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Annecy France - Holidays & Travel Review


Time for refreshment alongside Lake Annecy, at TalloiresThe best coach-touring idea of the past decade is to leapfrog across France, like Reg Butler did, aboard the TGV high-speed train services from Paris.

Travelling at 160 mph through pleasant countryside opens up leisured coach holidays in Switzerland, Italy, Spain, French Alps or the Riviera. 

As Europe's pioneer in ultra-fast trains, the French TGV system reaches direct to Geneva and Milan, to Marseilles and Nice, and to Montpellier for handy access to Spain. 

I travelled on a 10-day WA Shearings coach tour to Annecy in the Savoy Alps. The first day went on travelling by feeder coach to Dover, and across to Calais for a late-evening arrival on the outskirts of Paris.

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Self-drive motorists can easily duplicate the itinerary covered by this coach-tour article.

Lake Annecy is rated as the cleanest in Europe. There is good potential for watersports from Annecy itself, and villages around the Lake are served by scheduled sightseeing boats. 

The most historic village to visit is medieval Talloires, which doubles as a haven for retired millionaires.

Be sure to visit Annecy's Castle-Museum which also houses a fascinating Alpine Lake Museum with a flourishing aquarium. Trout, perch and salmon are prevalent in the lake. Displays record the lives and equipment of ancient lake fishermen.

WA Shearings also operates a 7-day all-coach tour to Annecy at lower cost.

Ask your travel agent for the  brochure, or phone 01942 824 824. WA Shearings Holidays, Miry Lane, Wigan WN3 4AG. 

More information: French Government Tourist Office, Lincoln House
300 High Holborn, London
WC1V 7JH Tel: 09068-244-123 (60p a minute).

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Next morning, a 9.30 departure took us along the highway to Notre Dame. The rest of the morning was then free to wander around the centre, or take the option of guided sightseeing of the Paris monuments.

At lunchtime we embarked at Gare de Lyon for our TGV train. The 430 miles direct to Annecy took less than four hours, through the beautiful countryside of Burgundy and the Jura Mountains. After a brief halt at Aix-les-Bains, the train continued more slowly along a standard line to our coach-tour resort.

Our driver stayed in Annecy for the entire season with his British coach, all ready for the week's programme of excursions. It meant that he and the WA Shearings tour manager knew the region inside out, primed with more information than a guide-book.

The Annecy hotel was only a few minutes from the station, and close enough to the historic centre of Annecy for a 10-minute stroll before dinner.

Annecy and its pristine 9-mile lake is little known inThe lakeside gardens at Annecy give a fine view of cruise boats and of the hilltop Castle. Britain, but is a top favourite among French holidaymakers. The heart of the town, which doubles as the regional capital of Upper Savoy, is pure medieval with flowers everywhere. A 12th-century castle is perched in a fabulous position that crowns the city.

But the highlight is the rushing, tumbling River Thiou and a set of fast-flowing canals that pour out from the lake. Stone footbridges and narrow quays lined with ancient colour-washed buildings give a Venetian look to the scene.

Today, every building at street level has been converted to the flourishing tourist trade: bars, restaurants, pastry and sandwich shops, antique stores. 

Annecy has also become a favourite retirement town for the French. The old centre is surrounded by well-built apartment blocks set among trees and gardens.  Plenty of cafes for locals and visitors

Promenades are laid out alongside the river banks, and frequent notices remind fishermen that their licence limit is three 10-inch trout. The lake and river have won prizes for purity.

Fellow passengers on the tour were mainly well-travelled car-owners who preferred someone else to do the driving. Using the TGV train was the bonus which ensured that a 10-day touring holiday was leisured, instead of a hectic road-race. 

Annecy makes a good base for alpine and lake excursions- some included, others at optional extra cost. A typical day trip took us to the famed mountaineering and winter-sport centre of Chamonix, overlooked by Mont Blanc. 

Monument at Chamonix to a pioneer of mountaineering Weather permitting, there can be time to ride on the world's highest cable-car system, reaching 12,605 feet on a rock needle facing Europe's highest mountain peak. But that sub-zero option is no-go for anyone with breath or heart problems. 

An alternative is a rail trip to the local glacier called Mer de Glace. Otherwise, Chamonix has a plentiful supply of bars, restaurants and sport-clothing boutiques.

Annecy is under 30 miles south of Geneva - near enough to ensure ample spare time in Geneva and Montreux, on another whole-day excursion around the northern vine-clad shores of Lake Geneva.

Two optional tours are on offer: one to Aix-les-Bains, and the other round the southern, French shore of Lake Geneva (locally called Lac Léman), and onward to Martigny.

This option gives the chance of stopping at the tiny resort of Yvoire - a medieval museum-piece with 14th century ramparts, ancient gateways and substantial stone houses mellowed by the centuries. 

Buildings are festooned with flowers. Owners of the lakeside chateau have transformed the medieval layout of their kitchen garden into a labyrinth "Garden of the Five Senses". No garden-lover should miss this unique attraction!

Every Friday, the narrow streets of Annecy Old Town are taken over by a traditional farmers' market, selling their eggs, cheese, poultry, ham, sausages, fruit, vegetPalais de l'Isle at Annecyables and even home-baked wholemeal bread. It made perfect shopping for a picnic in real French style.

The most-photographed attraction of Annecy is the Palais de l'Isle - an island fortress dating from 1205. It has served as a ducal residence, a mint, an administration centre, a prison and is now a town museum. We saved that for our final free morning in Annecy, before the lunchtime departure of our TGV train back to Paris. 

Consider these other coach options:


COACH TOURING - Armchair travel of Europe.

LOIRE VALLEY - The Garden of France

RHINE - Enjoy a classic Rhine/Moselle cruise

SALZKAMMERGUT - Sounds of Music with salt

TYROL - by coach tour

HEBRIDES - Hopscotch to the Western Isles

IRELAND WEST COAST - Coach-touring the west

SCOTLAND-NORTH - tour from Dornoch 

"Books to read - click on cover pictures" or click on the links below

French Alps (Vacances Series)   - a colourful guide that will persuade you to return again and again to explore deeper. 

Michelin Green Guide: French Alps - A survey of the region in Michelin's traditional format, packed with all the necessary background information.

Michelin Map 523: Rhone / Alpes - on a cale of 1 : 200,000 this regional map is ideal for motorists.

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