Ten things I learned in Annecy, France…

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Every time I take a trip somewhere, I like to wrap up my blog posts with a list of ten things I learned. It’s kind of a nice way to sum up my trips for myself and for the people who’d rather read something short and to the point about the places I visit.  I write longer, more detailed posts, not necessarily for my readers, but for me when I’m in a place in life where I can no longer travel.  I like to keep the memories complete.  For those of you who just want quick and dirty, these ten things I learned lists might be more helpful.

Beautiful canals!

So anyway, here goes…

10.  The name “Annecy” has two syllables.  It rhymes with “fancy” and “Nancy” or even “antsy”.  It’s not “Ann-eh-cee”.  Although Annecy is in France, most of your drive from Germany will likely be through Switzerland.  That’s the fastest route, anyway.

9.  If you’re looking for lodging that offers the most bang for the buck, you really should consider not staying in Annecy itself.  Annecy is a city in every sense of the word and it gets very crowded.  If you have access to a car, you may want to look at staying in an area outside of Annecy.  We stayed near Talloires, which is a much quieter and very serene place, maybe twenty minutes from Annecy, but a world away in terms of peace and quiet.  You can also camp near Annecy.  We spotted a campground and a “tiny house” rental park right across the street from our hotel, very close to the lake.

8.  Annecy Castle is more of a museum than a castle.  You can reach it by foot or, if you have a car, it’s possible to drive to the entrance.  Be aware that except from June until September, the castle/museum closes from 12-2 pm for lunch and everybody gets kicked out during that time.  If you happen to be there on the first Sunday of the month, admission is free.  Also, in the lake museum, there appears to be a tower offering views.  Don’t fall for it.  You’ll get to the top and be rewarded with locked windows that offer a distorted view.

7.   Lake Annecy is said to be the cleanest lake in Europe.  The water is crystal clear and very blue.

6.  The area around Annecy is very popular with people who parasail and paraglide.  We saw a lot of people floating to the ground with parachutes.  I didn’t see anyone whitewater rafting, but I’m pretty sure that’s an option, too.

5.  If you want to take a lunch or dinner cruise during the warm months, you may want to book well ahead.  However, if you just want a boat cruise, you’ll have plenty of options.  There are lots of vessels available for taking people on one or two hours cruises.

4.  If you have access to a car, you may want to consider visiting other nearby cities like Chamonix (pronounced sha-mon-ee) or Albertville.  Both were Winter Olympic cities and are especially attractive during the winter months.

3.  Beware of bikers!  I think I saw more of them in the Annecy area than anywhere outside of The Netherlands.  And some of them are pretty stupid.

2.  Hotel Les Grillons, located near Talloires, is not a fancy hotel, but does offer incredible food.  If you book their half board deal, you won’t have to worry about finding dinner and chances are you will be very happy with what they serve.  Just be sure to let them know ahead of time if you need a substitution.  It’s also kid and dog friendly.

1.  It may be best to consider visiting the Annecy area during a shoulder season.  In early May, it was packed with people.  I imagine it will only get more crowded as the weather gets warmer.  However, it really is in a lovely area that offers a lot to do, especially if you’re the athletic type.  I recommend a visit, and am glad we got our chance to go.

I hope this list entices a few folks to consider visiting Annecy or one of the surrounding towns.  Of course, now I want to plan a trip to Italy.  I was really hoping we’d have a chance to cross the border.  Oh well.  Now I have a reason to research some more!

Fancy in Annecy… Time to go home! part eight

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Yesterday morning, I woke up bright and early.  Bill managed to sleep a little bit longer, although he wanted to get an early start.  We packed everything up to load up the car, not realizing that the lobby of the hotel is locked until approximately 8:00am.  Remember, I mentioned the times for breakfast?  Turns out they are rather strict about it at Hotel Les Grillons.  We came down the stairs to find this…

The doors were locked.  There is a night door that has a code.  We didn’t know the code, so I held the door while Bill loaded the car.  Then, we sat on the steps and waited for the doors to open.

 

Bill was perturbed about the closed lobby, since it meant we pretty much had to wait to check out.  There is no night clerk, which is probably not a problem for most people.  This is a very old fashioned hotel, though, right down to the weird room keys that look kind of like Phillips head screwdrivers.  So when you check out, you have to present your credit card.  I paid a 30 percent deposit when I booked, so I thought maybe they had my card on file.  Nope.

The doors opened at about 7:30am or so, giving us the chance to eat before we got on the road.  We were the only ones eating that early.  I’m glad they let us go ahead and take care of it before the prescribed official 8:00am opening time.  Bill was convinced breakfast started at 7:00.  I told him it was at 8:00am and he insisted it wasn’t… then he checked it and had to admit I was right for the second time in less than 24 hours.  Sometimes, he just won’t listen.  I love him anyway.

Bill and I enjoyed one last breakfast, then checked out.  We said goodbye to the adorable pregnant proprietor, who was so warm, gracious, and personable.  Her hospitality and the fantastic food made Hotel Les Grillons truly memorable.  The final bill, minus the deposit, plus the wines and drinks, came to about $800.  I’d say it was money well spent, even if I have stayed in fancier digs.

I should mention that Hotel Les Grillons is dog friendly.  If my two were better behaved in public, I might consider bringing them along.  As it was, I’m kind of glad we left them in Germany.  It gave us the chance to do some unhindered exploring as well as the ability to take my convertible.

This place was obviously for bikers and included some friendly looking goats.

On the subject of Mini Cooper convertibles, I have this to add.  We saw I don’t know how many people trying to hitch a ride.  Some were rather pointedly thumbing at us.  A Mini Cooper convertible is definitely NOT a car that handles more than two adults at a time.  It’s always funny when hitchhikers think they’re going to fit in the back seat.  Not unless they are super tiny people!  There’s a reason they call it a Mini.

Our drive back through Switzerland was uneventful.  This time, we were able to stay on the main highway and were mostly spared the ugly industrial areas we came through on the way to France.  We stopped in Winterthur for lunch and a potty break.  I was actually very pleased by the Italian restaurant where we found ourselves.  The place was called Santa Lucia and it boasted really nice homemade pastas and wines by the glass.

Bill gazes outside, where there was a terrace accommodating smokers.

I had an order of tagliatelle with salmon.  The pasta was excellent.  It tasted housemade.  Also, it wasn’t too much!

Bill had rigatoni with basil, garlic, and pinenut pesto.

 

And this restaurant was a bit less expensive than the one we stopped at in Bern.  Total bill for this was about 65 Swiss Francs– still not cheap, but not as pricey as it could have been.  Switzerland is expensive, I tell you!

Yeah, a corporate looking sign…

But good food and nice, friendly service.  This restaurant is located very close to the Bahnhof in Winterthur.  It’s also near a large shopping area and parking garage.  I’d eat there again.

 

We got back on the road again and before I knew it, we were back in good ol’ Germany.  Bill pulled off at Neckarburg (near Rottweil) to get some gas.  I happened to take note of the very tall structure in the distance.  Actually, you can’t miss it.  I had been wondering about it since I first spotted it on a trip down south via Switzerland.

Notice the “phallic” looking structure in this picture?

 

Well, I finally looked up that structure and found out what it is.  That, my friends, is the world’s tallest elevator testing shaft.  It was completed in 2017 and stands at a massive 807 feet.  While Bill was gassing up the car, I read up on why it was built and what made the developers choose Rottweil as the site to host it.  There is an observation deck at that tower that is higher than the one at the television tower in Berlin.  And yes, you can visit!  Tickets are 9 euros for adults.  You can also get a family ticket good for two adults and up to three children for 26 euros.  Pretty cool, huh?  Now, you know.

That about does it for my Annecy series.  I will finish up with my customary ten things I learned post, which is probably all most people care about anyway, if they care at all.  If you’ve been following along in this series, I thank you for reading.  I like to write detailed posts, not so much for readers, but for myself.  There will come a day when I no longer get to travel like this and I don’t want to forget anything.

Fancy in Annecy… Annecy part deux! part seven

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Although I had entertained thoughts of visiting Italy while we were down in southeastern France, the huge traffic jam we saw going into the tunnel that leads there made me think better of going there.  Going to Italy would have meant another trip through the fabulous but treacherous mountain pass that gave Bill white knuckles.  So, instead of looking for another nearby town, we decided to go back to Annecy.  Maybe we’d take a lake cruise.  It would also give us the opportunity to visit the chateau, which offers museums to explore.

Sunday morning view!

Well, it turned out that visiting Annecy on a beautiful Sunday was an exercise in frustration.  Annecy was absolutely flooded with people.  The lunch cruise was completely booked and we struggled to find parking.  We walked through the fresh market again, but it was very difficult because there were so many people.  Bill was getting nervous about all the people crammed into the walkway.  It was like being stuck in a stampede.

Nevertheless, we did get a chance to visit Annecy Castle, which required walking up a hill.  We also happened to visit there on the first Sunday of the month, so admission was free of charge!  I was glad to see that a lot of the signage offered English translation, so we didn’t have to guess too much about what we were seeing.  One thing to mention is that the castle isn’t really a castle per se, as much as it is a group of museums.  To be honest, I only saw the museum about the lake.  Except from June until September, the castle closes from 12-2 pm and everybody gets kicked out so the staff can go to lunch.  By the time we were ready to see the other museum, it was close to lunchtime.  I wasn’t upset, though, since I wasn’t all that interested in the other museum anyway.  There were a lot of people in there.  Below are a few shots of Annecy from the hilltop.  For some reason, there aren’t really any good viewing spots from the towers.

I was glad I had my digital camera with me, so I could zoom in a bit.

 

The entrance to the castle.  I’m not sure why they made this a museum instead of simply showcasing the castle itself.

 

The courtyard.

 

Signs in French, English, and Italian.

 

A couple of shots of fish from the lake, kept in the aquarium part of the museum. 

 

I climbed a tower, hoping to see a view of Annecy.  Instead, we got a view of a locked window.  Oh well.  At least I got some exercise.  

Most days, patrons pay 5,50 euros to gain admittance to the castle/museum.  We didn’t have to pay, so this was kind of a nice treat.  I see it gets some mixed reviews on Trip Advisor.  I think it pays to remember the museum closes from 12-2.  Most of the negative reviews seem to come from people upset about being kicked out for lunch.

Speaking of lunch, Bill and I decided to walk around a bit to see if we could find something good.  I usually try hard to avoid touristy spots, but it was kind of hard to do that in the old town part of Annecy.  We ended up eating at Brasserie des Europeens, a rather corporate looking place across from the city hall.  I wasn’t really keen to eat there, but I needed a break from the crowds and the manager was welcoming.

The terrace was hopping.  It brought back flashbacks of my days waiting tables.

 

Bill checks out the extensive menu.  It was actually kind of hard to choose something.  They had everything from mussels to tartare.  

 

This time, Bill got his salad…  washed down with an Edelweiss beer garnished with lemon.  I had a Fischer, which was supposedly Alsatian beer… made by Heineken.

 

I had a skewered hangar steak with frites and a salad.  The steak was a little tough.  I probably should have ordered it medium rare.  Better yet, maybe I should have had mussels.  That’s the kind of dish I can really only enjoy about once a year, though.

 

I got a kick out of their unisex bathroom.  There was also a ladies only restroom.  Both were way too small for the volume of business they were doing on Sunday.  There was just one stall in the ladies room and two stalls plus a pissoir in the unisex restroom.

We had wine for lunch.  As we were enjoying this, the terrace got slammed.  It reminded me of an infamous scene on Spongebob Squarepants.

Anchovies!

 

The folks at the table behind us ordered Crepes Suzette.  The waitress left her bottle of Grand Marnier on the table while she went to get the proper pan… and one of the guys sitting there non-chalantly helped himself to a nip of it.

 

Bill reacts to the sneaky cordial thief.

 

After lunch, we took in yet another church…

 

A young girl sitting at the front of the church was giggling hysterically.  I wasn’t sure if she was being irreverent or overcome by the spirit.

 

It was well worth stopping into this beautiful church, even with the hysterical giggling going on.  

 

We strolled some more around Annecy and I took more photos of what was going on.  There was a lot to see, since there were so many people!

It seems like every major French city has at least one carousel.

I was glad to be in Annecy when the clouds were gone.  Of course, a sunny, warm Sunday means tons and tons of people.  It’s not even the high season yet!

 

Pretty gardens near the church.

 

At around this time, I had to find a public restroom.  Fortunately, France is very generous with its public facilities.  Annecy is no exception.  We found our way to one near a playground.  This was the line.

It probably took about fifteen minutes to get my turn.  Every time someone uses the potty, it gets hosed down.  That keeps the toilets from stinking a lot, but they also never get a chance to dry out on a day like Sunday.  Consequently, it was probably not the most hygienic situation, as evidenced by the looks on some of the people’s faces as they emerged.

 

A whole lotta peeing going on.

After my visit to the loo, we decided it was time to vacate Annecy for some peace and quiet at the hotel.  I took a few more photos on the way out.  Annecy was positively bustling with people engaged in all kinds of fun activities.

Parasailing!

One coming in for a landing.

They’re braver than I am!

We decided not to have dinner at the hotel on Sunday night because the entree was veal.  I like the way veal tastes, but I try not to eat it because of the way it’s made.  I know… I am not a vegetarian by any means, but I think South Park spoiled veal for me.  Also, the starter was mozzarella, which I do like, but only when it’s not cold.  We could have asked for something else, but I decided I’d rather have something simpler for dinner anyway.  We went to the snack bar next to the hotel, which was directly across the road from a campground and next to a cheesy looking bar/restaurant that didn’t yet appear to be open for the season.

Before we went to the snack bar, we walked down to the lake.  It was an easy stroll from the hotel.  Too bad we didn’t go there earlier in our visit.

Even better shots of the parasailing daredevils.

I love this shot.  It’s probably destined for my Facebook cover.

We were eagerly greeted by a swarthy man who invited us to sit down and told us they had rotisserie chicken.  I probably should have ordered that instead of the Margherita pizza I ordered.  I can never finish them.

I probably should have split Bill’s pizza.

This was kind of a nice change, though.  I’m sure the veal at the hotel was good.  I probably would have loved it. 

 

Another English speaking couple sat near us.  It was a little weird because the female half seemed a bit high maintenance.  I heard her say in a pissy voice, “I’m sorry I don’t speak French.” to the guy who was looking after everyone.  He went and got his boss, who did speak English and seemed a little like Mr. Krabs on Spongebob Squarepants.  He was all about the euros!

Before long, the snack bar filled up with people and the one guy who waited on us was soon overwhelmed with people.  Bill had to hunt him down to pay him.  The guy seemed relieved when Bill told him to keep the change.

Next time, I’ll do a better job looking for specific activities.  Fortunately, the Annecy area has a lot to see.  I think it would be worth another visit.

Fancy in Annecy… Our first visit to the “big city”… part four

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Friday morning, we woke up to a few clouds and a nice buffet breakfast.  Breakfast at Hotel Les Grillons runs from 8:00am until 10:00am.  Make a note of that time if you decide to book there.  Bill didn’t.  More on that later.  Friday morning, we were perfectly contented to sleep in a little.

Friday night’s dinner menu.

 

Friday morning’s buffet breakfast.  It was the same each day.

The buffet breakfast offers ham, cheese, a variety of breads for toast or just jam and butter.  There’s fresh fruit, fresh pancakes, and yogurt…  and there’s also an egg boiler.  I mention this, because I’ve only ever seen these things in France.  In the fall of 2014, right around the time Bill and I moved back to Germany, we visited Colmar, France.  We stayed in a nice, family run hotel in a suburb called Bischwihr.  That hotel also boasted a wonderful restaurant and an included breakfast.

Somehow during that October 2014 visit, I didn’t realize that the eggs sitting in front of the boiling water were for people to boil to their hearts’ content.  I took an egg and found it raw.

Hotel Les Grillons had a similar set up.  They had thoughtfully provided a timetable for cooking the eggs as well as actual egg timers.  Bill decided to cook a couple of eggs.  However, he failed to realize the water wasn’t boiling.  I think he thought the longer times suggested by the sign in front of the machine meant that the eggs were intended to cook at a lower temperature.  Leave it to my husband to think of sous vide cooking when he’s boiling eggs.  He brought the eggs to the table and, sure enough, they were almost raw.  Another guest, similarly burned by the non boiling water, thought to turn up the heat.  The next day, Bill managed to cook a perfect egg for me… and a less perfect one for him, since he doesn’t like them soft.

We headed into Annecy and parked by the port, where a bunch of boats were waiting for eager tourists to take on a lake tour.  I was really tempted to go on a tour.  I was especially tempted by the big Bateaux ship that does lunch and dinner cruises…  We did one in London and had a decent time.  On the other hand, I remembered that those ships kind of force you to be a captive audience and the food quality can be really good or very poor.  Also, there is a lot of nickel and diming, which I hate.  So I told Bill I’d rather walk around the city.

I managed to get some nice shots of Annecy in action…

I was excited to see a number of signs in English.

The water in Lake Annecy is said to be extremely clean, even if I did see some signs of obvious pollution.

If you want to tour the lake by boat, you have plenty of options… and not just in Annecy.

We visited Annecy on Friday and Sunday; both days they had a big market.

They also had paddle boats.  The guys running the boats were very enthusiastic, although the clouds made me less enthusiastic.  There’s also a beach area not far from the boats where one can swim, lie in the sun, or wade.

I loved the canopy of trees.

This is the big lunch/dinner cruise ship.  We thought about doing it for lunch yesterday, but they were fully booked.

This is the area where most tourists were congregating.

The Bastille…  which I learned means jail.  There’s a restaurant named La Bastille located nearby that gets horrible reviews.

If you like good food…

Stroll through here…  if you can.

It was very obnoxious yesterday.  I’m glad I got pictures on Friday, when it was less congested.

I wished I could buy some stuff.  

Huge meringues!

After we passed through the throng of people shopping for food, we wandered the city some more.  A couple of women approached us and tried to speak to us, but seemed scared off when we told them we don’t speak French.  We happened to notice the Jehovah’s Witnesses had set up a rather prominent display near the boats.  I wondered if they were with them.  The two women didn’t seem to be friends.  We often get stopped by people, though.  I guess we look friendly.

Canals in Annecy.

And flowers…

A pig, that people obviously tried to sit on at one time.

A sax player.

And a CBD oil/telecom store.  Guess they were branching out.

Obligatory church pictures.

At around this point, it was definitely time for lunch.

I was tempted by this ice cream stand…

Instead, we stopped at Milton Pub, which was like an oasis of peace.  They were playing really good music and offered some excellent beers.  I see they only get three stars on Trip Advisor.  What a shame.  We enjoyed our visit.

I had a very large Kwak.

Bill had charcuterie.

I had fish and chips.

And another beer…  at one point, they played music from Bizet’s Carmen and the waitresses laughed because I was dancing to it in my seat.  What can I say?  I am a frustrated musician at heart.

Nice terrace area, but not when the market is going.

One of Bill’s buddies asked for wine.  We went shopping.

No touchy!

I’m not sure what this was about. 

We stopped in for more bottles of wine to bring home.

Then we ran across this harpist, who was entertaining these kids.  

She was very kindly letting them look at her instrument.  I got Bill to buy one of her CDs.  It turns out her name is Jessica Browning and she’s from… Memphis.  😀  Bill’s dad lives near Memphis.  And she has a Web site, too.  I love to buy music from buskers.

I enjoyed a gelato and watched the water while Bill chatted with her.

And this guy, too.

Dramatic skies on the way back to the hotel.

This was the last of the clouds during our visit!

Fancy in Annecy… Our first look at Hotel Les Grillons, a hotel where food is the star attraction! part three

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A staffer at Hotel Les Grillons met us at the door as we approached with some of our luggage.  An adorably pregnant young woman sat behind the reception desk and greeted us in perfect British English.  Actually, at first, I thought she sounded more like an Aussie than a Brit.  However, I soon realized that her French was just as perfect as her English was.  I don’t know if she was a product of parents from two countries or just had unusually good language training.  In any case, I got the sense that this was her hotel.  She handed us the key to room 25, which was on the third floor and had a nice view of the mountains and the lake.

By the front door…

 

The lovely young woman, whom I am going to assume was Aurelie Blanchin, advised us that the pool was unheated but available, as was the heated outdoor jacuzzi.  We booked the “half-board” option, which meant dinner was included in our rate.  The chef, Sébastien, makes a four course meal each night.  If there’s something on it you don’t like or can’t eat, you can let them know before 5:00pm and they will make substitutions.  I was delighted with the three dinners we had at the hotel.  We opted to go a more casual route last night.  More on that in a future post.

This was our humongous bed.  I was glad I brought an extra pillow, as I usually do here in Europe.  Bill wished he’d brought his, too.  This bed had a light duvet, one regular sized pillow, and one throw pillow.  Naturally, there is no air conditioning, but the window can be opened for a nice lake breeze.  There are also bugs, but they didn’t bother us too much.  The mattress was a little firm for me, but I’m used to sleeping on a feather bed.  I got used to it the firmer mattress after the first night.

These were our first views from our window.  They got better the next day, when the sun came out.

The bathroom, with nice herbal scented, wall-mounted toiletries.  I’m not a fan of those divider thingies, because they never keep the water off the floor.  Such was the case here, too, although the shower got great pressure.

Separate WC.

Large wardrobe with a safe.

 

Hotel Les Grillons has rooms that face the back of the hotel, as well as a few rooms on the second floor that have small balconies.  I happened to get the last room available for Saturday night– I think a large British tour group came through– otherwise, the other nights, the hotel was reasonably full, but not packed.

Every morning, the menu is placed in a framed easel in the lobby.  The above was what we were offered on our first night.  Drinks are not included in the half board rate, but they will give you a pitcher of tap water.  Not that we stuck with tap water, mind you.

Actually, we had a couple of big, French beers…

Bill soaks in the atmosphere as I watched the fish in the big aquarium next to where I was sitting.  My husband has come to love France.  Dinner service begins at 7:30pm and guests are invited to sit where they’d like between 7:30 and 8:30.

Bill chose a nice local red to go with dinner.  The wines were very reasonably priced.  In fact, I think they were a better deal than the beers.

First course… A carrot mousse, with fresh salad greens.  Every dinner also included a basket of fresh bread.

I made sure to get this wine on film so I can look for it locally.  It was a very pleasant, dry red that tasted of currants.

Next came perfectly cooked duck breast with cabbage, pears, and polenta…

Bill had a cheese course, which included a couple of local cheeses.  One was from a fromagerie just down the road from the hotel.  We passed it on our unplanned alternate route to the lake.

I had dessert, which Bill skipped.  It was a very light vanilla mousse with pineapple, whipped cream, and a fresh strawberry.

Once dinner was over, we were more than ready to call it a day.  And both of us were raving about how good the food and the service were.  It seemed odd not to tip anyone, but there’s really no way we could have.

Incidentally, during our first two nights, there was a family with two young children sitting near us.  The kids were well accommodated.  They even had a menu for them.

Fancy in Annecy… but first, a little Swiss piss… part two

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The weather on May 3rd, 2018 was looking kind of cold and dismal.  It was chilly enough in Germany, and it appeared that we might have some bad weather in France, too.  In fact, The Weather Channel was even predicting avalanches for the Annecy area.  Because I wasn’t sure what to expect, I packed clothes for every occasion.  I ended up bringing more than I really needed to, especially since after the first night, we had absolutely glorious weather.

A couple of weeks ago, Bill and I got stuck in a horrendous traffic jam on A81 when we decided to go to the ADAC office at Breuningerland in Sindelfingen to pick up a couple of Swiss vignettes.  For those who don’t know, here’s a brief explanation.  If you drive through Switzerland, you need a “vignette”, which is basically a sticker that proves you paid the yearly toll.  It costs 40 Swiss Francs or 35,75 euros.  The 2018 vignette is valid from December 1, 2017 until January 31st, 2019.  The stickers are available at the border, or you can order them and have them sent in the mail.  Most of the time, it’s very easy to just go to the mall and get them, although we may think twice about that next year!

Anyway, after Bill took the dogs to Max’s and put the sticker on my Mini Cooper convertible, we were ready to go.  The Mini Cooper is another reason why I wanted to leave the dogs in Germany.  Annecy is the kind of place that just begs for a convertible.  My car doesn’t get driven enough and it’s super fun to take it on the Autobahn, even if my husband’s RAV 4 is somewhat more comfortable and roomy.  When I saw the clouds in the sky on Thursday morning, I was afraid the trip might be wasted in my little car.  Luckily, as you’ll see as this series progresses, we had perfect convertible weather.

I guess these things had to come from somewhere.

Our trip south started off relatively uneventfully.  We headed down A81, passed the big phallic looking tower near Rottweil, and crossed into Switzerland.  I always get a kick out of the area near the border, since there’s a big Wunderbaum factory there.  Wunderbaum is the company that makes those “trees” you hang in your car to make it smell “fresh”.  Other than that, the Swiss/German border is a pretty boring place.  Actually, I was hoping for a beautiful drive like we had last year when we drove through Switzerland to get to Italy.  Unfortunately, the GPS sent us a different way.  Apparently, the main highway was closed for some reason.  Consequently, we went through some truly ugly parts of Switzerland… very industrial and not at all picturesque.

As the morning continued, I started getting hungry.  Bill agreed it was time for lunch.  He went into a town and then, inexplicably, decided that it wasn’t a suitable place to find food.  Time went on… I got hungrier.  Then I had to pee.  For some reason, Bill kept driving.  He was hoping to find a nice local restaurant, rather than a fast food place or highway restaurant.  Usually, when we travel with the dogs, we end up eating fast food.  Since we didn’t have them with us this time, he wanted to avoid that.  Good plan.  Except I get super bitchy when I’m hungry and have to pee.

Finally, as we got closer to Bern, I told Bill I didn’t care where he stopped, but I really needed to whiz.  At that point, I’d been holding it for a couple of hours.  It was also getting pretty late for lunch. Just as restaurants in Germany close for “pauses” between lunch and dinner, so do they in Switzerland and France.  It was about 1:30pm when he finally started searching for a place.  We passed an Italian restaurant that had parking out front and was curiously co-located with an Indian restaurant that also sold saris.  I kind of demanded that Bill stop there.  Drei Könige to the rescue!

Bill, being the sport he is, took the liberty of ordering a half carafe of house red while I took care of business.  Then, he took his turn.

See that look on Bill’s face?  I wasn’t the only one who needed to pee.

 

There was only one other guy in the restaurant when we visited and he was finishing up.  We had the waitress’s undivided attention as we decided on pasta dishes.

I had Spaghetti Carbonara, a dish I’d never had before I started dating Bill.  It’s pretty rich, since it’s made with egg, cream, and bacon.  The waitress brought me a huge serving, too.  It looked like they’d dumped a whole box of spaghetti into the pot.  I didn’t come close to finishing this and we couldn’t take it with us.  I will admit that it hit the spot, almost as well as the surprisingly good house red was. I don’t know what the house red was, but it was excellent.

Bill had spicy penne pasta that came in a more manageable size.  I liked his dish, with its sassy little peppery kick.

This was in both the men’s and ladies’ rooms.  It’s basically a natural aid for guys with large prostates.  I don’t know why this was in the ladies room, but I couldn’t resist sharing it.  I love this kind of stuff.

 

Switzerland is expensive.  This simple lunch set us back about 88 Swiss francs– that’s roughly akin to the same amount in US dollars.  However, the waitress was very kind to us and even mistook us for Germans.  I was surprised about that, since although we were speaking German, it was pretty terrible German.  She seemed genuinely surprised that Americans were dining in her restaurant.  She asked if I wanted to take the rest of the pasta, but it wasn’t feasible.  She agreed that it was a very large portion of pasta, even for a “truck” like me.  (“Truck” is a nickname a chef at a restaurant where I once waited tables gave me because I could carry up to nine entrees at a time.)

I snapped this photo as we were leaving…  just in time for them to take their “pause”.  Yes, I would eat there again.  The food was good, even if it was a bit too much in terms of quantity and price.

 

We got back on the road and promptly hit traffic as we approached the French border…

I was a little slow on the draw, but you can see we were nowhere near Paris.

This was a bummer…

But I got a kick out of the change kiosk.  They don’t have one of these fancy ones at the German border.

Yea!

 

Okay… so here’s about where Bill started getting really antsy for Annecy.  There was a lot of traffic.  We had to pay about 7 euros in tolls and Bill didn’t get close enough to the machine to collect his change.  Then, we were in one of many confusing traffic circles.  Some guy honked at Bill when he was trying to figure out which exit to take, causing him to take the wrong one.  He started cussing and I told him to chill out.  And then, blessedly, we got on the right road to Annecy, although it was not the most direct route.  I started to see why so many people fall in love with this area.  The scenery is just stunning.

Suddenly, I saw misty mountains by the crystal clear lake…

I snapped pictures while Bill pissed off all the people behind him, including one woman who was very animatedly showing how exasperated she was.

But I’m glad Bill slowed down so I could get a few shots.  This was our only totally cloudy day.  We only had a few clouds on Friday.

 

Talloires is a world away from Annecy, which is a true city in every sense of the word.  There are several hotels in this area, as well as a large campground and a place that appeared to rent “tiny” houses by the lake.  We didn’t take the time to explore the camping or tiny house options, but I wanted to mention it for those who are into that kind of thing.  Here’s a Web site for one place we noticed last night.

We pulled into the parking lot at Hotel Les Grillons at about 5:00pm… just in time to freshen up for dinner.

Fancy in Annecy… part one

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Some time ago, when I was messing around on my computer, I read an article about beautiful European cities that often go unnoticed.  I don’t remember any of the cities on that list now, except for one…  Annecy, France.  This gorgeous city is in southeastern France, next to crystalline Lake Annecy, in the Haute-Savoie Department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.  Annecy is not far at all from either the Italian or Swiss borders; Geneva is only about 20 miles or so north.  And yet, until I read about Annecy in a random travel article, I had never heard of the place.

Just one of the romantic scenes in Annecy…

For months, I tried to finagle a visit down there.  I knew we’d need an extra long weekend.  I thought we might need to bring our dogs with us, since our pet sitter is routinely booked solid when the weather gets nice.  I kept searching for pet friendly accommodations that would be suitable for us, but came up empty-handed.  Finally, Bill suggested that we take a short trip from May 3rd until May 7th.  Okay… originally, he only wanted to do three nights.  Then I reminded him of how long it takes to drive through Switzerland, which we would have to do to get to Annecy.  And I showed him some pictures of the city, which is very beautiful.  He asked for four nights and got them.  Fortunately, Max, the dog sitter, was able to take Zane and Arran.

Next, I went searching for a hotel.  Initially, I was very excited about booking a hotel instead of a pet friendly apartment or vacation home.  Once again, as I searched for suitable lodging, I kept running into issues that were dealbreakers.  Finally, thanks to Booking.com’s helpful location suggestions, I found us an unforgettable hotel called Hotel Les Grillons in the small hamlet of Talloires, which is about a twenty minute drive from Annecy.  Having now been to Annecy, I have to say that I am very glad I didn’t book a hotel in the city itself.  I’ll explain more about that later.

Yes, you can go boating… or parasailing… or just simply dream by the lakeside.

Suffice to say that we had four great nights at Hotel Les Grillons, a three star property next to the lake and boasting a beautiful pool area.  What really makes this hotel awesome, though, is the FOOD!  If you’re in my food and wine Facebook group, you may have already seen some of the pictures.  I was able to book half board, which included dinner every night.  Although we opted not to eat dinner at the hotel on the fourth night, we did enjoy three delicious multi-course meals.  A buffet breakfast was also included.  More on that, too, in a later post.

As usual, I’ll be breaking up my stories about this journey into several parts, so if this first post intrigues you, please be sure to follow along.  I took a lot of absolutely gorgeous pictures on this trip, which wasn’t hard to do.  Annecy and the surrounding area is just plain beautiful.

First thing’s first, though.  I had to learn how to pronounce “Annecy”.  Don’t make the mistake I made by called it “Ann-eh-cee”.  It’s two syllables and rhymes with “fancy” or “Nancy” (which is also a beautiful French city!).

There are videos out there, mostly made by Americans, pronouncing Annecy as if it has three syllables; but every French pronunciation I’ve heard, including within the actual city, sounds like the guy in this video.

Now that the introductions are out of the way, I shall commence to blogging.  I took the whole weekend off just so I could enjoy France properly.  Now that I’m home again, I’m ready to dish!