We’ve been wanting to visit Annecy at least since we moved to France two and a half years ago and probably long before that given how many travel videos about this country we used to watch in the US. Since the train is our preferred mode of transportation and it generally takes 2 changes to get there from Carcassonne, we’ve put it off. When Bill was planning our trip in northern Italy he saw that on our return we could stop overnight in Annecy and then get one direct train from nearby Lyon to our station at home. If it really were that easy (true confession at the end of this post) then we were off to see this city in the Alps!
Every photograph we’ve ever seen of Annecy always features a fantastic view out over the lake that shares its name with the city. Anytime that we had mentioned to neighbors and friends here that we were going to go there after our time in Milan, the response was always the same: “It’s beautiful!” and now we can confirm that evaluation. One guidebook said that you shouldn’t be surprised if you simply wanted to sit by the calm water’s edge and stare for hours at what is called “Europe’s Cleanest Lake” with the Alps in the background.
We definitely agree with that but we also wanted to find out what else was interesting to see. Like many parts of France, the Romans were early settlers here later followed by Medieval lords and merchants down whose cobblestoned streets we rambled admiring their centuries-old homes. Here through Vieille Ville (old town) the river Thiou flows from the lake surrounding the Palais de l’Île, a small fortified castle from the 1100s that has been a residence, a prison, a warehouse, and a barracks. Today it’s an architectural and heritage museum.
Two blocks from there we walked into Saint Pierre Cathedral that was initially a Franciscan monastery from the 1500s. It’s a steep walk uphill from there to the other notable church in town, the Basilica of the Visitation from 1922 that apparently gives you great views of the lake and mountains if you’re willing to climb 72 meters (236 feet) of steps to the top of its tower.
Back at ground level, we were happy to spend time roaming around Jardins de l’Europe, a municipal lakeside park that connects to a picturesque walkway, the Jacquet Promenade via the Pont des Amours. This Bridge of Love, according to romantic legend, guarantees eternal union to any two lovers who kiss while standing on it gazing out to the lake.
While cheese and fish don’t typically go together, they are both important to this Alpine lakeside town. They have 4 types of what we might think of as “Swiss cheese” such as Gruyère and Emmental and several restaurants were advertising fresh catch of the day including char (like a salmon) and trout. A wine bar where we enjoyed some of the local cheeses plus a variety of wines was Le Nid du Merle where owner Max, a former lawyer, is now pursuing his dream to return to his hometown and follow his passion. For us, that was a lucky find.
So, was it worth it to finally get to Annecy? Definitely. Was it as easy as we had hoped? Not exactly. Getting there from Milan required one change of trains while returning to Carcassonne meant taking a bus to Lyon where our direct train awaited. We didn’t mind since we now know why our neighbors say “Annecy est belle!”
Wine bar FB page: Le Nid du Merle https://www.facebook.com/LeNidduMerleAnnecy/