Text and photographs by Mary L. Peachin
December 2016, Vol. 21, No.3
The train from Lyon arrived in a pouring rain. Quickly finding a taxi, we discovered that Annecy le Vieux (the old village) was closed to vehicles. Hooded in rain jackets, we began our search for the small rented apartment at Les Loges Annecy Vielle Ville. With the help of Google maps and a few locals, we finally arrived at an understated locked door. Fortunately, the next door crepe shop called the manager to provide us access and an entry key.
While the cobblestone streets, flowing canals, and large plaza had that medieval look, we had not expected Annecy to have such an interesting history.
During the 10th century, Romans settled Annecy establishing a court for the counts of Geneva. By 1444, it had become the regional capital of Genevois, Faucigny, and Beaufortain provinces. During Calvinism in 1535, the Bishopric of Geneva transferred to Annecy making it headquarters for the Counter-Reformation.
France conquered the Savoy region during the French Revolution. Annecy became part of Mont Blanc department, whose capital was Chambéry. The Catholic diocese was suppressed in 1801.
Following the Bourbon Restoration in 1815, Annecy was returned to the King of Sardinia who restored the Catholic diocese. When Savoy was sold to France in 1860, Annecy became the capital of Haute-Savoie.
Annecy is now known as the “Pearl of the French Alps.” Wedged between Lake Annecy and the mountain base in the southeastern region of Haute-Savoie, it is twenty two miles south of Geneva, Switzerland.
Several canals merge with the Thiou River. Strong currents flow through the village making Annecy also known as the “Venice of the Alps.” However, any canal transportation, much less gondolas, is necessarily limited to tours on its Lake.
Palais de I’Isle, situated on a small island in the River, was originally a 12th century castle built from river pebbles. After closing in 1860, for five centuries the building served as a prison. Inmate labor was used to mint coins. Considered one of Europe’s most photographed monuments, iconic images along with the canal make the village easily recognizable.
Bicycling a two lane bath around the Lake is a popular family activity. The crowded lane must be a traffic jam during the summer tourist season. Attractive mansions edge the waterfront along with scattered yacht-filled marinas.
Les Loges Vielle Ville’s prime location on Plaza Saint Claire is a double-edged sword. Literally steps to dozens of tasty restaurants, the noise and cigarette smoke of happy patrons, late night sport fans, and party goers seep through the Loges’ double panned shuttered windows. The small five room five star hotel requires sleeping with ear plugs. A premium room away from the Plaza is definitely worth the higher cost.
Kitchen amenities included a Nespresso coffee machine, microwave, dishwasher, hidden trash, invection stove, and refrigerator. Other apartment amenities include a 47’ flat screen Samsung TV and Apple surround sound. La Sultana de Saba Moroccan toiletries using rare Argan oil, a steam shower, heated towel bars, and slippers and robes can be found in the bathroom.
The apartment had a king bed, was compact, and offered a lot of storage. In spite of the plaza noise, the place is ideal.
Manager Cedric Joly made himself available to make dining reservations or guiding instructions. Some of the places he recommended included Le Bilboquet where we indulge in fois gras for lunch.
Each Tues, Friday, and Sunday vendors line the streets with elaborate cases and displays filled with delectables from seasonal fruits and vegetables to fine cheeses and charcuterie. Others sold jewelry, rugs, and wine— almost anything not sold in a can. With only a small second floor village grocer available for stables, the street market is where locals doing their shopping. In mid-April, bright, juicy strawberries and large white asparagus caught our attention. Many display in cases found in butcher shops. The enormous job of set up and removal is exceeded by the city’s immediate cleanup when the market closes. All varieties of shops line the street offering courtier clothing design to souvenirs to pastry shops, and more.
This cobblestoned medieval city is a charmer. It is a place to roam, shop, and dine where it’s hard to find a bad meal. It may be more convenient to visitors in Lake Geneva, but whether traveling by TGV high speed train or rental car, don’t miss it.
If you go:
Les Loges Vielle Ville’s, www.les-loges-annecy.com/en/
Aromatik Bistro, Michelin, www.restaurant-aromatic
Georges Paccard’s La Ciboulette, www.laciboulette-annecy.com,
Le Bilboquet, www.restaurant-lebilboquet