A Visit to Lake Annecy France
For those of you who are not familiar with Annecy, it sits at the northern end of Lake Annecy, and is approximately 150 kilometers east of Lyon, France and 42.5 kilometers south of Geneva, Switzerland.
During research for our 2013 European Trip, we knew that we were going to drive from Carcassonne to Munich (1,175 kilometers) and that the amount of driving time was much more than we wanted to endure in a single day.
So we started looking at locales that would be good to break the trip into two drives, and we decided on Lake Annecy. In part because we found some interesting places to visit there, and in part because of it's proximity to Chamonix and Mont Blanc. Once we realized how beautiful the Lake Annecy area was, we decided to increase our overall timeline in Europe so that we could spend 5 days in Annecy.
From Carcassonne we got to Annecy around dinner time (560 kilometer drive), and once again, our Tom-Tom navigation device (an old school stand-alone navigation device that was popular before true mapping Applications became a reality on cellphones and laptops) that we had named "Suzette", was able to navigate us through city streets that would have been difficult without assistance. We were bound for the Annecy Adagio Centre, and given the number of one way streets and round-abouts, a Tom-Tom (or some type of mapping system) is a very necessary tool to have!
If you have never been to Lake Annecy area & either you are planning a trip there, or you just want to know more about it, here are some good sources of information;
Driving to Annecy
Getting to Annecy was straight forward until we had to exit the French A41, onto the D3508, then the D1501 and then right onto the Avenue des Hirondelles. At the big traffic circle, we then exited left onto Avenue de Bouvard which eventually brought us to our final traffic circle where we found Place Marie Curie on our right which included the Aparthotel Adagio Annecy Centre where we had reservations.
After we checked into the hotel, we found that they had underground parking below Place Marie Curie, which allowed us to keep the rental car in a safe area until we needed it.
Sounds a bit complicated doesn't it? By road, it is only 16 kilometers from the A41 to the hotel, but with traffic circles and construction on the Avenue de Bouvard plus never having been to Annecy before, it did create a bit of tension. Without our Tom-Tom device and a paper map, we probably would have gotten lost!
Gorges du Fier (Annecy Area)
Gorges du Fier: This is an amazing gorge, with the River du Fier rushing through the rocks below. It is only 12.1 kilometers from Annecy, however, the route is all rural two lane roads that twist & turn frequently. Very pretty area, but impossible to transit at any speed.
Our route from our Annecy Hotel to the Gorges du Fier; Route de Chavaroche to Route de Bellville to Route de Chavaroche. As this route involves multiple round-a-bouts, it is suggested that your "navigator" have a map Application up & running!
The Fier gorges are a remarkable natural curiosity of France, a very deep and narrow gorge that can be visited through a gateway attached to the rock face, arranged in the middle of the 19th century. This gorge was cut by the mighty Fier torrent in the town of Lovagny, some 11 kilometers west of Annecy.
The catwalk is solidly attached to the rocky sides of the gorge, perhaps 50 feet above the river below. There is barely enough room for a person to walk forward, with wider areas to allow people to return to the starting point.
Le Thiou River: Look at this beautiful central Annecy scene! Annecy has been called the "Venice of the Alps"; the winding cobblestone streets lined by pastel houses and bright flower boxes will make you fall in love with this small French town.
The Thiou River is considered the shortest river in France with its 3.5 km of length and forms a maze of canals in Annecy, that contribute to the beauty of the "Venice of the Alps".
The Gardens of Europe: We had gone to the park to play some frisbee, and decided afterwards to hike around the park on the Quai Napoleon III. The first image above was on the south side of the park at a small boat docking area. The second image is from the north side of the park near the Pont des Amours.
Beyond the mountains on the eastern side of Lake Annecy, is the Chamonix Valley area of France - which includes Mont Blanc.
Plage du plant: Lake Annecy is surrounded by a number of small public beach/park areas, providing a nice place to go for a quick swim and a picnic at lunch time. The lake and the town were so scenic and interesting, everything exceeded our expectations.
The Lake Annecy water was so blue that I thought we were in the Caribbean. You can swim in the water from anywhere around the lake, as there are multiple beaches. I had never imagined such a place, it was beautiful and we were glad to have taken the time to explore here.
The above pictures were taken at Plage du plant as we drove down the eastern side of the lake on French Route D909A headed towards Chateau Menthon Saint-Bernard.
Palais de l'Isle: The Palais de l'Isle is a 12th century castle on an island in the River Thiou in Annecy. It mostly served as a prison and courthouse until the French Revolution and was again used a prison during World War II. The Palais de l'Ile was classified as a Historical Monument in 1900, and today houses a local history museum.
Next adventure was to drive to the Chamonix Valley and ride the Aiguille du Midi cable car to the top of the mountain. As this area is very popular, it was imperative to get there "early enough" to get onto the cable car, as the ticket windows get crowded quickly in the summer time.
Warning: This is not an inexpensive cable car! A single adult round trip ticket (currently) costs 63€
Taken from the cable car window, looking out at the sheer cliffs of Aiguille du Midi.
The cable car actually has a mid-point stop, such that the steepest ascent is made from that location, rather than from the valley floor below.
This cable car ride is not for the faint of heart. It feels like you are climbing to the heavens and the car sways back and forth as you ascend.
You can see how the cable car cables are ascending into the clouds above in this picture right? The top station is somewhere in those clouds!
You can see a descending cable car in the center left area of this picture.
Note: This is highest vertical-ascent cable car of any in the world, sending cars from 3,400 feet (above sea level) in Chamonix, France, to over 12,600 feet at the Aigulle du Midi summit.
Aiguille du Midi peak: is a 3, 842 meter peak in the Mont Blanc massif of the French Alps. This is the closest you can get to the summit of Mont Blanc without climbing. You can tell where Mont Blanc is by virture of the direction these photographers are facing.
Once at the top, it is not only cold, but mostly clear and you are above the clouds. The surrounding mountains are all snow covered, and attracted the photographers who rode up with us.
Mont Blanc (just south of Aiguille du Midi) is the highest mountain in the Alps and the highest in Europe west of Russia's Caucasus peaks. It rises 4,808.7 meters (15,777 ft) above sea level and is ranked 11th in the world in topographic prominence.
Chamonix Valley: Way, way down in the distance in the valley below, is the village of Chamonix (right center of this picture). Doesn't this picture give you a great idea of just how high up we were! As the Plan de l'Aiguille (cable car mid-point station) is at 2,317 meters (7,602 feet) and since we were just below the station, I would guess that we were sitting at probably 7,500 feet above sea level when we took this picture.
We were perched on a small cliff, just below the cable car mid-station, and you can see the cable car towers on the right side of this picture.
Inside the peak of Aiguille du Midi: Image #1 is the main walkway where the Museum of Alpinism shows you the history of the mountain. At the other end of this tunnel, was where you would have to go if you wanted to catch another cable car and descend into Italy.
Image #2 is the entrance to the Museum of Alpinism – the highest museum ever built.
To read more about how to take another cable car into Italy from Aiguille du Midi, click here. This suggested website has some really great images & videos of the cable car to Italy.
On the way back down our cable car was filled by a very large tour group which was taking up every available inch & wanting even more, so we decided to get off at the mid-mountain station and explore.
Here we were walking below the station, where we could get a great view of the descending cable cars & the valley way below us.
Getting off the crowded cable car and exploring, turned out to be a good decision, as we got a chance to view Chamonix from an incredible location and to have a quick snack as well.
Note: There is a ticket called the spécial randonée ticket, which gives you a ride to the top but you have to exit the cable car at the mid-point station and hike down to Chamonix.
A picture of our youngest son Jeremy, as we paused due to the relative lack of oxygen at that altitude and the steepness of the hike.
This is a picture of my wife, as all of us had to stop to catch our breath. The oxygen at this altitude is a bit thin!
These donkeys were grazing along our hiking path, seemed as though the altitude did not bother them as much as it did us!
The above pictures were taken as we had exited the mid-point cable car station, the Plan de l'Aiguille at 2,317 meters. The cable car second stage traverses the Les Pelerins glacier before rising (nearly vertically without towers) up the North Face of the Aiguille du Midi to the top station (3,778 meters).
Once the cable car arrives at the top, a footbridge connects the cable car top station with the Central Piton terrace. An elevator inside the rock then takes the visitor the final 42m to the top terrace at an altitude of 3,842 meters.
After a snack, we hiked back up to the mid-mountain station to catch the cable car back to the Chamonix Valley.
Doesn't look very steep does it? I can assure you that it was! The cable car on the right side of the building is headed back down to the Chamonix Valley, and the Aiguille du Midi cable cars depart from the left side of the building.
As we hiked nearer to the mid-mountain station, the ascending cable cars were not far above us, providing for a good "Kodak moment".
Note to potential Aiguille du Midi cable car visitors: See how big that cable car is? It is always packed to the gills (50 to 60 passengers) in the summer time, and the ticket window line is always very long, you must get there early or you will wind up standing in a long line waiting for those people who got there earlier, to clear out and catch their cable car ride.
Village of Chamonix: is very picturesque everywhere you look and a great place to walk about. Since the surrounding area is covered with ski areas, the village has a large number of ski shops, mountain climbing shops, restaurants, pubs, and a number of boutiques.
Jacques Balmat Memorial: This bronze statue in the Chamonix’s main square, was built in 1887 to commemorate the centenary of the first ascent of Mont Blanc. Seen from behind, it is dramatic; two men, one of them pointing to Mont Blanc with an outstretched arm. You can sense the celebration inherent in the stance. Image #2 is that same statue from behind it and you can more easily discern that the man is pointing at Mont Blanc.
The climbers who first ascended Mont Blanc were Jacques Balmat, a Chamois hunter and crystal collector, and Dr Michel Gabriel Paccard, a Chamonix doctor. However, this statue is of Jacques Balmat and his financier Horace Bénédict de Saussure. Another statue nearby this one, commemorates Dr. Paccard.
Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard: We took image #1 while we were on the boat tour around the Lake, and as the boat crew provided some amount of narration as to what we were seeing, this is how we found out what this chateau was all about. The chateau buildings (center right of image #1) are all original, and were built between the 13th and 19th centuries.
Image #2 can be seen as you drive up the hill to reach the Chateau parking lot, we missed taking our own picture because we were busy navigating! You have to admit that it is a stunning example of a Chateau.
One of the things we wanted to accomplish on the Lake Annecy boat tour, was to disembark at the Talloires pier and trek up to the Cascade d'Angon (Waterfalls of Angon). When we researched the hike, it seemed very doable at a distance of just under 3 kilometers and approximately 45 minutes from the Talloires pier - and - the images of the waterfall were beautiful!
The first image displays what the trail was like; very rocky and a continously steep ascent. As one of our party did not have on good hiking shoes, plus it was very hot that day, we decided to come back down the trail (after getting to the halfway point) to reboard the boat tour at the Angon pier (3rd picture). The end result was that we got there "too quickly" (next boat wasn't due for 2.5 hours) and we were all hungry and since the Restaurant L'Aquarama was immediately next to the pier, we decided to have lunch there.
Lunch was very good, you might want to give this place a try if you are ever in this area of France.
As the boat tour progressed, it began to be clearer & clearer what a beautiful area Lake Annecy was! The first image above is Chateau de Duingt as the tour boat approached. Image 3 shows how everyone huddled out of the sun, because it was still a very hot day! And image 2 shows the tour boat slowing to tie up at the small village near Chateau de Duingt.
As the tour boat continued north back to Annecy, the views of the lake and shoreline continued to inspire everyone onboard to take a lot of pictures!
When the tour boat stopped in the village of Duingt, we were able to see the Roc de Chère National Nature Reserve on the other side of the lake.
The next day after our water taxi tour of Lake Annecy, we drove back to visit the Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard because visitors are allowed. This image is looking down at Lake Annecy from the parking area of the chateau.
This bridge overpass, on the French A40 back to Annecy from Chamonix, looks very Roman doesn't it? Its appearance was meant to look that way. This particular bridge is for trains coming into Chamonix.
Click here for the Wiki page listing various Roman constructions. And just as an added point to ponder, the Romans invented concrete to solve the issue of building piers & docks that would endure longer even though the construction took place "in the water".
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