I’ll never forget my many experiences of travelling back and forth to Annecy in France throughout 2014 and 2015 when my girlfriend went and lived there to study for just under a year. I visited her half a dozen times in all weather and it never got boring or lost its appeal one bit. We went back there as a little surprise from me in 2017, to re-jog our memory of the place.
Uncultured Englishman in France
I especially remember those moments that really made me realise how much of a travel buffoon I was when I first went there (and probably still am). It was the first time I’d been abroad, other than packaged holidays where I only took a small brown duffel bag, with nothing but a few days worth of clothes and hopped on a plane and just went with the bare minimum. It was only France, appreciated, but still it made me realise for the first time how cheap and easy travelling abroad actually is – my cheapest fair to Geneva in Switzerland (the nearest airport to Annecy) was around £55 return! Return! Compare that to £160 return to London on the train. And trust me this part of the world is stunning, like truly stunning and it’s amazing that many of us don’t take weekends exploring European countries and cities more often. It can be amazingly cheap and they’re bustling with charm and culture.
As an uncultured West Country Englishman, when it came to my girlfriend trying to teach me to say even the simplest of French phrases in this pretty little city was sometimes even a stretch too far.
“Just say it” she used to tell me. Next time the bus driver hands you the ticket, just say it”
“OK” I said
“Merci beaucoup” I’d say to the driver.
He’d smile, knowing full well I wasn’t French. Probably thought ‘ah another Brit abroad is it” However, he replied “Merci” anyway
Then it came out, I just said it…
“cheers mate”. Cheers mate? Oh god, now I’ve confirmed it for him. Brit abroad indeed.
Be prepared to be the ‘fat one’.
So whilst my girlfriend hid in her lap, trying to pretend she wasn’t with me anymore, I was hastily looking at all the pretty designer shops and incredibly thin people running and cycling about the place.
Yes, when I came to Annecy, I prepared myself to be the fat English one. Although in my defence even Posh Spice would be handed a carrot here – everyone loves sports and the great outdoors here, but why?
Well the answer to that question became quite clear when I first laid eyes on the beautiful lake of Annecy. Holy moly the lake is breathtaking. The snow-capped mountains in the distance are so stunning it looks like it’s been painted onto the sky, and the lake’s water is crystal clear.
That surrounded by a huge open green park space, amazing trails for both runners and cyclists all around the lake, with high rise French chateau’s built around the edge for the insanely rich, this place oozes class and makes you see why people here are so fit and healthy. Who wouldn’t be motivated to exercise around this gorgeous looking place after all.
Unique Medieval Feeling
The town itself is also quite unique, it’s a little bit like a mini Paris in places, with very high end jewellery shops and designer clothes everywhere. But then it also has an area near the lake that feels like you’ve been transported back to medieval times – with its cobblestone streets, cute French cafe’s and whimsical canals winding through pretty water front restaurants, you can easily see why it’s dubbed ‘The Venice of the Alps’. You can spend hours here, taking it in with photos or sit down in one of the many eateries for a glass of local red wine or to taste one of the local dishes.
Annecy food a real treat
In fact the local food is another amazing reason to come here – The weekly Sunday Annecy market is one of the best food markets in France with its colourful stalls and fresh fruit, veg and meat you will be spoilt for choice.
You can also stop at one of the many bakeries in the town for a local made croissant or try some cheese. Here, they serve lots of cheese with cold red meats and potatoes and bread. Hmm, and they’re all stick thin still? Maybe it’s just the tourist in me but I went overboard eating fondue and raclette cheese (a traditional Swiss dish) served with gherkins and pickled onions. Trust me if you have this for lunch you’ll have to walk down to the lake side beach to lay it out.
By the way our favorite little foodie place has to go to ‘Glacier Des Alpes’ – it’s located in the old town, near the lake and it serves amazing tasting ice cream, sorbets and waffles. Try a waffle – trust me you won’t regret it. Washed down with an espresso coffee and you’ll be content for a long long time.
The four ‘L’s’ – love, lounge, learn & lake
The Pont des Amours (Lovers’ Bridge) is a touristy bridge, like a smaller version of the love lock bridge, where if you apparently kiss your other half here you’ll be together forever – unless one of you falls off the bridge; now that wouldn’t be pretty!
One of the things we used to do was grab a French baguette and stroll over to the Gardens of Europe, a wide grass park near the lake, where you can picnic, chill, people watch and just take it all in. We used to stay here for hours and during the summer they sometimes have an outdoor cinema too.
If you like fairy tales, the Palais de l’Isle’s history dates back to the 12th century. Now a local history museum, it was once a prison, mint, courthouse, and lord’s residence. Most just stop to take a picture of the outside so be prepared to shoulder barge a few tourists to get your Instagram fix here. You can also visit one of the amazing churches, they’re really spectacular, with beautiful stained-glass windows, grand organs and medieval paintings, they’re really great to explore.
The beach is especially great too – yes it’s a lake but it is so large that you do feel like you’re by the sea on a sunny day, with little grass banks dotted around the lake you’ll easily find a relaxing spot to chill out, grab a local made sorbet or ice cream and watch the water sports and boats going around the lake.
However, If you get a bored of that and want some adventure, why not try paddle boarding or take a pedalo out on the lake, or alternatively rent a bicycle and spend time exploring the other side of Lake Annecy, view the gorgeous French properties by the lake, dreaming of owning one in the future. We took a tandem bike out on one of my many visits and I can honestly say it was the most fun I’ve ever had!
All in all, Annecy is an amazing place to visit and if you live in the UK, it’s a 1 hour 20 min flight to Geneva. That’s nothing, and Geneva itself is well worth a visit too but make Annecy a must! Stay here for a few days at least and really get to know this gem of a city like I did. I’ll be booking to go there regularly for the rest of my life.