After completing three days in the French Riviera the next stop in the itinerary were the French Alps and the beautiful town of Annecy. To be frank, Annecy was not in my original itinerary. I had to schedule it in because there were no trains from the Riviera to Chamonix on a Saturday . The options for the stopover before we went to Chamonix were the city of Lyon with its beautifully lit monuments and the lake town of Annecy at the base of the Alps. For me nature always wins over architecture and cities , and so Annecy it was!!
The TGV from Nice to Lyon ( Superfast train – Travelling at a peak speed of 300 km/hr ) was travelling at slower speeds than usual due to the recent flooding of the tracks in the Riviera. That cut down the time we had at Lyon to catch the connecting train to Annecy from a comfortable 45 minutes to a tense 10 minutes. We literally had to run full steam with our bags across the huge Lyon Part Dieu station to catch our train to Annecy. Thankfully we didn’t miss it!!
At Annecy our hotel, Ibis- Annecy Vielle ville ( Old town) was the only chain hotel we had booked for this trip. I usually hate chain hotels because they are, for the lack of a better word, sterile. But this one was right at the edge of the Old town and on the canal adjacent to the lake. Plus it was walking distance from the station (which with me can mean even 2 km, but in this case it was 400 m). The room was as in any Ibis hotel, you really can’t tell one from another!! We had only 1 day here and I didn’t intend to spend it in the room anyway apart from the nights sleep .
We just dumped our luggage and headed for Old town with its outdoor market selling everything from berries to beds. After looking around & buying some superb Plums we walked around the old town lined by canals giving it a Venice – esque feel (I have never been to Venice, but I imagine it would look similar from the photos I have seen.) Soon it was time for dinner and after the customary photos with the Chateau ( It is the most photographed monument of Annecy) we started comparing prices at cafes along the canal. We settled on a cafe which appeared popular (Always a safe bet) and finished a beautiful dinner by the canal. There was no point in going to the lake as it was already dark and we left that for the morning.
In the morning we had pre booked breakfast, as one thing that chain hotels are good in is providing a lavish buffet breakfast. Stomachs filled to the brim we walked towards the lake from the chateau and old town and noticed that we were the only ones on the street!! I guess alpine people are not early risers. The lake with still blue water, a huge garden at the city end and mountains all around is pleasing to the eye and a photographer’s delight. There was no one around except swans, common coots, Gulls and a lone crested grebe and I had my fill of photographing birds which I had missed in the Riviera. After I was satisfied with my bird photos I turned my attention to the lake and the gardens which can make any average joe photographer seem good. The morning soon slipped away without us realising it and soon it was time for lunch.
There are lunch cruises which provide a gourmet meal and a trip around the lake. But it would have cost us as much as our entire riviera food expense. Not worth it. The restaurant we had dinner the night earlier served a fragrant fondue which had caught my nose the previous night and I convinced the better half to join me in the cheesy indulgence. The fondue was a heavenly mix of cheeses and a dash of liquor which made it a heavy proposition and we were very, very full before the pot ran empty. But it is an alpine experience which is not to be missed.
Post lunch we walked through the market, visited the cathedral in Old town and had some alpine gelato. ( Not as good as the ones in the Riviera) We packed some baked cheese and potato and few baked goods from a wonderful smelling deli and headed back towards the hotel for check out. As there was still some time left for our bus to Chamonix we headed to the back of the hotel where I had spotted some Mallards yesterday to indulge in some more bird photography. The mallard is a common colourful duck and it makes for some great photos. After I was satisfied that I did the bird justice with my photos we collected our luggage and headed to the station.
The bus to Chamonix was a comfortable ride on the beautiful alpine roads and since it was a sunny day we got some great views of Mont Blanc and the Aiguille du Midi from the road thanks to a helpful stranger on the bus who told us to change sides on the bus to get some great photos which I would have missed otherwise. The bus for some reason has a empty bus trailing it for the entire route. Maybe as an insurance to break down of the bus we were riding in. If that is the reason, what if both the buses break down?? We reached Chamonix before the sun went down and walked down to our hotel in the pedestrian region.
Chamonix is a small town at the base of Mont Blanc and has great cable cars and trams which go up the Alps for some spectacular views. That is the topic for my next post, as my word counter shows that this is getting too long for comfort.
So we go up the Aiguille du midi in my next post. Till then..