Category Archives: Annecy, Chambéry & France

Parc des Bauges : Le Petit Canada

By   September 1, 2009

We took a little drive up the mountains into the Parc des Bauges this afternoon. There are several different areas of the park, but we decided to go to Savoie Grand Revard – mostly because it’s pretty close to Chambéry and offers a great view of Lac du Bourget, but also because it’s called le petit Canada. Why is it called Little Canada? Well, the Parc des Bauges website says this: “Le plateau de Savoie Grand Revard, à l’altitude moyenne de 1400 m, contraste avec le reste du massif des Bauges par ses formes douces, aux ambiances canadiennes.”

First we stopped in La Féclaz because that’s where the Office du Tourisme is located. We got a ton of brochures for summer and winter activities as well as maps of all the hiking and skiing trails. I’m not so sure about the winter-time stuff since I hate the cold and abhor skiing, but I think I’d like to go to the adventure park D’un Arbre à l’Autre because they have zip lining from tree to tree (hence the name) and different types of rock-climbing and canyoning.

Then we continued north to Le Revard to stop at the belvédère where there is a vue exceptionelle of Aix-les-Bains & Lac du Bourget on one side and Mont Blanc on the other. It was a bit too cloudy to see everything, but I do have to agree that the view is exceptionelle.

And the many, many cows roaming around freely were very cute. Except when they were on the road. The fog rolled in while we were having coffee and tea at the restaurant and I was really regretting wearing only a t-shirt and shorts when we stepped outside. I don’t know if I will ever remember that mountains = colder temperatures before we set out on these trips…

We drove through more small villages and along Lac du Bourget on the way home. I loved being in the countryside where there are forests and lakes and more cows than people. I will gladly take the sound of cowbells over the sound of scooters any day. I can’t wait when we can move into a house far away from the noise of the city and where we can have our own terrain and not just a tiny terrasse or jardin.

Lac d’Aiguebelette en Savoie

By   August 28, 2009

We went to Lac d’Aiguebelette today, about 20 minutes west of Chambéry. It was a bit windy and too chilly for me to go swimming, so we just drove around the entire lake and took pictures of the beautiful countryside.  Next time we’ll rent a pédalo and actually go in the water.  We first attempted to get there by taking the scenic route, but turned around once we realized it would be 45 minutes of tiny mountain passes. The only other way to get there is to take the autoroute so you can go through the mountain instead of over it.

If you speak French, you may be wondering what a weasel (belette) has to do with this lake. Nothing, actually. The name means beautiful little water and it comes from the Occitan aiga (water) and French belle (beautiful) with the suffix -ette, meaning small or little. It’s also quite fun to say over and over again (like egg-buh-let).

There are two other big lakes in the pays savoyard, lac d’Annecy and lac du Bourget, but I prefer this one because of its pretty green color and the fact that its not overly-crowded like Annecy and there are plenty of beaches you can go to, unlike Bourget.  I also did not see or hear one motorboat on the lake, so it’s very calm and peaceful.

The DOM-TOMS (France outside of France)

By   August 25, 2009

I don’t remember how we got on the subject (I was probably going on and on about Quebec again), but David mentioned a few weeks ago that he can ask to be transferred to St. Pierre et Miquelon. These tiny islands south of Newfoundland are not even an overseas département, but a collectivité territoriale. They are the only remaining former North American colony of New France still under French control. And even though the islands are 16 miles from Newfoundland, the culture is still very French and not North American. The currency is the euro, electrical outlets and phone jacks are French, and most cars are Renaults or Peugeots. Even the milk is imported from France. Though there is one major American aspect. The houses are made of wood and painted in bright colors, with tambours attached to the front doors (I’m not sure what this is called in English) to  allow extra space to wipe snow off boots before entering the house.

The population is only just above 6,000, with 90% of the inhabitants living in St. Pierre and the rest in Miquelon. The original French settlers were Basque, Breton and Norman fishermen so today there is an annual Basque festival and the accent spoken is similar to Norman French. The weather can often be windy and rainy in the summer (highs in 60-70 F range) with a lot of fog and winters are snowy but not bitter cold. The more I learn about this place, the more intrigued I am. And I already checked to make sure they have high-speed internet (1723 households subscribe to DSL, which is a huge percentage of the overall population) since I could not live without internet. David & I were already planning on visiting Montréal and Québec next summer for vacation, so why not stop in St. Pierre too? Maybe we’ll decide it would be a nice adventure to move there, even for only a year or two.

And then I started thinking about the other DOM-TOMs (overseas departments and territories) and how we could live in such distant and unique places that belong to République Française, but are not in France. Martinique, Guadeloupe, Saint Martin and Saint Barthélemy are in the Caribbean; Guyane is in South America, La Réunion and Mayotte are in the Indian Ocean near Madagascar, Nouvelle-Calédonie, Polynésie Française, and Wallis et Futuna are in the Pacific Ocean. I’m not even sure which TOMs David could work in, since we originally thought he could only work in the DOMs (Guadeloupe, Martinique, Guyane, and La Réunion).  With the exception of Guyane, all are islands and I have never lived on an island before. I think I would get a little restless not being able to go on long car trips and knowing that I had to take a plane to go anywhere else. So now I’m thinking I’d rather just visit all the DOM-TOMs, like Rosie Millard is doing, just to experience how far French culture and language extends around the world. Of course we’ve still got several régions in France métropole to visit, including Corsica. Someday I will see all of France. Someday!

Canicule is not so cool

By   August 19, 2009

There’s been a heat wave in southern France and the Rhone Valley for a while, but luckily it’s not as severe as the heat wave of 2003. Savoie isn’t in vigilance orange like the nearby départements of Rhône, Drôme, Ardèche or Vaucluse but it has been hotter than usual here. I can’t even remember the last time the daytime temperature was below 32 C / 90 F. We should get a break this Friday with showers, but before then it could reach 38 C / 100 F like it has been in Lyon.

I’ve basically been living in the dark lately. We keep the shutters closed constantly, though I did open them this afternoon to set the drying rack on the balcony. I nearly burned my feet on the hot cement, but at least our clothes dried in no time. My poor car is parked on the road, in the sunshine, so there’s no way I’m getting into it. Good thing I don’t actually need to go anywhere.

I cannot for the life of me figure out why my furrier than a chinchilla cat prefers to sleep outside on the balcony in this heat rather than lie on the cool tile floor. How does he stand it?

Feux d’Artifices d’Annecy-le-Vieux et de Paris

By   July 14, 2009

A lot of the smaller towns in France have fireworks for Bastille Day the night of July 13th instead of on the 14th. Last night we went to Annecy-le-Vieux for their fireworks, and we were also treated to a rock concert for an hour beforehand. The band did covers of nearly everything – Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Police, U2, etc. -and they even changed costumes several times to match the music and bands. Of course every single song was in English so it almost felt like I was celebrating July 4th, except for the people speaking French and drinking wine and beer on a public beach.

We wasted about 30 minutes waiting in line at the snack bar (because there’s only one open that late – Annecy-le-Vieux isn’t exactly a happening place…) where David got an “Américain.” What is an American sandwich according to this greasy place? A baguette filled with two hamburger patties and french fries, with ketchup, mayo or barbecue sauce. I almost want to puke just thinking about it.

We made it back to the beach just in time for the fireworks, which also had music accompanying them. They set them off just a little ways into the water, so we were really close.

We should be able to see Chambery’s fireworks tonight from our back balcony, but I might watch the Paris fireworks online instead. Anyone can watch online through the site to celebrate the fact that the Eiffel Tower is 120 years old. Fireworks start at 10:45 PM French time, so 4:45 PM eastern time.

Les Jardins Secrets de Vaulx

By   April 13, 2009

About 30 years ago, a couple (Nicole & Alain) decided to buy and renovate an old, dilapidated farm in the countryside of Vaulx, around 20 km from Annecy. This is what it looks like now.

Each grandchild even has their own fountain dedicated to them.  Coolest grandparents ever!

Les Jardins Secrets is open everyday (even holidays!) until mid-October. An adult ticket is 7,50 € and there’s also a restaurant open in July & August. In the meantime, there are cold drinks and beignets available (made by Alain who claims they font pas grossir.)

From Annecy to Chambéry in May

By   March 20, 2009

Finally some news about David’s training and job.

David will be in Montpellier May 25 to June 12 for training, and then on June 15 he’s supposed to be in the city where his actual job is. We have no idea yet where that will be though!  We’re hoping to find out at the beginning of April so we can plan ahead.

There will be about 15 cities in France that he’ll have to choose from, and the preliminary list of cities didn’t have many in the south where I would love to live, but it did include Chambéry. He’s 13 out of 17 though, so I hope we don’t get stuck way up north or in Paris…

I will definitely be living in Chambéry for next year (until May 2010 at least) – but who knows if I will be alone with the cat or if David will be with me. David’s going to give notice at his job in Annecy and we also need to give our préavis to the landlord so she can find a new tenant. We plan on moving out at the beginning of May, when David will have some time off between finishing his old job and starting his training – which is in like 6 weeks. Not that I’m already stressing about it or anything.

So if anyone wants to live in a one bedroom apartment in the suburbs of Annecy, let me know. It’s a cute apartment and it was fine for David and me for a while, despite the lack of heat in the winter…

Carnaval Vénitien d’Annecy 2009

By   March 7, 2009

Annecy is the Venice of France, so we have our own version of the Venetian Carnival.

The Carnaval Vénitien is currently taking place in Annecy. David & I went downtown to see the parade this afternoon, but then quickly remembered what “parade” means in Annecy. The Masques walk very, very slowly through the old town, stopping every 5 seconds so that people can take pictures.

Except the pedestrian roads in the old town are so narrow and crowded that unless you are one of the old, selfish people at the front of the line who’s knocked down little kids to get there (seriously, old people here are vicious), you see absolutely nothing. And there are no barriers or fences to keep people out of the parade, so random people like to walk in front of or behind the Masques to get better pictures, which of course ruins the pictures for everyone else.

The Carnaval is put on by the Association Rencontres Italie Annecy and you can check their site to see photo albums of previous years as well as buy post cards. (I only took a few crappy pictures before we got fed up and decided to go eat some crêpes in a restaurant far away from the parade.) The Masques will be back out strolling around the streets of the vieille ville tomorrow morning starting at 11am if anyone in Annecy really wants to see them in person.

The costumes are gorgeous (and many are made by the lycée pro students here in Annecy), but I have to admit, the masks still freak me out a bit.

Le Col de la Forclaz above Lake Annecy

By   February 28, 2009

David and I finally returned to the Col de la Forclaz to take photos of Lake Annecy from above. We last went up there in November 2006, shortly after we met. It’s where many hang-gliders begin their journey down the mountains, and there’s also a small ski station (mostly for children), some restaurants and souvenir shops.

Annecy is at the far end of the lake, on the right, a bit lost in the haze today.

The weather is rather mild this weekend (mid 50’s and sunny), but there’s still plenty of snow up there, of course.

Or about 3,796 feet for the Metric-impaired.

Un parapentiste.

Trois parapentistes.

We stopped at Châlet la Pricaz for a drink before heading home. They have a pretty good view of the lake from their terrasse, though our drinks certainly weren’t cheap (3,50 € for orange juice!) In 2007, the New York Times mentioned the Châlet in an article about finding the perfect tartiflette in France. I wasn’t hungry while we were up in the mountains, but now I’m really craving some tartiflette!