23 December 2009

Baby It's COLD Outside

Annecy, home of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, is a beautiful town in the Savoie(Savoy) region of eastern France, only about 26 miles from Geneva. It is a big ski town on the northern edge
of Lac d'Annecy, with the mountains which seem to rise straight out of the water. The
Thiou canal, a former industrial route, runs through the center of town. With the stone
bridge crossings and little island, it gave Annecy the nickname "little Venice".

Upon arrival we were greeted by bitingly chilly air and dramatic cloud-cover over the
town and lake. Were we at all prepared for the weather? Hells no. Did we still attempt
to venture out of our cozy 10' x 10' hotel room? Hells yes.

Annecy is situated more or less on the northwestern tip of the lake. We walked for a good 2 hours along the path across the entire northern edge(ok fine, so that's the short end, so what...) to Annecy-le-Vieux, awed by the clear water of the lake and cursing our frozen, dripping noses.

Annecy has recently been noted as being one of the oldest inhabited sites in the
Northern Alps, with research dating Annecy-le-Vieux back to 3,100BC.

Believe it...or not...because we didn't believe it at first either- we witnessed the process of a woman strip down layers of jacket and fleece and pants and gloves and socks to nothing but a skimpy bikini and, to our absolute horror, wade slowly into the ice-cold water.

Her bright pink body emerged from the water after what seemed a long enough time that she should no longer be breathing, and proceeded to run, barefoot, along the path toward us.
We stood, shocked, in utter disbelief...

Bird line- it was way too cold, even for the birds, to do much else
than stand at attention and shiver together.

This, dear friends, is nothing other than a swan butt on Lac d'Annecy. Look closely, almost as if you were going to be quizzed on the subject later…The water was so clear that when a swan did dive down for food, you could still see its entire head digging around on the lake floor.

Annecy by night. Like every other French town/village that we have passed through, regardless of their size, there were Christmas lights here too, strung in the sky above the major streets.

Our second morning we woke to a wonderful surprise just out the window- SNOW! Throughout the day the town was being covered with powdery fluff, adding to the Christmas cheer and d├ęcor.

This is the Palais de L'Isle in the center of town, dating back to the early 12th century.
It was originaly home to the lords of Annecy, then became a prison in the Middle Ages,
and is now a historic site and museum.

From across the way we could see that the seagulls were going crazy, as if something major
was interrupting their lives… On closer inspection something amazing was indeed happening
in their world- baguettes. This woman stood on the edge of the bridge, holding bread out
in her hand and letting the seagulls grab it with their beaks right from her fingertips.

Pont des Amours and the canal in the winter wonderland.

Ok, so you remember the image of the swan butt right? Here is the test- can you distinguish
the swan butt from the buoy in this picture? At times, looking out over the many boats lining
the lake and canal, it seemed as if hundreds of swans were all diving for food at once.

The mountains were invisible in the background.

Chilly, chilly day looking down over the city. Two of the churches we visited in Annecy were made of white stone, which blended in nicely with the white city after the snowfall.

Avez-vous des gants?” (Do you have gloves?) This became Chris’ most frequently repeated question, always with spitting sarcasm, after we were not allowed to skate in Rodez because
we didn’t both have gloves. Apparently the French take their skating very seriously and
under NO circumstance do they skate without their gloves. It’s a very dangerous affair
you know? ...But once you are on the ice you are allowed to skate in whichever direction
you choose… hm, so maybe the lack of gloves isn’t the real problem after all.

Ice dotted with colored lights.

Our stay in Annecy ended much too quickly, but was filled with many wonders despite the cold. We are moving on to Thonon-les-Bains, only an hour and a half away to the north.