Bike TripFrom Evian-les-Bains to Annecy
A tale of church bells, oil mills, and old ship sails. Learning about Savoyard heritage in slow-travel mode. Crossing mountains and vineyards from Lake Geneva to Lake Annecy. Benjamin brought two friends, Céline and Nils, on a journey on the ViaRhôna, V62, and V63 cycling routes. A mobile postcard in tempo adagio.
Tyres full, helmet secure on the head. A reliable old IGN map close at hand. A poncho for nasty skies and two litres of water in the bags. Nothing more than a change of clothes. You'll thank me for that going uphill.
The keyword in biking is flexibility. Slow down. Everyone at their own pace. No pressure, we say. We are leaving on a ride brimming with freedom. And the past.
The itinerary will take us from Lake Geneva to Lake Annecy. It's not the Tour de France, but some of the elevation gains can take you by surprise.
Our motto: Go with the Flow
We pedal while contemplating the lake.
Its seemingly infinite coast calms us. Thonon, Yvoire. We feel like we're on holiday at the sea. Suddenly, lateen sails from medieval times appear on the horizon. These are the barques on Lake Geneva. Once upon a time, boatmen used them to trade across the borders.
We continue to take advantage of the cinematographic view before taking the ViaRhôna.
We travel through the cross valley Défilé de l'Écluse before arriving in Seyssel and continuing on to Chanaz, known as "The Little Venice of Savoy".
A charming city. Old-time architecture. Artisan workshops.
We run across Patrick Tardivel at the oil mill in Chanaz.
He's a former baker who now presses oil by hand. It's small, but it works full throttle.
Twenty tons of walnuts and hazelnuts a year.
Eight thousand litres of oil. Forty thousand visitors a yea
Forget about that!
We leave Chanaz with a litre of oil in our sacks. It will go wonderfully with a slice of fresh bread in the early morning.
For the time being, we hang up our cyclist shoes.
Our calves have clocked seven hours, and we are ready to hit the sack.
We pick up the V63 leaving the boat and descend towards Chambéry. The bad weather hits us head-on. Fog. Mist. A huge downpour. You name it. Nevertheless, the historic capital of the Savoie hasn't lost its grandeur. Mysterious back alleys, covered passageways, private mansion courtyards, trompe l'oeil art, ironworks, and sculptures. Perfect for strolling about. We get lost in the glorious past. The times of Savoy dukes and power plays.
We stop at an Acceuil Vélo halt, where we are delivered from any suffering by a full plate of pasta. The inn owner recommends a miracle cure to warm up a bit more: the wine cellar at the Cœur de Savoie vineyard. The idea appeals to all of us, the bon vivants that we are. After the respite, we hit the road again.
The vineyards crisscross as we leave Chambéry. The south face of the Bauges Massif is overflowing with local superstars named Mondeuse and Jacquère, the classic variety of grapes in the region. We don't need persuading to taste them. This is our modest reward after today's meteorological high jinks. We come across the intersection of the V62 and V63 in Saint-Pierre- d'Albigny and continue on.
We break for a picnic
before descending towards Annecy, our last stop. We'll get there tomorrow, though. In the meantime, we take it slow. We pick up the V62 once again and enter the Haute-Savoie. The Château de Faverges greets us first. We wander to the north following the railway ruins that link Albertville to Annecy, a greenway prized by bicycle lovers.
We finally hop off our bikes at the southern point of Lake Annecy with an evening of contemplation in sight. The sunset awaits us at the Bout-du-Lac Nature Reserve. More than 650 types of plants have rooted themselves here. The marsh has just as many beavers. We close our eyes in our tents at a local campsite. The sound of the lapping waters rocks us to sleep.
The magic takes effect
And never stops. The Paccard family and their artisans have produced 300 bells a year since 1796. They are everywhere. The great bell in Notre-Dame de Liesse in Annecy. The largest carillon in Europe, with 70 bells, at the Sainte-Chapelle in the Château des Ducs de Savoie in Chambéry. Paris. New York. In all, 120,000 bronze bells toll across the globe. Recognisable just by how they sound. With unequalled musicality. Some experts go so far as to call them the Stradivarius of bells.
The home stretch.And not the most unpleasant one.
The route travels between the lake and the Semnoz foothills. A guaranteed scenic view in the heart of the mountains and nature. We're being wowed before heading back to civilisation. The souvenirs have been seared into our minds. And our legs!
We arrive in Annecy.
We need to get off our bikes and continue on foot to take in the old town and its canals. Not unhappy to have arrived. And to have completed our trip without coming a cropper or a flat tyre. Our enchanted hiatus finishes here, with a well-deserved dinner looking out at the lake under the summer sky light.
What is the ViaRhôna?
Just like the Danube, Rhine, and Loire, the River Rhône also has its bike route, an 815-kilometre journey through the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and Occitanie-Pyrénées-Méditerranée regions. It's a continuation of the EuroVelo 17 route that leaves from Andermatt, Switzerland. The EuroVelo project includes 15 European bicycle itineraries totalling 70,000 kilometres spread across the entire continent.
- Tyre repair kit
- Bike bags
- Waterproof jacket or poncho
- Locate water points ahead of time, so you don't need to carry too many litres
- A GPX app to get your bearings. Always bring a paper map with you!
Accueil Vélo Addresses
Several accredited Accueil Vélo businesses dot the bike routes, ensuring a worry-free holiday for cyclists. This French mark distinguishes professionals who welcome and provide services adapted to bicycle tourists. The mark includes accommodation, restaurants, tourist sites, tourist offices, renters, etc.
The tourist offices to welcome you