Thursday, 31 January 2013

Grand Designs – The Fairy-tale Edition

Day 200 (woo!) 30.01.13 Ribeauville, Bergheim and Selestat

Alsace wine countryRibeauville hanging signs and half timber housesWe’re up early and head into the centre of Ribeauville.  The main street is once again full of painted half-timber buildings.  Some of the detailed carvings around the windows here are the most impressive we’ve seen.  There are also lots of Pied Piper statues dotted around, I meant to ask at the tourist office what that was about but forgot!  Looking up along the high street you appreciate the great surroundings of sweeping hills covered in grape vines and 3 big castles set high on the hill overlooking the town.  Apparently there’s a walking route you can follow to visit them all if a 10km hike is your idea of a good time!  We don’t mind a bit of walking but that’s a little too much for us!  Instead we opt for a leisurely walk around the picturesque quarter accompanied by some tasty sugar coated tasty treats from the local patisserie. 

It certainly is picturesque though not quite as charming as the last couple of spots we’ve visited, perhaps because there are a few more modern buildings thrown into the mix.  What can I say, we’ve been spoiled!!!  We walk all the way through town including a stroll alongside the river, taking in the marvellous views as we go.  We find ourselves on the very far side of town amongst the more affluent houses, most of which appear to have fallen out of the Grand Designs Fairytale Edition and just look utterly adorable.  We see and admire all that this pleasant little spot has to offer before heading off to our next spot of Bergheim.

Ribeauville high street It’s another little village we spotted on the map and decided to check out based on the assumption that every village in this region is adorable, and we were right!  Bergheim whilst tiny is very lovely indeed.  You enter the town under the large clock tower in the middle of the rampart walls, a great welcome!  The main street is so similar to many in this area, full of medieval frontages in an array of bright, bold colours.  There’s a small fountain, a pretty church with lovely gardens and some interesting towers built into the rampart walls.  Not a huge amount of sights but these villages are just wonderful to visit and soak up the delightful, unspoilt architecture.

Castle on the hill over Ribeauville, FranceIt’s just a fleeting visit before grabbing some lunch and moving on to Selestat.  We park up in an awkward, sloping side of the road spot and set off to find a better one on foot.  The town centre seems to be a little more functional and less fairytale than the last few but there are definite attractions.  We find the mediateque on the far side of town with a handy carpark just over the river so we fetch the van and bring it over.  We’re a little overwhelmed from all the sight-seeing of late and so decide to spend the last of the day in the mediateque, writing and enjoying the free wifi. We’ve been so lucky to see such amazing places over the last little while that we need to just take a bit of a break from it to stop us getting complacent!  I’d hate to take any of these places for granted. 

Bergheim town square and clock towerWe leave the mediateque at closing time and head back to the van for dinner and movie time.  Thankfully it’s been much milder of late so we’re not mourning the loss of our heating too much at the moment.  I’m sure we’ll get the gas replaced soon though if only to get the cooker back; the sandwich diet is getting a little dull! 

Further on the fairy-tale trail

Day 199 29.01.13 Colmar, Riquewihr and Ribeauville

Riquewihr high street view.After a poor night’s sleep we’re attempting a lie in when we get a knock on the window from some workmen asking us to move the van back so they can shove some cabling down a manhole cover we’re parked on top of.  Cue much bleary-eyed faffing to get dressed, the bed put away and the van shifted!

Once we’re moved and satisfied that the workmen aren’t going to need us to move the van again anytime soon we head into town.  We saw the main sights yesterday but I love this place so much I want to go and see them all again!  We enjoy a long walk around once again taking in all the drop dead gorgeous views making sure we walk down every little side street and explore every inch of Colmar.  We wander off the beaten path through Little Venice (so named because many of the waterfront houses can only be reached by boat) and discover where the richest people in Colmar live.  The riverside houses have to be seen to be believed, these Art Deco masterpieces seem custom-built to leave Chris and I brimming with jealousy.  If anybody wants to buy us a gift then the glorious number 7 Rue Bartholdi will do just fine, thanks!

Riquewihr high street, France.  Half timber houses and clock tower.We spot lots of hidden features in buildings we’d passed before as well as finding other wonderful sights.  I am completely head over heels for Colmar, I honestly cannot imagine how this stunning little town could be any more beautiful.  Wandering around its gorgeous streets transports us straight into the landscape of a film we both dearly love.  We’ve both watched Howl’s Moving Castle many a time and talked about how perfect the town appears to be and how lovely it would be to live there.  Well, it turns out people do and it’s called Colmar.  I cannot speak highly enough of this heavenly place.  It’s a hardship and a half to leave but we probably shouldn’t park for too long where we are and we really don’t fancy another night alongside the noisy main road anyway! 

Our next stop is Riquewihr, also claimed to be an influence in Howl’s Moving Castle.  On arrival we can’t find anywhere free to park short of ditching the van on the outskirts of town in a very muddy side of the road spot.  We put an hour’s worth of cash into the meter and head out to look around town.  Riquewihr consists of one main cobbled street and a handful of side streets all wrapped up in rampart walls.  Once more the buildings are colourful wooden fronted masterpieces in superb condition.  All around the window frames are intricately carved faces and figures.  Each shop, hotel and restaurant has a lovely metal hanging sign specific to its business.  Once again every view is just gorgeous.  Whilst much smaller than Colmar, there’s almost as much charm packed into this tiny space.  There isn’t a boring building here, everywhere has been meticulously cared for and made as attractive as it can be.  

Riquewihr's colourful half timber housesThe backdrop is equally lovely, with steep banks heading upwards at the end of each street all covered in row upon row of grape vines, up towards a thick covering of pine trees on the top of each hill.  

It really does feel like we’re in the middle of a fairytale world…well except for the fact it’s raining!  I’m so happy I came across the mini article about Colmar that led to me finding out about these gorgeous little villages.  This whole area seems to be full of the most idyllic little villages around.  It’s a shame it’s a nightmare to drive and park around here or we’d no doubt visit them all!

Riquewihr post office, FranceWe take our time to see all of Riquewihr and get back to the van just as the ticket runs out.  There doesn’t appear to be anyone around to check these things and we consider trying to get away with stopping overnight for free.   Almost immediately a ginormous motorhome rolls in and parks across 4 spaces which may well draw some attention so we opt to head off to nearby Ribeauville for the night.

By the time we arrive its getting dark and the rain is heavier so we head out to grab a baguette and then call it quits for the day.  We spot two storks on the way pottering around the local park.  From all the stork related paraphernalia we’ve spotted around here and local towns, I guess they’re pretty popular. 

We’ve seen so many wonderful views over the last two days that I’m worried we’ve peaked too soon.  Will we ever see anywhere so perfect or is it all downhill from here?!  We’ve been spoiled!

Howls Moving Castle meets real life

Day 198 28.01.12 Mulhouse to Colmar

Typical Colmar view, SO Howls Moving Castle!

Little Venice in Colmar, France. Colourful half-timber houses on the river.We get up and potter over to Super U to buy a few bits for sandwiches and some drinks before getting the van ready to go.  We head over to a couple of supermarkets on the way out of town that the CampingGas website promises sell our gas canisters.  The first one doesn’t and the second only sells new canisters not refills.  As a result they are crazy expensive, looks like we won’t be having heating for a while!  It’s a real frustration as driving through town was really stressful thanks to narrow roads, terrible drivers and numerous diversions.  We need to get some wifi and find somewhere that refills cannisters sharpish!

The journey to Colmar is pretty stressful too with lots of traffic.  Our first parking spot was a no-go as the parking specifically for campers only allows you to stop on the side of a busy road for a maximum of 4 whole hours at a whopping 2.80 euros an hour, gee thanks Colmar! (sarcasm intended).  We end up around the corner once more on the side of a busy road but this time free!

Heading into town we’re thankful for a mild day, there’s sun in the sky and we don’t need coats for once!  Arriving in the centre of Colmar I am overwhelmed by its beauty.  Chris and I are huge fans of the Japanese film makers Studio Ghibli, particularly their film Howl’s Moving Castle.  The main village in the film is based on Colmar and nearby Riquewihr and the similarities are clear to see.  Maison Pfister is the most obvious building that can be seen in the film as the bakery run by the main character’s sister.  It’s a magnificent building with a wooden balcony, pointed roof and religious paintings around the central section.

Colmar riverside, France.  Colourful timber front housesChris is won over quickly by all the antiques shops we stumble upon.  Only he could end up in a conversation about Japanese swords when neither he nor the shop owner speak the same language!  The wooden fronted houses are immaculately maintained and painted a multitude of different colours.  Most shops have intricate ironwork signs hanging down in a medieval style and the shutters on the windows all have a different shape carved into them.  This level of co-ordination must take lots of organisation!  It pays off though in a magical, fairytale city that wins you over in an instant. 

Colmar rooftops and churchWe soon find ‘Little Venice’ with its multi-coloured houses beside the river and it’s just gorgeous.  It was a picture of this area I spotted in a French magazine in a launderette that made me want to come here even before I knew of its link to one of my favourite films.  It’s just perfect here, it’s so easy to see how this haven could inspire artists.  

Even in winter the town is full of colour.  Each house has window boxes outside, no doubt in bloom in Summer this place is even more stunning.  At the moment though it’s hard to believe that this place could be in any way improved, its utter perfection.  Almost every building has intricate carvings around the windows of its brightly coloured façade.  Those that do not have exposed beams have detail expertly painted on instead.  Every way we turn we are in awe of the beauty of this little town, I simply cannot believe that somewhere this spectacular exists! 

Maison Pfister in Colmar, also the bakery in Howls Moving Castle
As the weather takes a turn for the worse we seek shelter (and free electricity) at the mediateque with a view and a half over the rooftops.  Less than an hour later its closing and the fire alarm starts blaring.  I’m not sure whether there was an actual fire or they just really wanted us to leave!!!  We head back to the van for dinner, films and a difficult night’s sleep on a noisy road.

A ghost town let down.

Day 197 27.01.13 Besancon to Mulhouse

Mulhouse town square in the snow
Well we’re still alive!  Last night was much milder than the previous one and we’re certainly thankful!  Once up and about we get on the road for our next stop in Mulhouse.  On arrival we discover it’s a bit rough around the edges and we amend our parking plans accordingly.  After a bucketload of faffing we end up parked in the carpark of a massive Super U supermarket which is closed for the day.

It’s a bit of a walk to town but we let off laptops in tow with hungry bellies since we have no food in the van that doesn’t require heating and the gas is still refusing to play ball.  

We arrive in the centre of Mulhouse to a ghost town.  All of the shops are closed apart from Subway, McDonald’s and an overpriced Carrefour city mini market.  Absolutely everything else, down to the tourist office is closed for the day.  As a result we pass another human being only every ten minutes or so!  We plumb for lunch at Maccy’s and grab a baguette for dinner.  McDonald’s wifi is so terribly slow that I can’t get the blog updated which is rather annoying indeed.

Onwards into Mulhouse I have to say I’m disappointed.  When I looked it up online the old town looked wonderfully quaint and charming with lots to see.  No such joy unfortunately though.  Whilst there are some authentic old buildings some of which are lovely, they are certainly in the minority.  Much of the delightful details on the buildings I’d seen in photos turn out to be PAINTED ON!!! 

Mulhouse town hall, FranceMulhouse cathedral, FranceThe cathedral is undoubtedly fantastic looking with soaring spires, no doubt inside is impressive too although we wouldn’t find out since it’s closed for the entirety of January and February!  The town hall is a quirky, dark pink masterpiece with grand paintings adorning all sides but even the brick work is painted on!  Aside from these two, the William Tell building is very nice and there is a lovely arch way high above the street in the old town that deserves a mention.

That’s about the lot for Mulhouse though really.  The rest of town is rather dull on the architectural front and littered with two of France’s major detractions; graffiti and dog poo (seriously its everywhere!). 

William Tell building in Mulhouse, FranceWe find a free art museum and pop in for a look around.  There are some fine portraits amongst some not so great pieces.  One of the large paintings of a young couple is particularly striking and the museum is worth a visit for this alone. 

Satisfied we’ve seen all that town has to offer (and worried that it’s about to chuck it down with rain) we head home for dinner.  The carpark seems to have been transformed into a training ground for learner drivers with 4 youngsters in different cars doing loops of the carpark.  At times a couple come worryingly close to Van Diesel and threaten to give us the heart attack those sandwiches didn’t!  Thankfully soon the failing light and abundance of rain has them all clearing off sharpish.

Time for dinner, films and bed.  Tomorrow we’re off to Colmar and I AM EXCITED!

Ice ice baby

Day 196 26.01.13 Besancon

Well last night certainly was the coldest so far. We awoke to find ice on the INSIDE of Van Diesel’s windows!  We tried to get the heating on only to discover the gas seems to have frozen to the sides of the canister and refuses to come out.  Getting up from under the covers was a chore to say the least!   We got up eventually and wrapped up warm before heading out to get to know the town. 

Unfortunately the main thing you notice in town is the roadworks.  There are barriers up everywhere marking where work will take place for the new tram system which promises to be finished by 2015.  There are plenty of refurbishments taking place to the buildings too so lots of scaffolding.  All this certainly detracts from the look of the town. 

Many of the older buildings are made from a light beige stone and a pastel blue stone.  I assume it’s all from a local quarry and it gives a really nice cohesive look to the main square. Sadly aside from this there was obviously a great deal of building work that was done in the 1970s as lots of ugly block like buildings break up the more inspired designs. 

On our wanderings we discover the old Roman remains of the aqueduct and theatre building although there’s not a great deal left!  Further up the hill we find the cathedral which is once again covered in scaffolding.  Inside however we are very pleasantly surprised by the extravagant altar decked with gold framed paintings, huge stained glass windows and carved cherubs.  There are numerous grand prayer rooms off to the side and the organ player treats us to a practice session as we walk around. 

Elsewhere in town there are some rather plain churches and a large number of fountains.  Lots of the fountains are switched off for winter and those that aren’t have icicles hanging off them!  Perhaps if we’d visited the town in summer without all the work going on we may have a more pleasing opinion of it but sadly at the moment it seems a little lacklustre and rough around the edges.  There’s a lot of graffiti and a number of the fountains have been defaced or damaged in some way (although Neptune does look pretty funny with glasses!).  It’s a real shame because the heart of the town, nestled in a loop of the Doubs river has the potential to be picturesque and charming.

After a while we head back to the van for lunch.  It seems like we have seen most of the attractions Besancon has to offer.  We had planned to go up to the citadel on the hill to scramble around the walls and visit the zoo but sadly it’s just too cold!  Any sensible zoo animal would be hiding inside from this cold and heading up 100 metres in this chilly weather seems a silly idea!  Instead I must admit we plumped for the warmer option of an afternoon in the mediateque.  There was a queue waiting for the doors to open, great minds (and freezing cold minds) think alike!

We got back to the van to find the gas still refusing to work – perhaps its running out?  Either way there’s no cooking hot food and its incredibly cold!  We head out to a nearby takeaway and order ourselves a ‘sandwich americain’ each, which turns out to translate roughly in English to ‘heart attack sandwich’.  Layers of beef (?) patty smothered in cheese, just what we needed!  Next its time to dive under the covers and watch a film before bracing ourselves for a heating free night in sub zero temperatures.  In case you ever thought we were sane here’s proof you were wrong!!!

Burning up the miles.

Day 195 25.01.13 Besancon

We got up early for a big day on the road (thankfully toll road free!).  We stopped off half way at Lons le Saunier to break up the journey and grab lunch.  There didn’t appear to be much to see and Chris was keen to keep driving so we got straight back on the road for Besancon.  The road systems are undergoing major works to make way for a new tramway so getting into the city was a bit of a nightmare.  Our first parking spot was a bust too which didn’t help!  After parking up near a Lidl we set out on foot to find somewhere better. 

This involved a walk into town to grab a map from the tourist office as well as investigation of the municipal aire which cost 5 euros a day for a parking spot and water supply.  On our travels we came across plenty of interesting buildings to check out tomorrow.

In the end we found a large carpark much closer to town and well lit.  The car we parked next to had left a leather jacket, bulging backpack and smart unworn shoes in clear view so we were happy Van Diesel was pretty safe!  It was already 4:30 by this point so we grabbed the laptops and headed to a mediateque to charge up after last night’s film watching.  Chris got some writing done and I checked out the freebie maps to figure out where to visit tomorrow.  It’s been a long day and we’re both pretty tired, Chris from driving and me from the continuing lurgy.  Hopefully tomorrow will bring a more fun day!

A pretty pit stop in chicken country

Day 194 24.01.13 Bourg en Bresse

I woke up feeling rather under the weather with the start of a heavy cold.  We head into town anyway to have a look around.  Our first stop is the monastery with its colourful tiled roof and impressive façade.  There’s lot of intricate carving and some great looking gargoyles.  Entry is quite expensive so we just have a look around the outside.  Once again there is a lot of refurbishment going on so a fair bit of scaffolding spoils the view of what is otherwise a very attractive building,

Onwards to town we find the large Notre Dame church with its tall clock tower.  The outside is once again very grand.  Inside we find tall stained glass windows and high arched ceilings.  The seating area for the choir is entirely made of carved wood.  Each seat has a carved face on the underside and the back panels have much more extravagant designs.  There is no doubt that a lot of work from some very talented people has gone into this area.

Elsewhere in town we find a number of very old, wooden fronted houses in various states of repair, some of which are very nice.  The theatre building is very attractive as too is the town hall.  There is also a small but pretty park alongside the river.   There isn’t a great deal else to see, this was only intended to be a stop off to give the van a break from driving.  Van Diesel doesn’t exactly love hills so when passing through mountainous territory we don’t like the push it too far!  We head back to the van in the early afternoon for some lunch and then it’s off to the mediateque.  I’m not feeling up to much else and it gives Chris a chance to get some writing done.

After a while its back to the van for films, food and an early night to try and fend off the lurgy!

Back to the road

Day 23.01.13 Geneva to Bourg en Bresse

We had somewhat of a lie in to make the most of the ginormous comfy bed we’ve had here.  The next port of call was then to make the most of the nice, hot showers we can have here too!  Afterwards I got down to sifting through the ludicrous amount of pictures I took in Gruyeres in order to get the blog updated.

The rest of the morning was spent chilling out with Nick, Lucy and baby Oliver.  Before we knew it, it was time to set off back to the van and reality, leaving the family and luxury behind!  We’ve had an utterly brilliant couple of days here, thanks a million to our lovely hosts!

On the way back to the van we stopped for a quick look at the 140m tall Jet D'eau on the lake, very impressive indeed!  We were pretty nervous heading back to the van having left it for two days in Lidl’s carpark.  Thankfully though nobody seemed to mind as we were clamp-free and Van Diesel was exactly as we left it.  We said our farewells and headed into Lidl to stock up on supplies.

We then got on the road to Bourg en Bresse.  Our plans are to get back to the UK before the road tax runs out at the end of February.  Sadly that will be the end of our adventures for now (until next time!).   We’re taking a slow route back up north from here calling in at a fair few big cities along the way.  The first stage of our plan is to get Van Diesel out of the mountains!  Since driving through Switzerland would mean buying a vignette at 33 euros, we’re taking the long way around to Besancon via Bourg en Bresse. 

Unfortunately the journey is over 110 kilometres and largely on the toll roads.  Whilst we avoid them like the plague usually, toll roads are our safest route through the mountains in this snowy weather.  The mountain views along the way were once again amazing and cruising along between mountains covered in snowy pine trees we felt like we were in a Bond film!   Five minutes away from our destination I spot that the SatNav plans to take us under a bridge which is only 2.5 metres high which would decapitate the top metre or so of Van Diesel!  Instead we make a sharp turn into the car park for a large shopping area and decide that’ll do for tonight!  We grab some fresh bread for lunch and eat up.  It’s already almost 4 o’clock so a little late to be going to check out town.  Chris is in the mood for some writing so we head to the mediateque which just so happens to be over the road from our carpark.  Perfect! 

Once the mediateque closes its back to the van for dinner and a couple of films.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Fondue with a mountain view

Day 192 22.01.13 Gruyeres

Geiger cafe by the museum in Gruyeres, Switzerland

Views of snowy Gruyeres in Switzerland.
We were awake pretty early and enjoyed a lazy morning around the flat.  After a late breakfast we set off to Gruyere for a special surprise for Chris planned by his brother – a trip to the Geiger museum and café.  As a massive Alien fan we knew he’d love it and I couldn’t wait either!  The road there was almost entirely alongside the lake with spectacular views of the mountains along the way.

We arrived in the picturesque Medieval village of Gruyere nestled in the mountains with its pretty chateau (and massive cheese factory!)  The views of the mountains all around were jaw dropping.  We were so lucky to have gone up there on such a clear, sunny day that the views were so perfect. There was a steep walk up to the town and through to the castle where Chris quickly spotted a Geiger sculpture above the door.  His face was a picture when he figured out where we were!

Views of snowy cheese haven Gruyeres, Switzerland

Geiger Jesus Christ pose tableGeiger alien doors in the Giger museum Gruyeres, SwitzerlandInside the museum we found a fantastic collection of Geiger’s works as well as a number of pieces of art from his own personal collection.  We got up close and personal with props from the Alien films including a huge Alien suit which was rather terrifying!  The 18+ room gave us an even more terrifying glimpse into Geigers more erotic (read ‘totally messed-up) thoughts.  We were so lucky to walk around the museum almost entirely alone to enjoy it and also violate the ‘no photos’ policy massively!  There were so many great pieces to marvel at, huge paintings covering entire walls with so much detail it would take weeks to spot all the hidden nuances.   Geiger’s work is spell minding to look at, we could have easily spent many hours inside just aghast at all the wonderful things to see.  

Not time to dawdle though, the next stop was the famous Geiger café and quite possibly the highlight of the trip.  Decked out like Alien spaceship the place is utterly amazing.  You can take a seat at the bar in these phenomenal futuristic chairs or sit in a booth under the carved arch ceiling.  The drinks were astronomically priced but for the location, totally worth it.  It’s so odd to find both of these incredible but very strange places within the charming, medieval Alpine village of Gruyere known only for its cheese.

Geiger alien at the museum in Gruyeres, SwitzerlandGeigers famous bullet babies at the Giger museum in Gruyeres, SwitzerlandAnd speaking of cheese, that was our next stop!  We sat down at the rampart café in the walls of the castle with a great terrace overlooking the Alpine view for what else but fondue?!  The waitress brought over this monster pot of bubbling cheese as well as a basket of bread and some potatoes for us to dunk in the gooey cheese goodness – and some white wine accompaniment of course!  After gorging ourselves on cheese we waddled off down the one street in town, took some pictures of the view and then headed back to the car. 
With the Geneva rush hour traffic it took a while to get back to the flat where we all melted into the sofa for some lazy film watching.  It has been an absolutely incredible day that we certainly won’t forget in a hurry!  Huge thanks to our fantastic hosts!

Meeting the newest addition to the family

Day 191 21.01.13 Annecy to Geneva

Chris and his new nephew Oliver
Chris and his new nephew
The view over Lake Geneva, Mont Blanc and Jet d'eauWe got up a little later than usual and got the van ready to head to the Swiss border.  If we cross over we have to buy a vignette for the motorway at 33 euros even for a short time so we’re parking up on the French side and Chris’ brother will collect us.  The journey takes a while as its largely uphill!  Given the mountainous terrain we opt for the toll roads which turns out to be ridiculously overpriced with a ten minute stretch costing over ten euros.  We park up in Lidl’s carpark which seems to have quite a few cars in it covered with snow that clearly haven’t moved today.  Hopefully that means we’ll be ok leaving the van here for a night or two.  We grab some shopping and have lunch before packing bags for our stay in Geneva.  We’re taking everything of value as we hate leaving the van especially overnight after the break in.  Our lift arrives and we set off for Geneva enjoying a view of the lake en route. 

We arrive at the flat that will be our home for the next few days and enjoy some hot showers before the guest of honour arrives, the new nephew!  He’s very tiny and utterly adorable.  The rest of the day is spent chilling out and catching up.  We enjoy a good meal, central heating and a proper bed for the night.  I can’t deny we’ve missed this!  

A moment of sheer perfection

Day 190 20.01.13 Annecy

Sure enough when we awake to the sound of church bells, the sky is clear and brilliant blue.  We take the opportunity to climb up the hill to the Basilica to enjoy the views over the town.  It’s a steep and tiring walk with some very slippery spots underfoot.   At the top there are a few too many trees blocking the view to really make the most of it but the snow topped roof of the chateau is particularly nice.  The church itself is surprisingly modern with fantastic stained glass windows and a cross in the ceiling formed from glass bricks so it practically glows with the bright sunlight streaming through.   Sadly the gardens attached are closed at the moment.  I’m not sure whether you are able to visit them but if you can then it’s no doubt where the best views over the town are to be found.

We tentatively climb back down towards town and grab a baguette on the way back to the van for lunch.  After filling our beliies we go for a walk along promenade beside the lake.  The sun is out inf full force and wonderfully warming.  It turns the crystal clear water of the lake a spectacular turquoise colour that has to be seen to be believed.  We walk down to the best spot where you can marvel at a horseshoe of snow clad mountains and grab a bench.  With the sun on our faces and perhaps the most beautiful sight of our trip so far laid out in front of us, it really is a perfect moment.  I cannot enthuse about the beauty of Annecy enough.  I truly am wowed by the place and find myself trying to take mental snapshots at every opportunity so I cannot ever forget how stunning it is.

After a good while enjoying the scenery reality bites and we remember that also on today’s to do list is the washing!  We slowly walk back alongside the lake and take in the views from the ‘Lover’s Bridge’.  The weather starts to turn as we head back, with grey clouds gathering and the brilliant blue fading.  We now feel much better about abandoning the view in favour of clean clothes.  We grab the two huge bags of washing and head down to the launderette which is rather busy.  We walk past a patisserie on the route which seems to specialise in giant tasty treats.  Chris grabs a massive pain au chocolate and I get my hands on a strawberry flavoured meringue.  Both were amazingly tasty and produced quite the sugar rush! 

Afterwards it’s pretty dark and so back to the van for the night.  Tomorrow we leave this wonderful haven to go and visit Chris’ brother, his girlfriend and their new baby in Geneva.  It’s about the only thing that could tear us away from here!