When I first wrote about Yvoire, I wasn’t very far down the history rabbit hole. But this time I am, and I’m bringing you with me! Yvoire is the quintessential French medieval village. Built in the 14th Century, Yvoire has earned its nickname of “gem of the lake” as it overlooks the crystal blue Lake Geneva and the stone buildings make you want to bust into a rendition of any song from Beauty and the Beast. I may or may not have looked for Gaston (he’s roughly the size of a barge). It also helps that Yvoire has been classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France.
The fortified village includes remnants of ramparts and the newly (I use that term loosely and relative to the age of the village itself) rebuilt castle. Having been a sleepy fishing village for many years, tourism is now the main industry. Want proof of this? Try to find a restaurant with seats for 2 at 1:00 p.m. without a reservation, even though there is literally a restaurant every few steps. Crepes and Gelato are everywhere, but the popular dish is Lake Perch with Lemon Butter and french fries.
Yvoire is also known as a floral town – fresh flowers are virtually part of the architecture and one of the top spots in this charming village is the Garden of the 5 Senses, or Jardin de Cinq Sens. Yves and Anne-Monique d’Yvoire created their Garden of the Five Senses in 1986. Initially just rows of trees surrounding the castle itself, the design has changed over the years, first utilizing an abandoned kitchen garden and evolving into an elegant labyrinth designed to focus on the 1300 plant species currently housed in the garden.
The garden is divided into various sections, each encouraging you to focus on a specific sense, or highlighting plants that will appeal to a certain sense. The sections are appropriately named after the types of plants that are within their section such as Alpine Meadow, Weaving & Undergrowth, Cloistered Garden, Garden of Taste, Garden of Smell, Garden of Touch & Garden of Sight.
Walking through the garden will take you roughly an hour, but there’s really no rush. Yvoire Castle (aka Chateau d’Yvoire) can also be easily seen from the Garden of the 5 senses. Built in 1306, it sits overlooking Lake Geneva’s ‘small lake’ and ‘large lake’ and among other things, had the important role of controlling the road that led from Geneva to Rhone & Italy. In 1591, the castle was severely damaged due to a fire and remained roofless and in a state of disrepair for about 350 years until it was purchased and restored by the Yvoire family. The castle is not open to the public and there is very little information online, which has started to make the bones in my neck itch with the need to learn more about it and obsessively monitoring all corners of the web to track whether they’ll ever open it up to visitors.
Overall, visiting the Garden of the 5 Senses was a memorable experience, although I’ll admit – I got a little mad. The concept of the Garden is that the type of plants encourage you to use all 5 senses to truly enjoy the experience – but isn’t that the purpose of all gardens? Clever marketing, but when you think about it, any place can do that.
What sets this garden apart is the fact that taking your time to really focus on the smaller elements of enjoyment is actively encouraged. You’re literally reminded to stop and smell the flowers…as well as touch, see and taste them. I may be a little cynical about it, but it goes to show you how powerful charm can be – the Garden is one of the top attractions in Yvoire.
Unfortunately, this bright example of charm being a huge factor in success and popularity says a lot about what I should expect in terms of my personal goals.
I.e.: not much.
The Girl you Left Behind by Jojo Moyes. You might recognize the name- she wrote “Me Before You”, a book (and later movie) that had me weeping at my desk one sunny Wednesday afternoon. Part of the story in The Girl You Left Behind takes place in a little French village of St. Peronne during the German Occupation of France in World War I. The village is small and old and people know the intimate details of each others lives. A village like Yvoire springs to mind when you read this book and you can imagine the entire village being thrown into upheaval due to the events in one household during those times.
46.3687° N, 6.3258° E