Bonjour tout le monde, et bienvenue en France with me, Monty Spaniel.
It’s mid-summer in my home in the Midi-Pyrénées, south west France, and I’m lying on the terrace, toasting my tummy. Sara says I’m lying so still that a spider has climbed up me and started making a web, but I know this is not true, as I am a finely-tuned hunting machine with razor-sharp reactions. I’m like a coiled spring, I tell you. Well, maybe a Slinky.
Anyway, my life in France is pretty tough, which is why I occasionally have to go on a little holiday to get away from it all. On our way back to the UK this time, we’re taking the long way home and visiting Annecy (pronounced Ann-see), which is a town in the Haute-Savoie region near the Swiss-Italian border of the French Alps.
On the way there, we take a long detour to see the Millau Viaduct, the world’s tallest bridge. It was designed by our very own home-grown architect Lord Norman Foster, and I feel especially proud to be an ENGLISH Springer Spaniel when I learn that the masts are 343 metres high, and the total budget was nearly 400 million euros. Rule Britannia!
After a long drive, we eventually arrive at Doussard, which is a little town on the southern tip of Lake Annecy, at the opposite end to Annecy town. We’re staying at La Maison de Marie, a little B&B at the back of the village. I’m tired out from a long day of supervising Mike’s driving, and crash out immediately in our nice room, which has been decorated to look like a Swiss chalet.
The following day, we’re meeting up with Sara’s parents, who live in France, for an all-day guided walk around Mount Parmelan. I’m not sure about this, as it sounds like a HILL and I don’t DO hills. Our guide is called Etienne and is wearing pink trousers. He is very knowledgeable about the local flora and fauna – for example, did you know that before a new rowan tree (called sorbiers here – I had to turn to the very back of ‘French for Dogs’ to find that out) can grow, the berry has to pass through the digestive system of a bird, otherwise it won’t germinate? It sounds most unhygienic to me, thank goodness you don’t need to do that when you want to make more spaniels.
We have a lovely walk, with stunning mountain views. Several times we see herds of cows, whose milk goes to make Tomme, the local cheese. We eat lunch at the summit. There’s a mountain refuge serving hot drinks and sandwiches, but we’ve brought a picnic, and Etienne shares his fish salad with me. I forgive him the pink trousers.
We’re out for six hours walking over the mountain and through the forest. Everyone begs me to come out for dinner to the restaurant, a mountain chalet on the Col de la Forclaz, but I decide I’d rather have a quick sleep at the B&B. We dogs are welcome at most French restaurants as long as we’re well-behaved, but I’m just too tired.
The following day, we take a boat ride around the lake: the ‘Discovery Cruise’, a two-hour trip which stops at each village on the shore in turn – Veyrier du Lac, Menthon St Bernard, Talloires, Doussard, Saint Jorioz, and Sevrier. You can get off at each place if you like to stretch your legs, but I had enough of that yesterday, and opt to look at the scenery.
Tonight, we’re eating at Chez Ma Cousine, a lovely lakeside restaurant recommended by the B&B. By popular demand, I’m joining the party and am very excited to be going to a fish restaurant. We have a table overlooking the lake, and I position myself strategically underneath, so as to be able to clean up any scraps which might otherwise make the place look untidy. I’m thoughtful like that. The food is excellent, and reasonably priced, and my water comes in a proper bowl rather than an old margarine tub. Vive la France!
On our final morning, we’re off for a walk round Annecy town itself. The town has a chequered history, as it used to be part of Switzerland until it was captured by France during the Revolution. There’s lots to see, including the old prison which is one of the most photographed buildings in France, and dozens of little cafés and restaurants.
In the afternoon, it’s time to start on our journey back to the UK, which will take us two days. Fortunately, I manage to sleep through most of it, tired out with excitement and mountain air.
Phileas Phact Box: Annecy
- For more information about the Millau Viaduct, visit www.leviaducdemillau.com.
- We stayed at La Maison de Marie, 100 Chemin des Charbonnières, 74210 DOUSSARD. Website : www.maison-de-marie.com. Prices start from 41 euros per person
- Chez Ma Cousine, 2036 Route Annecy, 74210 Doussard. Tel. : 04 50 32 38 83 Main courses from 16 – 20 euros. For example menus, see www.chezmacousine.fr
- For more information about the Discovery Cruises, visit www.annecy-croisieres.com.