Divonne Les Bains

Never having been disappointed by an Indigo campsite to date, we booked two for our Easter break. Three actually as our last-night, journey-breaking stopover is another Indigo site.

We crossed the channel at 3pm on Thursday. Our earlier-than-usual crossing meant we could travel as far as Dijon on the first day, and we arrived at a fantastic aire de camping car in Corgirnon, a small and quiet village, by 10pm. We were able to get a good night's sleep, even finding time to chill out with a glass of wine before bed, and being in no real rush in the morning.

We were on the road again for 9.30am heading to Divonne Les Bains or, more precisely, Camping Indigo Le Fleutron, nestled at the base of the French Alps and just five kilometers from Lake Geneva.

We'd done little to no research ahead of time, I'm not really sure if that's laziness or the buzz of discovering things for ourselves. It can be hugely rewarding and more relaxing to explore on your own terms but it can backfire too, when you arrive home, tell friends where you've been and they ask about something you ought to have seen but didn't know about!

On our first afternoon we walked into Divonne Les Bains, had a mooch around the shopping streets and ventured to its lake. It's a pleasant enough town but clearly there wasn't anything of note to occupy any more of our remaining three days.

For our second day I consulted Google Maps which indicated Lake Geneva was easily reached on bikes. Tony suggested that Geneva wasn't too much of a distance after that and so our plan was to follow the lake around and explore Switzerland's third largest city.

The sun shone through a blue sky as we cycled through vineyards and green fields, snow capped mountains both behind and in front of us. I smiled to myself at the beauty of our surroundings.

We appeared at the shore of Lake Geneva at a small harbour. Half of the tables at a lake-side cafe were occupied and we decided to fill another and enjoy a coffee in the sun. The cafe readily accepted our Euros but gave us change in Swiss Francs.

I didn't have any preconceived ideas about what Lake Geneva would be like, but it's huge and very pretty. The scale of it, and the placement of towns and plush residences around its edge reminded me of Lake Garda.

Where in the UK you'd assume you would be able to follow a footpath around a lake, here this wasn't the case. Every inch of shore was in the grounds of a private house. And so the only route down to Geneva was on the road. Fortunately there were cycle lanes for much of it, but we'd discover later, on our return journey, that cycle route 50 across country is a more pleasant cycle ride.

Geneva is stunning and, if the 44km return journey hadn't hurt legs and bums so much, we could have easily spent two days there. Not wanting to miss anything we should see I cheated and consulted Trip Advisor. We photographed the Jet d'Eau and the flower clock, and walked to the giant chess boards in Parc des Bastions.

We bought a baguette, goats cheese and salami, plus two little cans of sparkling rose wine from a supermarket and took to a jetty where many others, tourists and locals, were enjoying their lunches. We filled our tummies with our cobbled-together sandwiches, with the sun on our faces, soaking up the beautiful  juxtaposition of Geneva's stunning architecture set against the alps on one side and Mont Blanc on the other.

I'm not a fan of big cities, but I'm adding Geneva to only two others I'd happily live (those being San Francisco and Lisbon).

As I mentioned earlier, on the return bike ride we found cycle route 50 which joins Geneva with Divonne Les Bains. This route across country avoids all major roads, and so apart from being mostly uphill all the way, it made for pleasant cycling.

On our second full day we headed, on foot, in the opposite direction to the day before, up into the mountains. We walked to the lovely village of Vesancy, high enough to afford views of Lake Geneva in the valley below. A bar sits above the village, but it was closed as things in France tend to be.

We walked back past a quaint church, higher up the mountain still and with even better views of the lake. We continued a gradual ascent for much of the walk back to camp and this seemed counterintuitive, however a steeper final decent balanced our change in altitude even if it didn't help our aching joints.

Our final full day started out wet. We stayed shut inside Cleopatra until 2pm when Google declared it safe to venture out. We cycled to Nyon, a beautiful old town on Lake Geneva, half way between Geneva and Lausanne. We followed empty country roads across farmland before finding ourselves back on cycle route 50.

In the centre of the uninspiring new town we locked up our bikes and passed by Nyon's closed shops and department stores (it was Easter Monday and so I expected, for once, that things would be closed). The castle was our first sign that Nyon was about to become much nicer. There are wonderful views from the castle grounds, down to the streets of the old town, out onto the lake below that and off into the mountains behind.

We mooched along the shore absorbing this new view of the lake, the Jet d'Eau in Geneva still visible at this distance. We spent much of our remaining Swiss Francs on ice creams and meandered back to our bikes.

The return ride, following the same route, was gently uphill. Three days of considerable exercise were starting to take a toll, and while Tony persevered in pedaling, I got off and pushed on several occasions.

Divonne is a great place to base yourself for a few nights and if I were to suggest itineraries, our two days of cycling and one of walking would be exactly what I'd recommend. We'll certainly be investigating the other shores of Lake Geneva for future holidays.

We left camp at 7am for what will hopefully be a 2pm arrival for our next four night adventure.


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