Annecy was the final stop of our recent trip to France, after Paris, Beaune, and Lyon, and before we flew out of the Geneva airport. It is an incredibly picturesque lakefront city on the edge of the Alps. The lake is literally turquoise and crystal clear. When we arrived on the Sunday afternoon of a holiday weekend, it was hot, crowded, and seemingly very tiny and touristy. I have to admit that I thought “Oh no! We are going to spend 3 days here?” Thankfully, the people thinned out on Monday, the weather cooled a bit, and we found that the town was prettier and had more to explore than we’d first realized. As our guidebook advised, we stayed in the “old town” section and didn’t spend time in the larger city beyond it.
Here we had one of the best experiences of our entire trip: riding bikes around Lake Annecy. There is a paved, two-lane, mostly level road solely for bikes that (I believe) goes 21 miles around the entire lake. The bike rental process at Roul’ ma Poule, 4 rue Marquisats on the southwest edge of town right near the bike path, was surprisingly simple. No waivers or legalese or anything! My husband and I rode 8 miles out and then turned back. We would have loved to go the whole way around had we not been pressed for time. The path starts out on the road with cars but leaves it quickly, and after that you’re just pedaling at your own pace along a gorgeous lake with spectacular views of hills, houses, and even castle-looking-things on all sides. We didn’t explore the little town we came to, but you could, of course. Don’t forget water and sunscreen!
Since it is a lakefront town (and since you have now worked up an appetite pedaling as far as your legs will take you around said lake), you may want some ice cream. Rest assured that there is plenty, at numerous shops in an incredible variety of flavors.
The picture on the right side above is just the sweet crepe menu from La Sapiniere, 10 Quai Ile, where we had a light, casual, and inexpensive meal one night. There is an equally large menu for the savory crepes. Our sweet and savory highlights were orangette (marmalade, almonds, chocolate) and goat cheese with herbs de Provence and honey.
A much more filling meal was had at Au Lilas Rose, 1 Passage de l’Eveche. There weren’t many vegetarian options, so I got a garlic and parsley pizza. Can you see the garlic in the picture below? It was very generously clumped around the pizza and so strong that it burned my lips. Delicious though. We saw huge, gorgeous tarts displayed just inside the restaurant’s entrance, but sadly we were too full to order dessert.
We also splurged on a meal at a fantastic place with a slightly Asian spin. The green beans were something to write home about- drizzled in hazelnut oil and sprinkled with toasted pine nuts and fresh parsley. I also had a delicious layered veggie and goat cheese stack. (I think it may have been called a terrine.) All in all it was still French enough for vacation, but a refreshing fusion-y change of pace from the typical menu items we’d seen over and over again by then. I’m so sorry that I didn’t document the name, but it looked like it had previously been a more traditional Savoie cuisine restaurant, with wood-paneled walls and a sort of lodgey feel. The menu display case was made of wood with a pointed “roof” on top. I put a picture of the outside tables below, so you can see what they looked like and which colored buildings are directly across from the restaurant. It was on the same side of the main pedestrian street as La Sapiniere, just further away from the lake.
Finally, La Coupole at 7 Bis rue de la Republique, had tasty gazpacho, a salad featuring guacamole, grapefruit, and pineapple, and huckleberry roasted duck breast. If only it were huckleberry tofu instead! :) I couldn’t convince my mom or husband to order the duck so I didn’t get to see how they worked the huckleberry in, but the salad and gazpacho were great. Also, when it looked like it would start raining, they quickly pulled a big awning over the entire patio seating area. Classy!
There was a lovely, friendly chocolate shop that we stopped by, oh, I think 3 times in 3 days: Yves Thuries Chocolat/Salon de The at 13 rue Royale. My mom liked the dark chocolate bar with violet pieces on top. I liked the pear-flavored bar made from dark and white chocolate swirled together.
There was a film festival in town at the time of our visit (early June), so many hotels were already booked when we made our reservations. We ended up at the Adagio Annecy Center, because my mom loves staying near train stations on trips like this so we don’t have to lug our bags very far or worry about cabs. It may be her #1 criteria in choosing hotels. :) This one was practically in the station, it was so close. It wasn’t very pretty, sophisticated, or luxurious, but it was comfortable and felt like an American hotel due to its spacious rooms, ironing boards, large showers with doors (not handheld in a tub or without a curtain), fitness room, large buffet breakfast including fruit, coffee machine, and whole wheat toast, etc. The walk into town was fine for us, but may be something you’d like to investigate further if you are traveling with small children or older adults.
There seems to be some uncertainty online about the best way to travel between Annecy and Geneva. We ended up taking a Frossard bus. It was very easy to buy the tickets from the little bus station in Annecy. (When we were there it was housed in a temporary trailer). They said we needed to buy the tickets on the day of departure, but you’ll want to stop by before then to pick up a current schedule, since not every bus departing that direction goes all the way to the Geneva Airport. You can also find the schedule online, but only in French. It is a long rectangular red page that says lihsa in the bottom right corner. The ticket was pleasingly inexpensive, I think 12 euros per person. There was no restroom on the bus and it is about a 2 hour ride though, so don’t drink too much coffee or tea that morning!