Annecy in the Haute-Savoie department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region has so much to offer tourists. Catherine Berry gives us her top tips and ideas for a visit!
Guest: Catherine Berry
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Catherine Berry has appeared on the Loulabelle’s FrancoFiles podcast previously way back in episode 39 when she chatted about her own life story of taking her family to live in France in the area around Annecy. Catherine wrote the first of her books about that experience, But You Are In France Madame.
In this current chat Catherine shares her expertise about Annecy, the largest city and capital of the Haute-Savoie department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of Southeastern France. It lies on the northern tip of Lake Annecy, and my discussion with Catherine provided me with a glorious virtual escape to that beautiful part of France, which I visited only last year prior to Christmas.
Annecy is close to both the Italian and Swiss borders, not too far from Chamonix and Mont Blanc. In the other direction, it is about a 2 hour drive from Lyon. When Catherine flies to France, she and her family drive to Geneva airport which is approximately 35 kilometres north, rather than Paris as it is so close and easily accessible.
The scenery around Annecy is breath-taking. Lac d’Annecy is the jewel in the area and being spring fed it is beautiful all year round. Catherine advised that the local counsellors in the 1960s took steps to ensure the lake was protected and kept clean. The mountains rising straight from the lake are striking and like nothing I have ever seen before in Australia nor anywhere else.
There are beautiful links to the past in Annecy, but the oldest looking part of the town, which is the most famously photographed area around the canals and the old prison, is not actually the oldest original part. There is another older part called Annecy-le-Vieux. The country surrounding Annecy is rugged and before the advent of good roads and transport, the area was quite remote. The recorded history goes back over a thousand years with the great grandson of Charlemagne deciding in the year 866 that he didn’t want any more to do with his wife, so he divorced her and sent her to live in Talloires near Annecy. It seems she might have made the best of being carted off to such a place as Lac d’Annecy would have been at that time. She created a tiny religious establishment which then in turn brought monks to the area who created a monastery, which then brought about the construction of an abbey. The site of this abbey has just celebrated its 1000th anniversary back in 2018.
The monks of the Lac d’Annecy region had vines for wine, as with many areas across France throughout history. There was a blight that came through the area however killing off the vines and the production of wine ceased for the monks with a change made to farming cows. Recently a piece od the religious charter was discovered from the 1100s. Even back then there was a mention of the village weekly market. It’s hard for me to comprehend a weekly habit that has continued continuously every week for 1000 years.
Interestingly Annecy has not always been French with periods of history spent belonging to the Counts of Geneva or the Counts of Savoie, or even with an Italian influence. The annexation of the Savoie merged the city to France in 1860.
Catherine’s favourite time in Annecy is spring after the breaking of the snow. Mid-year is very busy with large crowds coming to visit for the benefit of the lake in the heat of the summer as well as the water sports. I adore it in winter although that is not so practical if moving from place to place, dragging luggage through the slush and the snow. Either side of summer both prior or post the peak season can be cheaper and less crowded for a visit that still enjoys good weather.
Annecy has lots to provide for tourists with beautiful areas for nature lovers, a 12th century castle for the history buffs, a ferry service during some parts of the year to get around the lake, as well as day trips to head to Chamonix, Evian and countless other beautiful areas. In summer there is a sculpture trail which will keep the kids entertained, or in winter there is the frozen Angon waterfall near Talloires. Catherine also recommends going to the festivals or events that are advertised on handmade announcements advertised in shops or light posts around the region. That way tourists can see a little of local French life as it is lived by the locals.
Local specialties in the Haute-Savoie:
Catherine Berry’s links
Instagram – @butyouareinfrancemadame