I wasn’t entirely familiar with Annecy until photos of a friend (Alissa) had emerged from a trip she took back in the spring. Every photo she took looked like it had come out of a magazine with crystal blue water, colorful flowers, and gorgeous mountain backdrops. I decided, then, that we needed to visit. Annecy did not disappoint. It’s hard to imagine it’s even prettier in person, but it is. Our time there felt like a really beautiful fairytale.
Our Lyon trip was really an afterthought, as Annecy and Chamonix were the real places we wanted to visit (in hindsight, Lyon shouldn’t be an afterthought, at all, it’s a beautiful city in its own right). After our first afternoon in Lyon, we rented a car and drove about an hour and a half east to Annecy for a couple of days in and around the lake.
I’d say we arrived close to dinnertime and were met with one incredible sunset looking down the canals in the center of the city. The sky and mountains had this pink/purple ombre effect that were perfectly highlighted by the pretty pastel buildings, green water, and bright flowers along the bridge. I could’ve stood there for an hour and been in heaven.
Without any reservations (and following a pretty large lunch in Lyon), we decided to eat a little pizza at Little Italy. We sat outside where we could people watch as we ate their most famous pies (can’t remember the names, but they’re highlighted on the menu), which were both delicious and recommended. Funny story, when Jim went to pay he noticed two things: (1) a certificate for pizza making from Naples, Italy and (2) maps of the NYC Subway.
After dinner we did a little city exploration and made our way past the Palais de L’Ile, which was hoppin’ with music, folks selling fidget spinners, and tourists galore. If we hadn’t been so exhausted, we would’ve stayed out later/explored more.
The next morning we woke up and Jim found a little coffee spot called, Cafe Bunna. It’s a small cafe with coffee galore (Jim found it because they specialize in a flat white), small breakfast cakes, cakes, as well as sandwiches/croques. Jim ordered a flat white and a croque while I ordered a hot chocolate and a croque (I got the California). They were both exactly what we wanted that morning and perfect to get our day going. These treats were so tasty, that Jim ordered a second flat white (to go) as well as some carrot cake and an apple tart to snack on later explaining to the owners that it was the best coffee he’d had in France and that flat whites are his favorite. They smiled and told him, “It’s our favorite, too!” Jim lamented, “You can’t get this in Toulouse.” Their response, “Give it 4 or 5 years, they’ll start making them.” Jim can only hope.
After lunch we made our way back through the city center with the hopes of walking around the Les Jardins de l’Europe and continuing on toward the Château d’Annecy. We never made it to the Château as we were too taken with the garden (below).
All throughout Annecy there are also these art installations with a number in/around the Jardin de l’Europe. Two can be seen above with one of the coolest bird houses I’ve ever seen and another where you can hear the tree (what you can hear it doing, we’re not sure, as Jim went to listen to all of them in the area and heard nothing).
We kept walking toward Lac d’Annecy and couldn’t believe what a beautiful day it was. We meandered around the coast of the lake, crossing the Pont des Amours (top right) where we had great views (though it was quite crowded) and saw many a paddle and motor boat you could rent for practically any amount of time.
We decided we wanted to take a motor boat out for a spin, but we only had our cakes and tarts for a snack with no beverages, so we went on a quest to find water (had to go back into the city to find some), then headed back. I’d say it was probably 11am or noon at this point and the lake wasn’t super crowded and about 90 percent of the boats were still available to rent from all the vendors.
We found a nice company and rented a little motor boat and with Jim as the captain (and me his first mate), we started our self guided tour of Lac d’Annecy. I must say, Jim took to boating like a duck to water. We spent about an hour on the lake, riding well out into the distance and getting a good view of a little of everything. We saw speed boats with folks water skiing and groups going for a swim. We got a little jealous (we didn’t wear our bathing suits that morning), so we decided we’d take the boat back, go back to our hotel and put on our swimsuits and return to rent a paddle boat and spend the afternoon paddling and swimming in the lake.
We returned to the same vendor, but all of their boats (motor and paddle) were gone. A little afraid, we scanned down the coast and finally found one vendor who still had a paddle boat to rent (phew!). Armed with our towels & sunblock, we paddled out into the lake. We didn’t take our phone/camera with us (so no photos of this), but this was one of my absolute favorite things that we’ve done on a vacation. Paddling was easier than I would’ve thought (we were really moving), the water was insanely clear and had these amazing color changes at various depths (we compared it Lake Tahoe), and it was ice-cold, which felt more than amazing. I’ll bet we spent 2 hours paddling around and swimming, and it was money well spent. We kept saying to each other, “Imagine if you lived here and could just go out and rent a paddle boat for a few hours on a hot Sunday afternoon – it’d be amazing.” Of course, this is also the first conversations we’ve had about needing a boat, you know, if we lived on a lake.
Our walk back (the second time) proved to be just as pretty as we took a route through the Champ de Mars (gorgeous park) along the Canal du Vassé (bottom photo).
That evening we wanted to eat a little seafood. Jim found a good Belgian beer bar that also served mussels (one of my favorites) – Captain Pub. While the beer was perfect they had sold out of the mussels by the time we ordered. I was a little devastated, but rallied to eat a steak (which was also pretty tasty). Guess that’s something to keep in mind, Annecy is full of tourists who eat earlier than 8pm (like most of France), so might be a good idea to get to places that are open all day a little earlier.
After dinner we went for a stroll along the lake and wanted to check out another one of the art installations at the Pont des Amours (above right). Personally, I find this one more than a little creepy in the water. Along the way we happened upon a polka style dance hall (above left) with some pretty amazing dancers really twirling the night away. Jim said we should’ve jumped in (we should’ve), but we just admired from the sidelines.
We called it a relatively early night as the next morning we were headed to Chamonix for another hike around Mont Blanc!