Paris may have dibs on big city romance, but when it comes to the ultimate romantic French weekend getaway, few towns can surpass Annecy. This charming hamlet is nestled in the Rhône-Alpes region, set four hours by train from Paris and an hour by bus from Geneva.
Here, pastel storefronts flank turquoise canals. Petunias spring from iron balconies. A lake glitters like a sapphire in the center of snow-capped peaks. Annecy's good looks draw hordes of tourists in the summer, but in fall, its streets empty out and it becomes the ideal weekend destination for a romantic escape.
Ready to be whisked away? Your weekend in Annecy awaits.- by Amanda Halm
THINGS TO DO
Lac d'Annecy (Lake Annecy) is touted as Europe's cleanest lake, with water that's straight-to-the-bottom clear, reflecting a pure azure on sunny days. Amble down the lakefront path and watch swans float between docked boats, then pull in your sweetheart for a smooch on the Pont des Amours (Lover's Bridge), a pedestrian bridge arching over a canal offshoot. Alternatively, hop aboard a boat to get up close to the mountain villages that fringe the lake. You can nosh on gourmet delights on a dinner cruise, or quickly zip around for an hour-long boat tour.
A Palace & a Château
Set in the center of the Thiou Canal, the 12th-century Palais de l'Ile is arguably the town's most photogenic landmark, which, in this scenic place, is saying quite a bit! Originally built for Lord Annecy, the palace later served stints as a courthouse, mint, and prison, before being converted into today's incarnation: a small museum housing art and history exhibits. Also pop into the Château d'Annecy, a large fortress overlooking the town from a hilltop (tip: you'll save a few dollars by purchasing the palace and castle tickets together).
Charming boutiques filled with lush soaps, handmade scarves, and decadent pastries create a scenic haven for a full day of arm-in-arm couple's shopping. Buy a bouquet for your beloved at Fleurs André, or treat your taste buds to chocolate truffle tasting at Bruno Meyer, a family-owned chocolate shop.
WHAT TO EAT
On Sunday mornings, the scent of charcuterie and cheese wafts through Rue St. Clair as the centuries-old farmers' market gets underway. In fact, produce markets are so popular in Annecy, they have their own festival: Descente des Alpages, a celebration of the farmers' return from alpine pastures, held every October.
There are few things more romantic than strolling through a fairytale town indulging in sweet, decadent, who-cares-about-calories ice cream. Italian ice cream shops are ubiquitous in Annecy and the flavors range from traditional dark chocolate to the more inventive kiwi. Or, when the Alpine air gets crisp, there's plenty of gourmet hot chocolate and fondue to be had. For something more hearty, be on the lookout for Tomme de Savoie, a cow's milk cheese, or split a tartiflette, a dish made with bacon, crème fraîche, potatoes, and reblochon, another regional fromage (cheese).
When it's time to whisper sweet nothings to each other over towering zucchini tartare, try the lively L'Esquisse, a restaurant that serves gourmet dishes sourced from local fresh-from-the-market produce (reservations are recommended).
WHERE TO STAY
If only a palace will do for your fairytale weekend, book a stay at L'Impérial Palace. This stately resort features balconies with panoramic views of the lake, a secluded garden, and a full French breakfast buffet. Indulge in a couple's massage at the nearby spa, or have a date night out at the casino.
Maison d'Hôtes a Côté Annecy
The Maison d'Hôtes a Côté Annecy caters to couples looking for a quiet and sophisticated bed-and-breakfast. Outfitted in minimalist black-and-white decor, rooms come well-appointed, some with jetted tubs. Arise each morning to sun-flooded skylights and a sweet-treat breakfast of sponge cake and yogurt.
Photo Credits: Courtesy of Amanda Halm at www.angloadventure.com