Our gite is situated on a side of the Tarentaise valley, which seperates the Vanoise National Park and the Beaufortain regional park.
The National Park of La Vanoise is practically next door to us, with its 205 sq. Miles of natural wonders. It was created in 1963, as France’s first National Park, to join a major area of Alpine acreage between the Isère and the Arc rivers with Italy’s Gran Paradiso Park to protect the ibex from extinction. Guided tours are available for fauna and glacier viewing. Glaciers with their lakes and rocky Alpine surroundings comprise nearly 40% of the park’s acreage, while mountain pastures and high forests account for most of the rest. There are 100 summits higher than 9000 ft. In the park itself, which is embraced by an official peripheral zone of 560 additional square miles-mostly forested. The park is also the place to enjoy seeing wild chamois and many other animals mentioned in our discussion on fauna below. Over 125 species of birds have been sighted in park as well, including the golden eagle-known in French as " l’Aigle royal ", fascinating reptiles, amphibians, dragonflies, and butterflies can be seen there too. The exceptionally rich flora includes more than 1000 different species, among them several particularly Alpine varieties. The Parc de la Vanoise, accesible from our side through Peseiy-Nancroix has 310 miles of marked hiking trails and 42 shelters. Hike in on your own or with one of our partner-guides (the latter is recommended for overnight journeys).
Whereras the Vanoise offers abrupt vertical landscapes with knife-edged peaks, The Beaufortain landscapes are more open, with magnificent views on the surrounding massifs. In winter it harbours the most ideal grounds for dog sledding ans cross couintry skiing. There is a wild and mysterious feel to that area, with its many lakes, and its ancestral traditions in agriculture.
In past centuries this link between Savoie and Piemont situated between The Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn, combines awesome mountain wilderness with reminders of intense human occupation. Religious edifices, from the Roman times to the present bear witness of an Alpine civilisation, kept alive to this day with the numerous folklore events held in summer.
The city of Aosta, has lots to offer in terms of architecture and ambiance, with its cobble stoned streets and small shops.
Annecy, Savoie’s largest city is in a typical Alpine setting, surrounded by mountains, and its lake, boardering its historic section. Small street lined with arches and canals and buildings with curved shaped roofs remind one of fairy tale illustrations
These are the three main towns of the Tarentaise valley. Quaint shopping streets as well as historic edifices of interest such as the Cathedral in Moutiers and the early romanesque basilica in Aime with 12th century frescoes and a Roman crypt. There are also several small museums, mostly related to traditional life in the past centuries.
The jagged mountain peaks and deep valleys surrounding the Gite offer stunning panoramas within a classic Alpine landscape. Thrust upward by tectonic collision between Europe and Africa, and carved by glaciers during the pleistocene ice ages, the Savoie Alps provide a fascinating setting for hiking and adventure. Sheer rock walls of limestone and quartzite tower above plunging cascades and glacial lakes. Along the forested valleys, tiny villages such as Montvilliers cling to steep slopes formed on brittle black schist and rounded gravels of glacial moraines. The diversity of rock types, vegetation and terrain have produced variables soils for dairy farming, mountain orchards and forestry. The richness in mineral ressources has made this a strategic region throughout history. Mines dating back to the Roman times have extracted such materials as iron, copper, galena, silver and manganese. Our Gite provides an ideal base for exploring this spectacular terrain and fascinating geologic heritage.
The Gite stands on a forested mountainside, one of the lower slopes of Mount Jovet (7900 ft) in mixed woods. The immediate vicinity includes an old cider-apple orchard and haying meadows as well as wild forests, all enlivened by mountain streams. There are hundreds of flowers that bloom in this varied landscape from May to October. Early in high season, at the beginning of July, for instance, common beauties like Viper’s Bugloss, Fox Glove, Red Campion, and Woodland Melampyrum decorate the roadside. In the woods, you will find beautiful Spotted Orchids by the hundreds, along with Twayblade and other delicately formed orchid species as well as the Lady’s Slipper. Our hillside also features a perfumed orchid and the ghostly saprophytic Neottia . For larger form and color, there is an abundance of Centaury and Campanula species. The dramatically impressive great Yellow Gentian stands out on the hillsides between Montvilliers and the neighboring village of Longefoy. Going further up into the high country, when snow and ice have given way to the Alpine pasture, and even more stunning species of Gentians, Anemones and Soldanelles. As you climb, the coloration of leaves and flowers intensifies, the stark luminosity provoking the abundance of chlorophyll and color pigments.
Summer is also high season for birds around the Gite. Each morning is illuminated by bird songs. In the orchard and around the building, you will see or hear spotted Flycatchers, Black Redstarts, Great Tits and Marsh Tits, Goldfinches and Chaffinches, Serins, Nuthatches, and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, as well as an occasional Buzzard Hawk. The Golden Eagles sometime venture near, an your walks along the roads and trails nearby will show you more ; the Mistle Thrush, the Carrion Crow, the Wren, the Blue Tit, the Wheatear and the Wagtail, for example. The mountain higher up have Black Grouse, Capercaillie, Ring Ouzel, Redpoll, Tengmalm Owl, Snow Finch, Ptarmigan, and Alpine Accentor to offer among others. It’s not just the air that’s full of life ; terrestrial mamal sightings in around the gite include Wild Boar, Badger, Deer, Fox and the Mountain Hare. It doesn’t take far to go to see the amusing Marmot, Pine and Stone Martens, Stoat, and higher up the much sought after Ibex and Chamois. If the lynx and the wolf are rarely seen, their numbers are growing in the Parc de la Vanoise.
These can be found in the museums in different towns of the valley which are dedicated to the regions past lifestyle and religion. There are also a number of folklore festivals celebrated, such as the cow grazing festival at the little Saint Bernard Pass which brings together lost traditions of both Savoie and the Aosta Valley, or the Peisey Nancroix agricultural celebration on August 15, where old craftsmen, farmers and story tellers relieve the past skills and traditions, all clad in ancestral clothing.
The wild nature of the area should not obscure the many testimonies of the richness of the valley’s past: archeological vestiges of roman times, medieval fortifications protecting the thoroughfares, or the baroque churches and chapels scattered about, as far as places accessible only by several hours on foot in summer or by ski in winter. Testimony of a conquering, militant counter-reform, the magnificent alterpieces they house are stunning examples of the didactic power of image. The basilica in Aime is now a historical museum that contains Roman relics and shows the transformation of a pre-christian site into a church which took its present shape and basic form nearly a thousand years ago. Its biblical frescoes are abbreviated examples of what can be seen elsewhere in the area.