So where was I?
Ah yes, Annecy.
Annecy is massive. By which I mean the architecture is massive- lowering house fronts with buttresses and cavernous arcades. I'm guessing the old town is mostly- or at least basically- medieval. Has the massiveness something to do with living among mountains? I think so. I am reminded that Le Corbusier- modern master of the massive- who found a kind of world-denying spirituality in the massive and brutal- was from this part of the world.
The town's most famous former citizen is St. Francois de Sales- who was bishop here in the early seventeenth century- and on the frontine of the war between Rome and John Calvin's Geneva. All I know about him is what I've read in Wikipedia, but he seems to have been charming, witty and humane. The Counter-Reformation is not my favourite intellectual and cultural movement, but if I'd been around at the time and forced to choose between Calvin's Geneva and de Sales' Annecy I don't think I'd have had much difficulty choosing de Sales. He is, on the strength of having written a number of stylish devotional works, the Vatican-designated patron of writers and journalists.
There's a campaign to get Annecy and its lake declared a World Heritage Site. Right on! I say. Also they'd like to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.
This is a famous view. The bridge at the end of the vista is called "the bridge of love".
This is a detail of the facade of the late 17th century Hotel de Sales which- according to a wall plaque- was where the Sardinian court (and no, I've no idea what they were doing here) used to hang out.
A typical square with a typical fountain.
Just dig how massive it all is.
A corner tower of the castle.
So where was I?
Following morning- Sunday morning- I climbed the hill behind the house. As far as I can make out, it's called Taillefer and it's over 600 metres. Part way up there's a grotto dedicated to Notre Dame du Duingt or- as she's variously called- Notre Dame du Lac. Which in English (lets spell it out) is The Lady of the Lake. I love the fringes of Roman Catholicism- where it shades off into Paganism- and even Animism.
A little higher up there's a statue of St Michael- spearing a rather fishy devil. He is so positioned against trees and sky as to be almost impossible to photograph.
I had no intention- on starting out- of going all the way to the top, but I'm ridiculously proud of myself for managing it. Standing on the snowy summit I felt like Hilary and/or Tensing.
Because it was there...
In the evening we went and collected Matt with a view to us all going on a trip to Chamonix the following day.
A few mountains have highly distinctive profiles- the Eiger for instance and the Matterhorn. Mont Blanc isn't one of them. The last of these photos certainly shows Mt Blanc. I'm not sure about the others.
And here are my dauntless companions.....
With time on our hands, we went to Ferney- a not particularly pretty, small town- famous as the home of Voltaire- and the site of his many, philanthropic and daring social experiments. There's a statue- inscribed to Le patriarche de Ferney, a fountain with his bust on it, and a painting on the side of the hotel which shows him in silhouette, sitting, drinking some enlightenment beverage, legs crossed, with a slipper dangling from his toes. Voltaire was a very great man and a very good man- a secular saint- and I was moved to be in his presence. His so-called chateau, on the edge of town- is a tasteful and modest country house. I don't know if it opens to the public, but it was certainly closed on this occasion- and I got no closer than the gates.
In the evening we dined at the Coq Rouge in St Genois. I ate foie gras, fried in a raspberry vinegar sauce, veal kidneys in a gingerbread and mustard sauce and a coupe colonel- which is lemon sorbet with vodka. I've racked my brains to remember if I've ever had a better meal in the past 59 years- and I don't believe I have.