After landing at GVA, we checked into the Marriott, dropped off our bags, and headed to Annecy in France. We walked through the Vieille Ville (Old City) and had lunch. Afterwards, we walked through the Jardins de l’Europe before doing the 1.5 hour Grand Lake Cruise of Lac d’Annecy with Compagnie des Bateaux d’Annecy. The weather was getting worse on our way back to town. After disembarking, we returned to the train station to return to Geneva and to end the day.
We started our downwind leg around sunrise, with the right side of the aircraft having a view of the Alps, roughly where France, Switzerland, and Italy meet. The weather wasn’t looking too great with a very cloudy sky.
After landing at GVA, we quickly entered Switzerland with minimal queues. We took the Marriott‘s airport shuttle to the hotel, a quick five minute ride, arriving before 8am. We were able to check in and get our room on the 11th floor.
This property is about a year old so everything was like new and in excellent condition.
The view was to the northwest, facing the southwestern end of the airport’s runway. Still cloudy but with some sunshine as well.
The weather forecast was better for today compared to tomorrow. So, we decided to travel to Annecy in France. We took the tram from the Avanchet station, about a block from the hotel, to Gare de Genève, the city’s main train station. It was about a ten minute or so ride.
Unfortunately, there was some sort of rail maintenance work going on somewhere on the way to Annecy. We ended up taking a local train to Annemasse, on the French side of the border with Switzerland. From Annemasse, the train to Annecy was replaced by bus service. We had a bit of time before the bus was scheduled to depart so we walked around the area near the station. There wasn’t anything of interest.
The timetable presented in the SNCF app showed a express bus to Annecy, and the displays indicated two busses, but that express bus didn’t seem to actually exist. We boarded the only bus which had to stop at all the train stations on the way. The bus ride ended up taking longer than it should have due to the bus driving going the wrong way a few times. Ultimately, it took us 3 hours to get to Annecy, about double the normal time required.
After finally arriving in Annecy, we walked south from the train station to reach the Vieille Ville (Old Town).
It didn’t take long to reach the Le Thiou, a river that runs through the Vieille Ville and leads to the Lac d’Annecy. The water was shallow, very clear, and seemed to be moving very fast. We started walking to the east, towards the lake, on the north side of the river.
There was a fork in the river after a block. We briefly took the north fork before deciding to backtrack and head to the south.
We continued walking to the east on the north side of the southern fork. This area was lined with shops and restaurants.
The Château d’Annecy sits on a small hill above. While it was a place we had planned to visit, we ended up not having enough time to do so.
We soon approached a tiny island in the middle of the river.
We crossed the river onto the tiny island. Le Palais de I’Île is on the east end of the island. Like the castle that we passed by, we didn’t have time to visit today.
There is only a tiny bit of water that flows around the southern side of the island. This was the view from the bridge that leads from the island to the southern bank of the river.
The river is slightly wider on the east side of the bridge. Le Palais de I’Île is on our left, it occupies the entire eastern half of the island.
There were many restaurants to choose from. We decided to visit Le Vieil Annecy, a restaurant that serves the local Savoyard cuisine.
We tried both of their tartiflettes, something we haven’t had before. They both had identical ingredients other than the meat. The bacon, or probably what we’d call ham in the US, seemed to work better in combination with the cheese. Overall, an excellent lunch and first meal of the trip!
Jardins de l’Europe
After lunch, we continued walking to the east.
The weather had greatly improved while we were eating! We could see blue in the sky, the sun was out, and the water looked beautiful!
We went to the ticket booth for the Compagnie des Bateaux d’Annecy to buy tickets for the next 1.5 hour Grand Lake Cruise. We had some time before it started so decided to visit the Jardins de l’Europe, on the other side of the river.
This part of of the river, with the Vieille Ville to the west and mountains to the east, looked fabulous!
This interesting little structure, shaped like a house, caught our attention. What is it? It is apparently an insect house, intended to attract pollinating insects.
Soon, we reached the eastern end of Le Thiou, where it flows into the Lac d’Annecy. A few of the Compagnie des Bateaux d’Annecy’s boats were docked on the southern side of the river.
We passed by some paddleboats at the southeastern edge of the park. We didn’t really see any in use.
We passed by this interesting sculpture…
This statue by the eastern end of the park is of Claude Louis Berthollet, a chemist and French senator from the area.
A small artificial island, Île des Cygnes (Swan Island), sits just to the east of the park. It is completely covered with trees and is the only island in the Lac d’Annecy. Wikipedia provides some history1:
The first two pairs of swans were offered by the city of Geneva in 1857 and by the House of Savoy in Turin in 1858 . These birds got into the habit of nesting on the island, to which the people of Annecy were quick to give the nickname “Swan Island”. You can approach it with pedal boats but not dock there. Today, swans are no more abundant on the island than in the rest of Lake Annecy, although some can nest there or find refuge there in winter.
There were many boats moored on the northeastern edge of the park, along with more paddleboats for rent.
To the east, we could see where the mountains begin. Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in Western Europe, is about 50km away in roughly this direction.
This appears to be a tree trunk being speared by another much smaller tree!
And, here we have a large tree trunk with drawers…
As we walked back to the lake, we saw a small two masted sailboat headed in our direction. Is was the Esperance III, a replica of a vessel that carried goods across the lake between 1911 and 1930.
Looking to the south, on the other side of Le Thiou, we could see the tall bell tower of the Basilique de la Visitation.
We saw more activity on the lake now, possibly due to the improved weather.
We passed by this plaque which was for the 1st anniversary of the annexation of the region from the Kingdom of Sardinia by Napoleon III, forming what is now the Haute-Savoie and Savoie departments.
Looking upriver, we could see that the Esperance III was about to dock on the north side of the river.
As we still had some extra time, we walked back to the west along the north side of the river.
We saw many ice cream shops in the area while we were walking through the Vieille Ville earlier. We decided to visit one that was close to where we were and had good reviews. We got 5 scoops for €8! Violet, rose, pistachio, watermelon, and pear. The watermelon unfortunately was the worst as it tasted artificial. Rose and violet were interesting with strong flavor. Pear was very good. Pistachio wasn’t as good as our recent favorite, Buonissimo in Nürnberg, Germany.
After dessert, we walked over to the Compagnie des Bateaux d’Annecy, briefly stopping by their gift shop before boarding.
There was already a long queue by the time we arrived at the boat. We ended up finding a spot to stand on the upper deck on the left side. The weather was starting to turn cloudy.
It was even cloudier by the time the boat actually departed. We headed to the east to begin our clockwise circuit of the lake.
There was audio commentary over the boat’s speakers. However, it was all in French. The only thing we really understood was the word plage – beach in French. There were many little beaches on the lake shore.
One notable building on the eastern shore of the lake is the Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard. This castle has belonged to the same family for 23 generations. It can be visited as a tourist, though it is somewhat inconvenient to get to by mass transit. We had marked it as a potential place to visit but it was never very likely that we’d make it given its location.
This hotel, Le Palace De Menthon, occupied a prominent position by the lakeside.
There were some high cliffs just to the south of the hotel.
Although this area looks very remote, there were still people around. There are at least five near where the small rocky section slopes down to the water near the center of the photo!
There is a person on a SUP just to the left of the center of this photo.
We saw this rocky peaks earlier while we were at the north half of the lake. They became visible again as we moved to the southern half. And like before, there were many buildings by the lake.
We passed by a wakeboarder. The lake didn’t seem as busy as it was earlier when the weather was better, but there was still activity all around.
The very southernmost point of the lake.
The terrain to the west looked rather different from the terrain to the east.
We soon approached the middle portion of the lake again.
There is a castle here, the Château de Duingt, on what would be an island if not for a tiny bit of ground keeping it attached to land. It doesn’t seem possible to visit this castle.
The castle sits at sort of a bend in the lake, between the northern and southern halves. As a result of its location, we were able to see it from a variety of angles as the boat closely followed the lake’s shore.
We passed by this very well defined ridge.
The hills in this area seem to be long and straight.
This beach, the Plage de St Jorioz, seems to be the largest one that we saw today.
We passed by a few small sailbots that were headed back to shore. The larger boat that is docked appears to be the Libellule (Dragonfly), a boat that does lunch and dinner cruises.
Just beyond, we passed by a relatively large church.
Looking to the east, we could see the Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard and the mountains beyond that we passed by earlier.
Soon, we could see Annecy in front of us as we headed back to town. The weather had definitely taken a turn for the worse with some light rain as we returned.
The view looking back down the lake as we returned to the pier.
Back to Geneva
We started to walk back to the train station to head back to Geneva. We could see the rain on the calm waters of Le Thiou.
We passed by Le Palais de I’Île once again. We missed this perspective when we saw it earlier in the day!
Luckily, the trains were running normally on our way back. It seems whatever maintenance was going on earlier in the day had ended. We did find out that cross-border trains work inconsistently with the various ticketing systems. We selected a train that was going all the way back to Geneva from Annecy. But, we could only buy tickets in the French SNCF app to Annemasse, which is the last station in France. It seemed that maybe we would have to switch trains at Annemasse? We eventually figured out that we could buy the portion from Annemasse to Geneva on the Swiss SBB app. It seems that different apps behave differently. The SBB app would let us by some tickets between Annecy and Geneva but at a higher cost than buying each portion separately. Luckily, we figured it out and didn’t end up having to switch trains at Annemasse!
After arriving at Geneva, we initially wanted to try a boulangerie near the station. It started to pour heavily as we quickly made our way there. Unfortunately, bakeries tend to be a daytime thing. This one didn’t have much left so we decided to just visit one of the larger chain bakeries in the station. We ended up getting two items to eat back at the hotel.
After taking the tram back to Avanchet, we walked back to the Marriott in the rain. We decided to check out the M Club lounge, right by the hotel’s rear entrance. We were surprised to find they were still serving hot food! Most of it was pretty mediocre compared to actual restaurant food, which wasn’t too surprising. But we were surprised to find some raw fish! It seemed a bit like yellowtail but we aren’t sure what it really was.
We were happy to find Ramseier apple juice in the fridge! We were first introduced to this Swiss brand last year and brought home its empty glass bottle. We also found some very good Swiss ginger ale and ginger beer. We also indulged in a bit of orange juice.
- https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%8Ele_des_Cygnes_(Annecy) ↩︎