There Are So Many Reasons Why You Would Want To Go To Annecy It’s Hard To Reason Why You Wouldn’t
Beautiful setting with an abundance of activities and leisure options ~ Annecy can be what you make of it.
Today’s travel to Annecy, France would be by rail from Varenna, Italy, on Lake Como, through Switzerland and into France. Looking out the train window, we marveled at the complete land use of the tidy Swiss farms. Row upon row of plantings made the sloped ground look like it had been draped with a patchwork quilt made of corduroy materials.
We enjoy train travel and find it a wonderful way to see Europe. We can nibble on picnic goodies, read, do some journaling, take our shoes off and just watch the scenery slipping by. Terry does our route planning, buys the tickets on the days we are not using our Eurail Pass and organizes train schedules and stopovers. Sherrie follows trustingly, asking only “How long is the trip?” “How long is the stopover?” and “Do I have enough time to use the bathroom?” Terry is seldom caught off guard, but this day we got a surprise.
We had a while yet, about fifteen minutes, before the time of our stop: Martigny. Terry started repacking the day bag with various items we had out during our journey, and Sherrie was shutting down her laptop after some journaling … but no hurry … there was plenty of time for Terry to get his shoes on and for Sherrie to go to the bathroom before Martigny. Our train pulled into another small village station. Terry glanced up and saw the sign: Martigny.
Our first response was panic. Terry’s next was to run to the nearest door and open it in hopes that such a move would prevent the train from leaving. We grabbed back packs plus scattered items not yet gathered up and jumped down to the station platform.
Chancing another few seconds, Terry ran back on board to collect the left-overs and exited just as all doors closed automatically.
We stood on the Martigny station platform laughing at ourselves (and recovering from the effects of panic) as the train pulled away; on-board passengers looking down at the silly fools … one in stocking feet.
With bits and pieces safely stowed, Terry, now with shoes on, went looking for the station’s schedule of our next train’s departure. It was then that he realized times posted are not arrival times, but departure times. Lesson learned.
Crossing from Switzerland into France we arrived in Annecy in the late afternoon. Used the telephone outside the train station to locate a room and got lucky on our first try and secured lodging.
Accommodations at Les Jardins du Chateau are high above the medieval town and right beside the Chateau d’Annecy’s main entrance. The only room available was a small room on the ground floor; actually, it wasn’t that small, with the exception of the low ceilings. The bathroom, however, was tiny … really tiny. A little alcove at one end of the room was as wide as the windows which opened to the rose garden. After unpacking we went on a hunt for dinner.
In the 18th century Annecy turned into a bustling manufacturing center. Increased tourism, with visitors appreciating the history and natural beauty of the area, also played a role in putting Annecy ‘on the map’. Today, outside the historic town center, Annecy is growing at a rapid pace and finding favor with hi-tech industry.
As we strolled along the river, which forms a central spine through the old city, we were treated to a mini-concert of five alpine-horns. We had watched musicians bring the ten foot long horns (often associated with the Swiss Alps) onto the square where they proceeded to play three pieces of music before inviting on-lookers to hear more by attending tonight’s concert.
Upon their departure a young girl, dress like a hard-rock singer, started dancing to the music while twirling lengths of flaming material.
Often, at home, when watching TV shows based in New York, we note the show’s characters frequently having an in-office meal of Chinese food consumed from little white containers which are narrower at the bottom than at the top and have fold down lids. We always thought it would be fun to try eating with chopsticks from those little white containers; when we were in New York we missed the opportunity.
As we passed restaurant after restaurant here in Annecy, not really in the mood for a restaurant meal, we happened upon a little take-out joint which advertised stir-fry noodle dishes … and served them in little white containers with the fold down lids. The idea of comfort-food noodles with stir-fry vegetables, to take back to our room, hit the spot and the fact that we would finally be able to experience eating with chopsticks from those little white containers with the fold down lids was the clincher … even if we were in Annecy, France.
Following breakfast in the rose garden and talking with our host Jean-Paul, we caught a bus to a little town 2 km down the lake. There we rented bikes and found our way past a big church and down a hill to the pedestrian road. This road, similar to the bike and walk paths in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, has two lanes; one in each direction. Bikers and roller-bladers share the paved lane closest to the center line, while walkers and runners are encouraged to use the dirt path at the side, Car traffic is only encountered at periodic intersections. The design makes riding for novices bikers, like Sherrie, much less stressful.
We rode 18km to the end of the lake, stopping once for refreshments and a bathroom break.
Terry’s sister Wendy had told us of a man encountered on a bus tour in Great Britain who was always taking pictures of toilets. We can understand someone becoming fascinated with this daily appliance as there are so many variations in Europe.
Take for example the toilet at our rest stop. Outside the door are red, yellow and green lights. While waiting for the person inside to use the facility, the red light is on. When they exit they close the door behind them and the yellow light goes on and the door automatically locks. The bathroom then undergoes a full hosing down with disinfectant and when the green light goes on the person next in line steps into a freshly cleaned space … walls, sink, mirror, toilet and floor. You might think for such high-tech cleanliness there would be a price (as in so many ordinary European public facilities) but this one was free.
The biked surface itself was mostly level and included a long curved tunnel to keep the ride cool and interesting.
Sherrie’s bike riding over the past thirty-five years had been limited to one trial run around Stanley Park just before leaving on this trip in April, so the ride to the end of the lake was plenty for one day. Terry, on the other hand, felt the trip down was a good warm up. With help we found one of the little ferry wharves (complete with swan) and Terry waited for the ferry to help Sherrie put her bike aboard. (We would meet back at the bike shop, Sherrie most likely beating Terry back.)
For Terry the trip was much more challenging. One of the reasons for our smooth trip down the lake was because we were being helped along by a wind blowing southward. Now that Terry was pedaling northward, he had the wind working against him. The tunnel gave him a real workout as it channeled the wind and made the even grade feel like a rather steep uphill climb.
As the ferry neared Sherrie’s little town destination she took note of the church’s location and reasoned that once she found the bicycle path she would turn right. As the ferry pulled closer into shore Sherrie wondered if she should head right up to the bike shop and wait for Terry there or perhaps wait for him at the bottom of the hill where he would eventually turn to go up past the church. She recovered her bike from the open space of the tourist deck and positioned it on the stairs, which would have to be maneuvered before crossing the movable gang plank. Looking out the window she was surprised to see Terry standing near the dock with his bike. He had beat the ferry … even with the strong headwinds. Sherrie was flabbergasted and laughed out loud and waved enthusiastically in acknowledgement of his accomplishment.
Terry explained that while riding along the path past the church he didn’t know where the ferry dock was and had ridden well past before doubling back. (Yeah. Sure. A likely story.)
Back in Annecy we shopped for supper and in our room uncorked a bottle of wine. Passing dishes out through the alcove window we set a table in the rose garden for a romantic and leisurely dinner.
Market day in Annecy.
Our hosts, Annemarie and Jean-Pau, confirmed they could accommodate us for two more nights if we would change rooms to an upstairs room with a small balcony.
Armed with our purchased goodies and wishing we too had a basket to carry over our arm like the locals, we hiked back up the hill to our B&B.
Marianne, the college girl who helps serve breakfast and clean rooms informed our new room was ready.
The rest of the day was spent exploring Annecy. It is a very photogenic town, and “oh look at this”, “gee, isn’t that beautiful” and “got to take a picture of that” made us thankful once more for the value of a digital camera.
We popped into Chateau d’Annecy and admired the massive Queen’s Tower which has walls 4.5 meters thick and dates to the 12th century. The castle square was formerly a cemetery surrounding the parish church of Saint Maurice – destroyed in 1794 (a commemorative iron cross hangs on a wall).
Wandering through narrow lanes in awe of the equally narrow houses – many only a small room wide.
The most photographed site in Annecy is the Palais de I’lle. This stone stronghold looks like a ship at anchor in the Thiou River – which winds its way through town. This impressive structure, well situated along a walkway frequented by tourists, splits the river. It, at one time, was the town’s prison and still has barred windows. Today it is the Centre d’Interpretation Urbain.
A little farther downstream we thought we saw a mother duck guarding a hidden nest in a stone wall. Terry went to investigate while the mother worked at diverting our attention. (She had done a great job in hiding them … if they were there at all.)
We strolled back along the river on the Promenade Sainte-Therese du Quebec (Annecy has a friendship association with Sainte-Therere, Quebec).
After another light (remembering we are on the Continent) breakfast in the rose garden we conferred with our hostess, Annmarie, about our plans for the day.
Leaving Annecy on a ferry allowed us an appreciation of what a dominate feature the Chateau d’Annecy is on Annecy’s skyline.
From the little ferry landing on the east side of the lake we made our way along the shoreline towards the distant Roc de Chere.
The climb down was a little more challenging … steep and rocky. We wished we had brought the walking poles Jean-Paul had offered to lend us.
On the edge of a little village, we enjoyed a picnic (within view of a bare-breasted sunbather – a common sight near water everywhere in France we have been on this trip). At the little dock we waited for the ferry.
The ferry ride up the west side was most enjoyable (the second time for Sherrie and a first for Terry who had ridden his bike both ways two days ago).
Today was a travel day. We wound through the narrow streets of Annecy in the early morning hours remembering them as they were on Market Day. Shuttered windows were opening and a lady walked through the ancient arch as part of her day’s outing, just as women have been doing here for centuries.
LES JARDINS DU CHATEAU
Friendly and caring hosts Jean-Paul and Annemarie welcome the world, guest by guest, to their a well located house in a quiet area, close to the lake, facing the castle and overlooking old town. Whether you are looking for a room with in-suite bathroom or a studio with cooking facilities, Les Jardins du Chateau is an excellent choice in Annecy.
Address: 1 Place du Château, 74000 Annecy
Phone: +33 6 67 91 94 23
SIGHTSEEING IN CITY/TOWN
LAKE ANNECY TOURIST OFFICE
Friendly, knowledgeable staff, English spoken, useful advice, maps, pamphlets and plenty of smiles. Make the best of your time with local guides at reasonable prices.
Address: 1 rue Jean Jaures, 74000, Annecy
Phone: +33 4 50 45 00 33