Sunday, May 15, 2011

May 15, 2011: Annecy/Marseille - Gorges, Picnic, Castle, Train, French Reading, Hotel

We woke Sunday morning to sunshine, which was a relief. It's hard to appreciate how pretty Annecy is when you're focused on escaping a downpour. We had a short walk around town as we picked up some food from the market for a picnic and criss-crossed a few of the canals. Then we were off to the nearby Gorges du Fier as soon as possible, just in case rain came again.

Lac Annecy drains (via the Canal Thiou) into the river Fier. At one point the river becomes constrained in a gorge, where it twists through narrow spaces at high speeds, carving the rock into amazing undulating shapes. Because it is so narrow the water level can rise very rapidly and high - there was a high water marker that showed how many tens of meters it has risen in the past. The Gorge has been fitted out with a narrow walkway anchored within the gorge, so that you can really appreciate the power of the river. It was safely low when we visited, in spite of the downpour the day before.

After the Gorges we had a picnic outside the grounds of Montrottier Castle. It was great to see it in the daylight, and the sunshine held out.

As we returned to town the rain came down again,  so we decided to tour the museum at the Castle of Annecy. This building no longer has any original furnishings or decoration, and instead has a number of exhibits about the history and geography of the area. At times looking out its windows we saw sunshine, and other times rain - the weather was very changeable.

Finally our time came to part ways with Mark and Bernard - they returned to Grenoble while Mom and I got on the train to Marseille. This was our longest train ride of our trip, about 5 hours altogether with a transfer in Valence. It was also our first TGV train (super-fast train à grand vitesse) from Valence to Marseille. The train was so smooth it was hard to feel the difference, but when we went through a tunnel the sudden change in air pressure would make our ears pop!

In Marseille we got a taxi to our hotel for a late dinner. Marseille was our one "splurge" hotel of the trip, since we would only be staying one night. It had a pool, a nice hotel restaurant featuring local ingredients, and a good location near the water, across from a lovely park. Dinner was good (I wish I could remember now what it was I ate - all I know is that I did not have the famous local specialty of bouillabaisse fish soup).

Sunshine gleaming off the golden statue on high

Bronze turtles bear the weight of this heavy stone marker on their backs

A flower shop with elaborate decor 

The market was bustling

The walkway through the gorge - not high enough to avoid being submerged when the flooding is particularly bad

Looking down on the violent waters

Mom and I, suspended high above the river

Signage along the way points out faces that you can see in the rock... these two

And here the river finally exits and calms down

High water levels (high above our heads on the walkway!)

Montrottier Castle in daylight

Our picnic, in view of the castle

A chance to appreciate decorative details that we missed in our after-dark tour

At the Château d'Annecy the vending machine was decorated with a lovely drawing of its exterior - bizarre!

The interior courtyard

A view of Annecy's rooftops, during a sunny interval

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