It’s 8:30 AM. The warmth of the sheets of the bed are wrapped around my body, and I refuse to wake up. I don’t even want to open my eyes, but my body tells me it’s time to start the day. After meditating on whether to sleep five more minutes, I wake to find myself in a room I have never slept in before. I finally stand up, go down the narrow stair steps and look around me. My sight goes to the brightest spot in the room.
As soon as I open the medium-sized window, a fresh breeze runs into my sleepy face. The sky is clear and the sun rays do not shine intensely yet, so the sun seems to only be part of the scenery. It is cold. I stand on my tiptoes, hold myself to the edge of the wall so I do not lose balance, and take my head out of the window — as if doing so would get closer to the buildings in front of me. I stare at the apartments, at their roofs, at the neighbor’s already-dry clothes that are hanging from their balconies. I turn to the left and I see them. I smile. The fog from yesterday night is no longer there. It is a new day, and I am in my AirBNB’s living room. The Alps are telling me, “Nice to meet you!”
That was my first morning in Annecy after an exhausting 8-hour bus ride from Paris. I will be honest: having a getaway weekend from The City of Lights was one of the greatest decisions I’ve made during my summer. Don’t get me wrong, living in Paris has been an amazing experience that I would not trade for anything; the city itself offers all types of opportunities: historic places to visit, museums to explore, gardens to picnic at, sceneries to admire, cuisine to enjoy and much more.
But exploring other French cities is something that has given an added meaning to my study abroad.
The so-called “Venice of France” has around 124,401 dwellers, according to a 2014 survey, and has its very own magic. Here are some of the things I enjoyed the most and recommendations on why you should consider heading off to the north of the French Alps in southern France.
1. Moving around is very easy.
As somebody who lives in a city at home that requires you to have a car, I am deeply in love with the public transportation system in Paris and its sidewalks. Having the option of walking, taking the subway, or taking a bus gives me a sensational feeling of freedom and independence. With the exception of the subway, Annecy also offered me these options, and I greatly appreciated it. Because it is a small place, walking around is the best thing to do. If you want to go hiking or sightseeing in the outskirts of the city, taking the bus would save you time.
2. The food is to die for.
Try the galettes and or other dishes! Getting the local culinary experience is highly encouraged when visiting other cities. My traveling friend and I found out that some restaurants would open at around 11:30 AM, so be aware that if you want to have something other than an intercontinental breakfast (bread, jam, juice and coffee) in the center of Annecy, you have to wait until the afternoon.
When you finally choose a place to eat, the most difficult part arises: What do I get? So many things seem appetizing! Of the many options, I had the galette végétarienne, which had jam, emmental cheese, egg, tomatoes and mushrooms. For dinner, we looked for restaurants that seemed to prepare local or regional meals so we could taste new and unknown flavors. Try new restaurants and foods as many times as your budget allows it, you won’t regret it! Also, if you are in France, tap water is drinkable and free in many restaurants, unless it is bottled water, so don’t forget to tell the waiter, “une carafe d’eau, s’il vous plaît.”
3. You can get in touch with nature.
Have you ever imagined swimming in one of the largest lakes in France and in one of the cleanest lakes in Europe? Well, dare. With its breathtaking view, Annecy is the place to make this dream come true — and with the Alps in the background! When my feet touched the sand and the water, I forgot where I was and genuinely thought I was in a fairytale.
For the two and a half days that I was there, the weather was very up and down. The days went from sunny to cloudy, from cloudy to foggy and from foggy to rainy within minutes. For this reason, I was not able to enjoy the city in all its glory and going hiking was not a feasible option. However, I did get to venture into the city to explore a bit. If you are luckier than me, you will be able to enjoy nature at a greater extent: swim in the lake when the sun is brightly shining, go hiking, or just have fun outdoors!
4. The culture is deep and rich.
Annecy has a blatant history to enjoy as you wander around the city. There are some museums and places with magnificent architecture. Some noteworthy places are Château d’Annecy, the conservatory of art and history, and the Palais d’Île (if it is not closed), to name a few. You should also consider going to the famous Pont des Amours to admire the landscape and have your picture taken.
5. The local markets are a window into the city’s soul.
Going to the Sunday market was a very interesting experience. I was able to see the rich variety of products that are offered: fruits, vegetables, teas, coffee, olive oils, macarons, cheeses, soaps, honey, jams, wines, and so many more. I went to the marketplace as a way of exploring and seeing what was offered there, but I ended up doing much more than that. Whenever approaching a business, I asked the vendors questions about the quality, the origin, the production process, and the prices of their merchandise. Engaging in such a way with them helped me practice my French and I learned about different types of wines (including differences between them), macarons, jams, and honey.
Rain or shine, Annecy is a superb city that is worth a getaway weekend. It may be small in size, but immeasurable in fun. Be prepared, because Annecy will take your breath away!