Saturday, July 4, 2009

Annecy and a boat ride on the Lac

You know after a little bit of wind and rain the flies disappear - which is just wonderful. But it doesn't take long for them to return and me to pick up the fly swatter again. Gosh, don't they know that it is safer for them and the pickings are better, much better, higher in the mountains with the cows?

We are now trying to finish the food we are carrying so breakfast is a feast. Fruit toast with some of the delicious Reblochon cheese, mushrooms on toast and tomato on the side (drizzled with a little balsamic) - that should keep us going for the day! Each morning Michael puts the dripolator on as well, so we have great coffee to go with it.

Today we headed down to Annecy - it looked so lovely when we drove through the other day we thought we would go take a closer look. Our first introduction to the laid back lifestyle was the slow pace we made travelling up the hill behind the Citroën version of the beach buggy. Just after we took this photo, the car behind us started to overtake us (I don't think he could see them in front of us) and then realised that the car was there. They were obviously friends who started to wave animatedly, so he cut in in front of them and pulled over as they followed him off the road - so much for his hurry! Yes, life is slower here.

Like the guy sitting in the middle of a roundabout decked out in full winter gear with skis - waiting for someone to come and have a drink with him. As we drove by, a group of young people crossed from a local bar, drinks in hand, to join him. Wonder, was it a dare gone wrong? Who cares, looked kooky in the hot summer sun.

But the best was to be found away from the car! As we Like many European cities, Annecy has an old town that has been pedestrianised - in fact much of it along the Thiou canal must have always been limited to pedestrians - they are not wide enough to let more than 3 people walk abreast, so you could never have got a horse and cart down them!

These days, there are lined with restaurants - there are literally more than a hundred. And today as we stroll every single one of them is doing a roaring trade! We stop at an Artisan Boulanger (baker) and bought a jamon and gruyere bagette (about a foot long and 3 inches in circumference) plus an croissant aux amandes (almond croissant) and a huge chocolat meringue! So we walked on, taking lots of photos of the old town and provincial French life before finding a seat on the canal amidst the artists working away with their finished works on sale around them and enjoying the bread and pastry. The meringue we put away to have tonight.

Then we hear this loud hoot just behind us and there it was, a ferry pulling away from its berth across the road. A ferry! On Lake Annecy! Oh yes please!! So off we trot - we can see another ferry tethered a little way down the path. The ticket booth is nearby and we see that we have about a 15 minute wait - just as well, the lady selling the tickets is on the phone. When she finishes, between her passable English and our improving French, we manage to buy two tickets for an hour long cruise on the 'La Belle Etoile'.

On a vessel that has a capacity for 200 passengers there might have been 50 people, so there was plenty of space and opportunity for photos! The lake, like most in the mountains, is a beautiful turquoise colour. And the locals really know how to appreciate it. Every conceivable type of water craft are out there in the light breeze on the lake - paddle boats, canoes and kayaks, sailing boats, power boats, waterskiers and the odd ferry or three. But we are not at all crowded - as the Grand Lac and the Petit Lac between them provide plenty of open water space for activities. And on the 'beaches' of the lake the rest of the population is taking the sun while the kids play on the diving boards and the water slides. It is a beautiful day, and don't we all know it!

The cruise is lovely. Passing real estate that none of us could even afford to visit, hotels whose daily tariffs take a weeks wages and the amazing pivately owned chateaux and castles - one that has been in the ownership of the Menthon family since it was built in 12th century! It takes the full hour to travel the perimeter of the Grand Lac. We power along under diesel moving briskly - faster I believe than the breeze that caresses our backs. Oh. My. God. What is that in the skies above the southern end of the lake? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it Superman? Gosh no - it is about 40 paragliders and parachutists - seems that this is a well known training area! Wow, don't ever expect ME to be up there!! (You will probably have trouble seeing them in the photo).

The trip back into the shelter of the Canal shows maybe the best face of Annecy dominated by the Annecy Castle and the spire of the Cathedral of Saint-Pierre. And then when back on land, we find narrow streets, bridges, tiny alleys and doorways through the town walls with buildings above them all centred around the canal that divides the old town in three.

The most impressive sites along the canal are the Palais de l'Isle, once a prison that juts out to the lake like the bow of a boat, and the wedge shaped building at the other end of the canal island that was once home to a local merchant.

Then there are specialist butchers, bakers, souvenir shops and hundreds of magasins des crème glacée (ice cream shops) - well maybe not quite that many, but there are lots. And the flavors are amazing - Michael has a Cappuchino and I wanted a Citron Vert (Lime) but they were out so I had to settle for a Banane Flambe - mm mmm! And you should have seen the marzipan fruits and animals - honestly, if you bit into an apple or orange that is exactly what you would have expected to taste - they were so realistic. Oh and talking about realistic, I am not sure whether it is mutton or lamb we are looking at as an older (quite a bit older) couple strolls past!

So we wander along the streets as a thunderstorm that has been building in the hills rolls down in to the valley and blusters away. Some noise and lightening but very little rain.

Our final stop before we leave to return to Manigod is to the Basilique de la Visitation. Set high on the hill overlooking Annecy, this quite imposing facade hides some of the most beautiful stained glass windows we have seen to date. Three candles burn brightly there - one each for the mums and for Mutti, recovering from surgery in a hospital in Stuttgart.

So back to Manigod to pack up everything. We leave here tomorrow for Grindelwald. We are staying at Youth Hostels for the most of the next week without WiFi - so we will be restricted to our internet time (we will have to consider other users at their internet desks). Send us an email if you need to contact us 'cos I think we won't be able to Skype. Then it is back to Germany to spend a little time with Steph and Felix before we head off to Austria. Take care all!

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