For the Love of France – Part Trois
My third adventure in France leaves me wanting more… again.
For those of you have read my previous articles on here, you’ll know by now that I love my holidays and I love writing about them almost as much. If you want to join me from the start of my love affair with la belle France then you might wish to read For the Love of France Parts Une and Part Deux.
But, if you are coming into my story at this part, you’ll easily catch up.
It’s not rocket science; just a lot of chat about wine, cheese and glorious scenery.
There’s a place in France that I kept seeing in magazines, brochures and television programmes and it really appealed to me. As you know, if you’ve followed any of my previous posts, I love a good view. I love scenery, especially lakes and mountains. The serenity of what lies before me just makes me feel happy and appreciative of the world and all the beauty that she has to offer. Holidays aren’t just about hitting the bars and the shops or getting a good blast of decent sunshine (although these are welcome too), it’s about stopping to admire nature, taking time away from work, cooking, cleaning, ipads, phones, emails and the rest of the stuff that overloads our lives all year round. Something that really makes me relax and calm down is looking out onto a landscape that stops me from wanting to do anything else but simply soak up its beauty and enjoy the peace and quiet that comes from doing this. Recently I was lucky enough to visit a place that I knew was going to be special. Thanks to some cracking flight prices to Geneva from EasyJet, I was off on my travels once more.
Annecy lies in the heart of the Haute Savoie region in south eastern France, around 40 minutes’ drive from the Swiss border (or two hours by train.) In fact, the nearest airport is Geneva International, so if you are planning to visit Annecy, like us, you will fly into Geneva, Switzerland. It felt pretty cool being in two countries within an hour! The drive from Geneva to Annecy is really easy and straightforward but the scenery along the way is stunning and I must admit, this was one of the most pleasant airport transfers I’ve ever had.
You’ll be forgiven for thinking you’ve landed in a storybook as you come face to face with Annecy. This is real fairy-tale stuff. The pretty, medieval town sits proudly on the shores of Europe’s cleanest lake. Quaint little candy coloured houses lace the cobbled streets, all prettier than the next with beautiful window boxes bedecked with rich red geraniums and other bright flowers leaning into one another on the narrow alleyways. I couldn’t help but think I’d landed on the set for Beauty and the Beast. See, told you it was the stuff of story books!
So, now that you know how pretty Annecy is, what is there to see and do when you get there? You can easily pass your time here and there’s plenty to fill your day but don’t treat this like other city breaks where you sometimes dash around, ticking off hit lists. Just go with the flow and see where you end up. Personally, if the weather is kind, I’d want to spend as much time as possible by the lake. I hope my pictures do it justice but this spot is one of the most idyllic and serene places I have ever been to and whereby we were blessed with great weather during our four-day trip in October, I hadn’t packed the right attire for water activities so I had to admire from dry land. Annecy has such an easy-going vibe that you may just fall under her spell and do what you probably should be doing and that is relaxing. Don’t get me wrong, I love busy city breaks and squeezing in loads of stuff; museums, churches, attractions and landmarks but it’s just bliss to take a few days out of the rat race and just breathe.
Annecy was the ideal place for this – lovely clean mountain air and a laid-back atmosphere and despite the town being busy, nothing ever felt too hurried.
Apart from the lake, the most central landmark and focal point of Annecy is the Palais de L’Isle. Set on a triangular islet on the River Thiou, this little building has been a courthouse, a mint and a prison over the years. Today, visitors can go inside and see the old cells as well as exhibits from its colourful past. It won’t take very long to explore but worth popping in to see.
As you might have guessed, eating and drinking is a big pastime here in Annecy, as it is with much of France. Foodies and wine lovers will be in heaven, especially if you like cheese.
Cheese figures in much of Annecy’s dining plans and you’ll find a whole host of rich, delicious dishes on any restaurant menu and a must for any self-respecting cheese fan is a bubbling pot of fondue. Our first stop was a popular spot by the river with lovely views of the Palais de L’Isle was Le Sarto and my first taste of Savoyard cuisine was a delicious bowl of chicken cooked with a variety of mushrooms, all swimming in a thick, gooey cheese sauce. This was washed down with a tasty local wine that I’d never sampled before – Rousette de Savoie. This lovely white wine featured in our daily schedule thereafter!
Another popular dish you will see on the menu is Tartiflette – a staple of the region’s kitchens. This consists of potato, cheese, cream and onions – sometimes bacon is added too. In short, you’ll be served a fine comforting plate of cheesy bliss with flavours you’ll remember all day. Don’t panic, if cheese isn’t your thing, there is a great choice of restaurants serving traditional French and International cuisine as well as gastro-style pubs too.
In fact, I must mention a fabulous little eatery that we spent our last evening in. We had spotted it during our afternoon stroll around the old town and like most places, they have the menus displayed outside. We booked for that night and boy, it did not disappoint. It’s called Azzurro and sits down a lovely little side street, Passage du Clerc. The food is a heady combination of French and Italian – mostly the latter. Azzurro has a really cosy, welcoming atmosphere and the staff were beyond helpful – which is handy when you have a fussy eater in your party. If you find yourself in Annecy, go here. It was one of my favourites. I wish I was going there tonight!
Cheese aside, Annecy will also tempt you with her delightful selection of sweet treats that can be found in the dazzling array of patisseries and chocolate shops all over the town. It seems that everyone in this part of the world has a sweet tooth and I was no exception. We were lucky to happen upon one of Annecy’s most famous bakeries which I had seen on James Martin’s French Adventure. Philippe Rigollot’s exquisite patisserie can be found tucked away in Place George Volland – a quieter spot than I would have expected. The creations in the shop are so beautiful it almost felt like sabotage as we tucked into them with our forks. If you saw the Annecy episode in James Martin’s French Adventure, you’ll remember he watched as the man himself made a Mr Smith – an apple based tart topped with vanilla mouse and a bright green glaze. It actually looks like an apple and judging by the amount of people buying them in the shop, they are very popular among the locals as well as tourists.
Don’t worry about piling on the pounds, you’ll do a lot of walking around these parts. It’s the easiest and best way to get about and we were averaging 5/6 miles per day without even trying… or noticing! Our hotel was a good 15-minute walk from centre of the old town and doing this four times a day along with meandering through the maze of Annecy’s streets soon adds up.
We were really lucky with the weather, despite it being mid-October and the sun shone the whole time we were in Annecy. It was such a joy to take a nice boat trip out on the lake without the need for winter woollies. Visitors can choose from a few different options but we took the hour-long sail which took us around the lake, taking in some of the beautiful scenery, mountain views and the cruise also offers an interesting commentary in both French and English.
I wished we’d taken the longer tour as an hour wasn’t enough for me. I really lost myself in the peace and tranquillity and the views just blew me away – along with any cobwebs that I’d brought with me! I’ll know next time.
Next time…oui! There has to be a next time. France, it took me a while but you’ve stolen my heart.
- Travelled from Edinburgh to Geneva with EasyJet
- Transfers from Geneva Airport to Annecy with Suntransfers.com (approx. 40 minutes).
- Flying time 2hr 15mins approx.
Annecy Town Hotels
- Best Western Carlton 4*
- Imperial Palace 4*
- Ibis Annecy Centre Vieille Ville 3*
- Best Western International 3* (slightly further out of the town)
- Hotel Palais de L’isle 3*(top location)
I love travel. I’ve been fascinated by other countries and cultures since my first foreign trip in 1985 and I’ve had serious wanderlust ever since.I also love to write about where I’ve been and tripsology lets me indulge that passion. I’m thrilled to be a regular contributor and editor. When I’m not writing I also run my own PR and publicity company.