9 skills to discover in the mountains

Maturing cheeses in the darkness of ancestral cellars in the Jura, making bells for the herds in the heart of the Pyrenees, weaving jacquard in the Vosges or enameling the lava of the Auvergne volcanoes... The French mountains are a melting pot of skills as rich and diverse as their landscapes. From one mountain range to another, we take you to the heart of farmers workshops, craftsmen and artists perpetuating age-old gestures, drawing from the forests, rivers and pastures which enrich the land.

Distilling mountain plants in La Clusaz, in the Alps

Genepi, gentian, fir tree... Will you be able to recognize the perfumes of the Alps greenery? Direction to the Distillerie des Aravis, in La Clusaz. An Alpine institution founded in 1876, taken over in 2021 by two Ardéchois from a family of distillers. From maceration to distillation in the stills (one of which is more than 90 years old!), Romain and Sarah reveal, in the heart of the workshop, the long process until the final beverage: the sprigs of génépi, the star liqueur of the Alps, must macerate for a month in the vats! The result is original and authentic scents that the duo wishes to preserve: they also participate in the replanting of this high altitude plant.

Discover the Distillerie des Aravis (External link)
Stay in La Clusaz, near Annecy in the Alps (External link)

Knitting berets in the heart of Béarn, in the Pyrenees

With the Manufacture of Bérets, which she bought in 2021, Sara Goupy has brought the traditional Basque beret back into fashion! In this 100% artisanal workshop, this native of Béarn has rediscovered gestures that had disappeared with the industrialization of this emblem of Basque culture. All handmade from pure virgin merino wool, her berets are shaped as they were in the early 19th century before its immense success. Fully adjustable and without leather stays. You can watch the succession of delicate operations leading to the finished product during workshop visits, and choose your headdress. Choose amongst its 13 colours!

Visit the Manufacture des Bérets in Orthez, in the Pyrenees (External link)
Stay in the heart of Béarn (External link)

Enamel the lava of the volcanoes in the Cantal, in Auvergne

Lava is her passion. Rose Desmaisons never fails to remind us that the volcanic "sap" is not uniform: to each volcano (or almost) has its color! In her studio, installed in an old presbytery in Cantal, this artist, who graduated from the School of Applied Arts (Arts Apliqués), likes to show how she transforms a raw material into a shimmering object: earrings, pendants, sundials or even signs. You may not know it, but it is to the lava of Auvergne, of Volvic to be exact, that we owe the signs of the Parisian Art Nouveau metro signed by Hector Guimard!

Discover the know-how of Pépite de Lave (External link)
Staying in the Cantal, in Auvergne (External link)

Refining cheeses in the Haut-Bugey, in the Jura Mountains

In their farm in Beylledoux, located at an altitude of 900 meters in the heart of the Haut-Jura Regional Natural Park, Eric and Frédérique remind us of an elementary rule: no good farm cheese without good farm milk! The result of their efforts can be tasted in their four maturing cellars: farmhouse Morbier AOP with its creamy paste highlighted by a black line, one of the star cheeses of the region, but also Bleu de Gobet, Montbéliard or Chevret, the least known, with its soft heart.

Visit the Belleydoux Farm (External link)
Discover the Haut-Bugey, in the Jura Mountains (External link)

Blowing glass in the cradle of crystal, in the Vosges

It was within the walls of the Royal Glassworks of Saint-Louis, in Saint-Louis-lès-Bitche (later renamed the Royal Glassworks of Saint-Louis) that the secret of crystal manufacturing was discovered in 1781! The forests of the Vosges are the cradle of excellent glassmaking. Wood to heat the furnaces and sand to make the glass, this fertile ground has always pulsated to the rhythm of the know-how of the master glassmakers. In the heart of the workshops of the La Rochère glassworks, created in 1475, we can observe the craftsmen picking, meshing, blowing and shaping glass using the mouth-blown technique to transform the material into a fusion. Impressive!

Visit the La Rochère glass factory (External link)
Explore the Vosges (External link)

Putting to music the bells for the transhumance, in the Pyrenees

At the foot of the Pyrenees, in the hamlet of Bourdettes, he is one of the last conductors of the transhumance! At the helm of the family business founded in 1795 (labeled Living Heritage Company), Nicolas Daban, the tenth generation of bell makers, perpetuates a unique know-how, precious for the pastoralism in the mountains: the manufacture of bells for cows and sheep. Cutting of steel plates, shaping, brazing in a clay mold: one attends step by step (50 gestures are required!) to the birth of the bells in the workshop. The most delicate part? The last step which consists in tuning the sound: no question for the shepherd to introduce a discordance in the herd, the bells are essential to its cohesion!

Discover the know-how of the Daban bells (External link)

Create wooden toys near Dole, in the Jura Mountains

It is a know-how as old as the forests of the Jura massif! Inactive during the winter because of the snow, the farmers of the region took the habit of making wooden toys for the children during their forced rest. Today, this tradition continues under the aegis of the great names of the toy industry, but also of more modest workshops. Like the one of Stéphane Gateau in Saint-Aubin, near Dole, where this "chantourneur" draws and shapes cubes, puzzles, or board games decorated by hand with solid wood. Among his creations, an object if not playful at least symbolic, the hammer of Cop 21 which sealed the Paris agreements on climate in 2015. Green of course like the forests of the Jura!

Discover the creations of Artisanat Jouet Bois (External link)
Staying around Dole, in the Jura (External link)

Knife sharpening in Thiers in the Massif Central

How about learning to make your own knife in the Massif Central? Just a stone's throw from the Chaîne des Puys, the medieval city of Thiers has been the cradle of French cutlery for six centuries. Almost 80% of the knives sold in France are still made here! Novices can try their hand at the Robert David Cutlery, a family business created in 1919 and taken over by the heiress of the founders. Whether it's an olive wood handle or a well-rounded slicer for children, in two hours you'll be able to make a good slice of Auvergne ham!

Discover the Robert David cutlery in Thiers (External link)
Stay in the Livradois-Forez regional natural park, in Auvergne (External link)

Weaving jacquard in Gérardmer, in the Vosges

What if we were to unroll the thread of the Vosges textile history in the heart of the Garnier-Thiébaut workshops in Gérardmer? Founded in 1833, in the heart of the historical cradle of linen cloth manufacturing, it is one of the oldest companies in the Vosges still in operation, classified as a Living Heritage Company! Visiting the workshops, one does not lose a crumb of the process of transformation of the simple white thread into a jacquard fabric with colourful patterns. Labeled Vosges Terre Textile, its cotton damasks dress the greatest palaces!

Visit the Garnier-Thiebaut weaving workshops (External link)
Stay in Gérardmer, in the Vosges (External link)