An unspoilt wilderness with breath-taking views, Aix-les-Bains – Riviera of the Alps includes unmissable tourist attractions: viewpoints, Hautecombe Abbey, walks beside the lake, which make the area famous. And yet, there are secret places hidden in the area. If you love culture, food and local knowledge, you’ll love exploring these unusual places away from the crowds. We have chosen 5 unusual places to visit in Aix-les-Bains – Riviera of the Alps.
The municipal greenhouses in Aix-les-Bains
Whilst Aix is famous for its architecture, the beauty and variety of its parks, plants and flowers will also attract your attention. Themed and varied, the art of gardening is a key part of theBelle Epoque atmospherein Aix-les-Bains. It’s therefore not surprising that Aix-les-Bains is one of the greenest towns in France (‘4-flower’ certification). In order to enjoy this show, it worth getting to know the hidden side in the municipal greenhouses, where everything begins.
Behind a hidden door in the Avenue Saint-Simond, 2,500 m² of nature is waiting for you. Illuminated with natural light, you will be surrounded by a riot of colours and scents in the greenhouses, the oldest of which dates back to 1938. Maurice Canaux, in charge of this haven of greenery for over 10 years, will guide you through this labyrinth of exotic-sounding plants. Passionate and knowledgeable, he will proudly talk about the different plants and the gardening techniques used, especially the use of integrated biological protection, which avoids the use of chemical sprays. Here, we work with Mother Nature, and not against her.
On this visit, you will learn more about the daily work of the 45 municipal gardeners. These are the people who bridge the gap between invisible and visible, thanks to the 200,000 flowers planted every year.
The plants of the herbalist’s shop of the herbier de la clappe
In the heart of theRegional Natural Park of the Massif des Bauges, in the little village of Noyer, theHerbier de la Clappeis a fun and tasty place to stop! At an altitude of 850m, ‘a delicious combination of scents and flavours, as well as providing calm and authenticity’ radiates from this quirky farm. Philippe and Florence, grow the plants for the herbalist’s shop, organically of course, and also gather wild plants, in order to make the herbal teas and aperitifs made from Savoyard wine. Above all, Philippe and Florence love to share their passion in a truly friendly atmosphere. They have opened their farm and fields to visitors, who come to enjoy Florence’s wise tales. The smell of verbena, thyme and oregano delicately infuse the air and the riot of colours is a simple pleasure, which alone is worth the trip. After having delighted your nose with these fragrances, delight your taste buds by going to a tasting session. You can thus appreciate the benefits and flavours of these plants that contribute to your well-being. Nearby is the gentle atmosphere of the ‘teaching garden’, where you can relax, lulled by the sound of the stream.
To extend your visit, become a medicinal plant grower for a day of work experience, offered on site
Behind the scenes of the grand cercle theatre
The Grand Cercle Casino, in Aix-les-Bains, is an icon of the Belle Epoque in the town. Its spectacular mosaics by Salviati, which have adorned the ceiling since 1883, attract the attention of both players and visitors. Another treasure of the Casino can be found in the north wing of the building: its Italian-style theatrewith 800 seats, opened in 1899. Its seats, majestic chandelier and red and gold decor are a reminder of its illustrious history, where monarchs and leaders would walk in these hallowed halls. This magic, which can be felt in the theatre, can be found backstage. Behind the scenes, is a world with an incredible atmosphere and outstanding preserved heritage. In the basement, machinery, carriages and hatches are proudly displayed. Visitors can admire the skilled work of artisans during the renovation of the stage equipment in 2013. In order to perfectly imitate the original style, the attention to detail is so fine that the same type of bolts are used. As you wander along the twists and turns backstage, the theatre’s 19th-century soul can still be felt. As you discover what is normally hidden behind the curtain, you will feel incredibly lucky.
Visit a wine cellar and have a picnic amongst the vines
Lining the hillsides bordering the Lac du Bourget, the vines give the countryside its culinary reputation. In order to understand this vineyard and its reputation, you need to go and meet those who are responsible for it. Due to his unique skills, Xavier Jacqueline, a wine grower and oenologist, has produced authentic Savoyard wines for over 30 years. Xavier always gives a warm welcome and generously talks about his passion to visitors in search of the art of living. As they listen to Xavier in the middle of the wine estate’s 6 hectares of vines, visitors can understand the meaning of the word ‘artisan’. As a local, he talks about the perfect micro-climate and clay-limestone soil which make the wine unique. Going down to visit the centenary family wine cellar, the stone walls seem to tell us the history of this place. The colours and scents of wine will revive your senses. The wooden casks seem to be alive under your fingertips. In the semi-darkness, the unique atmosphere is perfect for tasting Roussette, Perle du Lac or Mondeuse… The mixture of fruity and mineral notes will fill your mouth. To give even more body to these wines, what better than a spontaneous picnic amongst the vineyards, overlooking the lake. With your basket full of local produce, including cold meats, cheese and traditional bread, and the sun gently warming your skin, you can admire the outstanding view of colours and contrasts in front of you.
Snack break at the correrie farm
In the town of Aillon-le-Jeune, next to the ski slopes, come to the traditionalCorrerie farm in the Beaujolais region, for a snack break. Once there, you will be welcomed by the warm smile of Philippe and his wife. These artisans love with their region, and make and sell their own cheese on their little small-holding, including the unique Tome des Bauges! Furthermore, this place offers the major advantage of discovering at close quarters the life and work of a farmer. The farm, cheese cave and animal sheds are open for guided and self-guided tours, especially for little ones! What a feeling to breathe in the typical country smells, the wooden buildings, the straw, the distinct smell of cheese being ripened… You will learn more about traditional skills from Philippe, whose delight at sharing his work is clear with each word. When it gets warm, take a few moments to sit by the animals in the cool grass of the pastures. Meanwhile, fill your lungs with fresh air, as you watch, admire and stroke the animals, with your eyes wide in child-like wonder. At the end of the afternoon, draw up a stool and milk the cows yourself! You’ll realise that these traditional activities are demanding and require a lot of skill. Immersed in a traditional farm, you can picture yourself as a farmer, enjoying the simple pleasures and values of nature.
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Crédits photos : Anthony Olivier, Herbier de la Clappe, Adrien Baud, Gilles Lansard, Christophe Baudot