We have mountains surrounding us in every direction. Everything looks like a scene from a Hollywood movie. Pictures are being taken at every peak and valley. This was the build up to our arrival in Annecy-the beautiful alpine town in southeastern France!
The city is nicknamed the “Pearl of the French Alps” because of its location between the mountains and Lake Annecy. The street and square area are all beautiful cobblestone roads and pathways. You truly feel immersed in the culture just roaming the streets, as they are filled with local restaurants, cafes, and gelaterias.
We gathered some bikes the following morning and pedaled towards one of France’s largest lakes and what is considered “Europe’s cleanest lake” due to strict environmental laws. Annecy Lake was formed over 18,000 years ago from melting alpine glaciers and the cycling path around the lake is 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) long. The water itself is crystal clear and absolutely stunning. Add in mountains in every direction in the background and the scene is truly breathtaking and one none of us will ever forget. Famous French painter, Paul Cézanne, used the lake as the subject of some of his paintings.
The following day we had a chance to jump into the lake before going to a little beach club for a nice relaxing day filled with swimming, ice cream, volleyball and good times had by all! Our night was spent trying the local French cuisine. This meant lots of delicious cheeses- fondue, charcuterie boards, and raclette (a cheese wheel cut and placed on a hot press and then scraped onto breads or potatoes). Our palettes were left super satisfied!
Our last day in the south of France got off to rapid start, because we went white water rafting! We took to the Isère River in the French Alps with our amazing guides. We flowed along with the rapids with excitement and the smiles were infectious throughout.
The next stop on our journey was the beautiful town of Zermatt in southern Switzerland. It is renowned for its skiing, hiking, and location beneath the famous Matterhorn. The town itself sits at an elevation of 5300 feet and we all took the gondolas up the mountain to a height of 12,740 feet for some spectacular views and warm hot chocolate. Some of the trip members decided to bring out their inner Shaun White or Lindsey Vonn in the morning when we hit the slopes of the Swiss Alps! We were all shredding away down the mountain, having an amazing time. The weather was really beautiful for a day on the slopes. We then had some free time to explore the town.
Our travels then took us from the mountains in Switzerland to our next destination, “the floating city”, Venice! Our adventure in Venice began with visiting the famous Rialto Bridge. This is the most well known of over 400 large and small bridges connecting the islands of Venice over the canals. The Rialto Bridge is the oldest of the four bridges spanning Venice’s Grand Canal and is truly a sight to see!
We then visited a Murano glass factory where we learned how the glass is heated up in an oven to over 1000 degrees centigrade before it is stretched and manipulated into beautiful pieces of art. Then it was time to take a little ride in the world famous Venetian gondolas! The drivers, also known as gondoliers, maneuver the ornately decorated boats through the canals like no other and they’re part of a guild which only allows 400 licenses at a given time. We ended our evening in Venice with a proper Italian meal and of course for dessert…. GELATO!
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