Haute-Savoie (Upper Savoie) consists of the small nook of France, bordering Switzerland, across Lake Geneva to the north, and Italy to the east. It is a department in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.
- 1 Annecy is the principal city of the Haute-Savoie, and very attractive to tourists for the surrounding mountains, lake, and medieval sights.
- 2 Annemasse Located across the border from Geneva on the French side this is primarily a town of French people commuting to work in Switzerland.
- 3 Chamonix is an alpine resort town, nestled at the foot of Mont Blanc and all the allurements that it holds.
- 4 La Clusaz an attractive mountain town and popular ski resort near Geneva.
- 5 Chatel
- 6 Evian the town for which the world famous bottled water is named.
- 7 Flaine
- 8 Megève
- 9 Samoëns a charming example of a traditional French alpine town.
- Sixt Fer à Cheval
- La Vallée verte - provides a delightful glimpse of rural life in the Savoie. If you are inspired to take a scenic trip, drive through this charming spire-spotted countryside before traversing the northern-bordering hill for a great view of Lake Geneva. Boege is a central village in this green valley whose church holds a rare black Virgin.
- Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) - the northern border of Haute Savoie. This lengthy body of water provides an opportunity for sailing as well as a picturesque scene for a lakeside picnic.
- Lake Annecy - the central lake on the historic medieval town of the same name. This former seat of the Duchy of Savoy is now the prefecture of Haute-Savoie.
- Le Cirque du Fer-à-Cheval - a serene horseshoe shaped national park at the end of the Vallée du Giffre.
The Haute-Savoie became part of France in the 19th Century after a trade off between France and the Piemont noble Family. This is why a lot of local do not consider themselves French but "Savoyard" or even "Savoisiens" (movement for independence from France, not followed widely) in their own right. The locals can be a bit tough to deal with and most regret the old days as this particular region went from very rural to over-flowing with inhabitants during the last 20 years (population tripled, house prices among the highest in France) but overall they are quite nice people.
Many residents of the Haute-Savoie take pride in the culture and lifestyle that can be described as "typiquement Savoyard" (typical Savoyard, a variation of the word Savoie). Not only do many people believe it is one of the most beautiful parts of France, but there is also the cheese and other special dishes to dote on. Taking a chance to talk to the local people about the ways this area is different than the rest of France is sure to be enlightening and would greatly enrich the travel experience.
The Haute-Savoie, particularly the rural areas, can also provide a revealing look at the quiet, small-town life in France. For the tourist who has a tendency to forget the France outside of Paris, this may be especially eye-opening and entertaining.
- By plane the two largest airports near the Haute-Savoie are located in Lyon and Geneva and are serviced by most major international and some discount European airlines, two smaller airport are located in Grenoble and Chambéry and have flights from by a dozen or so European and African cities.
- By train Haute-Savoie is easily accessible with a short ride (about 1 1/2 hours) from Lyon. Of course that is assuming a high speed train (train de grande vitesse, TGV). The stations at Annecy and Annemasse are serviced by the TGV.
- By Car the drive between Annecy and Lyon is about 2 hours on the express way, which are all tolled. Italy is also a neighbor and can be reached through the tunnel under Mont Blanc. The France-side tunnel entrance is in Chamonix, and with a 15-minute drive puts you back in daylight in Italy but is quite pricy.
Dozens of excellent ski resorts in the region (see 'cities', above, for a few of the most well known.)
If cheese sounds good, the Haute Savoie offers a variety of dishes that are sure to please the pallet.
- Fondue Savoyarde is incredible. This dish is served family-style with a bubbling pot of cheese melted in white wine at the center of the table and bite-size pieces of bread filling a bowl. The bread pieces are pushed onto fondue forks and dipped into the cheese. Be sure to let it cool before eating, however hard the wait may be.
- Raclette is another regional specialty. In the traditional style of serving it, a wedge of Raclette cheese is speared and set up so that one side is facing a flame. As the cheese melts, it is scraped off (hence the name "Raclette" which literally means scrapping) and poured over boiled potatoes. To complete the meal a variety of cold meats is often served. This is the way it is likely to be served in restaurants, though an electrical apparatus is more often used for melting the cheese when it is eaten in homes.
- Tartiflette is an especially "typiquement Savoyard" (typical Savoyard) meal. The locals all consider it a necessity in any correct sampling of the regional foods, and take great joy in introducing foreigners to it. Tartiflette is made with a local cheese called Reblochon. It is a casserole dish made with potatoes mixed with pieces of pork and the Reblochon melted in and over the top. It may sound simple, yet it is delicious!
Note that the Fondue and the Raclette are both prepared and eaten in a way that requires people to wait on each other and share the common food source. This is representative of the French fashion of taking time to truly enjoy all meals and the presence of friends and family. So, don't rush yourself though the experience.
Macumba, fabled to be Europe's biggest night club, it located in the Haute-Savoie, a short drive out of Annemasse.
- Geneva, though in the neighboring country of Switzerland, is only a border crossing away from the Haute-Savoie city of Annemasse.