I’ve always been drawn to the mountains. The chilly northern regions beat the sandy beaches any day in my book. Luckily, it just so happens that I have a knack for finding high altitudes no matter where we go. From Yosemite to Acadia, it’s no secret that our favorite way to relax doesn’t involve much relaxing at all. As soon as we knew we had eleven days to explore France, I immediately went into research mode to find how we could make our way into the French Alps. A mere 20 minutes from Switzerland, we stumbled upon Annecy. A small city tucked within the valleys of glorious mountain sides (Mont Blanc if you have a clear day!), Annecy is built around a crystal blue lake formed by glaciers. The magnetic blue is the first thing you notice when driving through town, but it certainly isn’t it’s only appeal. Branching off from the lake is a series of canals weaving their way through town. It’s not called the “Venice of France” for nothing. Once your mind has adjusted to the charming waterways and postcard-worth landscape, only then might you finally recognize the actually appeal of annecy outside of it’s ideal summer location.
Exquisite architecture peers over the cobblestone walkways, farmer’s markets line the bridges and gelato stands have lines a mile long. But perhaps the best thing about Annecy is that it’s known, or rather not known, as a French hotspot. Rather than being swarmed by millions of tourists, Annecy’s challenging location makes it less-than-accessible for people flying in. Therefore, Annecy is where the French vacation. As prices in the south of France (lookin’ at you Nice) continue to soar, the French are looking for affordable alternatives. A mere four hour drive from Paris, Annecy is the perfect vacay for active children, honeymooning couples and adventurous solos alike. As for us foreigners, we were able to really dive into our French and perhaps enjoy a meal or two with some minor miscommunication. All part of the fun, eh? Here is our favorite way to spend a long weekend in Lake Annecy!
Gorges du Fier
Our first stop is actually a couple miles outside of Annecy itself. As we were traveling from Lyon, we were able to make a stop at Gorges du Fier, gorges filled with running water considered a natural world wonder. Footbridges scale around the giant boulders leading into tiny crevices and running water rushing below. If you’re fearful of height, I might skip out on this one. Otherwise, it was well worth an hour stop and couple of bucks to get in!
Paddle Boats in the Lake
The first thing you notice when rolling into Annecy is the lake, which ultimately become irresistible and you just need to get in it.Despite the warm weather in the air, the water remains a chilly relief from the sun shining down between the slopes.The lake’s edge is filled with different stands offering paddle boats, some fitting a many as six people! My favorite ones had a water slide attached to the back of the boat. Perfection. We opted for a two seated and spent our first afternoon paddling out to the center of the lake and enjoying the hundreds of others who had a similar idea. We didn’t think to wear our swimsuits, so we looked on with envy as other tumbled and flipped into the water. We ended up sticking our legs in the swearing to never make the same mistake again.
Stroll the Canal
Wandering away from the lake will lead you to along various canals that wind through different parts of the city, the old part of town, has numerous shops to peruse and restaurants with their tables spread across the the sidewalks. We stopped in a cafe for crepes and lattes (when in France..) and took note of places to stop for dinner.
We ended up having one rainy evening in the city that we decided to splurge on couple’s massage and a quick dinner in our hotel. After a quick Yelp review, we made our way (in the pouring rain, no less) to a quaint spa down the road from our hotel. We had big plans for a hike the following morning and some r&r was just what we needed to prepare. We concluded our night with some carb-loading to fuel tomorrow’s adventure.
Hike Mont Veyrier to Mont Baron
We got an early start to head of to our main event for the day! I’m going to write a separate post on how cool this hike was and all the details you need, but for now, I’ll say this hike between the two mountains overlooking the city was one of the highlights of the whole trip! It took us between five and six hours from start to finish, and this included a lunch break and multiple rest breaks throughout. This baby was STEEP. All the deets to follow!
There’s no better way to reward this 7+ mile excursion than with gelato! Luckily, there are gelato stands a plenty and we didn’t have to trek far to find some.Some cinnamon swirl and apple pie made the cut!
We were determined to get an early start on our last day in Annecy. With a 5:30am wake up call, we made our way down the lakeside with the fisherman and bikers who enjoyed the empty streets at this time. As I mentioned before, I try to see the sunrise everywhere we go to capture this moment that many people often don’t see. The warm orange-y glow over the water was just the sight I was looking for. Unlike yesterday’s heat wave, we left Annecy in our jackets and sneakers and headed up north to complete our circle.
Do you prefer mountains or the beach? What’s your favorite vacation spot that’s not so tourist-y?