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COPPET is only a couple of kilometres over the Geneva–Vaud cantonal boundary. Just across the narrow strait of the Petit Lac opposite the village is Hermance , south of which the shores narrow to Geneva, only 12km away, while the bulge of low hills to the north is French territory, culminating in the thickly wooded headland of Yvoire. The village sits plum astride the lakeshore Route Suisse and has an attractive arcaded main street but is otherwise unremarkable except for its lavish chateau, which in the turbulent years around the French Revolution was dubbed “the Parliament of European Opinion” for the glittering and controversial salon hosted by Madame de Staël and attended by the leading figures of the day.

The approach to the château – a rather diminutive edifice if you’re expecting Versailles – is beneath a vaulted arch into a peaceful interior courtyard, open on one side to the gardens behind a wrought-iron gate surmounted with the elaborate initials “N.C.”, demonstrating the partnership between Jacques Necker and his wife Suzanne Curchod. Entry (daily: Easter–Oct 2–6pm, July & Aug also 10am–noon; Fr.10) is only on the multilingual guided tours given by the extremely knowledgeable staff: these run every half-hour or so, according to demand, and last about half-an-hour. Some nine rooms are open to the public, including the grand library, formerly the main reception room and filled with Empire and Directoire furniture; Madame de Staël’s bedroom, with her Louis XVI bed draped in Lyon silk; Juliette Récamier’s bedroom next door, hung with exquisite eighteenth-century Chinese wallpaper; and, upstairs, a drawing-room and a gallery of family portraits.

In addition to a scattering of plain eating places along the main street, Coppet boasts the glorious hotelDu Lac, 51 Grand’Rue (022/776 15 21, fax 776 53 46; d). This wood-beamed inn was classified as a grand logis in 1628, granting it “the exclusive right to receive and lodge people arriving by coach or on horseback”; the atmosphere hasn’t changed much, and after ducking in off the busy road, you trail through grand dining-rooms and antique-laden drawing rooms until you reach the shady, perfectly calm lakeside terrace at the back. Common foot travellers in days of yore presumably stayed at simpler places like the Hôtel d’Orange (022/776 10 37, fax 776 25 40; b), a few doors down at no. 61.

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