Annecy and Talloires – Rhone-Alpes, France

A Lakeside Jewel in the Savoy Alps

This miniature Venice in an alpine setting is an unspoiled medieval and Renaissance treasure. Annecy is crisscrossed by the Thiou River—which creates numerous canals before joining with the Fier, confluent with the Rhone—and sits on the northern shore of Lac d’Annecy.

Of the region Paul Cezanne exclaimed, “What a superb vestige of times past!” In the delightful Vieille Ville (Old City), lovingly preserved churches and flower-bedecked quayside town houses are reflected in crystal-clear rivers and canals crossed by arched pedestrian bridges. (Environmentally conscious local governments have done much to keep the city and its environs pollution free.)

In warm weather, boat excursions visit the shores of the pristine lake. Otherwise, window-shop along the lively, beautifully kept city streets, which contain an astounding number of food specialty shops and elegant antiques stores. Food fans say a visit to Annecy without a meal at the fabled Auberge de Marc Vevrat (still commonly known by its old name, “L’Eridan”) is like going to Agra and missing the Taj Mahal. The virtuoso chef himself picks the rare alpine herbs and fresh wildflowers he uses.

One must also make a visit to the Auberge du Pere Bise, in nearby Talloires. This hotel-restaurant, a picture-book cluster of houses scattered along crystal-clear Lac d’Annecy, has long been a beacon in the French gastronomic world. Sophie Bise, the granddaughter of founder Pere Bise, is one of France’s most esteemed female chefs.

Parisians think nothing of making a long trip here to lunch on lobster tail or mousse de foie gras, plus a sampling from the restaurant’s world-class wine cellar, all served on the pergola-covered lakefront veranda. Sybarites will admire the tapestries and antiques that have transformed the former monks’ cells of this onetime 17th-century Benedictine abbey into luxury living quarters.

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