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La Giettaz is a great base from which to explore the Northern French Alps. Here are some suggestions of places to visit around us:
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Ask someone to describe the classic Alpine ski resort, and the chances are you’ll get something approaching Megève. Sitting serenely at the feet of Mont Blanc, this pretty village of cobbled streets, designer boutiques, fur coats and stylish bars has more than a hint of James Bond about it. As you sit on the beautiful central square with a hot chocolate, watching fashionable young Parisians and bejewelled, ageing Russians float past, you could easily imagine 007 in his element here.
Originally developed in the 1920s by the Rothschild family as a French alternative to the famous ski resorts of Austria and Switzerland, Megève has retained its old-fashioned charm and is certainly one of the best-looking ski resorts you’ll ever come across. Unlike other French resorts, there is also a noticeable absence of British accents among its cosmopolitan atmosphere.
An easy 20-minute drive from La Giettaz, with plenty of parking available in two underground car-parks at either side of the village centre, it’s a fascinating place to spend an afternoon or an evening. There are some excellent restaurants and some seriously expensive shops (the windows are always free though…), not to mention a casino, a cinema (occasionally showing films in English) and a large sports centre with an ice rink and indoor and outdoor swimming pools.
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Arguably the most picturesque town in the whole of the Alps, Annecy’s charms are easy to spot and very difficult to resist. The situation is breathtaking: hooked round the top corner of the lake that shares the town’s name, with gorgeous views across the water to the jagged peaks of the Aravis, Beaufortain and Bauges mountains.
The town itself is equally alluring. The fairytale-esque Chateau de Montrottier sits quietly above a beautiful medieval town centre, full of restaurants, shops and cafés and criss-crossed with several small canals. The large student population give the town a vibrant, cosmopolitan atmosphere throughout the year, although it is perhaps at its best in summer when life takes place very much outdoors. At less than an hour’s drive from La Giettaz, the town is definitely a must-visit day trip.
From May to September, the lakeside is lined with boat hire companies and there are several outdoor swimming pools and sunbathing areas dotted along the shore. If that's not enough, a well maintained cycle track runs the entire length of the northern and western edges of the lake (with work under way to extend all the way round) and onwards to Ugine, providing some 40km of easy cycling in glorious scenery.
Ask any winter sports fanatic to name their ultimate destination, and the chances are most of them will say Chamonix. Tucked in the valley at the foot of Mont Blanc, this lively town has long been synonymous with the more adrenalin-charged end of the Alpine holiday spectrum. And it's true: the opportunities around Chamonix for off-piste skiing, climbing and other extreme sports are second to none, but that's not to say that its charms do not extend to those looking for a more sedate way to spend their time.
Situated less than an hour's drive from La Giettaz, the town is pretty enough, with a good selection of bars and restaurants (a few with a noticeably British influence), but the real attraction is the proximity to Mont Blanc. A range of cable cars, including the Aiguille du Midi up at 3,600m, offer unforgettable close-up views of the highest mountain in western Europe.
Alternatively, the Montenveners train runs up an impossibly steep gradient from central Chamonix to the Mer de Glace (sea of ice). Visitors of all ages will enjoy the gorgeous views across the glacier, as well as the opportunity to visit the ice caves built into the glacier itself. Departures are through the year although booking in advance is recommended during very busy periods.