This romantic scenery has inspired many artists and celebrities, with some having settled here permanently. It is an immense stretch of water that changes colour with the passing of each hour, the sky and the water sometimes appearing to merge into one. Surrounded by the terraced vineyards of Lavaux and La Côte on one side and by the majestically towering snow-coated Alps on the other, Lake Geneva (known locally as Lac Léman) never ceases to captivate local residents, whether they live on the French or the Swiss side (the frontier cuts through the middle of the lake), and visiting tourists.
Nearly 20,000 marine crafts ranging from pedalos to luxury yachts ply the waters of the lake, whether for fishing, enjoyment or trips. Thanks to its wide and varied range of cruises, the Compagnie générale de navigation (CGN), which boasts the biggest Belle Époque fleet in the world with 8 boats, 5 of which are paddle steamers, sails between Switzerland and France all year round. Over 2 million passengers a year embark and disembark at numerous ports, travelling by boat to discover the shores of the lake and its unmissable sites or to go to work. It is also possible to enjoy fine food prepared by top chefs or a fondue in a cosy atmosphere on board these lake-going vessels. Since 2014, the CGN has offered competitive package deals for families of every type, whether with one child or more, or with one parent or grandparent.
Other marine craft allow Lake Geneva to be admired. As well as pleasure boating, the operators of the Aquarel du Léman solar-powered boats arrange trips close to the banks of the lake to observe the fauna and flora in complete tranquillity. Outings are organised from Morges on “La Liberté”, a replica of a 17th-century galley built in 5 years and launched for the first time in 2002. It is also possible to sail the old-fashioned way on restored barges, the most famous of which is called “La Vaudoise” and is situated in Ouchy.
Once the fine weather arrives, the shores of Lake Geneva come alive with walkers and aficionados of the wheel (skates, skateboards, scooters) sharing the floral quays of Ouchy. The lake offers heaps of activities in and on the water. Alongside the hirers of pedalos, kayaks, rowing boats and motorboats, several water sports clubs offer introductory courses in water skiing, wakeboarding, rowing, stand up paddleboarding, windsurfing and sailing.
Throughout the year numerous regattas are held at various places on the lake, some of which attract the crème de la crème of international sailing. The Bol d’Or is the world’s premier sailing competition on an enclosed body of water. Each year, in the month of June, hundreds of yachts, some skippered by famous names from the sailing world, seek to triumph in this round trip between the two ends of the lake. The “Lake Geneva 5-day” race in the month of August represents Europe’s longest lake-bound endurance race. The Translémanique solo race across Lake Geneva is staged three weeks later. Another annual event staged on Lake Geneva is the world’s longest rowing contest (160 km non-stop), organised by the Société Nautique de Genève. It is also possible to cycle around Lake Geneva in the Cyclotour du Léman (180 km), which is more about enjoyment than a winning performance.
For those who prefer to relax in the sunshine, the urban area of Lausanne boasts around fifty beaches with a range of amenities. Once the fine weather arrives, couples, families, singles and groups of teenagers share the expanses of grass and sand until late into the evening, with some places allowing barbecues to be held. In summer, several refreshment stands take up residence on the shores to serve fast food. Many restaurants open up their terraces to offer freshly caught fillets of perch, fera, pike and char, as Lake Geneva is the habitat of around thirty species of fish.
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