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Lake Geneva France French Holidays

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Although a beautiful and serene location when placid, Lake Geneva is subject to as violent storms as the sea, as Shelley and Byron experienced in 1816. The lake is 14 kilometres wide, at least 70 kilometres long and 310 metres deep, and lies 40 kilometres north of Annecy on the Franco Swiss border.

In France it is called Lac Léman and it is fed by the River Rhone. On the French side of Lake Geneva the nearest town to speak of is Thonon Les Bains, the starting point for the Routes des Grandes Alpes, a 700 kilometre route through the mountains to Menton on the Mediterranean coastline. Apart from this, and its excellent location as a base for exploring the lake and neighbouring countryside, the town is of little interest per se, but has fishermen's cottages and cafés enough to keep you busy for an afternoon in town.

There is also the 15th century Chateau de Ripaille built by Amédée VIII, the first Duc de Savoie, and later Bishop of Geneva during the Reformation. The chateau has a fairy tale quality to it and, thanks to 19th century restorations, a fair bit of Art Nouveau inside. After the guided tour you can try some of the wine grown in the chateau's vineyard, considered the best in the region.

Thonon Les Bains affords a range of hotels for its visitors, such as the basic Le Comte Rouge at 10 boulevard du Canal (04 50 71 06 04) with rooms for under €30, or the more upmarket places such as Le Port, 1 quai de Ripaille (04 50 71 37 05) and L'Arc en Ciel, 18 place de Crete (04 50 71 90 63) both with rooms from €55 70. If you want to try fish from the lake, head to Le Scampi restaurant at 1 avenue du Léman, which has fresh lake fish on menus from €17.

At the town of Évian you can enjoy some expensive hydrotherapy or simply stroll along the waterfront and take a trip on the lake. The Source Cachat flows from behind the Évian company's Art Nouveau office, and you are at liberty to serve yourself some spring water. Ferries to Geneva, Lausanne, Yvoire and Thonon Les Bains allow you to explore other parts of Lake Geneva quite easily, with returns from €18.