Coming from a huge country like the United States, my mind automatically, and mistakenly, considers France a small country. Consequently, each time we plan a trip inside of France, even in the same region of southern France, I’m shocked that it’s a five-, six- or seven-hour journey.
Another unexpected aspect is that France has the feeling of being several unique countries in one. Traveling this weekend to Annecy, France, I could hardly believe we hadn’t actually crossed the border to Switzerland and were still almost 40 kilometers south.
A fairly small town in southeastern France, Annecy is surrounded by the French Alps and is on the shore of Lake Annecy.
It was just a three-and-a-half hour drive from Aix-en-Provence, but every sign of Mediterranean lifestyle was gone, and in its place was alpine-style architecture, tree-covered mountains and the feeling of isolation that only comes in a place where you feel on top of the world.
We spent Saturday hiking a mountain across the lake from Annecy, starting the journey at the mountainside village of Talloires and ending at the ancient Ermitage de Saint-Germain, close to the peak.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a huge outdoors person, and the hike itself wasn’t a highlight for me, but the sights along the way made the steep climb worth it.
We stopped at a beautiful waterfall called Cascade d’Angon, crossed a stone half-circle “fairy bridge,” and walked through a tranquil, rural community with cows grazing just a few steps away from our trail.
Going from the bustling city of Aix-en-Provence just the day before to feeling like the only people around for miles on top of a mountain was a surreal experience.
On Sunday we enjoyed all the small Vieille Ville that Annecy had to offer. We walked to a restaurant that offered pancakes for brunch, shocked that a French restaurant would make them, and quickly discovered that they still haven’t quite got the hang of pancakes here when we were served two small crepes each.
Not to be discouraged, we picked up delicious pastries and walked around the lively market filling the main thoroughfare of Annecy. The streets of the old town were flanked by picturesque canals, pastel colored buildings and flowers spilling down from balconies overhead.
The Château d’Annecy, a nearly 1,000-year-old castle in the center of the old town, housed everything from modern art to information on the geological composition of the lake to a panoramic view of the town.
I love going to major destination cities, like I did on my trip to Barcelona a few weeks ago, but I also love the relaxed vibe and lack of expectations that come with going to small town like Annecy.
This weekend felt like a little vacation from real life, and I’m going back to Aix well rested, not exhausted from racing around trying to see every attraction possible in 48 hours.
This trip also made me excited to see every different region of France and experience all the diverse culture this country has to offer.
More in Travel
Travel columnist Rachel Rosenstock reflects on her semester in Aix-en-Provence.
Travel columnist Rachel Rosenstock makes a weekend trip to her favorite city.
Being abroad for an entire school year means missing important and valued events.