Last months I spent 10 days with 2 friends in Thonon-les-Bains which once has been the historic capital of Chablais, a province of the old Duchy of Savoy. The town was the capital of the Dukedom of Chablais. It is located just at the Geneva lake but on the French side, and only a few km away from Geneva.
In 2004, when working for the bypass road Thonon-les-Bains, excavations on the site Genevray led to the discovery of a necropolis. According to mythology, the city was founded by an ancient Germanic tribe who took part in the massacre of the Romans in the Black Forest.
The historic center, built around the Grande Rue, is characterized by narrow streets, lined with buildings of three or four floors. The artery has a commercial and residential pedestrian zone, and is adjacent to the oldest street in the city, the street-Coq Chante. You can read more here.
We walked along the lake front and admired the yachts and boats in the habour
The city has a very pleasant architecture which reminded me the South of France.
This is one of several fountains and springs trickling in Thonon town centre and takes pride of place on the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville. (City hall)
The Château de Sonnaz was built in 1666 on the ruins of Thonon’s medieval château. It belonged to the Gerbaix de Sonnaz, one of Savoie’s oldest families. It now houses the Musée du Chablais and Thonon-les-Bains Tourist Office. We visited an exhibition where we could see which what phantasy all kind of stuff was smuggled from Switzerland to France or rather from France to Switzerland. Really amazing ! I will write about this in a separate post.
The city is located on two levels and to get into the old town you have to take the funicular,
which gives you a wonderful view on the Geneva lake. Thonon’s 19th Century hillside railway, Constructed in 1888, ‘Le Funiculaire’ was moved by a counter-weighting system using 11 tons of water. Today, it still links the port to the town centre, but since 1990, it has been powered by electricity.
When we were up in the old town, there was just a flea market taking place.
Since the 90s this former Monastery of the Visitation chapel has been dedicated to modern art and welcomes well-known artists all year round. There are also concerts taking place. We couldn't see the inside it was closed unfortunately
We continued our walk through the little streets with the beautiful old houses and arrived at
the wash-house which was very important for social reasons as one of few places were women could meet up and talk. Doing the laundry was physically challenging so doing it in a group made it more manageable as women could chat, joke, sing and sometimes even fight.
Even today women use it for especially big pieces of the laundry or carpets.
We took the funicular to get down to the harbor again and returned home.
Thonon les Bains is a famous place where lots of very wealthy people have their holiday villas or even permanent homes. As it is so close to Switzerland it is certainly also useful for their piggy bank. .