(Still) Dreaming of a white christmas Pt 2

Annecy is a very picturesque town situated on the edge of a pristine lake and bisected by canals that seem to be one of the tourist draw cards for the town. We chose a hotel in the old centre of town and it turned out to be a good choice. The day we arrived was market day and we spent a couple of hours wandering, sampling the food and generally taking in the atmosphere. These markets are not set up for tourists, although there are lots of touristy things to be found. This is where locals come to get their fruit and veg, their cheese, fish, meat etc. Everyone seemed to be doing a roaring trade, especially the guy who had the worlds biggest fry pan thing – a giant cross between a fry pan and a wok – in which he had a creamy potato and bacon thing happening that turned me into one of Pavlov’s dogs immediately.

The lake at Annecy is beautiful. It’s a huge recreational area in summer but despite that, the water is crystal clear. Heaps of people were out and about enjoying the sunny (but still cold) day, walking riding, jogging and generally enjoying where they were. After the obligatory stop at a play ground, we slowly made our way back to the hotel and pondered our options for dinner. That night we ate at a tiny noodle house for a change of palette and wandered around the town for a bit after. The next day I headed out early to get some photos in the early morning light before breakfast and another train ride to Beaunne.

Situated in the middle of a wine growing region, wine is definitely central to life in Beaunne. Throughout the medieval centre of the town the shops either sell wine, or wine making products, or other things to go with wine e.g. cheese, cured meat, party hats. Nightly, at strategic places around the town, there are light shows consisting of images projected on to the side of historic buildings. The effect is quite stunning with the projections ranging from artistic alterations to the real facades of the building, to animations reminiscent of a Salvador Dali painting. But it was cold, really cold. A top daytime temp of minus 6 takes the fun out of it I’ll tell you. It was time to move on after a couple of days and once again, being the adventurous sort, I hired a car. Despite the weather being gruesome with grey skies, fog reducing visibility down to 100m and frost everywhere, it wasn’t as hair raising as I had expected.

We made it to Orleans in one piece, but the weather literally forced us to stay indoors. Which in itself turned out to be none too pleasant as the owners of the apartment were big on scented stuff – you know, oils, sticks with oil, automatic deodoriser sprays, over scented washing powder, the lot. So we all had headaches and ended up being quite miserable. We did get out in the morning to do a bit of exploring and say g’day to Joan D’Arc. Her statue had spider webs hanging from it here and there which were all frosted. So it gave the ones hanging from her nose the appearance of snotsicles. This softened the impact of her imposing statue somewhat, that and the dirty great multi-coloured Ferris wheel right next to her.

On to a little city called Blois on the banks of the Loire River and step-off point for Chateau Chambord, one of the big draw cards for the area. We arrived no worries but getting into our apartment proved difficult. We had previously arranged with the landlord to have the maid let us in. The only issue was that they hadn’t told the maid. When we rocked up and knocked on the door, no one answered. We then set about texting our hosts, who by the way, were away on vacation, to ask them to tell the maid we were there. This they attempted to do but owing to the apartment having very poor reception for mobiles, she didn’t get the message. To top it off, she was using the vacuum cleaner whilst we were ringing the doorbell and banging on the door so she didn’t hear either. So, we spent 35 minutes standing in the street in -2 weather until the poor maid – who had no idea of course – moved into mobile range and saw she had several missed calls from her boss. The poor thing was so apologetic when she finally opened the door but we assured her that it wasn’t her fault and all was well. I’m not sure how convincing we were – teeth chattering, blue fingers etc. She thanked us anyway for not treating her badly and was happy when she left. WTF?
Blois has a great market on weekends even in the dead of winter and we managed to pick up some roast chicken, a seafood paella and potatoes for a couple of Euros (it pays to shop at closing time). It was fortunate that we had some warm food as the extractor fan in the kitchen was permanently on, thus sucking out any warm air created by the heaters and rendering the lounge and kitchen miserably cold. We all ended up retiring to the bedroom where we could close the door and retain the heat there.
The following day we made our way to Chateau Chambord with high expectations. If the other Chateaux in the valley were anything to go by, this would be a real treat. In short, it wasn’t. Dreary and grey, it paled in comparison to smaller chateaux in the region. Unlike the other chateaux which have a lot of their former fixtures still present, much of this place is a shell. A big, cold, stone shell. If you are visiting the region and trying to narrow down your choices, skip this one. It was nothing special.

Then, it was back to Nantes by train where the weather continued to be dreary and grey. We were disappointed that we missed the snow, but on the positive side, we got to spend Christmas in the Alps and see several things on the way home so it wasn’t what I’d call a loss at all. Overall, thumbs up!

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