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Published: April 15th 2019
Sunday 14th April
Our coach took us from Lyon to Annecy in about an hour and a half. One could see the country changing as we went along. Still morning when we arrived in Annecy, we had time to walk around and have lunch before our lake cruise at 3pm. What a gorgeous place! Beautiful lakeside parks and promenades, classic French architecture in the town, the old canals carrying fresh mountain water from the lake (yes, away from the lake, it is the outflow, which ends up in the Rhône River later on). The narrow streets are crowded with restaurants, and were very crowded with people too, as the weather was sunny and there were street market stalls. All this with the spectacular backdrop of rugged mountains. The Annecy Marathon on the Lake was also running, so it was a very busy place! I had a very enjoyable lunch as a few of us went to a crèpe restaurant where I was able to get buckwheat crèpes, which are gluten free.
The cruise on the lake was delightful, with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, some snow-capped, and the lakeside towns. It was sunny and very pleasant, with only
occasional cold gusts of wind. There were plenty of people out on the lake in pedalos, near to Annecy, and a few sailing boats further out. A very relaxing afternoon.
For dinner we went a traditional raclette restaurant, a specialty of this region. Huge half-wheels of cheese are melted with big cheese-melting devices onto the charcuterie and hot potatoes on one's plate. Hearty fare, which some found a bit heavy, but it was an enjoyable meal. Dessert was a good contrast, being a nice sorbet.
Monday 15th April
This morning we headed off in the coach to Chamonix, which is a ski resort town close to the Swiss and Italian borders, right up in the Alps in the SE corner of France. As we drove along the mountains became higher and more rugged, with lots of snow. Arriving in Chamonix, we discovered the large crowd of mostly skiers lined up across the square waiting to board the Aiguille du Midi cable car, which goes from the town at 1030m up to Aiguille du Midi at 3842m. It's an amazingly steep cable, quite breathtaking, especially the second run – there is a halfway station where one
must change to a second cable car. The day was sunny and completely clear, but it was cold, being 2 degrees at the bottom and about -10 at the top. This was why we had all brought seriously warm clothes, like thermals and beanies.
Despite the cold and the altitude we enjoyed absolutely stunning and crisp views over the Alps, and down to Chamonix, nearly 3km below! Many skiers were heading out onto the snow – all off-piste here. Some were planning to ski to Italy and take the bus back. Conditions were perfect for skiing. Mont Blanc was close by and clearly identified by its rounded shape and smooth snowy flanks. It is the highest peak in Europe.
After about an hour trying to take in the awe inspiring views, it was time to descend. I took a short stop at the midpoint and had a walk on the snow. This was a more comfortable altitude, and looking up at the highest peaks instead of across them was also special. Back in town for a look around and then coach back to Annecy.
Time for another walk and sit-awhile along the lakeside, enjoying the beautiful sun
and the views. I visited a pharmacy (another one) and had a good chat in French about my cold (To summarise: J'en ai marre!). The pharmacist recommended some more medications. Many medicines here are herbal and natural remedies – I am yet to be convinced of their effectiveness, as my cold symptoms persist, but they do help I guess.
Tomorrow we have a really early start (leaving 6.30am!) to travel to Mont Dore in central France.
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