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The allure of the Haute-Savoie

Annecy … which breaks the heart in your bosom, it is so beautiful.” (Mark Twain)

A bit of an exaggeration, I’ll admit. After all, my husband and I were living in suburban Melbourne (not outback Australia) with our three children when we surmised that a little virage to France might be the go. I don’t recall this exact deliberation, but I do remember quite distinctly the moment that we set our sights on living in Annecy.

Up until that day, we had done a lot of talking, hours of Internet searching and written many long lists of things to do and to decide. We knew by then that we wanted to be close to an international airport. We did not want to be too isolated but neither did we want to live in a big city; it was important for us to be in an area where we could truly integrate with French speakers. And, if skiing were an option, then that would be a nice bonus.

It was mid-afternoon and we were on holidays in Adelaide. The fact that we were on holidays is probably significant as it meant that my husband and I were actually together at that time of day. He had packed a Lonely Planet Guide to France and was flicking through it. The book opened to Annecy and he started reading. Somewhat absent-mindedly, he asked if I knew of the town. Hmmm, did having a page of the Year 7 textbook that I used to teach French, dedicated to the beautifully clean Annecy Lake, count? Finally, a decision made…

To say that we were dépaysé when we did make it to the French Alps would be an understatement. But, it was clear that we would not leave untouched as we felt ourselves falling immediately under the spell of this most romantic of places.

Our Special Place

Talloires on the Annecy Lake was one of the first villages that we explored. It was overcast and the lake’s blue shades, about which Mark Twain had written so beautifully, had been replaced by reflective hues of cloud grey. The mountains were slightly obscured and the streets were empty. A photo of me strolling through the village that day turned out to be strangely portentous. There, in the background, long before thoughts of purchasing or living permanently in France had entered our heads, was our house. The one that we ended up buying from Australia many years later.

Our initial infatuation turned into a constant love affair. During our one year away that turned into three and a half, we experienced highs and lows, some predictable and some not-so, but it was the feeling that we got, the lurch in the pit of the stomach, the fleeting reflections that lingered, the sounds, fragrances and beauty that kept on floating by long after we returned to Australia that convinced us that we, like Churchill, Mark Twain, Cézanne, Gide, President Nixon and Napoleon III, to name just a few, had found a special place in Talloires.

Useful information:

Talloires (population approx.1500) in the Haute Savoie department of France is 13 km from the town of Annecy and 50 km from Geneva International Airport. It is tucked into a bay of the Annecy Lake, perfect for summer water activities such as water-skiing, boating, kayaking, fishing and swimming and yet not far from the action of many ski resorts (amongst them La Clusaz, Le Grand Bornand, Semnoz, Crest Voland) in winter. It is a very pretty village to stroll through with 1000 year old Abbey, now a hotel and a grassy beach complete with boules area. For daily supplies, you can count on the 8 à 8 grocery store and the bakery plus there is a post office, newsagents and cinema. With the summer ferry, buses into Annecy and nature walks from your door this could easily be a holiday destination where you might consider parking your car on arrival and leaving it until your departure.

Catherine Berry is the author of “But Madame, you are in France”, the fun and fabulous story of her family’s move to France from Australia and the adventures they have. Read our review here.

Follow Catherine at her blog: butyouareinfrancemadame.blogspot.fr

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