A travel day. We said good
bye to our little apartment in Varenna on Lake Como in Italy and
headed for Annecy on Lake Annecy in the Savoie (south-east) region
of France via Switzerland.
Our first stop was Milano
(right). Not time enough for a tour of the city, but long enough to
leave the train station, have a bit to eat and do some window
||Back on the train
we were prepared this time for the Swiss border crossing. The Swiss
guards came onboard but before Terry could reach for our passports
one poked his head into the compartment and asked, "What
nationality?" We said in unison "Canadian". He
smiled, said "thank you" and closed the compartment door.
Remembering our last Italy-Switzerland border crossing, we smiled
and chuckled quietly ... not to be overheard.
|Looking out the
window of the train, we marveled at the neat and complete land use
of the Swiss farms. Row upon row of plantings made the sloped land
look like it had been draped with a patchwork quilt made of corduroy
train travel and find it a wonderful way to traverse Europe.
We can nibble on picnic supplies, read, do some journaling,
take our shoes off and just watch the scenery drift by. Terry
does the planning, buys the tickets on days we are not using
our Eurail Pass and organizes the train schedules and
stopovers. Sherrie follows blindly, 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 had a surprise.
The train wound it's
way through the valleys stopping for only a minute or two at
little villages along the way. There was not a stop list
posted as with some trains and Terry had only the expected
time of arrival ... which had been written out in an itinerary
format supplied to him by an information officer.
|We had a while
yet, about fifteen minutes, before the time of our stop at Martigny.
Terry was just repacking the day bag with various items we had out
during the trip, and Sherrie was just packing up the computer and
keyboard from journaling ... but no hurry ... there was plenty of
time for Terry to get his shoes on and for Sherrie to go to the
bathroom when our train pulled into another small village station.
Terry glanced up and saw the sign "Martigny".
reaction was panic. Terry's next reaction was to run to the
nearest door and open it in hopes that such a move would
prevent the train from leaving. We grabbed bags plus bits and
pieces of what was not yet packed and threw ourselves onto the
station platform. Chancing another few seconds, Terry, ran
back on board to see if we had left anything behind and got
off again just as the doors all closed automatically.
We stood on the
Martigny station platform laughing out loud at ourselves as
the train pulled away and on-board passengers looked down at
these silly fools ... one standing there in his stocking feet.
Once we had put our bits and
pieces into the day bag and Terry had shoes once more tied to his
feet, he went and looked for the schedule of our next train's
departure. It was then that he noticed the time of the departure
coincided with the time written on the supplied itinerary.
Crossing from Switzerland
into France went smoothly and we arrived in Annecy in the late
afternoon. We used a telephone booth outside the train station to
call about getting a room and were successful with the first call.
some time to look around the medieval town. Anncey's history
goes back farther than almost any other town in the French
Alps. Remains of "lake settlements" trace
communities in the area before 4000 B.C..
into our B&B, up high above the medieval town and right
beside the Chateau's main entrance. The only room they had
available was a small room on the ground floor. The room
itself really wasn't that small with the exception of the low
ceilings. Terry managed to move around with about four inches
to spare overhead. The bathroom was tiny ... really tiny. A
little alcove at one end of the room was as wide as the
windows that opened to the rose garden. We unpacked and then
went on a hunt for dinner.
strolled along the river that forms a centre spine through the
old city we were treated to an mini concert of five
alpine-horns. We saw them bring these ten foot long horns
(often associated with the Swiss Alps) and set them up in the square where they proceeded to play three pieces of music
before inviting on-lookers to hear more by attending that
were part of Anncey's history around 50 BC. The Count of
Geneva made Annecy his seat in the 13th century and it became
the judicial centre in the 15th century. When St Francois de
Sales became Bishop the town's religious and intellectual
importance grew again; and in the 16th and 17th centuries
"Annessi" became known as "the Rome of
Savoy". In the 18th century Annecy turned into a bustling
manufacturing centre. Growing tourism with visitors
appreciating the history and natural beauty of the area also
played a part in the continuing development of Annecy. Today
outside the historic town, Annecy is continuing to grow at a
rapid pace and is a centre for hi-tech industries.
|As soon as they
went inside the concert hall rock music began close by and a young
girl dress like a hard-rock singer started dancing to the music
while twirling lengths of flaming material around herself.
||One of our
favourite television shows (we haven't watched tv since coming to
Europe) is Law and Order - a detective-courtroom drama based in New
York. Most often when the characters on this show are having an
in-office meal they are eating Chinese food from those little white
containers that are narrower at the bottom than at the top and have
fold down lids. We have always thought it would be fun to try eating
with chopsticks from those little white containers with the fold
down lids. When we were in New York we missed the opportunity to eat
from the little white containers. But as we passed restaurant after
restaurant in Annecy ... not really in the mood for a restaurant
meal ... we happened by a little take-out joint that advertised
different stir-fry noodle dishes ... and they served them in the
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 cinched the decision ... even if we were doing it in
After 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.
we rented bikes and found our way past the big church and down
the hill to the pedestrian road. This road, similar to the
bike and walk paths in Stanley Park has two lanes similar to a
car roadway. Bikers and roller bladers share the paved lane
closest to the centre line, while walkers and runners are
encouraged to use the dirt path on the side and car traffic is
only encountered at periodic intersections. The design makes
riding for novices much less stressful.
rode 18km to the end of the lake stopping once for
refreshments and a bathroom break.
||I remember Wendy
telling us of a man on their bus tour through 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 and as many ways to flush the contraption. Take
for example the toilet at the rest stop. On the floor within a low
concrete platform is a basin of sorts about 65cm x 65cm (2ft x 2ft)
and about 12cm (5 inches) in depth. Within this white smooth
surfaced basin are two raised platforms that rise up about 5cm (2
inches) and are ridged on the top. Centered but slightly further
back than the two raised portions is a hole ... a fairly sizeable
hole into which the bottom of the basin is funneled. At the back of
the platform is a pipe that runs up the wall into a tank ... also
suspended on the wall. The method of use is to put your shoed feet
on the two raised platforms within the white basin ... men facing
towards the pipe on the wall (or backward as needed) and women the
other way around and squat. When the task is complete step off and
onto the floor and pull out, push in, pull up or push down the
mechanism that makes it flush. Water comes from the tank, through
the pipe and with considerable force flushes out the whole basin
splashing up onto the foot platforms and sometimes onto the floor
where the user is standing.
|A bathroom in an
Annecy park goes further. Outside the door there is a red light,
yellow light, and green light. As you wait 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; while the next person
in line waits the bathroom undergoes a full hosing down with
disinfectant; when the green light goes on the person in line goes
into a freshly cleaned space ... walls, sink, mirror, toilet and
floor. You might think for such high-tech cleanliness that there
would be a price (as in so many ordinary European public facilities)
but this one was free.
|The bike trip
itself was mostly level and even had a long curved tunnel to keep
the ride cool and interesting.
bike riding during the past thirty-five years has 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 otherhand, felt that the
trip down was a good warm up.
help we found one of the little ferry wharves (complete
with swan) and Terry waited and helped Sherrie put her
bike on board. We would meet back at the bike shop
(Sherrie would most likely beat Terry back.)
|The ferry ride
was smooth and picturesque for Sherrie, stopping in at two other
docks on the way up the west side of the lake.
|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 steep uphill
As the ferry neared the
little town Sherrie took note of the church's location and deduced
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 took 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 shocked 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 for his accomplishment.
|Riding along the
path to the church Terry explained that he didn't know where the
dock was in this little town and had ridden past it and had to
arriving back in Annecy we shopped for picnic supplies.
Then back in the room we washed and cut and uncorked a
bottle of wine. Passing dishes out through the window we
were, without any difficulty, able to set up a table in
the rose garden for a romantic and leisurely dinner.
Market day in Annecy.
We had asked our hosts
Annemarie and Jean-Paul if they could accommodate us for two
more nights. They could if we would change rooms to an
upstairs room with a small balcony.
breakfast in the rose garden we pack and piled our bags. While
waiting for our new room to be vacated and cleaned, we went
down the hill into town and wandered through the market. The
clothing, knick-knack part of the market did not hold much
interest for us but the produce section was colourful, tasty,
and hummed as people crowded around their favourite merchants
with baskets and bags displaying the purchases they had
already managed to make. Many booths entice buyers with tastes
and some, like the sausage man in his red shirt passing
tidbits at the end of his sharp knife liven up the market with
bits of conversation or proclamations of the quality and value
of the sausages he offered. It worked, we bought some
sausage. At an olive booth a young man worked his
English to tell us of his offerings and even invited us to
sample and select our own. He told us where the "sweet
olives" were when we told him we did not want anything too
spicy. We filled the container he provided with a variety of
olives; some with pits and others without, some soaked in wine,
some black, some green. They were so good.
our shopping goodies, wishing we too had a basket to carry
over our arms like the locals, we climbed back up to the
Chateau and our B&B.
(left), the college girl who helps serve breakfast
and clean rooms told us our new room was ready so we
took our bags up and got settled in.
|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
popped our heads into the Chateau and admired the
massive Queen's Tower which has walls 4.5 meters thick
and dates from the 12th century. The castle square was
formerly a cemetery surrounding the parish church of
Saint Maurice -- destroyed in 1794 (a commemorative iron
cross now hangs on the wall).
We walked through
narrow lanes in awe of the narrow houses, many which are
only a small room wide.
We tried to envision the
sounds and sights within these streets as they might have been
shortly after they were built and before the walls began to bow.
Were their doors and windows as crooked then as now or had centuries
of settling and numerous adjustments with plane and saw make them so?
We strolled back along the
river on the Promenade Sainte-Therese du Quebec (left) (Annecy has a
friendship association with Quebec City).
was once the town's prison and still has barred windows. Today
it is the Centre d'Interpretation Urbain.
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 the town. This impressive
structure, well situated along a walkway most frequented by
tourists, splits the river.
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.
||Down in town we were surprised to see a crew of men had stopped or
diverted the Thiou River and were water blasting the area
around the Palais d I'lle. We walked through town to
the lake where we caught a ferry to the east side. Leaving
Annecy on the boat gave us an appreciation of what a dominate
feature the Chateau is on Annecy's skyline.
the little ferry landing on the east side we made our
way along the lakeshore towards Roc de Chere which
looked like a huge treed box as we watch the ferry begin
its trip around it.
the lake we noticed a bird ... a funny looking bird ...
obviously well designed for its water habitat.
|It has a
long slim beak, a long slim head, a long slim neck that blends
into a long sleek body (a different word that means slim) and
large webbed feet protruding out the back of its body. It
followed along the shoreline watching us carefully. When it
came to one of the small private boat docks that lined the
shore it, with the greatest of ease, dive down into the water,
moved its legs and webbed feet like a frog, zip under the
dock and back up on the other side.
|We got ahead of
this strange streamlined bird and noticed a sizable school of fish
coming our way. What would the bird do with this encounter. Well, to
our delight, it did what comes naturally and went after lunch. With
speed we had not yet witnessed he went towards the school of small
fish and they, in turn did what comes naturally, they schooled
together. The bird with a kick of its legs and large webbed feet
swam through the center of the schooled fish and caught one. Still
underwater it maneuvered its catch and swallowed. A gasp of air and
down it went for a second and third catch. It was like watching a
wild life show ... but this one was happening right before our eyes.
The fish moved out to deeper waters and we lost sight of our
fisher-bird so continued on our way.
arrows and a park map with yellow route markings confirmed the
route to Roc de Chere.
was gentle in most parts, gave us glimpses of Annecy Lake
and wound through forests that reminded us of home.
the summit of "Roc de Chere" and Sherrie proclaimed
it "Roc de Sherrie".
The climb down was a
little more challenging ... steep and rocky. We wished we had
brought the walking poles that Jean-Paul had offered to lend
On the edge of a little
village, we enjoyed a picnic (within feet of a bare-breasted
sunbather - a common sight near water everywhere we have been on this trip). At the little dock we waited for the
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). An
attractive piece of the trip was viewing a Chateau which sits
on a peninsula and which has probably caught the eye of many
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