Annecy is called the "Venice of the Alps". The old buildings and cobbled streets are divided by crystal clear canals, connected by pretty small bridges and covered walkways. The combination of flowing water, little bridges and ancient architecture, all festooned in summer with flowers dipping right down to the water, makes for a beautiful scene. The streets in the old centre are bordered by a wide selection of small shops, cafes and restaurants under the cloistered walkways, with tables spilling out onto the cobbles.
Today Annecy still retains it's old cobbled centre and the famous Palais d'Isle, the distinctive 12th century monument. This was first the residence of the Lord of Annecy, and later became the Count of Geneva's administrative headquarters, then alternately a courthouse, the Mint, and finally a jail. Today it houses a very popular local history museum. It is an icon of the town and is among the most photographed monuments in all of France.
The old centre surrounds the Palais area with ancient buildings now containing shops, galleries and traditional restaurants. There is always plenty going on and there is a market in the old centre every Sunday where you can buy local produce and crafts as well as an Antiques and Art market every last Saturday of the month. There are festivals and events happening all the time with everything from street theatre, to jazz and classical open air music events in the summer, dancing beside the lake or Friday night rollerblading which everyone can join to the Christmas markets and iceskating in the winter.
Lake Annecy is the cleanest lake in Europe and with summer water temperatures of around 21 degrees is extremely popular for all watersports or simply swimming and paddling in the shallow waters off the lake beaches. You can hire all sorts of boats, peddaloes and kayaks, take a boat trip around the lake or use the boat “buses” to visit some of the lovely lakeside villages and walks around the shore. Walking in the area is simply sublime with access to easy walks high above the lake with fabulous views or right up to some serious walking and climbing amongst the crags. Its a well known area for paragliding which you can either try on a tandem flight or sit and watch with a coffee - on a warm sunny afternoon there are so many it looks like a swarm of brightly coloured gnats travelling along the mountainside.
It is only a short drive or bus ride from Annecy into the heart of the Aravis - a gorgeous Alpine area at virtually any time of year. The autumn colours rival any in New England, and against the backdrop of mountains and blue skies, The views from the many well marked footpaths are just stunning. In late spring and summer the fields are covered in alpine flowers - complete the view with the cows and the lazy ringing of the cow bells and it's a little piece of heaven on earth.
It is also a great base for skiing as you can be parking a car right beside the ski lifts up at Le Grand Bornand or La Clusaz within 30 to 40 minutes - leaving soft shoes in the car to quickly change out of skiboots after a fabulous day on the pistes. The resorts themselves are less crowded and touristy than some of the more well known resorts but still have a wide variety of extremely pretty and sunny slopes for all abilities as well as some great snowparks. It's a popular area with the French, but less well known to British tourists. We have always found everyone to be really friendly and happy to work with limited French! Return to Annecy after a great day on the pistes and then enjoy a huge range of restaurants for all budgets - and usually cheaper than the high prices of the large ski resorts.