Text read by Mary Peters

Chickens, cheese, frog’s legs.

We leave the Parc National de la Vanoise and stop in Annecy with its beautiful lake. It is also known as the Pearl of the Savoie or Venice of Savoie. The beautiful town is surpassed by the lake, with a reputation of having the purest water in Europe. 

This medieval town, with its 1000-year heritage, is a significant stage for the Tour de France. Not far from are two health resort towns, Thonon-les-Bains and Divonne-les-Bains. 

There, La Bénite-Fontaine is a spring with miraculous qualities, about 1 km from the city centre. It was attested by François de Sales at the beginning of the 17th century for its many healing powers. It is a recognised pilgrimage place. The shaded valley with its pure water offers calm and serenity for meditation, walking and relaxation. 

The tower of the counts of Geneva opens every day from May to September. It was built in the 13th century on an enormous block of rock that gave the city its name. This last vestige of the fortress of the Counts of Geneva is crowned with a breathtaking panorama.

Bourg en Bresse. It is the capital of poultry, home of the Bleu de Bresse cheese, and yes, frogs from Dombes. And we stop at the Brou Royal Monastery. But let us start with the chickens. 

Bresse poultry is well-known for its meat qualities. People say their taste is incomparable. The chickens have been awarded AOC status, which is also extended to poulards, capons and turkeys. The chickens have white feathers, red crests and blue claws. They are raised outside in meadows and are fed on grain and milk products. Each year in mid-December, the Glorieuses de Bresse takes place in several towns. It is a prestigious poultry competition. The animals are given medals and then sold to the public. Each village also has its traditional chicken markets. 

To eat “Poulet de Bresse à la crème” is to experience the height of the Bresse gastronomy.  

The French lawyer, politician and food lover Brillat-Savarin awarded the Bresse chicken the status, The queen of poultry, the poultry of kings. Since then, the label stuck. The name was protected in 1936. Eventually, the chicken was awarded AOC status in 1957. 

Bresse Bleu is a blue cheese made from pasteurised cow milk produced in Bresse. It is a soft cheese; the rind is edible and has an aroma of mushrooms. It tastes rich and buttery. It was created in the 1950s as an alternative to Gorgonzola which is less mild. Traditionally it has a diameter of 10cm, a height of 5cm and must weigh 350g.  

The frog from the Dombes area, with its 10 000 ha of lakes, is an emblem of gastronomy. People in France consume between 3000 and 4000 tonnes (roughly 80 million frogs) per year. French frog’s legs can sell up to €30 per kilo. The cheaper ones, often found in supermarkets, are usually from Turkey or Egypt and Albania. Despite the high consumption, production in France is on the decline. Patrice Francois is said to be the last French producer.  https://poissonnerie-francois.fr/

The Monastère Royal de Brou dates from the 16th century. Construction was authorised by Margaret of Austria, Duchess of Savoy, to remind her of her love for her husband, Philibert le Beau, who had died earlier. It is a masterpiece of flamboyant Gothic architecture.

On the church, the roof is coloured and has glazed tiles. The church choir is where you can find the mausoleum of Philibert II of Savoy, Margaret of Austria and Margaret of Bourbon.

Finely detailed sculptures ornate the interior of the building. Margaret of Austria’s chapel boasts beautiful stained-glass windows and an altarpiece made of white marble dedicated to the seven joys of the Virgin Mary. It is definitely worth the visit.

As ever, there is much, much more to see and do, but I must push on. See you on the outskirts of Paris. 

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