Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Summer Styling at Lakeside Retreats

Last December, when we were planning this trip, I stumbled upon this fabulous lakeside town. Having seen countless pictures, I somehow convinced myself I was headed to Switzerland, but to my surprise Annecy was still in France. Lake Annecy and the town of Annecy are on the border between France and Switzerland abutting the foothills of the Alps. The weather in this part of Europe has been uncharacteristically cool with an atypical amount of rain over the past few weeks. Driving from Lyon, we were hit with a few drops of rain and a temperature that didn’t want to quite burst through that 60 degree marker. Knowing that my friends were suffering through over 100 degree temperatures with horrendous humidity, I savored the cool air and donned my pants and sweater. Ok, so maybe I ventured out in shorts and platform sandals, but I clandestinely changed at the petrol station while we pumped gas. But who is counting?
Vielle Annecy
Another feat of directional savvy somehow got us to the Vielle Ville (old village) of Annecy where we parked at the Chateaux atop the hill and took in the picturesque view of Lake Annecy and the colorful town below. We explored the Chateaux – an old castle – and then trudged down the hill to the winding streets of the old town lined by canals from the lake. The water is crystal blue and has that quality only glacier water can give to a lake. I was afraid to get my toe near it as I was certain it would be freezing but I later discovered it was closer to the temperature of the Pacific than I’d expected. If the sun had been beating down, it would have been wonderfully refreshing. We lunched in town while it down poured around us and then walked through the Sunday market with its ever-present fresh chevre cheese, dried and cured meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, and tantalizing pastries before wandering to the lake shore to admire our surroundings. Now, in day two of being on a fabulous lake in this region, I am struck by how unbelievable this setting is. I am waiting for the moment when the backdrop falls down like in a movie set and a blank wall stares back at me. It is that surreal.
View from my room at the Abbey Talloires
Our destination for the evening was on the eastern shore of Lake Annecy, the most picturesque part of this 40km route around the lake. The Abbaye of Talloires, another former abbey turned hotel, was our sleeping quarters for the evening. Post Lyon, we were sadly used to ample rooms so the former monks quarters turned hotel rooms were a bit austere in comparison. However, the view out our windows was compensation enough. I kept sticking my head out the window to verify what I was seeing was real. And later in the evening when the clouds parted, it was beyond fabulous. I sat in my room reading my book and enjoying the backdrop, beyond appreciative for the experience and the company, and the opportunity to be sitting where I was. Priceless.
Vevey with Mont Blanc in the background - and a modern art installation
This morning I awoke to that same scenery, the sun hitting the water just right and reminding me of years of waking up on the lake at summer camps and being up in Northern Minnesota….the only difference the Alpine presence in the background! It was time to get up and at ‘em and move on to our next stop – Switzerland (or back to Switzerland.) Winding through the mountains, we jumped onto the lakeside route along Lake Geneva, driving through Nyon, a roman town founded by Julius Ceasar, passing the Olympic park in Laussane, driving along the terraced vineyards of Lavaux painstakingly planted by monks centuries ago and preserved by UNESCO, and stopping for lunch in scenic Vevey.

A commentary must be made on the costs in Switzerland (and France as well) - it's INSANE how expensive this country is. A coke at lunch was $9 while a beer was $6 - and the beer wasn't even good. It makes you cringe trying to order even the most mundane starter because nothing is less than $15 and the caliber isn't even worthy of the cost. We filled up half of our diesel gas tank and it was $100 (this was in Euros in France too.) Imagine if we'd had an unleaded tank! When you have a Eurozone that is sitting in a wildly precarious position, the costs of items and the FX rate should have some rational expression in the market. But apparently that memo hasn't reached the French. It must be stuck with that Sanskrit memo about hospitality.
Driving on our expensive diesel, we plugged along the freeway, appreciating the panorama surrounding us. From Lake Geneva, we were headed to Lake Murten. Before arriving, we elected to visit Gruyere, the medieval hilltop town that proffered the name for the wildly famous fondue cheese. That and the hometown of H.R. Giger, the visual artist behind the "Alien" movie series. Totally random yet fascinating especially in the context of a tiny town in the middle of Switzerland. His cafe was like the recreation of the inside of one of the Alien's bodies with spines and insane chairs and floor designs everywhere. Kind of creepy, but I liked it. Love those movies.
Town of Murten
Our final stop for the day, and by far one of the most picturesque, was the town of Murten-Meyriez on Lake Murten. Our accommodations last night were in a 100-year old country house overlooking the enchanting lake and surrounding hills covered in typical Swiss homes. People were out sunbathing, swimming in the lake, boating, sailing, fishing, and just enjoying the outdoors. Our rooms had private balconies overlooking this grand view so we decided to go into town and purchase a picnic to enjoy together. Fresh bread from the bakery, cheese, meats, swiss chocolate and two bottles of wine, and we were a happy crowd. Well, that was until we decided we need a bucket of ice for our wine and some oil and vinegar. The hotel was happy to send it up and then charge us 30 Swiss Francs ($37) for the order! Again, INSANE! We argued, they didn't care, we yelled, they didn't care, we had another sip of our wine and tried to go back to enjoying our view. Really, really enjoying it. At the end of the day, we had a wonderful and relaxing evening and are heading to breakfast this morning where we may leave with some souvenirs in our pockets as revenge. Ha!
View from my room overlooking Lake Murten
Today is my last full day of this adventure in Europe. It has been one of the best trips I have been on in a while with a constant barrage of wonderful sights to see, people to meet, and educational opportunities. And the weather, despite a few rain showers, has been a refreshing reprieve to the heat and humidity of New York. That being said, I gravely miss my friends and loved ones and look forward to being home and back in my routine. I started off the morning here with a nice run along the lake and will go for breakfast before departing for Zurich where we'll spend the night and then fly back home tomorrow morning. See some of you really soon! xoxo

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