep an eye on her. The young boy was secretly in love with Diane and whilst watching her he discovered that she was having an affair with the Count of Pontverre, a rival of her husband. The boy was heartbroken and he told the Count of Montrottier about the affair, who decided to try and catch out his wife and the Count of Pontverre. He set a trap at the Gorges du Fier but it ended up going badly wrong and whilst chasing the Count of Pontverre the young boy fell into the gorge. Since then it is said that moans can be heard coming from the gorge which are from the young boy who mourns his lost love. How very sad.

A bit of practical information. There are 2 free carparks for the gorges. There are quite a lot of steps so it might not be suitable if you have problems with mobility. There is a shop and a little cafe with a terrace and picnic area.

If you click any of the photos it will take you through to either mine or the hooms’ Flickr pages so you’ll find lots more pictures. Next on the visiting agenda is the cascade and grotto at Seythenex just beyond the end of Lake Annecy.

Thanks for reading,


Categories: A Bear in France, Bear Travels | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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