St Gervais Destination Guide
Home of Mont Blanc!
It might surpise you when you we say Mont Blanc isn't actually in Chamonix! Strictly speaking, the peak of western Europe's highest mountain is in Saint Gervais. What's more, the summit is moving. Mont Blanc was always thought to be 4807m, until geometricians measured it properly and it was actually 4810m (this is great stuff for dinner parties andpub quizzes isn't it?!). And St Gervais has a fight on its hands to keep the summit, as apparently it had moved 26m towards Italy when it was re-measured in 2009!
And of course, this all means that the vast majority of alpinists who attempt Mont Blanc setting off from the Nid d'Aigle high above Les Houches are technically doing so from Saint Gervais. This route is called the 'Voie Royale' or the classic route and involves a long, hard slog via the Tete Rousse and Gouter refuges to attain that famous summit - and hundreds attempt it every summer.
If all that sounds far too strenuous, there is plenty to keep all the family occupied in both winter and summer in St Gervais. If you're there for skiing you will love the range of pistes on offer. The main uplift is the Saint Gervais - Bettex bubble lift, where there is a massive free car park and regular navettes through town to take you there. You can also access the slopes from the St Nicolas de Veroce area and halfway up the slopes at Bettex itself.
Once you're up there you're linked directly to the pistes of Megeve too, so there's plenty to explore. Freestylers will love the WOSP park at Mont Joux complete with air bag and there are plenty of viewpoints to take in the breathtaking vistas of the Mont Blanc too, along with a good choice of mountain restaurants, from rustic to self-service. There's even La Folie Douce (once again, Megeve might claim it, but this famous apres-ski bar and restaurant actually sits in St Gervais, at Mont Joux!) so you can party on the pistes too.
* Take a ride on the Tramway Mont Blanc - all aboard for a voyage to the peaks on France's highest rack and pinion railway. Setting off from next to the main train station in Le Fayet and going via St Gervais and various hidden mountain hamlets on the way, you arrive at Col de la Voza in the middle of the Les Houches ski area. In summer the train carries on to Nid d'Aigle at 2372m (the staring point for the Mont Blanc ascension), whilst in winter the terminus is Bellevue at 1800m
In summer it's all about the great outdoors and mountain sports. If you're a road biker there are some fabulous routes that traverse St Gervais and mountain bikers are well looked after too, with a good selection of trails with easy access via lifts. Those lifts also carry hikers and walkers up and down the mountains, where you can visit farms and buy the tastiest cheeses and other freshly made goodies direct from the producers.
The commune has recently invested a lot of money in the sports centre, which now boasts top class tennis courts and a swimming centre, meaning you can play a few sets of tennis and then plunge into the pools afterwards. As well as the 17x10m outdoor pool, there's a 25m long indoor pool and a 43m2 leisure pool (with a kiddie area too) and a sauna and hamman.
The town centre is a true delight. Since the fancy new bridge that means through traffic by-passes the centre opened, it is a great place to sit outside an have a coffee, take a meander around the weekly market (held on Thursdays all year round) and generally just take in everyday life in bustling little Saint Gervais.
There are just enough bars and restaurants to satiate your appetite, without it becoming a rowdy apres-ski resort. With many grand hotels having been built at the turn of the 18th century, lots have been turned into rather lovely restaurants and bars - our personal favourite being Pur right next to the town square, which manages to mix those Art Deco origins with a funky contemporary feel.
If you are looking for lively, give the Oboose Cafe a try on the main road opposite the bubble lift, where the music will get you dancing and the staff are a hoot. Those looking for good food both on and off the mountain won't be disappointed either, with the likes of Le Galeta where it's all about the Savoyard classics such as raclette, fondue and a huge wood grill with meat galore. There's also modern cuisine courtesy of the Seracs, a veritable food empire that includes a Michelin starred restaurant, a traiteur and an informal brasserie style part too.
And remember, all this and a whole lot more is just an hour away on your transfer bus from Geneva to St Gervais! What's not to love about beautiful Saint Gervais?
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