I have to admit I had no idea the name, let alone the existence, of Annecy until about two days before leaving Lyon. This stop in my travels was sandwiched between my visits to the large cities of Lyon and Paris and became a part of my journey after realizing the bla bla car ride was only 9 euros. For 9 euros, I couldn’t have asked for a better two-day break.
The small town, amicably named “The Venice of the Alps” for the crystalline canals flowing between pastel buildings, can lure the unsuspecting traveler into a longing for a return journey. A commonly photographed landmark is the Palais de l’Ile, a museum better known for its appearance than content. This famous spot in Annecy is on a footbridge in front of building, where you can view the islet where two canals merge into one. It isn’t the most impressive work of architecture and it does not hold much historical significance, but the scene captures a tranquil town divided by canals.
I am not a cheese-lover, but loved trying fondue at La Porte Sainte-Claire, probably the best place to have fondue in the town. There are other restaurants, like La Fresque, but for the price and taste, La Porte Sainte-Claire is the spot to go. Local Annecians actually don’t eat heavy cheese dishes, like fondue, during the summer months, but as a tourist, you have to try it. Savory, fragrant, and filling, a pot of Haute-Savoie cheesy goodness is the perfect mid-afternoon snack.
The canals lead down to the azure natural wonder that is Lac D’Annecy (Annecy Lake). Annecy Lake is one of the largest in France and known as Europe’s cleanest lake, which encourages kayakers, swimmers and beach-goers to flock to the sandy shores. I enjoyed how the town was intertwined with nature, the buildings leading to the parks, which lingers on the edge of the lake.
Annecy Lake is a clear blue, unfettered by algae growth or human pollution. The water is normally calm and there aren’t many boats that disturb the tranquility. I would highly recommend kayaking or canoeing to the middle of the lake and admiring the Alps. The lake is fairly vast and I would estimate a 2-3 hour journey to explore the lake. Paddling along the shore you can spy on extravagant chateaus with private docks and well-manicured gardens. There are also plenty of trails around Annecy which can be accessed by car or bikes, including Gorges du Fier, which would definitely be worth a day trip.
Annecy does have churches, museums and other historical sites, but most people travel to this town for the charm and the easy access to nature. On any long trip, there needs to be travel breaks where you can relax, and this town is the perfect place to do that. Whether it be finding a private spot on the beach, or watching the lights dance on the surface of the water of the canals, Annecy is full of natural beauty.