We arrived in Geneva at 07:30 and immediately started our Summer 2019 Glorious Switzerland Tour by Insight Vacations with a side trip to Annecy, France! Evan, our GVA Transfers driver for the day, greeted us at the airport and managed to stack all our luggage efficiently at the back of the private van, which also comes with Wi-Fi and power banks. So thoughtful!
Book your next Insight Vacation to Glorious Switzerland 2020 Summer Tour! Here’s an overview of the itinerary:
Day 1 – Geneva (Switzerland)
Day 2 – Geneva, Montreux, Chillon and Zermatt (Switzerland)
Day 3 – Zermatt (Switzerland)
Day 4 – Stresa and Baveno (Italy)
Day 5 – Grison Alps and St. Moritz (Switzerland)
Day 6 – Vaduz (Liechtenstein) and Lucerne (Switzerland)
Day 7 – Lucerne and Stanserhorn (Switzerland)
We drove for about 30 minutes from the Geneva Airport to Annecy (pronounced “an-see”), an alpine town in southeastern France famous for its old town and Lake Annecy. It was a territory of Savoie until it became a part of France in the 1840s. We met our local tour guide Bianca in front of the Hotel de Ville and stopped by Bonlieu Art Center for a quick bathroom break.
Dubbed the “Venice of the Alps” for its colorful pastel buildings perched on winding canals, the historic town of Annecy is a network of narrow cobble-stoned alleys and bridges. The water was 2 meters high and it flooded occasionally in the past.
Since it was Palm Sunday, we stopped by Cathedral Annecy to pay our respects. The old Gothic cathedral is a tribute to St. Peter.
Afterwards, Bianca brought us to Au Palais de I’lle, an oval island where a ship-like structure stood containing the jail and the court of Justice for 600 years. The prison didn’t discriminate against age or gender. During the German occupation of WW2, it contained prisoners of war and of the enemies of Viche who colluded with the Germans. It was a dark time of civil unrest for Annecy. (Fun Fact: The word salary comes from the word “salt” because salt was precious in the Alps back then so soldiers were paid in salt. In France, there was high taxation on the purchase of salt.) After the war, the prison was left in a sorry state that it became a detention center for drunks and the old, impoverished people.
We passed through the Sunday market and quaint shops to buy churros (EUR 5) and waffles with rosewater (EUR 3).
A stroll to the top of the old town brought us to the Chateau D’Annecy or Annecy Castle, which was built in the 13th century and was once the home of the Counts of Geneva. The oldest part of the castle is the Tour de la Reine, which was converted into a barracks from the 17th century to 1940s. Today it serves as am exhibit of art and history.
For lunch, we had savory gallettes at Bleu de Toi Creperie ranging from EUR 9.5 to 12. My siblings and I shared 4 flavors. The one I got had rouqefort cheese, prosciutto and walnuts. That salty combo killed my kidneys! For dessert, I hopped on to the ice cream parlor a couple blocks away for a cone of Lavender Gelato (EUR 3). It made me sleepy afterwards.
The alpine town is also home to Annecy Lake or Lac d’Annecy, the most pristine lake in Europe which feeds into the Thiou River. After lunch, Evan picked us up from town and drove us around the lake and up the mountain for about 30 minutes so we could get a view of its entirety. The lake sparkles in the sunlight with the majestic snow-capped mountains in the background.
We drove back to Geneva for about 1.5 hours and checked in at Hotel d’Angleterre, a highly rated boutique hotel in Switzerland which highlights British charm and the finest Swiss hospitality. Each room is designed with unique elegance.
At 18:00, we met with our Travel Director and the rest of the tour group over dinner at the cosy Au Petit Chalet which served Swiss specialties like chocolate fondue!