Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mommy in Montpellier: Day Trip to Annecy

Mardi, 19 novembre.

After having spent Friday afternoon exploring the old Renaissance quarter of Lyon, Mommy and I decided on Saturday to take a day trip to the city of Annecy. Like Lyon, the city is located in the Rhône-Alpes region of France. However, while Lyon has a slightly more central location, Annecy is quite literally nestled in the French Alps and is located closer to Switzerland and Italy than to most other French cities! In fact, the Haute-Savoie department to which the city belongs actually used to be a part of  the Comté de Genève. Although it's been a part of France for centuries, the Swiss influence in the region is still very evident. (Can you say cheese fondu?)

I had first heard of the region thanks to my KD big, Emily, who spent last fall studying abroad in Lyon and took a day trip to Annecy. Her pictures made it seem too beautiful for us not to check out! (And I mean, when you see the words "French Alps" and "lake" in the description, can you really go wrong?) I didn't really know what to expect, but we boarded the train from Lyon bright and early on Saturday morning, figuring that we would see what we could see.

AND THIS IS WHAT WE SAW. (Well, some of it. Along with our other day trip to Pérouges and our weekend in Lyon, this adventure had to have its own post ... if only because of the insane number of beautiful photos we took!)

I honestly didn't know it was possible for a single place to be that gorgeous and actually haven't stopped talking about it since we got back. Even the train ride to Annecy was beautiful -- two hours of countryside and fog-covered mountains. Although I'm pretty sure I fell asleep, Mommy had a blast looking out the window!

Arriving in Annecy was a little confusing: like most cities, its train station isn't located in the best or most beautiful part of town. And although the city is definitely much smaller than Lyon, it's still pretty big -- over fifty thousand residents -- and definitely has the feel of a real city in parts. But we wandered a little bit in search of the office of tourism (a surefire first stop in any unfamiliar city) and then suddenly -- "MOMMY! LOOK! THE ALPS!" -- we arrived at the edge of Lac d'Annecy. The view was stunning.

Having found the lake, we began to walk along the canals in the direction of the city's historic center. We passed the city's Hôtel de Ville, a couple of pretty churches, and even the family home of Saint Francis de Sales (who lived and is now buried in Annecy). And after realizing that it was still way too early to eat lunch, we may or may not have stopped and bought a gaufre.



The weather, which had worried me all week, had turned out to be beautiful and so it was fun to just walk around the city! We made a couple of exciting discoveries. Some were very French...

... and some decidely not so.

An unexpected taste of home in Annecy!

We were walking along the lake when suddenly I turned and noticed something. I'm pretty certain that I actually grabbed my mom and shouted, "Stop! I recognize this from the postcards."

The building is called the Palais de l'Isle. Originally a fortified home constructed in the 12th century, it was later turned into a prison. (And if you thought prison sounded bad, imagine sitting in a stone jail cell surrounded by cold water in the middle of the Alps. Brr!) Except for a brief stint as a WWII-era jail, its role as a prison ceased after the French Revolution. Though it's now a museum, it has been used as a barracks, a mint, a warehouse, and even an old folks' home!


After checking out the intimidating building, we decided to explore the canal. (Which, may I mention, may be the most picturesqe canal in the history of world. And I know my canals. After all, I've seen "the Venice of Luxembourg," haven't I?)

After wandering around the canals, we headed uphill -- via the Escalier du Chateau, a winding sloping staircase that led to the Chateau d'Annecy, an old castle that dates partially as far back as the twelfth century. (Although to be honest, 12th century is pretty par for the course when it comes to old French buildings.) As the castle is now a museum and in the process of being restored, it wasn't much to see. But we loved the view of the city!

That's my kind of escalier!

Arguably, the view on the way back down was even better...

This is my unimpressed tourist face. Too funny not too share!
Our hiking had left us hungry, so we stopped at a restaurant in the historic district for lunch. They had heated outdoor seating, so we sat outside and took advantage of the beautiful view! (That's the Palais de l'Isle on the left.) We split a yummy four-cheese pizza.

After lunch, we headed back towards the waterfront, where we piled onto a large sightseeing boat -- the one in the photo below -- for a boat tour of the lac d'Annecy! Everything I had read said it was a must do and unlike Bruges, where we could simply walk along the canals, would take us to see otherwise inaccessible spots of the lake!

You can check out our itinerary here: although we never stopped or got off the boat, we were able to get up close and personal-ish with several different miniature lake-side towns and saw the mountains surrounding the lake.

I imagined that, despite the beautiful weather, the hour-long trip might not be as popular on a cold November day. I was wrong. The boat was absolutely full, crowded with locals, families, and a couple of tour groups, including a large number of Iranian tourists. (How did we know they were Iranian? Because after boarding the tour boat, they pulled out their flag and sang their national anthem while posing for group pictures. It was a little weird...) Still, the interesting narration more than made up for the crowds.

Oh. And I mean, I guess the views weren't too bad either.


You might not be able to tell from our overenthusiastic smiles, but after an hour sitting out on the water, we were FROZEN. Luckily, after a little more wandering around Annecy, we stumbled across an adorable bakery that served coffee and cocoa! Yum yum yum. Mommy, who hadn't been a fan of France's very tiny/very strong coffees, was very happy with her American-sized cafe au lait. As for me? Hot chocolate all the way!

After warming up, we still had quite a while until our return train. We took our time meandering around Annecy, gawking at the beautiful autumn colors.


We even made the hike up to the Basilique de la Visitation, a beautiful church at the top of the city. From the grounds surrounding the church, we could see the lake and all of the city's twinkling lights. Unfortunately, they didn't photograph super well -- but use your imagination! Instead, here are some pictures of the basilica itself, all lit up for the night.

A short walk down the hill later, and we were back on our way to the train station. Bye bye, Annecy!

PS. Here's an extra little pro travel tip for the dedicated readers who made it to the bottom ... it is always necessary to keep family and friends updated as to your whereabouts when travelling internationally. Preferably via SnapChat.

1 comment:

  1. Boy, was it ever beautiful there! Thank you for taking such perfect pictures so that we can always remember.
    Love, Mommy