One of my favorite things and I always do when going back to Paris is wandering along the banks of the Seine, stopping by some familiar bouquinistes (*), walking through the beautiful streets, the old quarters…but only for a few days, after that, I need to go somewhere else, close or far, it doesn’t matter, like an escape from Paris. This time, before heading up to the cold North, while still in Paris, my some-where-else is Annecy, a small town in South-East of France, almost four hours away from Paris by train. Annecy is considered as the pearl of Alpes.
Depart from Paris around 7:00 am, I arrived to Annecy at 11:00, the town seems still in late week-end sleep. Once exit from the train station by main entrance, look on the left – it’s the direction to the lake Annecy and the old town.
This’s my first time in Annecy, so when I stepped out from the train station, what I see is a super quiet town, not surprise, but later when I cross the street, follow the way to the old town – totally different picture here, I’m almost getting lost among the whimsical canals of Annecy, among the crowds, busy restaurants along the canal.
Looking like the prow of a ship, the Palais de l’Île splits the river Thiou into two canals, now a local history museum, the castle was built in the 12th century and was at one time a prison, mint, courthouse and lord’s residence. The museum opens only a few days a week, though only in the warmer months, for exhibits.
I passed by the old market, everything is closed, like anywhere, in France the traditional market starts very early in the morning and closes long before noon. I’m wandering a bit around the market, the canal and now I understand why Annecy is considered as the “Venice of the Alps” – the river Thiou and the canals leading to the picturesque lake, the joyful coffee shops along the canal, the winding cobblestone streets are lined by pastel houses and colorful flower boxes…the noises from the hungry seabirds, from human talks…all of that will make you fall in love with this small French town.
Back to the riverside, it’s getting busier with visitors, street performers…and especially the noises form those hungry seabirds, I spent some time and half of my bread to feed them. To my surprise these birds are so skillful to catch small pieces of bread in the air, but if they couldn’t, that will go to the beautiful swans or wild mallards patiently waiting on the river…
When I was told “lake with glacial origin” – it took me a few seconds to realize: ” Oh, ok, it means this lake is formed by glacier, during the glacier period, which erodes the land, and then melts, filling the depression created by the glacier…so this lake should be thousands thousands years old! Wow!
From the old town, over the small bridge – in front of me – the Annecy lake – considered as the cleanest in Europe, with glacial origin. The lake’s surface area is around 27 km² and 80 meters deep. With the idyllic, crystal-clear water, this lake is perfect for different water sports – swimming, sailing, diving, boating, fishing, or waterskiing…
Time for me to go back to the old town and back to Paris. I was hesitating to book a boat tour around the lake, it doesn’t take long, but I don’t want to miss my train back to Paris as I have another schedule for next day with friends – to visit another city related to the historical event – the D-day!
These little golden baba-au-rum like mushrooms preserved in heavy rum sirup is a real surprise for me in Annecy. Is it a local speciality? Back to my old times with Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, Baba au rum is one of our favorite cakes in class, but seeing these little “baba” in sirup, different flavors – vanilla or caramel. I’m so surprise as I didn’t expect to preserve small baba like that! I’m sure these cakes are delicious, sweet and with very strong rum flavor, it could make me sleep so well and I may miss my trip with friends tomorrow! Anyway whoever curious about this speciality in Annecy, at le comptoir de Mathilde, can check this link.
(*) Bouquinist is the book-sellers along the banks of Seine, the history of the first bouquinist dating back to 16th century, the Unesco World Heritage Site. There are many funny and sad stories around the Parisien bouquinists. Hopefully, I can share some day on my blog.