| ANNECY, France
ANNECY, France Nov 9 Surrounded by mountains
and healthy-looking people, Lake Annecy is a smaller French
version of Switzerland's vast Lake Geneva.
In the winter, the fortunate local residents ski. In all
seasons, they climb the peaks, cycle around and swim in their
Life in general is very pleasant. Hence the shock was all
the greater when in September, Annecy found itself swarming with
police and international media drawn to a brutal killing in
woodland above the lake.
Three members of a British-Iraqi family were shot dead in
their car, and at the roadside, a French cyclist unlucky enough
to be in the wrong place at the wrong time was also slain. A
four year-old girl hid for eight hours beneath her dead mother's
skirts. Her seven-year-old sister was seriously injured.
The locals compared it to "l'affaire Dominici" - the killing
of three Britons in their car in a different part of the French
Alps in the 1950s. That crime was never conclusively solved and
the ongoing fascination with it has inspired films.
Annecy's press voiced concern about horror tourism as
visitors made their way to the scene of the crime in the Combe
d'Ire (literally Valley of Wrath), near the idyllic village of
Chevaline. They may well have been going there anywhere as the
area is stunningly beautiful, even by region's exceptional
Correspondents with local knowledge offer tips for the other
sights to explore during a short stay.
Annecy is about 30 km from Geneva, home to the nearest
airport for international flights. From Paris, it's either a
day-time train ride of just under four hours, or a slow night
train to arrive in Annecy early in the morning.
You also need to decide what transport you'll be using
during your 48-hour stay. The Annecy way to travel is by bike
and enjoy to the full the 35 km of "piste cyclable" (cycle
track) that circles the lake, so come prepared with no more
possessions than you can cram into a rucksack or panniers.
Arriving from the station, make your way southeast from the
station to the Vieille Ville (Old City) - an area of narrow and
enticing medieval streets on either side of the Canal du Thiou.
10 a.m. - On the island in the middle, the Palais de l'Isle,
built in 1132, was once the home of the Lord of Annecy. It later
became the Count of Geneva's administrative headquarters, then a
courthouse, a mint and a jail from the middle ages until well
into the 19th-century and again during World War II. It now
houses a display of the city's and region's history.
11 a.m. - The quaint surrounding streets, with their open
air markets selling local produce, deserve an hour of wandering.
Au Fidele Berger at 2, rue Royale, between the old town and
the station, was established in 1917 to serve up exquisite
patisserie and hot chocolate. Lunch options include quiche and
2 p.m. - Time to hire a bike. Roul' ma Poule offers
"comfort" models or more expensive racing bikes from a shop on
the edge of the lake at 47, avenue du Petit Port.
Depending on how fit you are and the weather, tackle the
"piste cyclable" at your own pace. It makes use of the old
railway route and tunnel, links up to gentle villages and is
frequented by cyclists of all ages as well as effortlessly cool
A fine evening destination would be Talloires, Annecy's most
exclusive spot on the lake shore.
If you're feeling energetic, you can approach it via a tour
all around the lake. Alternatively, you can head straight there
and take in the scenery at a leisurely pace.
And if you're feeling flush, you can dine in Les Terrasses
du Cottage and look out on to the turquoise lake. The adjoining
hotel Le Cottage Bise has four-star accommodation and an air of
8 a.m. - Time to follow the Annecy folk up one of their
favourite climbs -- La Tournette, at some 2,350 metres, the
highest peak of the region.
It's achievable for the moderately fit and there are chains
to help with the last few metres of scrambling over rocks,
snow-clad for most of the year.
From Talloires, you can also cycle a few, steep km to the
hamlet of Montmin, or you could order a taxi, but remember to
make arrangements to be collected later. The walk takes roughly
6 hours 30 minutes. You'll also need a picnic and a map would be
9 a.m. - Near the church of Montmin there is a sign on a
lavoir (washing trough) pointing you to La Tournette. Follow it
through the village and up a tarmac road, which becomes a rough
The route is marked with green splashes all the way and
takes you through woodland, past a dry river bed, through a wide
rocky gulley and along a col with spectacular views. On a clear
day, you can see Mont Blanc.
There is also a wealth of wildlife. You are more likely to
hear the squeal of marmots than to see them, but the bouquetin
(ibex) are far bolder.
Wolves have also been reintroduced and the locals insist
they won't hurt you, although shepherds have been complaining
bitterly about lost sheep.
6 p.m. - Time to head back to Annecy, either by taxi or by
If you opted for a taxi, you could have dinner and then take
the night train.
If you're on your bike, you won't be able to return it to
the hire shop until morning, forcing you to spend another night
with the healthy lake-dwellers.
Annecy has a wealth of eateries in the medieval centre.
It also has the Centre Bonlieu arts complex, which hosts
festivals and has matinee as well as evening performances for
the rainy days when the great outdoors is less alluring.
(Editing by Paul Casciato)