Sorry that I skipped so many days. As life starts to take on a routine, I don’t have much to post about other than my musings but they’ve been pretty quiet the last little while.
This weekend I took a trip to Annecy, France. It’s called the ‘Venice of the Alps’ and it came up in a search for, ‘Quick trip to the Alps from Paris’. The name then rang a bell: my medium told me to look at Annecy. It had slipped my mind until that moment.
With a direct train, it took 3 hours and 40 minutes to get there. By direct I mean I didn’t have to get off and switch trains; it still had about four stops along the way. I was excited to check out the place because the photos online looked photoshopped and too real to be true.
Day One (Saturday):
I can confirm: the photos are not photoshopped. Wow. WOW. Insanely stunning, like a picture out of a dream, what can I say other than WOW?!
First and foremost, the train station in Annecy is small but very clear and modern on the outside. My hotel, Hotel Campanile Annecy Gare, was literally right around the corner from the train station.
I’m starting to believe that European standards for hotels are a lot more strict than North American standards. This hotel had a two-star rating but it was insanely clean, breakfast for about 10EUROS a day was a delicious buffet, my room have three beds despite me being alone (thanks for the reminder, Campanile!), the location was convenient, and at a price of 56EUROS a night, this was beyond perfect.
Speaking of location, despite being a city (and it is a central hub and is therefore considered a city in the region), you could get from one end of Annecy to the other in a twelve-minute walk. And that’s not to say there isn’t anything to do along the way. In true city-like fashion, there was a shopping mall, multiple streets of brand-name shopping, restaurants as far as the eye can see, and tourist attractions around every other corner.
And yet it still had a completely small town feel. I felt so safe walking those streets. I didn’t even wear my earphones as I usually do in Paris to avoid random conversation. People apologized when they got in your way. Cars stopped for you when you wanted to cross the street (!!!). Everyone started conversations with you as if they’d known you all your life (I had so many people just start touching my arms and talking to me about my tattoos — my tattoos are always ridiculously popular outside of Paris). And walking alone at night, everyone minded their business, no one stared at you, everyone was doing their own thing and let a woman walk in peace.
Anyway, did I mention how beautiful it is? It’s breathtaking. Every corner will make you gasp. Unfortunately, due to a hot summer and few rains, the water in the rivers was exceptionally low. But the water that was there was turquoise and crystal clear. Spectacular glacier water.
I explored the Chateau d’Annecy which, in all honesty, was a bit of a let-down. They turned this medieval building into a weird modern art museum and it just didn’t fit. But at 5,50EUROS, it was worth entering for the outstandingly gorgeous view of the city behind it.
I went to the Lac de Annecy and… well… what can I say other than you could drown me in those waters and I’d be happy. Beautiful. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. This crystal clear turquoise tinted lake surrounded by the Alps… you don’t get anything more beautiful than that, in my opinion. There was also the Pont des Amours and I traversed it because I love myself. I also went up to this church higher up in the city which apparently has an amazing look-out point but it was unfortunately closed.
But the real beauty of this city is just wandering through the ancient, colourful, and lively streets. I hope people who live in this city know how lucky they are. I stared up at apartment windows and looked closely at the view they would have every morning and I was in awe. The entire vibe of the city is one of relaxation, friendliness, and appreciation for nature. It permeates through every crack in the street, through every person I met.
Day one was magic.
But what I had booked for day two was even better…
Day Two (Sunday):
First, I woke to a sleepy town. Sundays meant the stores and mall in Annecy were closed. Restaurants were sparingly open or had specific runtimes (like afternoon and late evening). The main streets came alive with the usual European Sunday Market. Some streets were full of vendors with various goods like jewellery, purses, clothing, and the like. Then one street had all food vendors, including a man with a ginormous paella pan cooking what could probably feed the entire town (but not the tourists). Fish, cheese, fruits and veggies, all scents intermingling and creating this aroma of European life.
What started as a cool, quiet, and rather gloomy day ended up becoming sunny and scorching. And if I had known that what I would be doing next would top my list as the most spectacular thing I’ve ever done in all my life, I may have saved it for a few years down the road…
I booked a tour with the company Active’Annecy to paraglide down one of the points of the Alps. I read about this online before coming and I knew I had to do it. I called a company beforehand but they never replied or picked up my phone calls, and on evening one, I just happened to stroll by this company’s door and decide to walk in and request a spot. I’m so, so, so glad I did!
I had to take a city bus to the town a few stops over named Doussard, where I would be picked up by “people in a grey truck with giant black tubes on the top – you won’t miss it”. As soon as they arrived they shuttled us in, in a hurry and immediately made all people “flying” feel super welcome and like they were a part of the “paraglide family”. My flight partner was going to be Stefan, and I already loved the energy he was giving off so I was glad to be flying with him.
Listen to me and listen to me good:
I … UM … WELL … OH MY GOD.
I have no words other than: amazing, spectacular, mind-blowing, made me emotional (I said this to Stefan during the flight and he told me it was okay to cry), and one-of-a-kind experience. I genuinely loved it so, so much that I contemplated what it would be like to take up paragliding as a hobby. Stefan said it takes a week of training and then you’re flying on your own. I’m going to be Googling this when I have the time.
I posted a video on my Facebook (it’s public so even if you don’t follow me but you know my first and last name, you can see it), which is just a few pieces of the video they provided me that they took with a Go-Pro. He also took a bunch of pictures but here are just a few from the giant collection:
I truly don’t know what in life is going to top this experience. And I truly can’t recommend it enough. I want to emphasize that it doesn’t feel like a rollercoaster: it feels like floating. Even at take-off the feeling is immediately like being lifted off your feet and floating. The only time it gave you those “stomach sensations” you get on rollercoasters was when he was doing tricks.
He let me have the opportunity to fly it. And none of it was scary at all – except the landing made me a bit nervous because it’s so quick! But even that was a breeze.
I am so glad I spent the money to do this. I am so glad I saw the world while floating above it. I am so, so, so happy with that experience.
The experience after wasssssssn’t so great.
I asked the guys to take me back up the mountain after I finished my flight so I could hang out up there. When I was done sitting and contemplating whether I was truly living life or just dreaming it, via the suggestion of Stefan, I asked another paragliding company if I could get a ride back to the landing zone which would then allow me to walk to my bus stop.
Well, if there’s one thing small towns in Europe are known for it’s shutting down their lives on a Sunday. Listen, I admire the “slow down” mentality. I like that everyone gets a break and enjoys life. But when you’re a tourist-ridden town, shutting down all functions is… irritating.
I waited four hours in the heat for a bus (Sunday schedule…). When Google Maps finally showed me that there was a restaurant not too far from me that was open, I arrived to them telling me, “ma non,” the kitchen was now closed. But I could have a drink! Yay… It was an unfortunate way to waste hours of my vacation, but, alas, life is about balance I suppose. A lesson that while it can be insanely magical, it can also be an annoying b*tch.
When I finally got back to Annecy, I found a fantastic Swiss/French restaurant called Sargo (I think that was the name of it) and it happened to be the only damn restaurant in the city that served fondue for one (all the other ones made you pay per person with a minimum of two people). So far that’s been the only downside to traveling on my own; lack of fondue for one.
Fondue is not normally my cup-o-tea, but it’s a local specialty and I was glad to try it, because it certainly wasn’t like North American fondue. I would drink that bowl of cheese, ladies and gentlemen. Some other specialties of the region are (my favourite) raclette, a tart made of thinly sliced potatoes and cheese, and this warm regional cheese that was the best god-damn thing I’ve ever eaten and I wish I remembered the name of it. The point is that this city had a lot of cheese. And I was loving it.
Important: my dinner was also served with the local beer which was phenomenal (made with glacier water and winner of the Beer of the World award) and I finished with a dessert that almost made me cry with every bite: profiteroles stuffed with local ‘glace des’alps’ in vanilla bean, and topped with melted chocolate (“the best chocolate in France”) poured on top as it reaches your table. Take me now, food Gods. Take me to your kingdom.
While I was at the restaurant, I was lucky enough to witness a downpour thunderstorm. My first thunderstorm in France! And between mountains, no less! What a blessing. (I adore historic cities in the rain.)
I loved Annecy. I wish I had at least two more days there to see more neighbouring towns and climb more mountains. And in all honesty, I could picture myself living in Annecy. I liked that it had city access but a small-town feel. I liked the intimacy of the city and the kindness of the people. And, most of all, I loved the mountains and the water.
Paris is the first of it’s kind in that I’m not normally a “city girl”. I find a small cabin in the woods idea very appealing. Paris is the only city that tugged at my heartstrings when I am normally drawn to quieter places with more nature. My father was born in a region that’s literally called ‘the foot of the mountain’ and my adoration of bodies of water has been a part of me for as long as I can remember. When a city/town has mountains and water, to me, that’s perfection. That is as good as it gets. That beats any city, any day. And so it makes sense that I am drawn to a place like this.
And the more I travel on my own the more I realize how happy I am to do it. Spending time with myself, exploring on my own, working on my own timetable, sitting in restaurants and appreciating my own company, it’s all helping me build this relationship with myself that’s incomparable to anything I’ve had with another human being. It’s teaching me that if I’m going to let someone disturb that relationship I’ve built with me, it better be with someone who adds to this experience called life and doesn’t hinder mine.
I am so unbelievably happy. I wish I had the words to express it. This evening I was blasting, ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ by Queen and running and jumping around the city. That’s the joy I feel deep within my core. I’m having such a good time, I’m having a ball. I really can’t believe this life I’m living is true and isn’t just a dream. I don’t know how I’ll ever settle for anything less, anymore.
Well, time for me to round up the night. Thanks as always for reading. If you have a question about a picture, please comment on it — there were too many for me to caption (too many for me to edit too — so they’re all edit-free).
And I’m already thinking of where to go next…