It was the perfect place for R&R. A small hotel (11 rooms). Splendid views of mountains and a lake. A pool amidst greenery and blossoms. A comfortable room, nice staff, good breakfast – and a menagerie of sorts. Plus, and most important, tranquility.
I loved it all. For my recent “cure” at Aix les Bains in eastern France, I booked two weeks at Suites du Lac, a hotel outside of the town. I traveled to Aix by train. On the down side, the hotel was not convenient to the spa center without a car. I took a taxi then bus to reach the spa for my treatments each day.
Never mind. I had time, enjoyed conversing with my regular taxi driver Eric, as well as bus passengers.
During my second day at the hotel, I heard peculiar sounds while lounging on my balcony. Maa… Maa A goat? Clucking. Crackling. Chickens? No way. I was not on a farm nor in the country. Perhaps too much spa water had seeped into my brain. Later I noticed guests looking over a railing on the terrace at the end of the property. I must investigate.
Aha. Below at a lower level there they were: The creatures responsible for the sounds. Two goats and a bevy of chickens. I was fascinated. The chickens were beauties, all different and exotic. The goats were small and cute. I took photos.
The Suites du Lac was built in 2007 by partners Jose and Emanuel. They share responsibilities for the hotel management. Emanuel is in charge of administration and everything indoors. Jose takes care of the animals and the grounds.
I learned lots about chickens from Jose who is an animal lover and passionate about poultry. He had chickens as a child, he explained, and now likes different races. His flock consists of 20 different breeds. He knows the characteristics of each. “This one is South American. That one lays white eggs like American chickens…” European chickens lay marron-colored eggs.
The life span of commercial chickens is just 1 ½ years due to their diet, he told me. But his special fowl can reach the age of 10, unless they fall victim to a fox. Several years ago, he lost 20 birds to a fox. “A fox kills anything that moves,” he said. The fox ate only one of the chickens it had killed. Jose’s chicken/goat pen is fenced, but a fox can jump the fence. He has constructed an enclosure under the terrace with an automatic door that closes at 10 pm. Every evening he goes out to rescue the chickens which have chosen a tree instead of the enclosed hen house for safety. They fly up and nestle into the branches to hide out.
I was surprised to see how easily he captured the chickens – no resistance. “They know me,” he said.
He has only hens which lay about 20 eggs per day. He did have a rooster, but neighbors complained about the too early wake-up call.
Two 16-year-old miniature Pinschers and a cat also live at Suites du Lac. And, for a brief period of time during my stay, a young injured pigeon. Jose rescued it from a bakery where it cowered in a corner. After a few days of TLC, he released it.
Since I too am an animal lover, the animals were a bonus for me.
Unfortunately, it was hot, very hot during my June stay in Aix-les-Bains. Temperatures were in the upper 90s F every day. The town tourist office offers a variety of interesting walking tours, but there was no way I could enjoy a walking tour in that heat. I hung out at the hotel pool every afternoon after my treatments. Even that was hot, but I swam my laps and took shelter under an umbrella. I read. I napped. I relaxed. I was alone. No responsibilities. It was bliss.
When I needed a stretch, I walked over to look down at the critters. The chickens huddled under oleander branches to escape the sun. The goats found shade along the periphery of the enclosure.
The ambience at dusk when everyone had left the pool was especially soothing. I watched the sky change colors and mountain silhouettes grow darker. It was all so quiet, peaceful and beautiful.
Suites du Lac does not have a regular restaurant offering full meals. After my treatments I usually stopped in town and had lunch at a restaurant. I tried many and savored some delicious meals. In the evening I often joined other guests on the terrace and ordered one of the hotel’s offerings: Omelets, pizza, salads.
I had some tasty lunches in Aix les Bains, including above, a French version of Surf and Turf: Salmon and Chicken smothered in a lobster sauce
Unfortunately my spa treatments did not do much for my bodily ailments. However, Suites du Lac therapy was the best for the spirit.
Les Suites du Lac: www.lessuitesdulac.fr
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Coming soon: The mighty Dolomites.