It’s official in Geneva: 🌺 SPRINGTIME has ARRIVED ! The 🌳 Marronnier de la Treille’s first leaf appeared this year yesterday, on Thursday 10th March 2022 – and this is seen in the Helvetian city as the first official day of 🌺 spring! (see below for further explanations).
And here are the 🌺 first buds on our Sallanches co-property tree too:
🌷 Springtime: when 🌱 crocuses first timidly reach out to the sun from their bed of snow or grass, when the yellow primroses first appear in forests, when the first 🌺 almond and cherry blossoms appear in their splendid hues of pink, when magnolia trees blossom in splendid glory, when spring flower displays proudly adorn our centre villes and alpine chalet balconies . . . and later on the bunches of Lily of the Valley for the Fête du Muguet, lupins in alpine pastures, chestnut trees blossoming on the quais of Sallanches, rhododendrons . . .
So, where to see all this 🌷 springtime splendour, as the days become milder (we hope!) and longer? Springtime is the perfect time to visit 🌳 parks, 🌷 gardens or 🌲 arboretums . . . or to simply take a walk in nature and appreciate the wild flowers . . . so here are some ideas not too far from home . . .
[ note: due to Covid restrictions, which are constantly evolving with the new strains, you’ll not be able to access some of these suggestions across the border (depending on where you live), so please check protocol before heading there! ]
Colour code for listings:
Pays du Mont-Blanc
Chamonix Valley (Chamonix, Argentière, Les Houches, Servoz & environs) and Vallorcine
Passy & environs
Sallanches, Combloux, Cordon & Domancy
St Gervais, Le Fayet, Saint Nicolas de Véroce & environs
Megève, Praz-sur-Arly & environs
Les Contamines & environs
🇫🇷 Further France
Events for your 2022 diary:
March & April
🌱 May & June 🌱
🌱 1st May 2022 – « Fête du Muguet » – when bunches of Lily of the Valley are sold in shops and on street corners, said to bring good luck! / a custom dating back centuries;
🌳 from 18th ⇒ 22nd May 2022 – « Fête de la Nature » (16e édition) in France / with lots of portes ouvertes and free workshops / see website for more details and to check for events that are taking place close to home;
🇨🇭🌳 from 18th ⇒ 22nd May 2022 – Fête de la Nature in Switzerland / 300 free nature activities organised across Switzerland / see FB page;
🌳 3rd ⇒ 5th June 2022 – Rendez-Vous aux Jardins in France;
🌳 11th & 12th June 2022 – Les Journées Botaniques (Samoëns) / with lots of portes ouvertes and free workshops / see website for more details and to check for events that are taking place close to home;
PAYS du MONT-BLANC and environs
Lupins (Alpage de Charousse, Les Houches)
You’ll have to wait a bit longer to appreciate the abundant 🎋 lupins (les lupins) that spring up in the Alpage de Charousse in Les Houches (May and June) . . . here, next to the traditional rustic chalets, you will feel like you have travelled back in time. There is a very family-friendly hiking boucle to be done here, which is about 1 hour long, and you can find lovely spots to picnic. Be sure to take your 📷 camera!
🗺 how to get there – take the train or bus to Les Houches and walk up to Charousse / or 🅿 park on the road leading up there;
[ ⇒ for more information about hiking to the Alpage de Charousse, see separate MBFF article here ]
During the spring and summer months, 🌼 wild flowers are abundant on alpine walks . . . these ones I found above Sallanches, on the Bois de Fessy boucle, later in the the year on a walk to Tornieux-Mayères-Doran, and others on a short family walk to the 🌲 Sapin Président in June . . . but you can also spot some in towns (like next to the Médiathèque Ange Abrate in Sallanches!).
There are lots of spots later in the year to spot rhododendrons, but a really accessible spot is the walk to the Cascade de Bérard in Le Buet.
Le Jardin des Cimes (Plateau d’Assy)
The 🌼 Jardin des Cimes in Plateau d’Assy is a magical and innovative alpine garden and it should re-open after its winter hibernation at the end of May. It will then remain open until the end of September, every day 10h until 18h or 20h / there are 🌱 plants for sale early in the spring opening season;
price: adults 5€ to 6,50€, children (4 o 16 years) 3€ to 4€, under 4s FREE and family 14€;
good to know: there is a lovely café & restaurant (open to the public, no need to pay garden entrance) – Le Café du Jardin – serving seasonal dishes AND workshops for adults and children;
[ ⇒ for more information, see MBFF article here ]
website address: 447 route du Docteur Davy, Plateau d’Assy, 74190, Passy / tel: +33 (0)4 50 21 50 87;
Sallanches springtime walk
The 🌸 springtime blossoms on the 🌸 Place Saint-Jacques in Sallanches are lovely (they are normally in full swing by early April) . . . and the gardeners are always hard at work to make the 🌼 Place Charles Albert look springlike . . .
[ ⇒ see MBFF article 🌸 Sallanches springtime family stroll (how to enjoy the blossoms while taking in a little of Sallanches’ history, and some playgrounds and a coffee stop too!) ]
Later on in springtime (early May in 2020), a stroll along Sallanches’ quais will reward you with the 🌰 châtaignes (chestnut trees) in flower . . .
🇫🇷 FURTHER FRANCE
Jaÿsinia Jardin Alpin in Samoëns
Classified as a jardin remarquable, the 🌿 Jaÿsinia Jardin Alpin in Samoëns has around 4800 mountain plants from 2500 species (from 5 continents) and it is scientifically managed by the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle. Within the grounds is a scientific laboratory, with a collection of plants from Savoie. This unique little alpine garden, with little waterfalls at certain points, clings to the side of a hill; a path snakes up to the top of the hill (80m of dénivelé), from where you can look out onto the village and where you will find to the ruins of the Château de la Tornalta (XIIème), and an 18th century chapel.
🌿 a little history – the founders of the famous Parisian department store La Samaritaine – Marie Louise Jaÿ (from Samoëns) and Ernest Cognacqhuge – made a fortune, but had no heirs . . . so, in 1906 Marie Louise, never having forgotten her village natal, created Jaÿsinia.
🗓 opening hours: 1st May until 30th September 2022, every day from 8h to 12h and from 13h30 to 19h / from 1st October to 30th April, every day from 8h to 12h and from 13h30 to 16h30 (shut in winter, during snow cover, in order to protect fragile species) / price: FREE!
website address: 40 rue du Parc, 74340, Samoëns;
Jardins de l’Europe & Parc Charles Bossons (Annecy)
Located right next to 💦 Lac d’Annecy, the 🌹 Jardins de l’Europe & le Parc Charles Bossons are lovely spots for a walk or picnic, with playgrounds for children, paths for buggies and draisiennes.
🌹 a little history – since the Middle Ages, the Jardins de l’Europe have had many uses – until the end of the Middle Ages, when there were epedemic outbreaks, the land was used to house contagious people on little islets in « cabanes de santé » . . . this was, in fact, religious land until the Revolution, when a religious order turned the space into the gardens of its convent, linked by a bridge . . . the gardens were finally opened to the public after the Revolution, and in the 19th century the Mairie built an English-style garden, with 650 trees and 1000 bushes;
🗓 opening hours: open all year round / FREE to visit!
🌹 good to know: from early July until late September, you can enjoye the sculpture & nature festival « Annecy Paysages » in the parks and also the centre of Annecy (highly recommeded by MBFF);
[ ⇒ more information about « Annecy Paysages » in MBFF article ]
Le Jardin des 5 Sens (Yvoire)
Le 🌺 Jardin des 5 Sens are pretty walled gardens, divided into themed sections based on the fives senses, in the medieval lakeside town of Yvoire. There is a special quizz available for children: the bee 🐝 Méliflor accompanies children 6 to 11 years, and the herbalist Floritou guides the older 12 to 14 year olds.
🗓 opening dates: from 15th April until 2nd October 202, from 10h to 18h30 and from 12th September until 2nd October 2021, from 10h to 17h30 / price: adults 12€, children (6 to 18 years) 7€, children under 6 years FREE, family price 31€;
[ ⇒ for more information about a family visit to Yvoire, see separate MBFF article here ]
website address: rue du Lac, 74140, Yvoire (you must park outside the town walls) / tel: +33 (0) 450 72 88 80;
Les Cerisiers Fleurs d’Asie (Le Balme-de-Sillingy)
Unique in France, this collection of 🌳🌸 cherry trees offers you a spectacle naturel all year round, with blossoms from mid-April until mid-May. There are in total 320 Japanese cherry blossom trees, of 145 different varieties, and 3000 cherry trees planted around the lake. The aim of this project, which was initiated in 2012, is to protect endangered varieties and create a unique collection in France, a real tourist attraction.
Parc des Jardins de Haute-Savoie & Domaine du Tornet (La Balme de Sillingy)
Around 💐 40 typical gardens of Haute-Savoie on a mini-scale have been landscaped into this park, which is located next to a lake! / chasse aux trésors and jeu de piste available;
🗓 opening hours: 9h until 19h;
address: 165 route de Paris, 74330, La Balme de Sillingy / tel: 04 50 22 40 31;
Les Jardins de l’Eau du Pré Curieux (Evian)
This 🌱 3,5 hectare lakeside water garden (classified since 2005 as a « jardin remarquable »), is located at the western entrance to Evian, and is accessed by a solar-powered boat which leaves from the centre of Evian. It is home to a wetland research and information centre, and a discovery trail through the park presents the various water ecosystems: ponds with fish and waterlilies, mountain streams, marshes / the site offers guided tours from May to September.
🌱 a little history – the gardens were renovated by landscaper Laurent Daune (Lucinges) and opened to the public in 2002 / within the Pré Curieux is a colonial house from 1870.
⇒ more information here address: Embarcadère du Casino, quai Baron de Blonay, 74500, Évian-les-Bains / tel: +33 (0)4 50 75 04 26 /
Arboretum de Ripaille (Thonon-les-Bains)
The 🌲 Arboretum de Ripaille is within the 🌲 Forêt de Ripaille, which covers an expanse of 53 hectares. There is a 2 hour sign-posted walk, in which you will discover the: vieille chênaie, l’arboretum sylvetum André Engel (19 hectares) and the Mémorial National des Justes de France.
🌲 a little history – between 1930 and 1934, the arboretum was created by André Engel, whose aim was to experiment with acclimatising different plants to successful growth in the area;
🗓 opening hours: from 1st May, 10h to 19h, shut Mondays / price: FREE to visit / good to know: after a walk, you can visit the 🏰 Château de Ripaille, or stop off at the castle’s restaurant and salon de thé (afternoon); it is also lovely to visit the small port and playground on Lac Léman;
castle website & arboretum and forest website address: Château et Domaine de Ripaille, 83 avenue de Ripaille, 74200, Thonon-les-Bains;
Parc de la Châtaignerie (Thonon-les-Bains, Lac Léman)
This pretty park measures 4,6 hectares, and it is located near to the Forêt de Ripaille. You’ll have lots of green space and also the châtaigniers.
Château de Montrottier (Lovagny)
🏰 Castles often have superb grounds and gardens to visit . . . this medieval castle is holding its 🐣 Chasse aux Œufs de Pâques again this year.
🗓 opening dates & price: re-opening (subject to Covid regulations) on 2nd April 2021 / family price: 22€, adults 9€ and children 6€, children under 5 years free;
good to know: the castle is located near the Gorges du Fier, also fabulous for a family visit;
website address: Domaine et Château de Montrottier, 60 allée du Château, 74330, Lovagny;
Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard (Menthon-Saint-Bernard, Lac d’Annecy)
MBFF visited this stunning fairy-tale castle, which overlooks Lac d’Annecy, for the first time last September. The 🌹 rose garden was looking beautiful, as was 🌿 the potager.
🗓 opening dates & price: open between early April until November, 14h until 18h / price: adults 11€, children 6€ and under 5s FREE;
Les Jardins Secrets (Vaulx, near Annecy)
” Une évasion bucolique et originale sur 7000m2 ” – Les Jardins Secrets
🌸 a little history – the story began in 1980, when Nicole and Alain acquired a farm with lots of land in Vaulx, and settled there with their 3 daughters . . . the farm was in a very run-down state, and needed lots of renovation . . . and then Alain set to work, with the whole family lending a hand, to the gardens. The gardens began to attract the attention of the public, and it was decided to open them to visitors: in 1994, the gardens opened to the public . . . themed, musical evenings followed, and then two salons de thé opened – la Boquéria et le Petit Riad . . . and then paining workshops and a giftshop . . .
🗓 opening hours: from 10th April until 19th October 2022, every day; see here for exact opening hours / price: adults 9,50€, children (4 to 12 years) 4,50€ and under 4s FREE;
La Maison du Salève (Présilly)
A visit to 🌼 La Maison du Salève makes for a wonderful family day out in springtime . . . the blossoms along the walk to the Chartreuse de Pomier are stunning and the garden is a delight for little ones – a small parcours, with boulders to hop over, picnic tables, a small climbing frame, and an insect hotel.
a little history – originally an 18th century farm from the Chartreuse de Pomier, La Ferme de Mikerne has been renovated to host a cultural centre recounting the history of the Salève mountain and its environs: 🖼 the permanent interactive exhibitions: « Le Salève, une montagne et des hommes » (children over the age of four) and « Le Salève côté nature » (children from 3 to 12 years) / 🖼 current temporary exhibition: « La forêt, maison des animaux » until 30th September 2022 (price: 2€, free for children under 6 years).
🗓 opening hours: see here / price: 6€, children (6 to 18 years) 3€ and FREE for children under 6 years;
[ ⇒ for more information about La Maison du Salève en famille, see separate MBFF article here ]
Château & Parc de Voltaire (Ferney-Voltaire)
Located near the Swiss border, 🏰 this castle (now a monument historique) was built between 1758 and 1766, and for 20 years accommodated one of the most illustrious philosophers of the Enlightenment – Voltaire! The park covers 7 hectares, and for Voltaire, were the extension of the castle; the two were intrisically linked. Located with views of the Jura mountains to the north and the Alps to the south, the gardens were cushioned between peaks and were, for Voltaire, the most beautiful adornment of his domain. He worked on the gardens to host: a vineyard, a potager, an orchard, a French garden with water feature and small theatre for performance;
🗓 springtime opening hours: until 30th September, every day 10h until 18h / price: 8€ and free for under 18s;
Lyon magnolia walk
An 🌸 enchanting magnolia stroll or bike ride through Lyon . . . from the Théâtre des Célestins to the Parc de la Tête d’Or . . .
⇒ see Lyon Visite here for more details;
Parc de la Tête d’Or & Zoo (Lyon)
This 🌳 huge park (the largest urban park in France!) is set across 117 hectares and is located on the banks of the mighty Rhône, near the centre of Lyon. This 🌳 park is simply AMAZING; you’ll find so many family activities for FREE! You’ll be treated to: green grass, manège and playground, deer ground and zoo, botanical garden, a small lake . . . and MORE, depending on the season!
⇒ see website for more details, opening hours, access and parking information;
address: Parc de la Tête d’Or, Place du Général Leclerc, 69006, Lyon;
Fondation Pierre Gianadda (Martigny)
The 🌱 gardens of this wonderful museum – which change with each season and complement the fabulous sculptures – are part of the appeal of a visit. Did you know that the museum’s gardens were a unique réserve naturelle? Lovely water fixtures accompany you on your walk through the gardens, and also fig trees as a reminder of the days of the Roman Empire, European white birch, Austrian black pines and Japanese maple trees . . .
🌱a little history – the engineer Léonard Gianadda discovered the remains of an ancient Celtic temple in the spring of 1976. Shortly after this discovery, his beloved younger brother Pierre died while searching for help for his fellow survivors in the aftermath of a plane crash. In the wake of this tragic event, Léonard decided to create a foundation so that the memory of Pierre could live on, and he chose to build this on the grounds of the Celtic temple. The Fondation Pierre Gianadda was very fittingly inaugurated on what would have been Pierre’s 40th birthday: 19th November 1978.
[ ⇒ see MBFF article for more details about a visit to the museum and gardens ]
🖼 current exhibition: Jean Dubuffet;
🗓 opening hours: 9h or 10h until 18h or 19h / price: adults CHF20 and children CHF12 (you can pay in euros, but avoid credit cards);
Almond tree blossoms in Saillon (Valais)
The 🌸 almond trees in the Swiss town of Saillon are of the Asian variety and they haved adapted well to the mild valley climate at the foot of the Saillon hill, under the majestic tower that guards the medieval bourg . . . the delicate almond flowers contrast sharply with the rugged rocks! Springtime is the perfect time to visit this charming medieval village, and you could throw in a visit to the lovely 💦 Les Bains de Saillon on the same outing;
Le Jardin Botanique Flore-Alpe (Champex-Lac)
We have not yet visited these botanical alpine gardens, but it is on the list of gardens to visit! The pretty gardens, with 4000 flowering plants also offer views of Champex lake and Le Combin mountain. In 2007, the gardens received le prix Schulthess des Jardins de Patrimoine Suisse / there are guided visits and workshops on offer at these gardens and you can even stay on-site at the Grand Chalet, in the heart of the gardens!
🗓 opening dates: May until October;
website & FB page address: route de l'Adray 27, Champex, Valais, Switzerland / tel: +41 27 783 12 17;
Le Marronnier de la Treille (Geneva)
The 🌱 arrival of spring in the city of Calvin is officially recognised and heralded (and noted!) with the blossoming of the first leaf on the ancient 🌳🌰 Marronnier de la Treille.
🌳🌰 a little history: the first marronniers (chestnut trees) appeared in La Treille in the 18th century, a period of time when the study of nature began to take importance – the era of botany and naturalism, led in Geneva by eminent scientists Horace-Bénédict de Saussure and Augustin Pyrame de Candolle. Since 1818, the blooming of the first leaf and bud on the Marronnier de la Treille has been noted, and this marks the official arrival of springtime / 2022 blooming: 10th March 2022 / 2021 blooming: 12th March 2021 / 2020 blooming: 9th March 2019 / 2018 blooming: 24th March 2018;
⇒ more information in article here;
address: Marronnier de la Treille, promenade de la Treille, 1204, Genève;
and right near the 🌳 Marronier de la Treille . . .
Parc des Bastions (Geneva)
Centrally located and the most visited park in Geneva, the 🌳 Parc des Bastions is a lovely walled park, with plentiful paths and green space, a playground, a historic café & restaurant (once a music kiosk), giant chess, the Reformation Memorial (built in 1873; see here) / draisiènnes and small pedal bikes permitted / it is a short walk to the old town and right opposite the Musée Rath and the Place Neuve and the Bibliothèque de Genève (temporary exhibitions);
a little history: the Parc des Bastions started its life in 1817, designed by Augustin-Pyrame de Candolle, to be the first botanical garden in Geneva (the site was then moved to its present location); there are still some trees unique to Geneva in this park!
🗓 opening dates: open all year-round;
address: Promenade des Bastions 1, 1204, Genève;
Jardins Botaniques – CJBG (Geneva)
The 🌹 Botanical Gardens (Conservatoire et Jardins Botaniques de Genève – CJBG) in Geneva, Switzerland are open all year round and are a joy to visit during each season. As well as the beautiful trees, plants, flowers and greenhouses, the gardens have a wonderful wooden playground, a magical carrousel in the warmer months, a small animal park and plentiful grass for running around and picnics / there is also a restaurant/snack bar on-site;
[ ⇒ see here to read MBFF article about a family visit ]
🗓 opening hours: 8h to 17h to 19h30 / FREE to visit!
website & FB page address: CJBG, chemin de l’Impératrice, 1202, Geneva, Switzerland / tel: +41 (0)22 418 51 00;
The rhododendrons are in bloom in early May, and they are just GLORIOUS !
Le Parc La Grange (Eaux Vives, Geneva)
This beautiful and impressive park is set on a grassy hill and leads down to the water’s edge of 💦 Lac Léman . . . there is a rose garden, an 18th century manor house, the ruins of an old Roman villa, a café (La Buvette des Femmes Abstinentes), the Théâtre de Verdure and the Théatre de l’Orangerie (for summer concerts), a BBQ area, a playground and a paddling pool open during the summer months.
🌹 a little history – a rich Roman decided to build his villa on the site of the park (the remains of this villa are visible behind the 18th century manor house). The last owner of the house and park left the park in his will to the Ville de Genève in 1917, and it was opened for the public’s use the following year. The 🌹 rose garden was planted in 1945 and there is a competition for new roses held here every year.
🗓 opening hours: 6h or 7h until 18h or 22h (depending on the season);
website address: quai Gustave-Ador, Geneva;
Jardins Anglais & Floral Clock (Geneva)
Situated right next to Lac Léman, the 🌺 Jardins Anglais in Geneva are a lovely spot for a stroll or picnic / restaurants within the Jardins Anglais: Bateau Genève (a restaurant on the water – Le Bateau Genève used to circulate on Lac Léman) and Café-restaurant La Potinière (in the centre of the gardens) / there are many historic monuments within the gardens;
🕰🌺 history of the floral clock: it was created in 1955, in hommage to Geneva’s watchmakers and to nature / more than 12,000 flowering plants and shrubs make up the clock face and are changed 5 times each year!
Parc Musée Ariana (Geneva)
Left in Gustave Revilliod’s (1817-1890) will to the Ville de Genève, the domaine de Varembé, which once extended as far as the lake, has had many incarnations / the arrival of the botanical gardens in the early 20th century took up some of this land / sculptures: Michelangelo, Mahatma Gandhi (2007) / 🌸 Japanese connection: bell of Shinagawa, twenty cherry trees on the allée des Sakura (2014), a monument to the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs and a monument to Marcel Junod, the first foreign doctor to go the aid of the Hiroshima victims;
[ ⇒ see Musée Ariana website (textile and ceramics museum) for more details ]
address: Musée Ariana, (Musée suisse de la céramique et du verre), 10 avenue de la Paix, CH - 1202, Genève;
Bois de la Batie – NEW playground and animal park (Geneva)
The 🌳 Bois-de-la-Bâtie is well known to Geneva locals – the largest woodland in Geneva for strolls, green grass, an animal park, sports grounds, water park and super NEW playground . . .
MBFF visited the zoo in 🌳 the Bois-de-la-Bâtie, but we’ve not yet been to the NEW playground . . . but I am keen to take the boys before they get too big! It looks FABULOUS! (thanks to Kid’ing in Geneva, Les Petits Genevois, and the Ville de Genève for the photos . . . / ⇒ more information here;
address: Le Bois-de-la-Bâtie, chemin de la Bâtie, 1202, Geneva, Switzerland;
Parc Stagni (Chêne-Bougeries, near Geneva)
MBFF discovered the 🌳 Parc Stagni in Chêne-Bougeries a few years ago on a crisp and sunny autumn day, when we went to the fabulous 🖼 Ô Cézanne exhibtion next door; and we are now due a springtime visit! From the fabulous playground (replete with a big tree trunk to climb and sandpit), there is a secret doorway which leads into bigger Parc Stagni – perfect for running! Have you heard of Disc-Golf? This is a hybrid sport, somewhere between the rules of golf and frisbee-throwing! And you can play it in the Parc Stagni for FREE! / there are also sculptures to admire in the gardens near the playground;
🗓 opening hours: Monday to Friday 8h until middayand 14h until 17h;
AROUND LAC LEMAN & VAUD
Château et Jardins de Prangins (near Nyon)
« Fête de la Tulipe » in Morges
The annual (and 50th edition!) 🌷 « Fête de la Tulipe » will take place in the Parc de l’Indépendence in Morges from 18th March ⇒ 8th May 2022 – a beautiful carpet of tulips laid out right next to Lac Léman, with a view of the snowy alpine peaks in the distance . . . / to keep track of the blooming, see état des floraisons / full blooming usually from mid-April / website;
[ ⇒ see MBFF article for more details about a family visit ]
Arboretum National du Vallon de l’Aubonne (AUBONNE)
The 🌲 Arboretum National du Vallon de l’Aubonne is open all year-round, though the 🌲 Musée du Bois and shop are only open from early April / note: there is now a fee to enter the arboretum! / the arboretum organises lots of lovely events, see here for the 2022 programme:
website address: chemin de Plan 92, Aubonne, Switzerland / tel: +41 21 808 51 83;
Le Parc Pré Vert at Signal de Bougy
Over on the other side of 💦 Lac Léman, there is a wonderful parc de loisirs, 🌳 Le Parc Pré Vert at Signal de Bougy: 110 hectares, 🌳 with woodland, 🌈 a large playground, buggy-friendly walks, 🦆animals, ☕️ a spacious family-friendly restaurant, 🍏 picnic areas, 🎨 workshops for children, 🎭 an outdoor theatre, a parc aventure, ⛳️ mini-golf and more . . . all with 🏔 a splendid view of Lac Léman and snowy peaks!
website address: route du Signal, 1172, Bougy-Villars, Switzerland / tel: +41 58 568 31 50;
Domaine de Vullierens – castle and iris gardens
An absolutely FABULOUS VISIT: castle, gardens, blossoms, wood for children, views of mountains, sculptures!
🏰 castle: the Domaine de Vullierens has belonged to the same family for over 700 years, with the Mestral family residing here ever since the completion of the current castle by Gabriel-Henri de Mestral in 1745;
🎋 iris gardens: the collection of irises at Vullierens was created by Doreen Bovet, the Californian wife (and mother of the current owner of Vullierens) of Bernard Bovet de Mestral. A great lover of irises, in the autumn of 1950, Doreen planted 5 new varieties (ordered from Shreiner in the USA); in 1955 the castle gardens were opened to the public. Over the years, the iris and day lily collection has grown and developped, and now there are over 400 varieties planted over 2 hectares. A particular feature of irises is that they flower twice annually, once in May & June and once in autumn / in May and June, there is a colourful mosaic of over 25,000 irises for visitors to enjoy in the gardens;
⇒ for more information about the gardens and flowers, see here;
The irises are the star attraction of these gardens, but there are other gorgeous blooms to look out for :
- bluebells (jacinthes des bois) – early in the season 400m of purple along the allée cavalière;
- rhododenrons – for two weeks in May, « 200 rhododendrons en fleurs » ;
sculptures: in the gardens of Vullierens, there are 80 sculptures dotted across 30 hectares of land, from 21 Swiss and international artists / the Étienne Krähenbühl ‘s Le Bing Bang is donged every day at at 15h!
🦎 for families and children: Le Royaume du Roi Lézard is a new, magical addition for children and families in the gardens / most of the route is possible with a buggy or you can leave buggies at entrance / be sure to ask for the map at the entrance / ⇒ see here for more details;
🦉 barn owl observation: the Department of Ecology and Evolution of the University of Lausanne has installed its cameras at Vullierens. The estate houses two of the 250 or so nest boxes in their study on owls, and with webcams, the owls’ daily lives will be followed: birth, meals, entrances, exits . . . / a few Sundays over the season, Prof. Alexandre Roulin and his research group will hold a workshop to familiarise visitors with barn owls, this discreet nocturnal bird that is nevertheless very present in the region / more information here;
🥙 brunch at the gardens: at the Café des Jardins (a new team in 2019, with homemade Italian cuisine, using seasonal and local products, and the estate’s wines) / reservations: email@example.com;
🗓 opening hours 2022: 🌷 spring – 17th April ⇒ 19th June 2022, every day 10h to 18h (café, shop and gallery OPEN) / 🌻 summer: 22th June ⇒ 21st August 2021, Wednesdays to Sundays, 12h until 18h (café SHUT, shop and gallery OPEN, with snack bar at entrance) / 🍁 autumn: weekends in September & October, from 27th August until 30th October 2022, 12h until 18h (café SHUT, shop & gallery OPEN, with food truck in courtyard);
price: adults 15CHF, children (12 to 16 years) 5CHF, children (up to 11 years) FREE / dogs ALLOWED on a leash / picnics NOT permitted;
Le Jardin Zen Aigle (Aigle)
In April, Le Jardin Zen in Aigle re-opens its doors, after winter hibernation! / the visit takes arounc 1h30 and you’ll be treated ti flowers, rocks, animals and an oriental sound garden . . . / good to know: the Château d’Aigle is nearby !
autumn opening hours: May until October, 9h until 18 and Sunday afternoons;
price: children under 6 years FREE, adults 9CHF and 2x adults and 2x children 19CHF;
Parco Bollino (Courmayeur)
MBFF came across this 🍁 little park quite by accident one autumn day . . . the light was stunning . . . This gorgeous little park in Courmayeur is set on a hill, and crosses over a road to an extension of the park . . . you’ll find two playgrounds (the one for older children we discovered when there was snow on the ground!);
address: Viale Monte Bianco, 11013, Courmayeur, Aosta, Italy;
Parc Animalier d’Introd (Introd)
The MBFF family visited this animal park on a return journey from Cogne one autumn, just before its winter hibernation . . . You’ll see: 🦌deer, 🐗 sangliers, 🦊 foxes, raccoons, badgers, 🦉owls and more . . . There is a playground on-site and plenty of picnic tables too (no restaurant);
🗓 opening dates: it is open from April until November;
Castello Gamba (Châtillon)
We really enjoyed our visit to this 🖼 contemporary art museum in the Aosta Valley . . . and equally enjoyed 🌳 the park and gardens surrounding the castle! The gardens cover 50,400 m2 and host some rare species from all over the world, like the huge redwood sequoia and the Himalayan cedars! There is plentiful grass for ball games or a picnic or just running free!
[ ⇒ for more information about this superb castle, museum and gardens, see separate MBFF article here ]
Aosta Valley Castles
When the 🌺 blossoms are out in the Aosta Valley, this is the perfect time to visit one of the many majestic 🏰 castles . . . / ⇒ for a list of some of the castles to visit in the Aosta Valley, see here;
Here are some of MBFF’s favourite Aosta Valley castles:
- 🏰 Forte di Bard (a huge cultural complex, with temporary exhibitions, museums, and a restaurant / ⇒ see MBFF article);
- 🏰 Fénis Castle;
- 🏰 Sarre Castle;
- 🏰 Sarriod de la Tour Castle . . .
- 🏰 Aymavilles castle – renovated and open to the pubic from April;
- 🏰 Castello Savoia;
Aosta Valley alpine gardens
There are also 🌼 5 alpine botanical gardens (see here for more details) to visit in the Aosta Valley:
- 🌷 Chanousia, at the Little St Bernard pass;
- 🌸 Paradisia in Cogne;
- 🌼 the gardens of Castel Savoia in Gressoney-Saint-Jean;
- 🌸 Jardino Alpino de Saussurea – see below;
Giardino Alpino de Saussurea (Skyway du Mont-Blanc)
This gorgeous little alpine garden is located at the Pavillon du Mont Fréty, the mid-station of 🚠 the Skyway du Mont-Blanc. There are also fabulous activities for children at this mid-station – a small lake with a raft, a water feature with valves, a climbing wall . . . RECOMMENDED!
And the little surprises on mountain hikes . . .
A little further afield, but perfect for one of the many long weekends ahead in 2018, 💦 Lago Maggiore has many enchanting manor houses & gardens that are open to the public.
little further afield, but perfect for a long weekend and the Toussaint holidays, 💦 Lago Maggiore has many enchanting manor houses & gardens that are open to the public.
A couple of years ago, quite by chance, we discovered 🌼 Il Parco Villa Pallavicino . . . perfect for a family outing, these huge gardens (once a private residence, but open to the public since 1956) boast 🦌 an animal park (including a petting farm), a great playground, beautiful flowers and trees, views of Lago Maggiore, picnic areas and a great restaurant on-site / NEW – Alpaca World! / open until November (please check);
website address: Parco Villa Pallavicino,Via Sempione Sud, 8, 28838 Stresa VB, Italy;
The 🌺 landscaped gardens on Isola Bella are also well worth a visit (with the added bonus of a boat trip to get there!) / you can buy a combined ticket with the Parco Villa Pallavicino.