Thônes is just 20km from Annecy and on the doorstep of the winter sports resorts of La Clusaz, Grand-Bornand and Manigod. This buzzing, vibrant mountain village will give you a flavour of life half way between the city of Annecy and the resorts of the Aravis Massif, the Annecy mountains. Full of charm, friendly and surrounded by glorious countryside, Thônes is a super base from which to visit this stunning area.
Go on a Saturday morning to enjoy the charming market. And if you’re lucky enough to be there when the food festival is on, first weekend of September, you’re in for a serious treat.
What to see and do in Thônes
The village itself is very pretty with a 17th century church at its centre. And there’s plenty going on year round. There’s also a small heritage museum about the area with some very friendly volunteers who love to share tales of life in the area and explain the history of Thônes and the mountains.
It’s a great area for cycling with bike rental shops in the town, guided rides and cycle tourist routes. For hikers, there are several marked routes of varying levels and in winter, the hiking trails become cross country ski trail and snowshoe routes.
Thônes is the capital of Reblochon cheese, the quintessential cheese of the mountains. There are several farms in the area that you can visit and try direct and admire the views at the same time. One of my favourites is the family run Ferme de Lorette, located on the beautiful Plateau Beauregard where they make the most amazing cheeses. Ever.
If you’ve got kids then don’t miss Aravis Parc D’Aventures with has fun outdoor climbing activities – guaranteed to wear everyone out! And for some outstanding views, head to the Cascade du Nant Debout where there are magnificent waterfalls. The town is surrounded by areas of beauty so check in at the tourist office for a map and details.
And for a taste of the finer things in life, a short drive will bring you to the gastronomic restaurant of the chalets-hotel le Croix Fry in Manigod.
Palais Gourmand Gastronomic Fair – Thones
Every year, as the end of Summer approaches, the Palais Gourmand Gastronomic Fair takes places Thônes. I’m used to seeing amazing French gastronomy, I live in France, but even I walked round open mouthed at just how stunning the temptations on display were. Local producers and from all around France and Europe converge in Thones to tempt locals and visitors from far and wide. It’s worth going to Thônes just for this weekend extravaganza.
At one stall I spotted Le Mont Blanc cake – an irresistible blend of mascarpone cheese and chestnuts. “Cakes don’t make you fat” says the charming chef selling them “when they are this good you only need eat one”. Millionaires shortbread made with caramel from mountain cream? Impossible to eat just one!
There was cider from Normandy, nougat, specialist smoke salmon. Wine, rum, Mirabelle plum liqueur, genepito a fresh and liqueur that’s great for aperitif and chocolate galore. Saucisson brioche Chatillon, an oyster bar, olive oil and mountain honey, spices, truffle salt and Madagascan pepper. Biscuits from Brittany, cheese from the Pyrenees, fish tinned and smoked every which way including confit de coquilles St Jacques in salted butter. Pate de fruit and cheeses you simply can’t walk past. I could go on and on, there were so many outstanding artisans and producers. I spent hours tasting and trying at this foodie heaven.
Perfect foodie weekend in the French Alps
Outdoor cookery classes are held during the gastronomic fair. I joined Chef Julien Valero from Le Marcel restaurant in Annecy (book in advance as they are really popular). In my group we were all strangers. But food has a way of bringing you together especially when you’re cooking and eating in such fabulous surroundings. In the fresh mountain air, the sun beamed down, a band played nearby. The town centre bustled with visitors from near and far. The bars were packed with diners eating delicious alpine dishes al fresco. This is a feel good event, and a feel good town…
We made barbecued beetroot to start. And no it’s not something I would have ever thought of doing but it was delicious. Then we made a very simple barbecued toffee apple dessert. And while that was cooking, we concocted a super fish dish. Chef Julien wanted to show us how easy it is to cook a meal from scratch using great ingredients.
In the evening bands played as the air cooled after the warm day. Dinner was served in a big marquee – tartiflette was of course on the menu and utterly delicious.
This event makes for a perfect foodie weekend.
Tourist office: www.thonescoeurdesvallees.com
For inspiration and loads of ideas for what to see and do in and around Annecy Mountains head here: www.annecymountains.com
More about the Annecy Mountains area
Visit the Chateau de Menthon-Saint-Bernard – a lofty castle where a saint was born
Manigod – a little slice of paradise in the French alps
Le Grand Bornand – an alpine village with oodles of charm
7 Photos of Annecy that will make you want to go there straight away!