Eurfirst Trip to Annecy
Revised June 2020
From its castle atop a hill, the charming town of Annecy and the lake with the same name fills the view as large mountains loom in the distance. It is a popular tourist spot that proclaims itself "the little Venice of the Alps." As a visitor, you quickly appreciate how naturally the Savoie culture has adapted to the area and why this place was so special to the philosopher Rousseau.
We drove to Annecy from Paris. Once we left the tollroads, we headed into the foothills of the Alps with quaint villages around every other turn. The directions to our hotel were a bit confusing as rail lines mingled with city streets not far from the old part of town, a problem because we using a printed map, not GPS. Once you find your bearings in the city, it is easy to get to the main attractions, either by car or on foot.
We, like thousands of others, were there for the summer solstice and the outrageous French party known as "Fete de la Musique." If you have any way to arrange to be in France on June 21, make it happen. Cities and small towns around the county come alive with music of all rhythms--you'll hear Gospel, Jazz, Rock and Opera as the French and their guests celebrate the sounds of life and the longest day of the year.
By 7 p.m. musical performers where on a variety of stages filling the town with glorious sound. In the castle courtyard, proud parents watched a local "middle school" band while another school group waited in the wings for their moment of attention. The crystal clear voices of a French singing group brought much joy and enthusiasm to American Gospel music .
The city is charming in the daytime and has a wonderful local market that fills the streets of Annecy. But at night, the canals that run through the old town glimmer with the lights from the medieval buildings. At the center of old town, an old prison stands on an island in the canal. Despite its lowly purpose, it is a beautiful sight.
From the center of the city, the canal runs into Lake Annecy, a large lake that you can sail across on a boat moored in the city's marina. There are sail and power boats enjoying the breezes that flow across the lake. A long beach is just a short walk from the hotels and guest houses of Annecy.
The food of the region is rich with cheese, reflecting the importance of dairy farmers in the area. A specialty of the region is Tartiflette, potatoes baked with succelent Savoyard cheese, bacon and onions. Enjoy it at almost any restaurant in town and then climb up to the castle for the great views to work of the calories. (It is not a dieter's dish but one we've made for friends since we returned home.)
Just before the Fete de la Musique, June 21, the city fills with animated film buffs who come for Annecy's International Animated Film Festival, which is one of the largest international film festivals in the world.
A short ride from the lake is the village of Menthon with its historic chateau where the famed St. Bernard was born. It is easy to understand how a young man who grew up in the Savoy would have been inspired to build hospices to protect travelers trying to cross the Alps. The beautiful mountains beckon in the distance but the traveller who arrives here in late fall or winter appreciates both the beauty of the snow and the hazards it posed to pilgrams traveling on foot.
There are many pleasant lakes and resorts in the Annecy area. We continued on to Chamonix to cross the Mont Blanc Glacier by cable car and to enjoy the French Alps. But you are a short drive from the ski towns of Albertville and Grenoble to the south and, heading north, Geneva, Switzerland and its international airport. So if you are looking at trips through the Alps, Annecy is a great place to stop for a day or two.
The Main Canal through Annecy
View from the Castle Courtyard
Where the Main Canal Enters Lake Annecy
Acid Rock on the Steps of an Ancient Church, during Fete de la Musique
The Prison Island in the Canal