Recently I visited the beautiful canal filled town of Annecy in south-east France. When people refer to it as ‘the Venice of France’ they tell no word of a lie.
This lovely town in France 35 km from Geneva is set on the banks of Lake Annecy with its blue lake contrasting with the dominance of snowcapped mountains, a hikers delight. This town in summer I believe would be bustling with people. Out on the lake, skiing, boating, swimming, gorgeous sunny days before barmy summer nights spent outside among friends, food and music. Perfect. However, it was winter when I decided to visit. So, what does one do on a winter’s weekend in Annecy when the hiking paths are dangerous, the lake cold and the weather raining?
No plan, no problem.
The bla-bla car from Lyon was fast and the loveliest of french drivers I’ve yet to experience had ‘frenglish’ conversations with me to pass the time on the highway. I arrived late on a Friday night and met my boyfriend at the local train station. So conveniently located, this modern part of town was but a 15-minute walk to our Airbnb accommodation. Along the walk although it was dark I could feel the relaxed atmosphere of the town. It may have been that it was just after Christmas and the comfort from rich French food had my mood set to mellow, or it may have been that I was having a weekend away with my handsome Frenchman but I could just tell I was going to like this town. We knew before arriving that it was scheduled to rain the entire weekend we were there so I started to search for things to do. When I researched “things to do in Annecy on a rainy day” I regret to inform any traveller that the suggestions were in fact for locals who would like to go to the cinemas or drive to the next town to have lunch. We were there to see Annecy and without access to a car, we put down the phone and instead lived our weekend by what was around the next corner, or in Annecy’s case, what was over the next bridge or along the next canal. After a simple dinner the night before and a sleep in, we put on our raincoats and found our way down to the lake. I love to be one of those travellers who get lost in the city on the first day so off we went, no map, just taking in the sights and jumping in the puddles.
The Old Town.
The lake, even in the dreariness of rain and fog was still an awe inspiring site. It was quite easy to imagine summer and all the things happening in this communal point for the town. We walked and splashed our way down to the ‘old’ part of town over the bridge of lovers to the main canal flowing from the lake. I have been lucky enough to visit Venice previously and Annecy was whirring up some nostalgia of that trip 5 years previous. The old architecture and the coloured houses are everything you’d expect from Europe and a town on the water. Each street lead to a bridge and each bridge lead to a new cafe, bar, historical site or shopping experience. We walked, lost among the cobble-stoned streets basking in the town we’d come to visit and snapping photos much to my boyfriend’s dismay. Starting to get peckish my boyfriend suggested a drink and something to snack on.
The Arts cafe we happened on by chance was a quaint little hub through an arch and above the water. As it was winter and after Christmas so we enjoyed a ‘Vin Chaud’ (mulled red wine with spices and orange) and discovered the cafe with its typical french decor has a games shelf! Being a competitive couple, our quick bite turned into devouring an entire “saucisson” (french cured meat) pickles and bread while playing game after game until we decided to call it a draw. I don’t know if you have ever played corridors but for such a simple concept it plays mind tricks on you!
Anyway, back to the rainy weekend. You often find people are happier when the sun comes out and when it did even momentarily in Annecy, people scurried out from the shelter and the lake started to buzz. Children playing on the muddy grass, runners running along the boardwalk, families and couples walking and shopping (It was still sales time after Christmas and stores were very busy in the shopping district!).
Night time delights.
We decided to grab our guitar, head down to the lake among the others and play.
Once it got a bit cold and we were hungry again we walked back to our Airbnb apartment (which was perfect by the way), washed up and discussed dinner plans. We both find delights in food and prefer to splurge on a delicious meal that we can remember and try to re-create. the phone came out again and we researched many reviews and discovered Annecy is very popular for food and the restaurant we were interested in wouldn’t take walk-ins and bookings were always essential. After the disappointed of realising this we again put down the phone and started walking, we found a busy bar called ‘l’amnesie‘ and stepped in for a drink and instead discovered a burger that answered every craving and desire we never even knew we had. I must admittedly say I was that full my jeans were close to bursting. Rest assured there have been attempts to re-create these burgers since!
Carbs on carbs.
Our next day proved to be yet again raining and we walked a different way, stumbled upon a market and walked further up to the museum. Although it was closed for lunch when we were there a rainy day tourist activity I’d definitely do.
Now, for those of you who have tried tartiflette after a day of hiking or skiing in France, the potato, bacon, creamy meal is just what you need to relax after a long energetic day. At the market we bought lunch and I was famished. I generally try to eat fewer carbs but this time nothing was out of the question. While my boyfriend ordered a tub of tartiflette, I discovered the Frenchs’ ability to take the most carb filled meal and make it have more. A tartiflette baguette was enough food for 3 people and was utterly delicious!
Leaving Annecy meant back home to Grenoble and in the bla-bla car back home my thoughts were only happy.
A rainy day in Annecy means food, friendly happy people, games, exploring and spending quality time with whoever you are there with. No matter where you are in the world, if you’re travelling get outside on the rainy days, you never know what little niches you will find in every new city.
Annecy, until next time
– Adelle Anne