Awestruck in Annecy
When we were planning our European trip and trying to decide where we wanted to go, Kody and I both wanted to visit Switzerland. Geneva seemed like the easiest city to get to along the route we were building, so we started looking into it. Wow, Switzerland is expensive. We couldn’t even find a single room in someone’s house for less than $100/night. I expanded my search for accommodations a bit and found the city of Annecy near the French-Swiss border, only a 20 minute train ride to Geneva. We were able to rent a studio apartment for much (MUCH) cheaper in Annecy with the intention of using it as a homebase to explore Geneva.
Once we arrived in Annecy, our plan changed immediately. The drive there should have been an indication to us of what we were about to see, but it was still a pleasant surprise. (I shared this driving photo before for the wrong trip.)
Annecy is absolutely breathtaking. It was evident just from our short, cloudy drive into the city to find somewhere to park our car. Before even stopping, we had decided to spend our two full days in this city instead of traveling to Geneva. Switzerland would have to wait because we were so excited to explore this dreamy town we had basically stumbled upon.
The town partially surrounds an enormous turquoise lake in the basin of the mountains. I’ve never seen water that color this far from the ocean! I can imagine what a magical place Annecy must be in the winter time with the snow capped mountains in the background and the lovely lake all iced over.
Our Airbnb was a quaint studio in the center of the old town. I use the word “quaint” here in place of other suitable words such as: tiny, cozy, cramped, closet-sized, or small. It was a fifth floor walk-up and the stairs were narrow stone spiral stairs original to the very old building. The bed was lofted and the ceiling was slanted – perfect for smacking your head on. It had a pretty great view though and the location couldn’t be beat. We had a lot of laundry to catch up on, so we created an obstacle course of clothesline and soggy clothes that really made the space feel more… quaint.
The city is known for its nicely preserved old town and beautiful canals. In the center of one of the canals is an old prison, which is now more picturesque than grotesque. There are swans living in the canals and on the lake. The whole thing comes together to create this storybook town where you can imagine having dreamy picnics on the beach and taking long strolls through the alleys and falling in love.
Our first evening in Annecy, we crossed the canal for dinner at a local Italian restaurant. While we were eating it started drizzling and we enjoyed some peaceful people watching. It all sounds a little corny written down, but our stay in Annecy was truly perfect from start to finish. We ended the evening with an ice cream and a walk through the town at night.
Since we had ditched our plans of traveling to Geneva, we were able to explore the city a little aimlessly the next day. The old town is full of interesting shops selling candy, local liquor, textile souvenirs, and baked goods. As with most tourist areas, there was no shortage of ice cream shops.
We made our way to the lake and meandered alongside it for a couple of hours. It was sprinkling throughout the day and slightly overcast which, rather than ruining our walk, gave the town and lake a more dramatic feel.
For lunch we stopped at a pizzeria and shared a great pizza and some drinks. Kody especially loved it because they served the pizza with chili oil and spicy food can be so hard to find in Europe – at least the type of spice we are used to in the Tex-Mex region of the US. The afternoon was spent relaxing in our apartment, listening to the rain.
When the weather cleared, we turned our wandering in the other direction and set out on the streets of town. We followed the canal for some time and turned down random alleyways. After climbing up a hill full of beautiful yards and wild flowers, we found ourselves at a white stone castle. We skipped the tour, favoring our long walk to more time indoors, and made our way down to the city center again.
I almost wish I had some complaints about Annecy, perhaps that’s more interesting to read. But, the truth is: the city is lovely, the people are welcoming, and the natural beauty can not be overstated. Kody and I spent a fair amount of our trip discussing when we would be back or if it was feasible to buy a vacation home here.
Annecy is in the Haute-Savoie region of France in the Alps. French Savoyard cuisine is centered around cheese and potatoes, so think fondue, raclette, and other marvelous methods of eating melted cheese for dinner. Although we had become very devoted to our favorite pizzeria, I didn’t want to leave Annecy without eating a regional dish. Kody opted for mussels, fries, and a Swiss beer while I had an escalope de poulet à la savoyarde which is basically a deconstructed cordon bleu. It was awesome! There was a slab of ham on the bottom covered with a baked chicken breast and broiled cheese on top. Yum! Is there anything better than broiled cheese?!
We awoke our last full day in Annecy to sunny weather and decided to make our way onto the lake this time, instead of just around it. We rented a pedal boat for a couple hours and took off for an opportunity to relax, take in the panoramic sights, and get some great photos. Unfortunately, the water was ice cold, so we didn’t get to do any swimming, but we certainly looked the part!
In case you haven’t already stopped reading due to the saccharine sweetness of this ode to Annecy, after pedal boating, Kody and I shared a bottle of champagne in the park next to the lake. While we were enjoying ourselves (read: getting day drunk), we got to watch a recently wedded couple take photos near us. I know! It’s like a romantic comedy without a plot! It’s too much and you should really go there and experience it yourself.
In the afternoon, I stumbled upon the annual Race of the Waiters happening in the center of town. The participating waiters had to run about a kilometer on the cobblestone streets through the alleys and bridges with a tray ladened down with several glass bottles and a cup full of water. It was so fun to watch and the audience was so into it! Nothing better to follow that up with than a magnificent caramel religieuse, a stroll by the canal, and pizza for dinner.
We can not recommend Annecy highly enough! It’s not overrun with tourists and it has the perfect blend of nature and city. The food was wonderful and we had so much fun with each other. It felt like a vacation from our vacation. I’ll close out with some more photos and this short video of the victory dance Kody does when he’s successfully tricked me somehow. In this case, he made me think he had smacked his head on the inclined ceiling. Such a dork.