Not far from the Chamonix valley await some of Europe’s finest and most diverse cultures and attractions. There are pristine lakes located at the foot of the snow-drenched Alps, and ancient old towns with awe inspiring Chateaus. If you enjoy music, there is a world-renowned jazz festival every year in Montreux. And who can forget skiing or snowboarding when visiting a region that contains the Alps? Europe’s finest ski resorts and mountains are located here. Lets discover why this region is so popular the whole world around.
Montreux is a quaint little town on the banks of Lake Geneva. While the town may be small in size, it hosts many large festivals throughout the year. The Freddie Mercury Montreux Memorial Day is an annual event that takes place yearly on the first weekend in September. Freddie Mercury was the lead singer of the British band Queen. And, although the band was from England, Freddie was actually born in Montreux. The most famous festival in Montreux is the jazz festival that has been held there every year since 1967. The festival lasts about two weeks in total, and draws an audience of over 200,000 people each year. Although the festival originally began with jazz performances, it has gone through quite a metamorphosis and now features almost all types of music in its lineup. The casino where the festival originally began burned down, supposedly by a Frank Zappa fan with a flare gun, and this occurrence gave the band Deep Purple inspiration for their song, “Smoke on the Water.” Now, the jazz festival includes many Brazilian acts, and such legends as Santana, Eric Clapton, Herbie Hancock, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Van Morrison have graced the stage.
Aosta is a small and picturesque city located in the Italian Alps, roughly 110 kilometers north of Turin. This city is home to many ancient and historical landmarks. The Arch of Augustus was created in 35 BC in order to celebrate a Roman troops victory over the Salassi. There is also a Roman theater that was built during Augustus reign, which is 22 meters tall and can accommodate 4,000 people. The Cathedral of Aosta was built in the 4th century, and then reconstructed in the 11th century as an homage to the Madonna. One of the more evocative attributes of the Romanesque-Gothic Sant’Orso is its cloister, an ancient area that is accessible through a hall on its left side. This work was a dedication to Ursus of Aosta. Another amazing spectacle in Aosta is the Roman walls with their 20 towers. Some of the more fascinating names of the towers are Tour du L’epreux, or Tower of the Leper, named after a leper was actually imprisoned there. And built over a Roman bastion was the Tower of Bramafan. The word Bramafan translates into “He who screams for hunger.”
Lake Geneva is a beautiful and pristine lake located on the border of France and Switzerland. In fact, 40% of the lake belongs to France, and 60% belongs to Switzerland. The lake is also the second largest in Europe. Many exciting activities are possible on Lake Geneva. You can water ski, wake board, go rowing, scuba diving, sailing and wind surfing. The area between Vevey and Lausanne is referred to as Lavaux, which is world renowned for its hilly landscape and rich vineyards.
Vallorcine is an unspoiled gem. This little village is a short 20 kilometers away from the Chaminoux valley area, and is only one of a handful of fairly secret or unknown resorts left here. The trip itself is worth it just to save you the aggravation of waiting in long lines at the other Chamonix resorts. It is very plausible to walk through the village for some time and never cross paths with another soul. That is why you can refer to Vallorcine as an unspoiled gem. Because it is not over crowded, it doesn’t have long lines for you to wait in, and the town only really consists of a few hotels and restaurants.
Annecy is an extremely beautiful city located in the Rhone Alps area of southern France. The city sits on the banks of Lake Annecy, and is home to many historical structures and pieces of art. The Palais de L’Isle, also known as the old prison, is the towns symbol and one of Frances most photographed monuments. The Chateau d’Annecy, which was originally a home for the Counts of Geneva, is now home to the Art and History Conservatory of Annecy and the Regional Office of the Alpine Lakes. Another personal cathedral turned into an art gallery is the Cathedral of Saint Pierre, which now houses an artwork collection as well as many Baroque pieces. And finally, the European Gardens were created in 1863, and are an area where people can come and take in the surroundings of the garden and view their rich, lush vegetation.
There are also a few other noteworthy ski and snowboarding resorts in the Chamonix valley region. First off is Le Domaine de Balme. This area, accessible through the Vallorcine and Le Tour villages, offers two mountainsides of skiing or boarding. The Vallorcine side allows you to ski along the border of Switzerland on pistes lined with beautiful green trees. The Charamillion side offers you gentle, wide open skiing while overlooking the Chamonix valley. Lastly is the Les Planards ski resort. Only a few minutes from town, it offers up perfect runs for newbies to intermediate level skiers and boarders alike.