I woke up at 6am to complete silence and opened my eyes to admire the sun glaring bright and with optimism through the open window. Where in the world could I be when the sun shines through an open window and there isn’t even the peek of a sound outside in the street?
I pushed the curtains aside taking in the scents of fresh flowers that hung with grace in an ageing basket outside, and leaned out to take in the scene. Before me, sat alongside autumn colours in the shimmering canal is a 12th century prison: The Palais de I’Isle and to my right I can see the beautiful colours of the lake while above them the mossy peaks of the mountains rise and fall through bright blue skies – each rise dotted with quaint villages and distant chateaus. Below me, a woman and her white Bichon Frise slowly walk over the old stone bridge and made towards the lake. I can’t help but smile as I take a deep breath and inhale the crisp fresh air of Annecy.
This was my first time visiting this beautiful little town (I’m now here full time for a little while at least) and it’s only gotten better with the passing seasons. Anyhow I digress. I decided as it was the height of summer that the best way to see the Lake would be to cycle around it, but first, I decided to head to the food market in the old town to pick up some Saucisson Sec, fresh vegetables, a wheel of Reblochon and a rustic Baguette.
Provisions gathered I started the ride at the ferry stop just across from the old town, heading along the Annecy side of the lake on the dedicated bike track that leads all the way to Albertville – on the way (a good 7 miles or so) I came across a little town called Duingt and a great lakeside spot for a picnic with an incredible view of the Castle Châteauvieux. It’s a little off the bike path but it’s worth a visit for the views and relaxing atmosphere. I continued, stopping at the occasional cafe and passing through an old rail tunnel through the mountains that is now a dedicated bicycle-only tunnel. I cycled on for at least another 20 minutes, wondering why the people had began to thin out every so slightly and then I caught my first look at the snowy peak of Mt. Blanc in the distance.
There are plenty of photo opportunities on the way and if, like me, you can’t help but pay more attention to the views than the map – you could end up on the outskirts of Albertville – miles away from the turning that takes cyclists to the right side of the lake…
Retracing my tire tracks back a few miles I finally got on track, riding high in the mountains, up vast stretches of road and down to beautiful villages like Menthon-St-Bernard and Veyrier du lac – both worth a stop for their sleepy atmospheres and vibrant views and the lovely castle in Menthon-St-Bernard if you have the time.
If you fancy a break from the bike you might consider a little game of mountainside tennis in the courts that you’ll find somewhere between Talloires and Menthon-Saint-Bernard – or even a quick round of Crazy Golf…with views of the lake of course. There are plenty of beaches on both sides of Lac d’Annecy – but it’s also entirely possible to find a remote spot where there are fewer people if you prefer. I stopped for a swim on the east side of the lake – just a few miles now from Annecy and with a view of the imposing L’Imperial Palace hotel.
The afternoon sun was beginning to fade and I just lay there for a while – surrounded by mountains, the occasional boat coming in and out of focus and the sounds of summer – a moment of bliss.