|Driving Around Lac du Bourget, France|
|A drive around this lovely lake offers fabulous views, a taste of the history of Savoie, and some excellent dining opportunities!|
Aix-Les-Bains is the principal town on the Lac du Bourget, but this beautiful lake offers many other lovely spots to visit. The lake is only about 18 kilometers (11 miles) long, and you can easily drive around it.
Le Bourget du Lac, a tiny town on the southwestern end of the lake, is home to four Michelin starred restaurants! We enjoyed a wonderful lunch at Lamartine, with fabulous views of the lake. Other options include La Grange au Sel, Atmosphères, and Le Bateau Ivre.
From Le Bourget du Lac you can drive north along the Mont du Chat (Cat Mountain) to the Abbaye d'Hautecombe. This abbey, which was built in the 12th century, is the burying place of more than forty members of the House of Savoie, the historic rulers of this part of France.
Although some tombs date to the 13th century, others are more recent. The last king of Italy, Umberto II of Savoy, was buried at Hautecombe in 1983 and his wife Queen Marie-José in 2001.
The abbey fell into ruins over the centuries and was largely restored in the 19th century. its decor is romantic Gothic, very ornate and intricate.
Traditionally home to the Cistercians, in the early 1900s it became Benedictine, and today hosts the Chemin Neuf Community.
If you continue north from the abbey, you will pass the Canal de Savières, which connects the Lac du Bourget with the Rhône River. Then, at the northern tip of the lake, you'll come to Chindrieux, a small commune surrounded by vineyards producing tasty Savoie wines.
You will see the Château de Châtillon, perched on a hill above the lake. Built in the 13th century, it is closed to the public but can be admired from various vantage points.
If it's lunchtime, take a detour down to the lakeside Port de Chatillon. In this tiny port you'll find an assortment of small boats and water sport activities, as well as a very small shingle (pebble) beach. There are also several marked hiking trails.
But the draw of Châtillon is the two waterfront restaurants, where you can enjoy a leisurely lunch by the water. We had lavaret, a local fish from the lake, and white wine that the hostess told us came from a vineyard across the lake.
From Chindrieux you can head back along the lake to Aix-les-Bains, or, as we did, head up the mountains en route to Annecy. The views of the lake are spectacular! Be aware that the road is very narrow, steep, and windy, and you'll need to take it slowly and carefully. Be sure to take advantage of the various pullouts to enjoy the views.
Driving around the entire lake, including a detour to Hautecombe, is about 63 kilometers (39 miles). It's a slow and scenic route, and a delightful way to spend a day in the region. You will also pass many fine Savoyard vineyards, so you may wish to detour to visit one or more of these. Although the wines of Savoie are not world famous, they are excellent. We always enjoy tasting the local wines as we travel in France.
If you're not interested in driving, consider taking a boat trip from Aix-les-Bains. The Compagnie des Bateaux du Lac du Bourget et du Haut-Rhône offers a variety of cruises, ranging from a one hour discovery circuit to cruises that include a visit of the Abbaye d'Hautecombe, to lunch and dinner cruises. They also offer excursions that include the Canal de Savières. Trips leave from the Grand Port in Aix-les-Bains.