Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Annecy on the Lake (June 2005)

This day (our fourth) is the day we venture out to the commune of Lake Annecy. As we leave Megève and drive toward the Autoroute, Mont Blanc presents a spectacular view. It's a lovely summer week-end day for a drive and we're again energized by the beauty of the region (okay, and our delicious yogurt, bread, jam and strong coffee!).

Along the way meadows filled with wild flowers, the craggy peaks of the Alps, and spring-fed waterfalls greeted and delighted us. We saw French children playing off in the distance in a meadow; the boy climbing on a large boulder and the small girl picking wild flowers--their coats tossed casually into a small colorful heap on the face of the boulder on this warm summer morning.

We stopped briefly to snap a photo of the village of Martigny, a village (we read) that was originally established by the Celts and invaded frequently by the Romans (Caesar) and others. It is interesting to note that this village of 15,000 inhabitants is bounded by Italy and Switzerland and is confined by steep mountains making it an easy target for invasion. Today this region of the Haute-Savoie is appreciated as a bustling ski resort with its high mountain pass leading to Italy from one direction and Chamonix and hence Switzerland from the other. We hadn't planned a visit this day, but we will one day. The village has a lot of fifth century history, sculptured monuments and appears to be very lively--a good stop for those traveling along the Autoroute.

The view of the lake in Annecy was picturesque with it's glass-like calm that reflected the mountains rising high above it. It was bordered by summer homes and dotted with small boats. Children played along it's soft beach-like shores, while parents sat on park benches conversing with others. Swans glided silently about. A canal intersects with the lake, creating a narrow line of slips for small craft to moor and enjoy the village and there are charming pedestrian bridges periodically spanning it. Swans drift along the canal, occasionally calling to one another as they glide to and fro. In light of the picturesque nature of the lake, we could hardly wait to see what the village was like. For those winter sports enthusiasts, France has chosen Annecy as its candidate for the 2018 Winter Olympics. What a pleasure it would be for them to win!

Parking was ample and we parked at the first opportunity, then wound our way through narrow paved pathways, over one of the canal bridges and into the village where, to our delight, a full-scale Saturday market was in progress. This was our first big fresh air market and we were in awe of the artistically displayed array of goods. We strolled by kiosks of fish mongers, paté artisans, bread and pastry artisans, butchers, cheese and sausage makers, florists, farmers with fresh fruits, produce and olives, as well as other artisans displaying natural soaps, linens, clothing, carved wooden items and so forth. The market was lively and crowded and the spicy fragrances remarkable. The most pleasant of aromas arose from an artisan who had wheeled in a giant oven-like apparatus that contained huge rotisserie rods filled with plumb chickens which had been seasoned well with herbs (umm, I can smell the thyme, sage and rosemary just thinking about it), were of a rich golden color and oozed their juices as they dripped freely into a pan below the birds that contained mounds of cut potatoes and carrots--also golden in color. It was an aroma still indelible in my mind, as I was left longing for just a little taste of the deliciously looking birds.

After a sauntering through the market and buying a few products that would not spoil, we found a brasserie along a canal and settled in for a light lunch, ordering a croc monsieur (grilled ham and cheese) for me and a saucisson sandwich (salami and cheese) for Doug along with a half carafe of cold chardonnay from the Bourgogne region of France. This wine was so different in comparison to the California chardonnays we were accustomed to. It was chewy, delicate, dry like Sauvignon Blanc, with a hint of apples and was deliciously refreshing. I understand that French Chardonnay is a white burgundy made with the chardonnay grape. It definitely lacked the characteristic "oaky" flavor of California chard. At that moment in time I believe I became more driven than ever to learn the French language. I wanted desperately to be able to ask our waiter all about this wine--their "house" offering. (I'm not really a wine snob, but I'm definitely fascinated by how vintners and their chemists can take grapes and give them such an interesting taste.)

This being our first market experience, we noted that most men and women either carried brightly decorated recycled plastic bags or wheeled around small carts for their purchases. We later learned that France, unlike America, was a Kyoto Protocol "green" country and her people took great pride in lessening individual green-house gas footprints. The recycled bags are available at most grocery stores and are very inexpensive at .67 centimes. We bought several and began the tradition at home long before our own grocers began to think "green."

As a pictured below, Annecy lies at the northern edge of the vibrant turquoise lac d'Anney and geographically speaking is only 35 kilometers from Geneva. It is part of the département of Mont Blanc and is the capitol of the region (still part of the Haute-Savoie, Rhône Alps). Historically, it was the place of Geneva royalty so sports castles and domaines that are now art and history museums. It's a lovely place to explore and stroll and one could easily enjoy a week-end stay at the local hotels doing just that. However, with only seven days in our apartment and this being our fourth, we begrudgingly headed to our compact at days end for the drive back.

Both of us could not stop talking on the drive back. Since our arrival in Switzerland we'd experienced nothing but pure pleasure as we observed every day life in the French culture. We couldn't get enough and felt as though we were now becoming frenzied to explore and see more. It was at that moment that we wondered (and we can't explain why) what it must be like further away from the Alps. Without any further ado, Doug was on the phone making reservations for that night in Lyon. I'm not sure if it was the thought of sleeping yet another night on that futon, or what, but the next thing we knew we were headed to Lyon.

Enjoy the following photographs of our drive to Annecy and, of course, of Annecy.

A Summer Day on Lake Annecy

Great Pride is Taken in Displaying Fresh Produce

Olives, Artfully Displayed in a Provençal Fashion

A Week-End Market Floral Display in Annecy

Handsome Wooden Boats line the Main Canal Through Annecy

Waterfalls Spring Out of Mountains As the Snow Pack Melts
The Village of Martigney

Look Closely, A Child Plays on the Boulder While His Sister Picks Wild Flowers

Mont Blanc from the Highway out of Megève

Next post: Lyon

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