With a pleasant setting, green parks, colourful gardens and lakeside promenades, Geneva is considered one of the healthiest places to live in the world. The city sits astride the River Rhône, where it streams into Lake Geneva, and is set against a dramatic backdrop of mountains. At the lake's south shore the Jet d'Eau shoots water 460ft (140m) into the sky from the end of a pier - the city's landmark attraction and Europe's most powerful fountain.
Undoubtedly Switzerland's most cosmopolitan city, Geneva's reputation for religious and political tolerance dates back more than five hundred years. In the 16th century the city spawned the religious teachings of John Calvin, and Geneva was where Lenin spent his 'years of recreation'. Little of their Puritanism is left today - stately homes line the banks of the lake, overlooking an armada of luxury yachts. Jewels and designer labels spill out of exclusive boutiques and into chauffer-driven limousines that glide down palatial avenues.
As well as a host of museums and fine galleries, Geneva has a lively cultural calendar. Most notable is the celebration of l'Escalade in December, which involves costumed and torch-lit processions through the town, and the consumption of sickly amounts of chocolate and marzipan.
Geneva is a gateway to Switzerland's luxury ski resorts, an important banking centre and home to thousands of international delegates and diplomats. Among the many international organisations based in the city are the United Nations and the International Red Cross.
Val Thorens, located in the Tarentaise Valley, Savoie, French Alps, is the highest ski resort in Europe, at 2300 m altitude. It is located in the commune of Saint-Martin-de-Belleville in the Savoie département. The resort forms part of the 3 vallées linked ski area which, with over 600 km of piste, is the largest linked ski area in the world.
In the 1960s the potential of Val Thorens to be transformed from a small mountain village into a location for a purpose built ski area was noted. The first area to be developed was the lower area of Les Menuires beginning in 1967. In 1969 the access road was extended up to Val Thorens so that development of the resort could start. In 1971 the first of 3 drag lifts was installed, followed in 1972 by the opening of the first ski school. Like many 1960s purpose built resorts in the French Alps, Val Thorens suffered from a lack of architectural guidelines in the early days, leading to an over-dependence on concrete. New and renovated developments now have to meet much stricter design guidelines and the use of traditional materials is sought.
The nearest airports are Chambery, Lyon and Geneva. They have a transfer time of 2 hours, 2 hours 45 mins and 3 hrs 15 mins respectively. Alternatively the resort is nearly 1 hour from Moutiers for the snow train.
Given the high altitude of Val Thorens and the Glacier de Péclet the often large volume of snow means that the resort is usually open from mid-November until early May. The highest ski-able peaks are Pointe du Bouchet (3220m) and Cime de Caron (3200m), with its cable car of the same name, one of the biggest in the world with its capacity of 150+1 passengers.
Many of its slopes face north and north-west, providing for good snow conditions. This means that the slopes are not as sunny, so the resort tends to attract a crowd more interested in skiing than "terracing." However, the resort itself faces south, and many people enjoy sitting outside in the sunshine when they have finished skiing. As well as a combination of 68 marked runs, Val Thorens also has 5 terrain parks giving access to bordercross tracks, quarter pipes and jumps.
Val Thorens is the most international ski resort in France: more than 70% of its visitors are foreigners. While one will find people from all over the world in Val Thorens, British, Scandinavian, Belgian, Dutch and German tourists make up the majority.
Val Thorens is part of the 3 vallées ski domain, which is connected by a common ski pass. Jean Beranger set up the first ski school in Val Thorens: The ESF, and the Club des sport and the Tourism Office in 1972. Beranger is a former coach of the French women's ski team. He is now deputy mayor and president of the tourist office, and one slope in Val Thorens is named after him.
Why? Health, wealth and happiness are the benefits to be accrued from a holiday in Geneva, the chic, graceful Swiss city where the International Red Cross was born. Travel to Geneva to 'see how the other half live', as luxury cars cruise the streets and magnificent yachts bob on the lakeside. With its pristine air, beautiful setting and sophisticated shopping, Geneva seems to not have a care in the world.
When? The best weather for a holiday in Geneva is experienced during the height of summer, July and August, but this is also the time when the city attracts thousands of tourists. Spring and autumn are less crowded and a pleasant time to travel to Geneva, although rain can be expected all year round. During late winter many travel to Geneva to access nearby ski resorts, and in December the city sees many tourists for the annual l'Escalade Festival.
Who for? Anyone who is enamoured with Swiss precision and efficiency, not to mention scenery, will enjoy a holiday in Geneva. It is also a popular destination for culture vultures with a full arts calendar and several museums and galleries.