Yvoire – a floral medieval village in France on Lac Léman (lake Geneva)
I have no idea how I came to hear about Yvoire, maybe a search for gardens in the area when I was planning my trip to Geneva back in 2009. I always want to check out the gardens in a place I visit so do a search and then make notes of the ones I can fit in, including times and days open etc. When I discovered ‘Le Jardin des Cinq Sens’ (The Garden of Five Senses) was just a ferry ride from Geneva and the fact it is in a place called the ‘floral’ town then I had to make it happen.
I am not going to talk about the garden here, that deserves a post of its own, though if you click on the link you will get a sense of how it affected me. I will write a fuller post on the garden blog.
Yvoire is not all about this garden: the medieval centre is romantic and famous for its flowers, cobbled streets, town walls and a wonderful historic chateau (private) going back to 1306 and a time when Lake Geneva castles played an important role in protecting the strategic trade routes through the Alps and along the lake. Probably best to time your visit outside of peak holiday time as it can become very crowded.
As I leave the port along with many other disembarking passengers I debate whether to eat first or explore. When I notice that everyone was else was headed for the restaurants the decision was made. Explore.
Once I get behind the camera I am lost in the zone. My eyes flit from flower to flower. The heat brings out the scents, the bees are busy humming and the gentle trickle of water from the drinking fountains are all I hear. Most people are busy eating in the numerous eateries in the village so I am able to wander in peace. Murmurs of conversations blending into the background. I saunter along the lanes and alleys lost in the history and beauty of this place.
Everywhere you look are flowers: hanging baskets, window boxes on every balcony, containers crammed into tiny nooks and crannies, flowers along the narrow lanes and steps leading to the marina, flowers on steps. Begonias, petunias, pelargoniums. A riot of colour. And then there are the colourful shutters: pale blues and greens, turquoise.
The streets and alleys within the medieval walls are lined with restaurants, bars, tea shops, ice-cream makers, creperies, boutiques and artisan workshops. The unusual onion dome of St Pancras was constructed in 1857, replacing the old campanile. It was eventually covered in stainless steel in 1989 and the top is covered with gold leaf coming from one of the last gold miller in France located in Excenevex, near Yvoire. The church itself dates from 1250.
The castle, although privately owned and not open to the public, dominates the village and is a must for photographers. The only question is where to take the photo(s) from. I try to find some unusual angles
Stepping outside the two gates I discovered more floral displays as well as sculptures, hotels and car parks and bus stops. By now it was time to visit that garden, before everyone else descended upon it.
The Gate of Geneva (or Gate of Nernier) built in the ramparts of the medieval village of Yvoire.
I did finally have some lunch, a little late, but delicious all the same. And what better place than the Brasserie Les Cygnes(swans) in the ferry port where I tucked into Tarte à la tomate et au chèvre, salade mixte and a bier blond citron. Followed by a desert called ‘Baby Estelle’ consisting of pistachio ice-cream, fruit of forest sorbet and sauce and whipped cream. Well I had done a lot of walking. I enjoyed sitting on the upstairs terrace overlooking the port and the lake and reflecting on my day out whilst waiting for the boat back to Geneva.
Home thoughts from abroad is a new series on Travel Words featuring a single photograph(s) that reminds me of a country visited and showing something that uniquely identifies it as being ‘abroad’.
Wandering around the 7th arrondissement of Paris I stumbled across this unusual building partially hidden by bamboos and wisteria. The director of the department store Bon Marché had it constructed as a gift for his wife in 1896. La Pagode became a cinema in 1931 and has played a big part in presenting cutting edge French cinema to the public. Jean Cocteau held the premiere of Testament d’Orphée here in 1959 and La Pagode Cinema played an important part in promoting the films of Ingmar Bergman and Sergei Eisenstein in France. Now it shows Art-house, foreign, cult and independent new releases. It is not uncommon for the cinema to hold retrospectives for directors such as Woody Allen and Alfred Hitchcock.
There is a tea house where you can grab a cuppa and chew over the fat in the rather small, but very pretty Japanese garden where you can get a glimpse of La Pagode and the beautiful details of colourful painted flowers, carved dragons, flowers and birds in jade or ivory and large stained glass windows with geometric panes. It sounds as if it could be quite kitsch, but in reality it is an impressive building. I did not go inside, but apparently it is equally surprising.
I only hope that someone carries out some repairs on this extraordinary building, so that it is not lost.
This elegant urban space is fronted by the neoclassical Palais Royal (closed to the public), constructed in 1633 by Cardinal Richelieu but mostly dating to the late 18th century. Louis XIV hung out here in the 1640s; today it is home to the Conseil d’État .