Situated between two volcanic hills, Le Puy-en-Velay offers one of the most extraordinary natural landscapes in France and is one of the country's most popular pilgrimage destinations. Not-to-be-missed sights are the Saint Michel fortress, the Romanesque cathedral of Notre-Dame-du-Puy with its oriental-styled bell tower, the Corneille fortress, and the colossal statue of Notre-Dame-de-France atop the Rocher Corneille. Le Puy-en-Velay has always been
referred to as the City of the Virgin.
Annecy is in the Northern Alps and is probably the city that has best known how to preserve its oldest human traces. The story begins in the Gallo-Roman period, circa 50BC, when a vicus, or encampment, of about 2,000 souls quickly grew in the Fins Valley. This settlement was named Boutae, and traces remain so well intact that it is possible to make out the forum, basilica, baths, and the theather,
which has not yet been restored.
Among the gastronomic specialities of the Savoy region are its cheeses. They are the protagonists of many recipes, including raclette and tartiflette, and should not be missed. The most famous is reblochon, a DOC cheese of raw cow's milk. It is a small cheese, typically uncooked, made with the milk of Alpine cows of the Tarine, Montéliarde, and Abondance types. It is easily recognizable by its saffron yellow crust covered with a fine white skin that indicates ideal ageing,
and the cheese itself is ivory in color, velvety, and very tasty.
Notre-Dame de Liesse
The church of Notre-Dame de Liesse was built between 1846 and 1851 on the site of a thirteenth-century sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The construction was entrusted to François Justin, an engineer who was very familiar with the rules of neoclassical style. Despite the period's rigid rules he was asked to preserve the sixteenth-century bell tower, part of the south wall, and an interesting fifteenth-century Gothic window as a precious
reminder of the early sanctuary, all of which he did quite successfully.