An Off-Season Guide To The Best Food, Wine, And Spas Of The French Alps

Photo: McLean Robbins

When one thinks of the Rhone-Alps region of France, the vision of snow-capped mountains and exceptional skiing come to mind.Check out the best places to treat yourself in the Rhone-Alps >

But the second-largest region in France is also one of the country’s best year-round destinations, home of Cote de Rhone and Beaujolais wine, Evian water, and more than 65 Michelin-starred restaurants.

Known as the country’s top area for spas and wellness, the region is ideal for an add-on to a Paris trip, a combination journey from Switzerland, or a stopping point on the way to Provence, St. Tropez, or even Monaco.  

Here are our suggestions for a week-long luxury itinerary in the summer, spring or fall, combining all the best the area has to offer – spas, wine and food.

Begin: Lyon

Start your journey in the city of Lyon, a city of vibrant arts, culture, and of course, food. Shop for Hermes (their scarf factory is in Lyon), stroll the winding streets, and walk the scenic Rhone riverside.

Have an early dinner at famed bistro Daniel et Denise, where you can enjoy a traditional Bouchon and a cozy ambiance -- think red checked tablecloths and vintage posters on the wall -- as well as a lively, local-filled atmosphere.

Spend the night at the Hotel Sofitel Lyon Bellecour, which boasts a fashionable bar, spa, and Michelin-starred restaurant as well as a central location.

If you'd prefer something a bit more intimate, try the Le Royal Hotel Lyon, a 72-room guesthouse and home of the famed Institut Paul Bocuse cooking school.

You'll be up early the next morning, so rest up.

Day Two: Wine, Wine, and more Wine

It could easily take a week to explore the Beaujolais vineyards of the area. Taste your way through the Beaujolais vineyards with the help of the Beaujolais wine app -- free in the Apple app store, but also available in paper format for those who prefer something a bit more tangible. You can search by vineyard and city name.

Day Two: Chateau de la Chaize

Day Two: Chateau de Pizay

If you'd prefer something a bit more luxurious, spend the afternoon or the night at the Chateau de Pizay. Built in 1030, the mansion and surrounding vineyards also boast a large spa with a variety of vinotherapy treatments.

If you'd prefer something more budget-friendly go straight from the vineyards to the picturesque town of Clochemerle, where you can enjoy a less luxe but equally cozy overnight and fabulous Michelin-starred dinner at the Auberge de Clochemerle, a seven-room inn owned by a husband-and-wife team.

Day Three: Resort Splendor

Today, you're in for a drive through the scenic countryside. Stop at the Royal Monastary of Brou, built by Margaret of Austria for her deceased husband, Philbert of Savoy, a gorgeous medieval monastery and spectacularly-preserved historic specimen.

Day Three: Georges-Blanc Parc and Spa

Continue on, arriving early at the famed Georges-Blanc Parc & Spa. We'd suggest a leisurely stroll around the town of Vonnas, much of which is owned by Georges Blanc himself.

Don't miss the gorgeous spa, with treatments by names like Carita, as well as the three pools. We'd suggest a leisurely meal at L'Ancienne Auberge, which serves the famed Bress Chicken, a dish invented by Blanc's family. If you're in the mood for something truly special, book a table at the gastronomic restaurant, a Michelin three-star experience.

Day Four: Beautiful Villages, French Countryside

Day Four: Hotel-Restaurant du Port

Stroll the cobblestoned streets before feasting on a lunch of fried perch -- a lake delicacy -- and pomme frites at the Hotel-Restaurant du Port. The hotel can arrange a picnic on Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) if you'd prefer, although the restaurant does overlook the lake.

Day Four: Evian-les-Bains

After lunch, make the short drive to Evian-les-Bains, home of the famed Evian water. This lakeside town is bustling with warmth and charm. Stroll along the lakefront, visit a local market, or play the famed golf course at the Evian Royal Resort.

We'd suggest you stay at the gorgeous Evian Royal, but those who prefer to use their points may enjoy the Hilton Evian as well.

Both boast beautiful spas -- the Evian Spa Source is a pink and white temple with a beautiful infinity pool overlooking the lake, and the Hilton's Buddha Bar Spa is a rare treat. If you've the time, visit both!

Day Five: On to Switzerland

If you've the time, spend another day in Evian, lounging in the spa or taking in the waters, both mineral and lake. If you're ready to move on, drive to nearby Geneva, where you can stroll the cobblestoned streets, shop for luxury watches, and view the famed Jet d'eau.

That afternoon, fly home -- Geneva offers a number of daily direct flights back to the US, or continue on your journey through Switzerland.

Getting There

Fly direct to Paris from more than a dozen US gateways on Air France. Serving up some of the sky's best service, you'll enjoy traditional French fare and clean, updated planes, plus a variety of connections once you arrive at Charles de Gaulle.

We'd highly recommend upgrading to their Premium Economy (Premium Voyageur) or Business (Affaires) class, as you'll enjoy much better seating, upgraded dining, fine French wines and champagne as well as great Clarins amenity kits. On flights home from Paris, the airline is even offering upgraded menus by famed Michelin-starred chef Guy Martin of the famed Grand Véfour.

To get to the Rhone-Alps region, you'll connect in Paris to Lyon or take the train from the airport.

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