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Pirates on Tour: Why there's more to the French Alps than just skiing

The French Alps are home to some of the best skiing in the world. And while a skiing holiday is great fun — Après-Ski, anyone? — I decided to spend a few days around Lake Annecy to see what the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region had to offer besides skiing. After only a few days, I fell completely in love with the fairytale town of Annecy and this region. Read on to hear more about my adventure and my suggestions on places to stay and must-visit restaurants.

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Bonjour pirates! I'm super excited to tell you about my holiday to Annecy and the surrounding area. This is the perfect place for outdoor lovers, water sports enthusiasts, hikers, sunbathers and foodies. Around Lake Annecy there are countless beautiful places to sit by the water or get active with things such as paddle yoga, kayaking, sailing, swimming and much more.

Day 1

I flew to Geneva Airport and picked up a rental car before driving to Lake Annecy (which takes around 45 minutes to an hour). It is also possible to travel by train or bus from Geneva to Annecy (this seems to be a very nice route).

By the way, I am not making this trip alone! A colleague from the French team is coming with me by car from Marseille.

Unfortunately, I was unlucky with the weather right away: as soon as I got off the highway, it started to rain. Luckily, the rain did not spoil the fun, the first night would immediately be a very special one, because we are sleeping in an authentic Mongolian yurt!

We are warmly welcomed by the owner and immediately given a tour of the yurts, the common areas and the small spa with sauna and jacuzzi. We are completely sold! These yurts are super cosy, with a small wood burning stove and a private terrace. Fortunately, we can enjoy the sun and the beautiful view of the mountains for a few minutes.

Hungry from our long journey, we ask the owner for tips on where to eat. About a fifteen-minute drive away is restaurant 4.47, where we order a well-deserved cocktail!

To start our holiday in France right, we order charcuterie and cheese, because you really shouldn't miss that! SO GOOD!!

With a full stomach, we go back to our cosy yurt and light a fire to get nice and warm before falling into a restful sleep.

Day 2

We start the day right with a delicious breakfast: freshly baked pain au chocolate (a flaky croissant stuffed with chocolate), baguette with homemade jam, a cup of coffee and orange juice. Couldn't be better!

We were supposed to have a super busy program full of excitement and thrills today, but unfortunately, almost all our activities have been cancelled due to bad weather. So instead of paragliding, we will spend our morning in the private spa at the yurt. A long soak in the rain with stunning mountain views is not a bad way to spend our time.

Fully rested, we continue our journey, heading towards Annecy. We were supposed to stop at the lake on the way to Annecy for a sporty session of paddle yoga, but unfortunately this is also cancelled due to the bad weather. Instead, we are going to play an escape game in Annecy to discover the city.

We receive a mysterious explanation with the assignment to unravel the secrets of the Allobroges guild. We set off on the basis of various riddles, puzzles and clues.

The rest of the day we hop from cafe to cafe and go shopping at all the nice shops and boutiques. The centre of Annecy is something out of a fairy tale, even in the rain.

Tonight we have a reservation at Bon Pain Bon Vin, a typical French restaurant that has been awarded a Bib Gourmand in the MICHELIN Guide this year.

We arrived with high expectations, and they were fully met! WOW, what great food. In addition to the delicious food, this restaurant also has super nice decor, inspired by former French bistros, a cosy atmosphere and delicious wines and cocktails.

The hotel where we sleep tonight is also a dream: Le Boutik Hotel in Annecy. This hotel has unique rooms, each one with trendy decor and wonderful beds. As soon as you enter the hotel, you are welcomed by the smell of melted chocolate. Who doesn't want that?!

Day 3

Today we start again with a French breakfast, I am getting a bit addicted to the delicious pastries! In addition to my beloved chocolate bread, they also have various cheeses from the region, pancakes, juices and delicious coffee.

With pain in my heart, we leave this hotel to walk into Annecy and visit the market. The market is a colourful venue full of tasty cheeses, vegetables, fruit, jams, soaps, meats and countless delicious snacks.

We have lunch at Haven, an Australian coffee shop with delicious brunch options, tasty cakes and healthy juices. I highly recommend it if you don't feel like typical French food.

Unfortunately, we have to leave Annecy again, but I will go here again soon!

We drive along the lake, make some stops along the way and finally move on to our next activity: a soap making workshop! In a beautiful location, in the middle of the mountains, is a small workshop (Cimes & Racines) where we will make our own soaps over the next few hours.

We are welcomed by Laetitia and explained about the chemical processes needed to make soap, the different oils, fragrances to add and the dried flowers that she picks and dries all by herself. I didn't expect to find this so interesting, but making soap is a really fun activity. Now we all have a good supply of soap for the whole year!

For our last night, we drive on to an idyllic location in Balme-de-Thuy. Here, we sleep in a cute tiny house near a small campsite with a few nice accommodations. Our tiny house is located directly on a meadow for horses. How cosy! We are given a tour of the various accommodations, the horses and the swimming pool (unfortunately, still closed) and are asked if we feel like cheese fondue. And the answer is: YES, ALWAYS!

Cheese fondue is one of those things you can wake me up at night to eat. French cheese fondue is a must-eat when in the French Alps. The sweet hostess has prepared everything for us; a private dining experience in a small cabin with a delicious salad, charcuterie, cheese fondue, beers and wine. We are very well looked after here! After dinner, we drink a nightcap of a homemade plum liqueur and then go to our tiny house for our last night.

Tiny houses are super cute, but I think I'm really a bit too tall for this tiny house. Watch your head when you get into bed!

Day 4

Today we are unfortunately going home, but not without a few last tasty French snacks! First, a nice breakfast (yes, another chocolate croissant) and then on to the market in Thones. This market is only a fifteen-minute drive from the tiny house and was recommended to us by the hostess.

Yes, this market is really worth it! Here, of course, we seized the opportunity to buy delicious cheeses to take home (Reblochon, Tomme de Savoie & Beaufort, my favourites). Now it was really time to leave, I still had to drive all the way back to Geneva, return the rental car and check in my luggage for a flight back to London.

I had a great time during these three days in the French Alps, that I really would like to come back! We were just unlucky with the weather. In the rain I already liked Annecy and the lake, I can only imagine how beautiful everything looks in the sun.

My favourite French dishes

  • Cheese fondue (with Savoyard cheese)

Cheese fondue is not only a popular dish in Switzerland, it's also a real must-eat in the French Alps! The version you eat here is prepared with a mix of local cheeses from Savoie such as Comté, Beaufort, Reblochon or Tomme de Savoie. This French cheese fondue was a highlight; super delicate!

  • Charcuterie & Cheese

Probably not everyone agrees with this, but French cheese is really irresistibly delicious, especially in combination with charcuterie. My favourite cheeses during my trip to the French Alps were: Reblochon, Beaufort & Tomme de Savoie. Unfortunately, I am not a fan of goat cheese, but according to my French colleague Megan, the goat cheese from this region is also very tasty.

  • Viennoiseries (sweet breads such as croissants, pain au chocolat, brioche, etc.)

This may not be a main course, but a trip to France without eating viennoiseries is unthinkable! Viennoiseries are an important part of a typical French breakfast. Although there are of course different types of viennoiseries, for me the pain au chocolat is the absolute winner of these sweet snacks. This delicious pastry was reason enough for me to get up early every morning.

My two favourite restaurants around Lake Annecy

  • Bon Pain Bon Vin

You can eat the most delicious typical French dishes from the entire region here at Bon Pain Bon Vin, a stylish restaurant in the centre of Annecy. The decor is inspired by former French bistros and exudes class and quality. They serve small portions here, a kind of French version of tapas, so you can try different dishes. Everything is prepared with high-quality, local products, and you notice that right from the first bite. We gave the chef the freedom to serve us his favourite dishes and we certainly did not regret it. Everything was really delicious!

  • Restaurant 4.47

This restaurant not only serves delicious food, but also has a lot of fun activities to keep you occupied. You can play a game of pool here, but also various virtual reality games where you can play sports, shoot or fish, play laser tag and a real shooting range.

If you're thirsty from all the games, you can quench your thirst at the bar. The bar staff makes the tastiest cocktails and mocktails. Furthermore, you should not leave here without a shot of Génépi, a traditional liqueur made from various herbs and alpine plants.

Watch out, Génépi burns nicely in the throat 🔥!

Travelling to Lake Annecy

There are, of course, several ways to travel to Lake Annecy. The easiest is by car, because you have all the freedom to discover the area at your own pace, you can visit the most remote villages and reach the most beautiful viewpoints.

Where should I stay?

There are, of course, countless accommodations to be found in the French Alps and around Lake Annecy. Here you will find all our recommendations!

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