Hiking, biking, Mt. Blanc: Haute-Savoie has it all

For this week's installment of our My France series, we talk to American Jeff Steiner, who runs the Americans in France network, about how he found his way to the unique department of Haute-Savoie in the Rhône-Alpes region.

Hiking, biking, Mt. Blanc: Haute-Savoie has it all
Jeff Steiner - web developer and founder of the Americans in France network. Lake Montriond in Haute-Savoie, Rhône-Alpes. Photos: Jeff Steiner, Semnoz/Wikimedia

Who are you, where are you from, and what do you do?

My name is Jeff Steiner, I’m originally from Los Angeles, California, and I’m a web publisher. I run the Americans in France network, as well as 40 different websites.

How did you first end up in France?

Well, my wife is French and we had been living together for 10 years in Boston, when she decided she wanted to move back to France.

We first lived in Strasbourg in 2001, then moved to Dijon, and in 2005 we finally settled in Haute-Savoie.

My wife used to do scientific research, and she got a great job across the Swiss border in Geneva.

So what kept you here?

Like a lot of families in Haute-Savoie and Rhône-Alpes we bought a house here with a great mortgage.

We took advantage of being so close to Switzerland, and got our loan in Swiss francs.

Aside from that, though, we have a 12-year-old son who has grown up in this area, gone to school and has friends here.

What’s your favourite thing to do with friends in Haute-Savoie?

Well, the main attraction in this area is obviously Mont Blanc, but I’m more of a fan of bike riding and hiking.

There are some great spots around here for that. Col de la Colombière, for example, or Megève, although the biking is pretty serious at Col de la Colombière, so I usually just walk it.

What’s for dinner?

If you’re just here on vacation, then there are some great places in the area for special local food. La Roche sur Foron is a town with a lot of farm-made reblochon cheese, and Abondance is in the area too.

They have farms there that you can visit and see them making special cheeses, as well as pick up some sausage and honey that were made in the surrounding area.

If you’re here to stay, or you’re visiting me, then gardening is the way to go. We have a patch next to our house where we’re growing potatoes, pumpkins, and – since I’m from LA – strawberries.

Speaking of which – tell us a little bit about Americans in France.

Well, Americans in France is a network that I run for both American tourists and expats who live here full time.

It features a lot of useful information about France, some guides to different regions and activities, and some of my own comments and opinions.

As well as that there are some practical resources for Americans on things like renting an apartment, how to get a driver’s licence, setting up your phone and internet, how to vote and file your taxes from over here, and also some lists and links to various clubs and organizations.

What do you miss about home?

Honestly, lately I’ve been missing the weather. I mean, we get a lot of smog in L.A., and the air quality isn’t nearly as good, but there’s also so much more sunshine than we’ve been having here in Rhône-Alpes.

Do you intend to stay here?

I do. At some time in the future I would like my son to spend a little more time in the US, to immerse himself in the culture and the English language a bit, but only for a year or so.

Then I think we would come back and stay here in Haute-Savoie for good.

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Macron: ‘Vaccinated Americans should be able to travel to France this summer’

French president Emmanuel Macron says he hopes that Americans who have had the Covid vaccine will be able to travel to France this summer - after more than a year in which travel to France from the USA has been heavily restricted.

Macron: 'Vaccinated Americans should be able to travel to France this summer'
Photo: Kenzo Tribaullard/AFP

In an interview with the American news channel CBS, the president says that he hopes the ban on most travel from the USA – which has been in place since March 2020 – can be lifted this summer.

He said: “We will progressively lift the restrictions [in France] from the beginning of May, which means that we will organise in the summer time with our professionals in France for French European citizens, but as well for American citizens”.

The president made it clear that travel will likely be allowed, “especially for US citizens who are vaccinated, so with a special pass, I would say.”

For the past year travel into France from the US has only been allowed for ‘essential reasons’ which has ruled out visits from American second-home owners and made many family visits impossible.

“The idea is to offer travel to the American citizen when they decide to be vaccinated or with a negative PCR test” Macron clarified, “so the idea is to always control the virus, to maximise the vaccination, and to progressively lift the restrictions.”

France is currently battling a third wave of Covid cases, driven by new variants, and is under a ‘partial lockdown’ with limits on travel, shopping and socialising. However Macron said that he aims to begin reopening some parts of the country from mid May.

The French government is expected to announce a more detailed programme for reopening at the end of April.

Additionally, Macron told the Face the Nation programme that the country’s vaccine rollout is steadily progressing due to production increase.

European ‘health passports’ are also on the horizon, with Thierry Breton, head of the European Commission task force, last month claiming he hopes the continent will have a summer “comparable to last year.”

Discussions on the vaccine passports are ongoing, but it is likely that they will have provision for either a vaccination certificate or a negative Covid test.

For full details on the restrictions currently in place on travel into France from EU and non-EU countries, head to our Travelling to France section.