Posted by: mdmusingsie | January 19, 2020

Amazing Annecy

One thing that struck me on my first few days in France was how few people were out and about on the streets of the little towns we went through.  It was as if everyone had gone into hibernation for the winter.

That all changed when we went to Annecy. Even though we left Grenoble early in order to arrive in time to get good parking, there were plenty of people out and about on a Sunday morning in this picturesque town.

On the northern tip of Lake Annecy, not far from Geneva, Switzerland, the Savoire area has gone back and forth between Switzerland and France, finally merging permanently into France in 1860. Annecy is known as the ‘Venice of the Alps’ because of the three canals and the river Thiou running through the city centre.

It has a popular Sunday market where all types of artisans, growers, and food producers put up their stalls along the cobbled streets to sell their wares. The Bavarian-style Christmas market was still active as well, providing loads of shopping and culinary experiences and attracting large crowds of people.

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Between the Christmas Market and the local market, and smack-dab in the middle of the river stood Annecy prison also known as Palais de l’Île.  Built in the shape of a ship, the building began its life in the 12th century.  To our surprise, it was actually open.


Palais de l’Île or Annecy Prison

It may have been a residence, at one point, or else it’s one of the nicest purpose-built prisons for that period in time as all the cells had windows.  One of the cells had a doorway with steps leading down to the river – likely for boat access.  It served as a prison as well as a courthouse, and from the mid to late 14th century, the facility was used to make coins, probably with prison labor.  Between 1905 and 1955 two rooms were designated to house the city’s homeless/drunkards for the night. Currently, in addition to historical information about the prison itself, it also houses a museum (in the posh (by medieval standards) upper rooms, complete with garderobe) depicting the industrial history of Annecy.

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The visit to the jail meant we couldn’t visit the Chateau until after the lunch hours.  So we wandered around the town a bit, checking out some of the shops as well as the Sunday market stalls, then picked a nice café where I had my first Tartiflette – a potato dish, traditionally made with Reblochon cheese, white wine, onions, and (bacon) lardons.  Potatoes and cheese – what’s not to love?

With still more time to kill, we wandered around the town a bit more, then found a pub to have some dessert.  Thinking to share a plate of dainty profiteroles, we were shocked when they brought out two giant profiteroles, surrounded by whipped cream.  Even the people sitting near us were surprised at the size.


That fortified us for the hike up to the Chateau.  Similar to the Abbey, the Chateau was a mini walled city with buildings that were also part of the surrounding wall.  The Chateau has a Norman castle look with a series of attached square towers.  Unlike most Norman towers; however, the buildings were peppered with lots of small windows.

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The oldest part of the castle dates from about the 12th century with other parts being added into the 16th century.    The museum is located in one of the buildings adjacent to the tower structure and houses assorted exhibitions.  It also appears to be used for concerts, in what could be described as the Great Hall.

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One nice thing about these buildings was the circular stairways were actually quite wide, in comparison to the typical Norman tower or castle in Ireland or the UK.

No shortage of people were visiting this monument on a sunny Sunday.  The queue was longer when we were leaving than when we arrived.



  1. So interesting! Thanks. Marie

  2. continue your great adventuring!!!

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