Coming Down the Mountain

Skiing holidays are all about the piste, mixed in with good food, often fantastic accommodation and some wonderful locations. However, the one thing that can’t always be guaranteed is the weather, and sometimes getting out on the slopes isn’t entirely possible.

It is on days like these that the French Alpine destinations really come into their own, because, not only are they fantastic ski resorts, but most are only a short drive away from some fantastic little towns down in the valleys where you could happily spend a day in whatever weather.

One of these, in the northern Alps, is the town of Annecy which recently made the news with a failed attempt to host the Winter Olympics in 2018. Annecy is a picture postcard sort of place, built simultaneously on a lake and a small river it’s full of tiny little passages, bustling with little boutique shops, and fantastic restaurants.

The lake itself is magnificent, though perhaps not ideal for a cold winters day. However, if you wrap up warm and walk around the shore just a little distance, you wander almost directly into the warm foyer of the Imperial Palace, which is, at the same time, a four star hotel and a bustling casino where you could easily while away the hours.

Back down the Avenue d’Albigny is the old town centre, which features – amongst other things – the second most photographed building in France (behind the Eiffel Tower). The old town is well known for its covered walkways, you can traverse most of the city on foot without ever having to get your hair wet, and there are hundreds of great little coffee shops to stop and pass the time of day.

If you don’t mind a short walk uphill, you’ll find the old castle overlooking the town, currently in a state of restoration you’ll have to pick your time carefully if you want to have a look around, but it’s definitely worth peeking your nose inside.

Back down the hill is an ice cream shop which is widely accepted as the finest in the entire region, on hot summer’s days the queue winds back round the city centre, but even if the middle of winter isn’t the ideal time for a bit of ice cream, you might be tempted when you see the quality of the ice cream on offer.

And, of course, at the end of a day’s sightseeing, the only thing that’s left to do is to enjoy some of the local cuisine. The wine, of course, is fantastic, and the local traditional dish (the tartiflette) will warm even the coldest body. Make sure you steer clear of the lakeside restaurants, though, Annecy is an expensive town and even more so in the touristy parts.

Annecy is just the kind of place where you could happily spend a day away from the slopes, recuperating a little bit, and getting a bit of a taste for the local culture. It’s just one of hundreds of lovely towns that are dotted around the low lying regions of the Alps and is well worth a look.