After a relaxing, sunny first day in Annecy spent wandering solo through the streets of the old town, I had some pretty exciting coffee dates penciled in to my planner for the next day.
During my French exchange trip in high school, everyone was paired with a student from France. Our students came to stay with us in New York in October, and we went to stay with them in Albertville the following April.
Everyone else in the group agreed that I was the luckiest in these random pairings, as Alexandra and I got on famously and had absolutely the best time during both of our exchange trips.
I also got to be the envy of all my classmates as I showed up to school on the back of Alex’s moped every day! (Side note: what was the point of smiling for this picture?!)
We hadn’t seen each other in eight years – but as we frantically texted about getting stuck in traffic and where to meet, finally found each other outside the grand town hall, and strolled off to find a café with strong espresso, it felt like I was grabbing an impromptu coffee with a friend I saw every week.
My French is worse than it used to be, and so was her English, but we carried on in one language until we had to switch to the other, flip-flopping between the two mid-sentence and bursting into laughter when we finally figured out certain words after talking ourselves in circles.
Eight years ago, we were in exactly the same place: sixteen, with a couple of years of high school left, and only just barely starting to think about college, careers, and beyond.
Now we’re worlds apart – Alex has been married for three years and has two gorgeous little daughters, while I’ve traveled to my heart’s content (well, nearly) and gone back to grad school in another country. It was amazing how little that mattered though – if anything, it gave us more to talk about. We were still just two friends catching up after a very long time.
That behind us is the beautiful Palais de l’Isle, or Island Palace.
Built in 1132 as a residence for the Lord of Annecy, it later passed through phases as government administration headquarters, a courthouse, a mint, and a prison. Today it’s the most well-known landmark in Annecy and houses a small history museum.
Alex and I nabbed a table at the bustling Café des Ducs right next to the Palais de l’Isle and chatted all morning. Rain clouds rolled in and a handsome French waiter scurried over to unroll the awning above us; they blew away over the mountains and back he came, returning us to the sunshine.
Finally, we said our “à bientôt”s and Alex made the drive back to Albertville while I wandered over to Lac d’Annecy to enjoy a little of the timid sunshine before my afternoon rendezvous.
There were sailboats zipping every which way, and the perfect cotton puff clouds rivaled those in London (which I’ve come to decide over the past year has the best clouds in the world).
I finished my book and practiced a little more French with a lovely older couple who came over to ask me if the grass was wet (it was, I then realized).
I’m so happy and grateful I had the chance to see Alex again. Whether you’re separated by time or distance (or both), reunions make you realize how little either matters to good friendships.