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Évian-les-Bains and St-Marcellin


by Emily Monaco

When I first came to France, I lived in the cold and dark North region, where I left my host family’s home at 8:00 and came home at 5:00 in the dark. I didn’t see much of France, because there wasn’t much to see.

Imagine how different it was, then, when we packed up into the car and drove nearly a day to the border between France and Switzerland, and the family’s holiday home in Évian-les-Bains.

I was fourteen; everything was new to me. But even if it hadn’t been, I would have been amazed at the beautiful view over Lac Léman from the living room window, where we sat playing board games. I would have still been intrigued from the Évian water that ran from the taps and in the shower. I would have still stared in awe as my host father showed me where townspeople who don’t have this luxury can still fill bottles with the mineral water from a tap in the center of town.

And I definitely would have loved the fact that, as one looks over Lac Léman from the shore, the land on the other side is Switzerland. There’s something other-worldly about knowing that you’re standing on the border between here and there, and though I suppose it’s always true — one is always standing just on the brink between the present and the future, between one place and another –, there’s nowhere in the world I’ve found where it feels more true than standing on the boardwalk along Lac Léman.

I became aware, afterwards, that there is a spa in Évian, a world-famous one where thermal baths and other treatments are available using the water from the natural source. I was there in November, so we didn’t swim in the lake or even go to the indoor water park I know exists. Instead, we spent our afternoons wandering the small village, running around under the huge expanse of sky, and eating. If the French know how to do one thing perfectly, it’s eat.

Saint-Marcellin is a small cow’s milk cheese that comes from the Dauphiné region, now a part of the Rhône-Alpes. While Évian isn’t technically a part of this antiquated region, its Rhône-Alpes location means that you can easily get this and other dauphinois treats — like gratin dauphinois — in the lakeside town. When my host father offered me a small slice of Saint-Marcellin, I assumed it was goat’s cheese, but as soon as the buttery, mild cheese melted on my tongue, I knew that I had stumbled onto something else entirely.

Évian-les-Bains is located less than an hour’s drive from Châtel. It’s the perfect day trip to explore the small town and have a lakeside stroll!

Emily Monaco is native New Yorker, living and writing in Paris since 2007. She loves discovering new places and, of course, their local cuisines! Read about her adventures in food and travel at tomatokumato.com or follow her on Twitter at @emiglia