Our vacation within a vacation began early, with a train ride to Paris where we boarded the TGV for Annecy. I had been longing to visit this picturesque town in France. It lies near the Swiss border, just on the edge of the French Alps, in the Haute-Savoie region. I had seen many enticing photos of Annecy, also known as "the Venice of the Alps", and was thrilled that we were to spend a few days there. Sadly, Mathieu was not able to join us on this adventure.
The smooth, quiet TGV high-speed train was anything but quiet this time. Seated directly behind us was a young couple with a screaming baby. The little guy appeared to be about a year old, and his harried parents tried their best to calm him. He was having none of that. Except for a brief nap, the baby cried for most of the four-hour trip to Annecy. We all felt very sorry for the toddler and the young couple.
I distracted myself with the incredible views flashing by outside the train windows. We traveled through an astonishing countryside of rolling hills punctuated by forests, castles, streams, rocky canyons, quaint rustic farms, and field after field of bright yellow flowering colza. We were at times completely surrounded by vast expanses of the cheery yellow plants.
Upon arriving in Annecy, we took a moment to get our bearings and then began walking the two hundred yards to our lodgings, the Hotel Alexandra. It was situated on a somewhat plain-looking commercial avenue, surrounded by banks and clothing stores. I could see that Craig and Darcy were not impressed with my choice of location. Yet. Our cozy triple room was clean and nicely decorated and even had a charming fireplace and a desk which was situated near a tall window. It didn't take long for us to stow our luggage and head out the door to explore.
As soon as we turned the corner toward the old part of town, we all stopped in our tracks, smiling. The rustic cobblestone street was lined with pastel painted buildings which housed apartments, bakeries, gift shops and cafes. The more we walked, the broader our smiles became. We followed the music of a saxophone to a lovely square surrounded by tall trees. There were flowers everywhere - in window boxes, pots, tubs and gardens.
Soon, we continued our stroll and discovered the ancient Palais de L'isle. This structure, built in the 12th century, had been at times a royal residence, a mint, and a prison. It is now a museum which we made plans to visit within a day or two.
We ambled on toward Lake Annecy, a glittering turquoise lake that is said to be one of the purest in Europe. It's the third largest lake in France. There are many activities centered around the water, such as paddle boating, bicycling, beaches, boat tours, and fishing.
Several hours passed as we wandered the delightful streets, stopping for shorts rests on park benches, admiring the stunning views. As twilight began to fall, the three of us found a restaurant which served local specialties. We all ordered the tartiflette, a delicious dish of ham and potatoes cooked in cream and white wine and topped with a thick layer of bubbly cheese. Fresh salad and crusty bread completed the meal. Though it was still a bit early, we sauntered slowly back to the hotel, more than ready to rest our tired, achy feet.