“It isn’t even anything like Venice. Venice doesn’t have roads.” – Lucas
Sometimes when you are travelling with children, you find yourself in the middle of a day wishing you could turn back time and warn yourself not to attempt it. This was how we felt on our day trip to Annecy in August 2018.
We were staying about an hour away, near Nantes, and I had read about how beautiful Annecy is. Apparently, it’s known as ‘the Venice of France’ due to the canal running through the centre, and is set against gorgeous mountains and lakes.
What we did
On the approach to Annecy, we took winding back roads instead of repeating the motorways we’d driven on to Geneva. It was really interesting to drive through tiny French towns and see the beautiful passing scenery, going up and down the mountains!
Arriving on a very busy Sunday, we drove around for a while trying to find a parking space. Luckily we came across a very tight lot right next to the shimmering lake and carried our picnic across to the Jardins de l’Europe. We walked right past the beginning of the canal and stopped to admire the backdrop of the mountains, as well as the hundreds of tiny boats and pedalos out on the lake. The park was busy with people and birds alike, and the children enjoyed running around and watching mime artists.
After our picnic, we decided to walk along the canal. Well, the adults decided – the children launched a small mutiny at this point, but ultimately had little choice. We mentioned ice cream in the hopes that they would cheer up but it was extremely hot and the town was full of people.
It’s a great walk up the main street and the canal is bordered by colourful flowers and touristy hangouts. We enjoyed ducking down tiny alleys to find out what lay on the other end – it would be difficult to get lost, as the centre is very small and most streets lead to the canal.
Approaching le Palais de l’Ile, our youngest son really liked the cobbled pavements and was excited to jump around on them. We talked about what we thought the building may have been and looked at the explanatory plaque to find out if we were right. The buildings are a really interesting mix, crammed in lines almost falling towards the canal.
When it became clear that continuing to walk was not going to be easy with three young children, we stopped for a quick but delicious gelato, marvelling at the flavours. I think it’s the first time the children have tasted proper gelato and they adored it! At that point, we decided to head back to the mouth of the canal and take a boat tour of the lake, hoping there would be some respite from the heat once we were out on the water.
The boat tour was a mixed experience. The tour itself was brilliant and it was really interesting to see all the towns dotting the Lac d’Annecy. The water was beautiful, green and shimmering, and there were so many different types of watercraft to look at. On the other hand, it was extremely hot and the children did not want to sit quietly (understandably). It was an hour long, which was just too much to expect from the kids. Unfortunately, some of the people around us were not impressed by our children’s shouting and loud laughing, and the pressure of trying to keep them quiet took a lot of the fun out of the excursion.
After we disembarked, it seemed to be getting even hotter, with the temperature creeping towards 40C. We decided that it was high time to get back to our air conditioned-car and head back to our holiday home, with a quick drive past the lake to say au revoir!
What we thought
Annecy is a really beautiful town: lakeside location, mountain backdrop, little old buildings, and colourful flowers dotting the sides of the canal. This is probably why it is overrun with people during the summer, but that made it quite difficult to navigate with children. On this particular day, our children did not feel like wandering around a town and the extremely hot temperature did nothing for our moods.
Apart from having a canal, it isn’t anything like Venice. My parents warned me that they had been somewhere nicknamed ‘the Venice’ of its country and it was disappointing, so I was prepared for this. Unfortunately, Lucas wasn’t and having seen a Go Jetters episode about Venice, he was outraged at the differences.
The content of the boat trip was great and I really enjoyed the insight into lakeside life. There were secret coves, Riviera-style hotels, and even a couple of castles. However, the hour was just too long for our little ones; combined with the heat and disapproving looks from fellow passengers, it’s an experience we won’t be repeating.
- Try visiting midweek and off-season to avoid large crowds.
- If you fancy some ice cream, look for a gelato shop rather than the soft-serve stands dotting the main streets.
- Do not take three small but energetic children on an hourlong boat ride when you have no escape route.