ALL THE WAY ROUND LAKE ANNECY
The cool, cloudy weather has persisted, but we didn’t let that stop us from getting out to see more of Lake Annecy today. We started the day with a leisurely cruise that took us about three quarters of the way around the lake, from Annecy to the tiny township of Saint Jorioz; then finished by walking the remaining 15km back to Annecy. The views of the lake and surrounding landscape, from both the boat and on foot, were marvellous and more than satisfied our desire for epic scenery.
Keen to get going early we woke at 7:00, well before most of the town. We decided to take advantage of our early start and went out to explore Annecy a little before heading down to the dining room for breakfast*. Walking the same streets as yesterday afternoon we got to see the old town at its quietest, which was lovely.
*Most of the places we’ve stayed at here in France include breakfast with their room rate which is great. The breakfasts are never the kind of hearty, heart attack inducing meals we were getting served in the UK, but they’re enough to get you started for the day.
Walking to the lakeshore we had the place almost entirely to ourselves. There were a few fishermen out early, keen to catch their dinner for the day. But aside from that, it still and serene down on the water. There were dozens of pedalos (i.e. paddle boats) along the waterfront, all sitting still now that everyone’s back at school and work. And many of the boats moored along the jetties were covered over and secured, packed away until the next time their owners get a chance to head out on to Lac d’Annecy for the day.
We’ve seen photos of the lake in peak summer holidays and it’s madness! Today however, it was wonderfully peaceful. Even when we set out on our lake cruise (at the far more reasonable hour of 10:30am, after everyone’s had time to have breakfast and at least 1 coffee), things were still pretty quiet.
The boat we were on can seat 200 people; there were 10 of us aboard as we set off for Veyrier du Lac, the first of a dozen or so stops around the lake. Famed for its high end hotels, most of them built during the 1920s, Veyrier was once the holiday spot of princes and wealthy industrialists. Today most of the tourists run more to the “family” and “retired” kind, but there were still signs that the town is favoured by the “well heeled”.
Next stop was Menthon Saint Bernard, famous for its grand castle perched high on the rocky hill behind the town. The Château de Menthon is a Medieval castle dating back to the 13th century. Since 1180 the castle has been occupied by the Menthon family; they live there still. In the summer the current Count of Menthon opens part of the castle up for visits, but for now the doors are well and truly shut to us peasants.
Around the southern end of the lake we passed the Bout du Lac nature reserve, a wetland area popular with birdwatchers and swamp-lovers. We’re neither so we stayed on board.
Along the western shore we stopped in at the village of Duingt, once a prosperous market town. Here too there’s a castle you’re not allowed to visit: the Château de Duingt. Located on a small island connected by a causeway to the mainland, the castle belongs to another Savoyard noble family.
The lake is surrounded by mountains and hills, varying in height from 400m to more than 2,000m. Some of these rise rather dramatically out of the surrounding landscape, all craggy and stony. One of the steepest mountains is popular with paragliders as a launching spot; we got to see a few of these brave/crazy souls leap into the air and glide their way down through the currents and eddies.
Eventually the boat pulled in at Saint Jorioz, our stop. The village of Saint Jorioz itself is very small and cute enough, though not engaging enough to keep us entertained for long. So we started out on the walk back to Annecy. Most of the walk followed the lakeshore, though the first part of it took us through forests and past fields full of dairy cows.
We emerged from the forest near the village of Sevrier, famous for its beach* which, in summer, is no doubt packed with people keen to enjoy the lake’s cool waters and relax on its shores. In keeping with the day’s theme, however, the beach was almost empty today. There was one crazy family swimming; we later learnt they were from Scotland, which explained how they could be swimming when it was only 19C outside and the water temperature was nigh on freezing! Shane stuck his feet into the water to see if it was worth considering going for a dip; his verdict? Nut-shrinkingly cold!
*Lac d’Annecy has a sandy bottom and there are, in fact, sandy/pebbly beaches dotted around its shores.
The rest of the walk, back to Annecy, ran right along the lake’s edge. This gave us prime position to enjoy the views and admire the magnificent aquamarine colour of the water.
We got back into Annecy late in the afternoon, tired but content after our day’s explorations around the lake. No doubt the vibe here in completely different at the height of summer, when the water is busy with swimmers, boats, and pedalos, and the shoreline is packed with people relaxing, eating ice cream, walking their dogs, riding their bikes, and rollerblading. Still, it’s nice to have the lake virtually to ourselves for the day and are looking forward to having another day to enjoy Lac d’Annecy tomorrow.