Monday, 2 January 2017

The Great Outdoors and a City Break in Unforgettable French Alpine Town Annecy

With its canals and bridges, Annecy is often referred to as a mini Venice, and although this is fitting, I felt that it deserves more than just a fleeting comparison to other places; it is truly one of a kind, it boasts a unique mix of Alpine and Sardinian influence, whilst still retaining a decisively French pride. 
Perched at the tip of the lake of the same name, Annecy beguiles, with its colourful old town reflected in its many canals, and it's wide sweeping views across the third largest lake in France with a steep Alpine backdrop.

My favourite reason to visit Annecy is the combination of its lakeside position and proximity to the great outdoors - particularly the slopes in winter -  and its historic and bustling character which gives it a great atmosphere. For those who really can't choose between elegant cafe culture, and a day trekking or skiing in the freshest air enjoying sweeping rocky vistas above the clouds, Annecy is a real gem as you just can't lose.

View of Annecy from the castle grounds

One of the many yummy cafes in Annecy

Annecy by the Lake

Skiing in nearby St Gervais 

I loved Annecy when l first stumbled across it with Richard on a summer road trip, and I love it now, having harped on about it to my family who also came along this time for a winter holiday.

This year despite a scarce amount of Alpine snow so far (come on white stuff where are you!?), we managed to fit in some skiing at nearby St Gervais Mont Blanc which is on the direct train line from Annecy. It was so worth the 24 euro round trip; not only did we get our ski-fix, the town of St Gervais-Les-Bains is also a stunning place to visit with its 360 degree mountain views, beautiful early 18th century baroque church with elegant frescoes, and evening Christmas light celebrations dotted around the town. The clean and classy thermal spa Les Thermes de Mont Blanc is also a wonderful relaxing treat after an active day. Children are even allowed on Wednesdays and Saturdays between certain hours.   

After a couple of days skiing, the shops beckoned. Annecy really does have a great balance of affordable chain stores, designer, and independent shops. Naturally I took my mum and her friend to my favourite homewares shop 'Maisons du Monde' - such value for quality, and unusual designs, and I couldn't miss Sephora. The atmospheric Christmas market was on so I had no option but to buy a painted Russian doll set, and Richard gladly occupied his little mouth with a glass of champagne rather than complaining about the shops.

Eating out in Annecy is a treat. I love the many restaurants serving traditional Savoyard alpine cuisine, as well as unusual restaurants like South American 'Manko Kapac' just outside the old town in Avenue de Chambery. Restaurant prices are slightly higher in the old town by the canals but still reasonable for an attractive and popular destination.

The Chateau d'Annecy is a focal point, overlooking the old town and lake from its central position, and the views over the town from its grounds are fantastic especially at sunset with the historic buildings and red roofs below reflecting the soft winter sunlight.

The castle has origins from the 13th century and now houses a museum featuring various exhibitions. The alpine lake and and fish exhibition in one of the areas fascinated my 6-year-old nephew, our little girl toddling around after him with delight.

Other sights in the fascinating town of Annecy include the 16th century cathedral which is lit spectacularly at night, and the 12th century Palais de l'Ile which has had various functions in the past including being a prison and a courthouse, which now contains art, local history, and architecture exhibitions.

To get to Annecy, it is possible to fly to Geneva and take a bus or taxi (around 50 minutes from the airport). We got a really cheap flight with easyjet and used to book a taxi from the airport. An affordable hotel in Annecy with a central location is the Ibis Styles; or the regular Ibis which is right by the old town.

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