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Report 2015: Alpine Adventures and Other Travels in the Rhone, Rhin and Rhön

By wendy lynn from California USA, Summer 2012

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Page 9 of 21: Annecy: Exploring the Area by Car

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Gorge du Fier near Annecy, France

We decide to have breakfast for just two. The kids would rather sleep in and grab a few croissants on the road. It's nice for Wendy and Joe to go alone without the entourage. We discuss the plans for the day which include exploring the Annecy area by car. Again, the weather is warm but beautiful -- sunny with blue skies. Alex realizes he neglected to put his tooth under his pillow, so the question of the European tooth fairy remains...

We first visit the Gorge du Fier which takes only a picturesque 20 minute car ride. It's another gorgeous summer day. We see a sign that tells us the gorge was created by a glacier 20,000 years ago. We are among the first to arrive. We buy our tickets and enter the gorge. Tickets are €5/adult and €2.8/child.

The narrow wooden walkway is attached to the side of the gorge. We later learn the footbridges were completed in the mid 1800s, bringing into question their stability. Sheer rock rises up closely on both sides, with a river below. At one point a marker shows the water level during various flash floods. The highest one in the 1960's had the water level almost at the top of the gorge. Which would mean our current walkway would have been 40 feet under water!

The gorge is beautiful but we don't think it favorably compares to Slovenia's Vintgar Gorge. Still, it was a nice visit. We learn about the legend of the gorge which involves a tempting and selfish Count, a mean husband named Count Montrottrier, a jealous servant and a philandering princess named Diane. It doesn't end well, at least for the princess and servant.

We are glad we got to the gorge early because as we made our way back we see tons of people, including a large school group of four or five year-olds. This amazes Wendy as the gorge is not particularly child friendly, with many openings in the safety rail and constant opportunities for disaster. We hit the gift store and leave.

Just a five minute drive up the hill leads us to Chateau Montrottrier, home of the mean Count from the legend of the Gorge du Fier. Another entrance fee and we walk around the beautiful castle. Most of it is open and this castle is in large part furnished, as though it had been recently vacated. A cool circular tower in the middle of the inner courtyard was a former prison. We remember from the Gorge du Fier that Diane was imprisoned here. The countryside is beautiful and the castle is interesting, if not spectacular. We take our picnic lunch out of the car and nibble on our food while the kids enjoy making friends with a donkey.

Our next challenge is to find Cascade d'Angon (Angon Waterfall) which Joe heard about in a travel blog somewhere. It's on the side of Lake Annecy opposite the city of Annecy and on the way up to the Col de la Forclaz, the dramatic cliff seen looming over the lake. The drive only takes 30 minutes or so, and we enjoy driving through the opposite side of the lake that until now we've only seen from a distance. The area and homes are charming and upscale. For some reason, Wendy is reminded of the Sound of Music. The area looks like the sort of neighborhood the Von Trapp home would have been located in. Wendy decides that she prefers this side of Lake Annecy, although there is no "city" or large public park to enjoy.

We drive up from the lake and find the small entrance to the Cascade d'Angon trail easily and park. Julia wants to stay behind so just the four of us hike off. The trail is lovely, giving peeks to the lake below. We see a few hikers but it's not unpleasantly busy. A local family has taken a picnic lunch.

After about 30 minutes we reach the waterfall. It reminds Joe and Wendy of Slap Pericnik, a waterfall in the Julian Alps in Slovenia. Again, although it's nice and the hike was pleasant, it really doesn't compare to Slovenia. The one interesting difference here is that the Angon waterfall has steel loops where rock climbers can attach and scale the slippery face. We see two groups in wet suits and climbing gear. We don't have time to stay and watch, but looks interesting.

We return to Julia and the car and drive ten or fifteen minutes further up to Col de la Forclaz. It's hard to miss as it's quite a dramatic cliff -- and there are tons of para-gliders jumping from the heights. We park where all the souvenir shops, restaurants and para-glider companies are set up. Julia is still wanting to rest, so Mom and Julia walk to the restaurant with a view of the lake while Joe and little kids walk up the hill to explore. Really good pommes frites. Really bad red wine. Wendy's pretty sure that her glass of wine made her ill.

We drive back down to the lake and head for a small beach at the far end of the Lake that we saw from above. Again, it's easy to find and park. The beach is small but typical for Europe. But the beach is more pebbly than sandy and we do a little swimming but don't stay long.

We complete the circle of the lake, and find a large grocery store about 10 minutes outside of Annecy. We're happy and buy some supplies, including a cooler and ice! It's very hard to find ice! Unfortunately, we find our cooler leaks. Ugh. But we get some good food supplies and feel good about all we accomplished. Despite Annecy's charm, Wendy enjoys the more relaxed surrounding areas of Annecy than the city itself, but maybe this is because we don't speak French well and are continually unsure of the best places to go.

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