December in Annecy

Christmas is fast approaching.  Today, a Sunday, many shops are open and it is glorious.  I went grocery shopping at Monoprix and did some general browsing in town because I could.  I went into the old town to buy some honey at the Sunday outdoor market and I could barely get in there!  It was packed with tourists, mostly Italian.

The biggest thing going on right now is the Annecy Christmas Market.  It started on Nov. 28 with vendors selling stuff like jewelry, hats, blankets, and food:  vin chaud, diot sausages, crêpes, gingerbread, pretzels, and Poutine.  Yup, one French Canadian vendor is here selling maple syrup (of course), Canadian beer, and Poutine.  I’ve had some of all three.  The vendors are selling all day and night with weekends and evenings being the busiest.  Night time is more magical because of all the lights and an animated show projected onto city hall.  It’s also dang cold and super crowded.

Side note:  I love vin chaud.

Retour des Alpages

Every second Saturday in October there is a festival called Retour des Alpages.  It honors a tradition dating back to the middle ages when shepherds and cowherds would bring their animals from the high mountain pastures, “alpages”, to the spend the winter months in barns.  It also marks the end of the harvest season and the entire Vieille Ville is filled with booths of people selling crafts, food, and drink.  There are also several performances of music.  The highlight of the day is a parade through the cobblestone streets with people in traditional costumes, horse or dog-drawn carriages, St. Bernard dogs with barrels around their necks (dream come true!), sheep, and geese.  Yes, these poor geese had to walk a fairly long parade route, waddling along with ribbons around their necks!  The parade route went right past my apartment but we wouldn’t get the best viewing advantage from my balcony so we watched from a nearby corner.  I love this sort of community stuff that involves animals, plus the historic setting can’t be beat.  My friend Karyn flew down from Amsterdam, she loves this stuff too.  The cows are the stars of the parade and they come last.  They had flowers and tree bough wreaths on.  By this time my iPhone camera died but Karyn took lots of pics. Unfortunately the weather didn’t totally cooperate but we still had a great time.  Except for the part where I got stepped on my a sheep.

Where Do I Live?

This is a post I’ve been planning for a long time.  This is about where I live:  Annecy, France.  I’d never heard of it before and come to find it’s on many short lists of “Best Small Towns In Europe” or “Hidden Gems of Europe to Visit”.  This will be a general overview of the town.  I’m doing some research, so I’ll learn something, too!  More pictures, less words 🙂   It has taken me a while to get all the photos and as I sort through my pix, I’m missing a lot of landmarks.  I’ve already started to take some sites for granted and this post will help me appreciate everything more.

Annecy, pronounced an.si, is located in eastern France and is 22 miles south of Geneva, Switzerland.  It is a 14th century medieval town nestled by Lake Annecy and the French Alps.  It is very popular for it’s many outdoor activities:  hiking, trail running, cycling, skiing, all sorts of water sports, and many more.  In 2013 the Tour de France came through Annecy.  The town has been called “the Venice of France” from all the canals, waterways, and narrow streets.  Lake Annecy is the crown jewel of the area with a stunning backdrop of the mountains.  It is Europe’s 3rd largest lake and is touted to be the cleanest lake in Europe due to strict environmental regulations enforced in the 1960s.  It is very clear and blue and during the summer, a popular place to go swimming, paddle boating, kayaking, etc.  In the summer, La Vieille Ville (Old Town) and areas by the lake are bustling with tourists.  So many that some locals leave town to avoid the excess traffic congestion and crowds.  For my first summer here it was fun to see all the visitors from around the world.  Shops and restaurants in Old Town open on Sundays and have extended hours.  Almost every weekend a festival or activity was going on.  I’ll soon find out if they keep it up in the Winter.  There’s several outdoor markets for produce and the one I frequent in Old Town operates 3 mornings per week year ’round.  It’s the one I’ve posted pictures of before.  I was told that a market in some form has taken place on the same, narrow street for centuries.  Wow!  I go almost every Sunday and I try to get there early to avoid the crowds.  It’s the most popular one for tourists and it reaches a point where it’s nearly impossible to walk because of all the people.

There’s also a castle, churches, arcaded cobblestone streets, and quaint buildings that are now shops and apartments.  You know, lots of old, old stuff.  I won’t delve into the history of everything but here’s a website that does that for me, take a look!  http://www.frenchmoments.eu/annecy/  The most-photographed landmark is the Palais de l’Isle, a sort of triangular-shaped building in the middle of the Canal du Thiou.  It is now a museum but over the centuries it has served as a residence, a mint, and a prison.

FUN FACT:  Annecy bid on the 2018 Winter Olympics.  Nearby Albertville hosted the winter games in 1992.

 

What’s Cookin’?

I can’t believe it’s been over one month since my last post, I’m really behind!  This post in particular is long overdue.  It’s about my long-awaited KITCHEN!!  As I’ve said in earlier posts, I moved into a brand new apartment with no kitchen set-up whatsoever.  Une cuisine “non-équipée”, save for a flimsy sink and cabinet.  No appliances or storage.  All my things were on the floor and piled up on every available surface and it was very depressing to come home to this day after day.  The proprietor did not want to install or pay for a kitchen, which is ridiculous.  When the time comes that I move out, I will try to sell the kitchen to the next tenant or sell it online.  The proprietor will not get a free kitchen from me!  What a cheap jerk.

I have a new friend named Sophie who is an interior designer.  Her husband works with me at Salomon.  She designed my kitchen and together we picked out the materials and finishes from Leroy Merlin.  It’s a store like Lowe’s or Home Depot.  She did all the communication and liaising with the store and contractor, or “artisan” as they’re called here, who installed everything.  I’m really pleased with the results.  It looks modern, is good quality, and didn’t cost a fortune.  Now I can prepare hot meals!  I have counters and a place for my dishes!  This was especially important as my Mom was coming to visit.  *btw, this visit already came and went, Aug. 18-30.  That’s how behind I am on my posts*

I needed more storage beyond what the Leroy Merlin cabinets offered and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money so I bought two Malm dressers from IKEA.  These are great for lightweight things like towels, Tupperware, Ziplocks, etc.  I like that they don’t look like kitchen cabinets and thus don’t make the room look like one big kitchen with no living space.  I was also able to use a console table as a kitchen island.  I wish it was a bit taller to match the height of the counters but hey, it works and I don’t have to spend more money.  Again, it helps to enclose the kitchen area and confine it to one part of the room.  There’s a space where I was going to put a washing machine but I haven’t bought one yet; not sure I will.  I’ve been going to the laundromat.  It’s not that far to walk and it’s fast.

Here’s some photos.  I’m re-posting some of the pics to remind you what I started with.  

 

More Food…

Two weekends ago I went to an outdoor market by the upscale department store, Galeries Lafayette.  I can walk there from my apartment in a few minutes.  The market happens every Saturday morning and there’s lots of fresh produce, cheese, and meat but also nail polish, mattresses, and underwear.  Go figure.  I’ll let the pictures do all the talking 🙂

SOLDES!!! SALES!!!

Hello, this post should have gone up last month. In the last few weeks, I’ve learned that France (i.e. Paris) is famous for it’s bi-annual sales. In this country, the government decides specific times of the year when stores can have their sales. Yup, standardized sales. They happen 6 months apart and basically anything can be on sale but from what I’ve seen, they’re generally to clear out Winter and Summer products. For Summer, they start at the end of June and last for 5 weeks. The Winter sales happened shortly after I arrived here.

All sales happen at the same time so it’s mayhem in the stores, with huge signs proclaiming SOLDE!! and -50%! As the weeks go by, you see signs that say, “2ième Démarque!” signifying the 2nd markdown and the prices are progressively slashed each week. You can get some great deals if you’re willing to wait for lower prices and risk the chance that the things you want won’t be scooped up by someone else.

That’s it. Short post.

Annecy Flea Market

Every last Saturday of the month there is an antique flea market, “brocante”, in la Vieille Ville (Old Town).  I’d been once before but forgot all about it so yesterday I went back.  I was looking for antique absinthe glasses.  There’s all sorts of things at this market:  furniture, glassware, silverware, creepy old dolls, postcards, and so on.  I didn’t buy anything but I’ll be back next month.