Adieu to Annecy

Last Annecy-Francey post, I promise!  There are just too many beautiful photos to share.  Buckets of sorz.

Though the rainclouds from earlier that morning had scuttled away by lunch, the afternoon weather was apparently no good for hang gliding, and the World Championship task for the day had to be canceled.  Luckily, “no lift” has no bearing on walking around eating French gelato, so the day was not ruined.

I abandoned my grassy lakeside post and went right back to where I’d come from to meet Jonny and his team of glider pilots, including a couple other OBX faces I hadn’t seen in ages!


Their hang gliding headquarters was in Doussard, on the south end of the lake, and this was the first time they’d come up to Annecy proper, so we spent the afternoon wandering around the vieille ville, dipping in and out of shops and picking out dream houses along the canals.



It was much a repeat of my first afternoon, but with scenery like this I wouldn’t dream of complaining!




As the restaurants began to prepare for the dinner crowd, we saw people start to emerge from their flats in the candy-colored buildings, hop on their bicycles, and pedal off for their evening shifts.



Can’t you imagine sipping your morning coffee while sitting on one of these stoops, or perching on a balcony overlooking the canal?  I can.  I totally can.



Behind a cluster of restaurants back in the corner of the old town, there’s a little winding road that leads you up a steep hill to the Musée-Chateau (literally “museum-castle”) and panoramic views of the French Alps.




As the sun started to dip lower in the sky, the little village turned golden.




Despite as much wandering around as I’d done over the past couple of days, I was constantly stumbling upon bridges, alleys, and pathways I hadn’t yet seen.




Finally I bade Jonny and the others au revoir and they returned to Doussard.  I was tres fatiguée, but in my perpetual endeavour to overcome my own lameness, made myself stay out at least until it got dark.

I had a delicious dinner with a view of Le Thiou (thanks Mum for imparting the worldly wisdom that aperitifs are not supposed to be taken like shots TWO HOURS TOO LATE), then slowly meandered back to my hotel, watching the lights turn on over the canals and the evening’s entertainment begin to take shape.




My evening’s entertainment looked more like this:


I found Friends in French!  Disappointingly, they did not find a French voice actress who could replicate Janice’s laugh.  She sounded sort of normal.  It was weird.

The next morning was to be my last chance at seeing some world-class hang gliding… and we woke up to buckets of rain.  We had one last crepe to console ourselves before I was off to the train station.


Even though I didn’t get to see any of the hang gliding I went for, the weekend in Annecy was so worth it.  It had been far too long since I’d gone traveling by myself, it was lovely to be in France and get to speak the language again, and seeing OBX friends was absolutely priceless.

The last gift of my mini-holiday was unexpectedly chugging past this vision (later identified as Lac du Bourget) on my way back from Aix-les-Bains to Geneva:


Until next time, France!


A French Reunion

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.

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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.

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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.

Annecy Vieille Ville

Annecy, France | A Life Exotic

These pictures have been burning a hole in my pocket for weeks now.

When I found out that an old friend and regular Front Porcher from the OBX was going to be in southern France the last weekend of June, I couldn’t pass up the chance to meet him there.

Jonny (who you might remember when he took Abby & I flying in the trike and tow-launched me when I went hang gliding) was one of only 32 glider pilots in the entire world who made the cut for the 2014 World Hang Gliding Championships.  I mean, so that’s mildly impressive.  A tiny bit cool.

The championships were taking place in Annecy (“ahn-see”), which is just a hop skip & a jump from London, and also only half an hour from Albertville, where I stayed during my French exchange trip in 2006.  We actually visited Annecy for a day, but it rained so much that this is all we saw:

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We played laser tag, went to H&M, and then sat on the steps of the cinema eating convenience store sandwiches until our bus came back for us.  It was thoroughly blah.

So imagine my surprise when I arrived a couple of weeks ago and realized that the town actually looks like this:


Yeah.  I think saying we missed out last time is a little bit of an understatement.  This time, I was determined to do the thing properly.

I flew in to Geneva, Switzerland, and took a coach bus a quick 45 minutes south to Annecy.  It’s a tiny little village in the French Alps and is completely walkable – my hotel was a five minute jaunt from the train/bus station and just about everything else.

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I dropped my bags and set right out into the afternoon sunshine to explore the winding lanes and open air markets.




Like many European towns with centuries of history, Annecy has a beautiful old town (vieille ville in French) section full of cobblestoned streets, narrow alleyways, and colorfully-painted houserows.




Annecy Vieille Ville is extra charming because it’s anchored by Le Thiou, this lovely turquoise canal that provides the perfect setting for the multitude of cafés serving crepes, frites, and French wine en plein air.  I spent most of the next day just migrating from seat to seat at different restaurants along the canal.




I followed Le Thiou out to where it flows into Lac d’Annecy, which has the most gorgeously clear blue-green water I’ve ever seen.

Fun fact for Dad: there was an individual time trial around Lac d’Annecy during one stage of the 2009 Tour de France.



In an ideal world, I would have been friends with the owner of that boat.  A girl can dream.



The Pont des Amours (Lovers’ Bridge) spans another small canal and is a perfect viewpoint on to the lake and mountains.  Not to be confused with the Pont des Arts in Paris that just collapsed under the weight of all the love locks – luckily, visitors haven’t brought the same practice to this one.



I think I may have liked this little canal best of all.  All the boats!



European postcard:


Oh look, it’s the beautiful theatre of my long-ago visit!


So glad I got to return to my roots.

More French fotos to come!

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