Venice of the Alps

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We are becoming quite the weekend warriors. Some locals have told us we will know France better than they do by the end of our expat journey. On Fridays, after Jordan finishes work, we depart for our next destination. With the new curfew in Lyon starting that weekend, it made the decision easy to leave. Last weekend, Jordan and I experienced “Venice of the Alps,” a cute little town named Annecy in France.

Our previous weekends were filled with hiking and outdoors, but we decided to take it easy this weekend. We left our hiking boots and trekking poles at home. The town is larger than most we have visited, and we figured there would be more to do.

Annecy is considered the “Venice of the Alps” for its many waterways that intertwine through the old town. The town is only 90 minutes from Lyon, making it a perfect weekend getaway. When we first mentioned going to Annecy, someone quickly corrected our pronunciation of the town. It’s not pronounced at all like “anne-nee-see” as it reads. Instead, we try to pronounce Annecy as the French pronounce it: “an-see.”

how to pronounce annecy: an-See

We arrived at our hotel late Friday evening and had a reservation for dinner at 9:00 pm. We’ve started to enjoy eating warm fondue on crisp Autumn nights, and that’s precisely what we planned to do.

Our dinner started with an amuse-bouche, a bite-sized appetizer, before the main course. For the evening, the amuse-bouche was a salmon mixture; since Jordan doesn’t like salmon, I got to enjoy both! We also ordered a bottle of local white wine to accompany our fondue for the evening. We paired tonight’s fondue with dried meats, bread, and good conversation. It met our expectations!

On Saturday, we stuck with our weekly tradition. The first thing we did was to go to the local boulangerie to buy chocolate croissants. We also tried a local pastry, but it was a forgettable breakfast. It was not very good. Next, we had planned to go on a bike ride around the lake. The weather was overcast and foggy, so we decided to take a leisurely walk instead.

The town was full of people who were probably escaping curfew, like us. We walked through the park and to the lake. We found a nice bench to sit on and finish our breakfasts. The hungry birds soon swooped in, hoping for scraps. One even landed on my leg!

Lac d’Annecy is the cleanest lake in Europe. We had driven past it before after a weekend in Aix-les-Bains this Summer. We immediately noticed all the people on various types of boats in the water. Sailboats, paddle boats, and kayaks all filled the lake. There were also plenty of beaches to relax on in the Summer. But today, it was chilly and cold. The beaches were empty, and the lake was far from full. Paddleboats stayed docked along the coast and became the resting spot for many birds. The pink paddle boat was the bird’s favorite!

While relaxing on the bench, we looked at making dinner reservations for that evening. On Friday night, we walked through the town and looked at most menus posted outside restaurants. The menus didn’t sell Jordan on anything; he wanted a place that had French onion soup. There was one restaurant that had it, but guests had fully booked it for Saturday night. I had found a different restaurant online that, at one point, had French onion soup, and we decided to take a chance.

Jordan said we could walk to the restaurant to make a reservation; we both hate talking in French on the phone. I think I surprised Jordan when I said, “I can call and ask.” I put a brave face on (under my mask) and dialed the number. A few harrowing minutes later, and I had done it! I had successfully made reservations at Le Lilas Rose for the evening. I felt so accomplished!

We spent the rest of the day walking around the lake and town. We walked across a famous bridge, Pont des Amours, or the Love Bridge. Legend has it that two people who kiss in the middle of the bridge will be united forever. We weren’t going to chance it and gave each other a quick kiss.

That evening, it was time to see if I had made reservations as I thought. We enter the restaurant and say the name on the reservation, “Shane.” There was no reservation under the name Shane!

But there was a reservation under the name “SCAMS” for two people, and we all agreed that it was probably us. So, the Scams are here and are ready for dinner!

As we looked over the menu, there was a handwritten sticker with an additional menu choice. It was for French onion soup! They had it, after all; Jordan had to order it. We also switched it up from our typical fondue choice and went with the raclette instead. Other restaurants had table-side raclette machines. Waiters place cheese wheels under a heater, and cheese falls from the wheel as it melts. This restaurant served “all you can eat” raclette, but they would prepare it in the back instead.

Even without the table-side cheese wheel, we decided to give it a go!

Before dinner came out, I noticed the scarf of the woman next to us on the ground. I got her attention and told her that her scarf was on the floor. She thanked me and struck up a conversation. We spent the rest of the evening speaking with Agnes and Christophe in a mix of French and English. They were in Annecy for the weekend and also escaping curfew from the Paris region. Almost three hours later, we were the last ones in the restaurant! We exchanged numbers, and they even invited us to stay with them at their home the next time we visit the Paris region, which isn’t that weird. Pre-COVID, they hosted English speakers at their house. We all agreed that nothing good happens after midnight and parted ways.

And by the way, fondue is better than raclette. 

On Sunday, we woke up early to head to the market. We walked to where it was and only saw a few stands. It was small and initially disappointing. It turns out we were just in the wrong place. We turned the corner and walked for a few minutes before we found the real market. This market was on a narrow street with stalls on either side. It was crowded shoulder to shoulder as people shopped for their morning breakfast and weekly groceries.

We opted out of a bike ride and decided to drive through the alps to look at the fall foliage. About twenty minutes from Annecy is a chateau rumored to be the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. We stopped nearby Château de Menthon for photos but didn’t go in.

Our next stop took us to an overlook for the best views of Lac d’Annecy. It was also the starting point for paragliding! Unlucky for us, it was still foggy when we arrived at the top. We did get to watch paragliders emerging from the fog as they made their way through the valley.

We spent the rest of the afternoon driving on the Route des Grandes Alpes, a scenic road that winds through the French Alps. There was a lot of colorful fall foliage, and we even had a clear view of Mont Blanc from far away!

We begrudgingly went back to Lyon to join everyone else in the curfew. Lyon is now considered the hardest-hit city in France. Our hospital systems are feeling the increase in visits, and the number of virus cases is high. There were discussions that government could lengthen the curfew, but that hasn’t happened yet. Instead, France extended the curfew to a more significant number of cities yesterday. The French government is still against a total lockdown, but it feels this is the direction it is heading towards.

This weekend, we are taking a last-minute trip. Jordan had some time to take off before the end of November, and we decided to do it while we still can travel. We are currently en route to Switzerland!

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2 thoughts on “Venice of the Alps

  1. What wonderful memories you are making. And do you pronounce the “on” part very nasally. Remembering old movies with French actors speaking through their noses!

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