Search

Travel: European Lakes (Part 1) France/Swiss/Italy, June 18-22/2016

Updated: May 6, 2021


Date :June 18 /2016

Place: Geneva to Annecy


Nested in one of the most  attractive setting in the French Alps, we finally made it to our  destination. Annecy France. a charming and popular town surrounded by the wooded, Alps mountains next to lake d'Annecy, the third largest lake in France, which was formed about 18,000 years ago, at the time the large alpine glaciers melted



The quaint Belle Epoque facade 4-star "Imperial Palace" hotel, we checked into and which we loved, is right by the pastoral lake, close to the city center, and only 40 minutes, away from Geneva Switzerland, where we landed earlier.



Prior to our very early departure, and during only the day and an half since we got back from Corfu‎, I was racing against time, as to organize all needed to be packed and completed prior to closing our apartment in Israel.


When sitting on the plane to London, I was still recounting in my head what was forgotten, until exhaustion from all this travel commotion‎, knocked me out, and I fell into  a blessed sleep but not for long.‎ enough.


The film I manged to view on the plane, and which I liked and recommend, was

a chronicle on Gertrude Bell's life, a traveler, writer, archaeologist, explorer, cartographer, and political attaché for the British Empire at the dawn of the 20th C.


The  film is called "The Quine of the Desert" with Nicole Kedman in the role of Gertrude.

Bell was an expert on the desert and life of the Bedouin, who she researched already 100‎ years ago, when women doing so were very rear. Being very intelligent, highly educated with a gift for languages, adventurous and fearless, she traveled the Arabian and ME deserts, in hostile environments and wrote about her adventures.

The brunt of her "expert" recommendations on ME border demarcation, has been

haunting the region till the present day...


As we flew via‎ London we hang out at the BA launch for 2 hours prior to catching  the continuation flight When no posting of the flight's gate appeared on the lounge's monitor screen, I inquired with one of the stewardesses at the entrance. '

Then we grabbed our bags, in heist, and after a short tram's ride, arrived at gate C-62 as directed by the stewardess, only to find out, that the flight from that gate departs to SFO and not to our destination. -Geneva.


"The joy of traveling..."

We had not even 10 minutes to make it back to the A-gates  in the lounge, where we originally came from, as to make it on time, to the flight.


With a tip given by the more competent BA staff person, we made it all the long way back, not by the tram ride, but through the walking passage, to avoid the security checks all over again, which could have further delayed us. Luckily after a loooong walk, about half way, an airport small cart making it way back to the terminal, picked us up, and dropped us by the correct gate. We were relieved to find out, that boarding was still going on, but started getting annoyed, when an hour delay was announced.

The plane's delay which was waiting for a group of late school kids, did justify our anxious state and earlier rigorous power walk, through the airport underground passage.


When we finally landed in Geneva, we were amazed to find out, that although an international city and an home of the UN Human Rights Council's meetings, the airport's accessibility is totally unfriendly. . One has to take the steps up and down to make it to and from the landing/departing gates, with no elevators or escalators in sight.


The drive by the car we rented at the airport, down from Geneva  to Annecy compensated for the prior hardships, as the  view of the Alps, the very green pastures and charming passed by villages were a feast to the eye, despite the cloudy and drizzling weather.


***********************

Date: June 19th/2016

Place : Annecy


Breakfast at Annency's Imperial Hotel was out of this world.. no one beats the French on the selection and taste of the cheeses and swassisons.(salamies)




Exploring the surroundings around Lake Annecy included driving for start on its Eastern more spectacular lake's bank, as well as enjoying a visit to small resort villages, as :

"Menthon- Saint- Bernard"

"Talloires".


Medieval Castle (video)

The recommended medieval castle "Chateau de Menthon" in Saint- Bernard was not open at the early hour we showed up, so instead, we enjoyed visiting most quaint and romantic

Chateau Ralle hotel right by the lake in Talloirs named "la Plus Belle Baie Du Monde"

which I would have loved staying there, would I get another chance to visit the area   reception@perebise.com


Peak of the mountain

We diverted from the road circulating the lake, and drove up climbing the Alps to a peak vista point called  "Col  de la Forclaz" 1,100 m above the lake, as we were promised stunning views of the scenery below.


Well... up on the top, we could hardly see our own noses, as the pass was covered in woolen clouds and dense fog. So we drove down back toward the Western lake's bank, passing through  "Duingt" and "Saint- Jorioz" where it seemed weather- wise clearer. 



Charlie Chaplin Museum at  Vevey Switzerland


By the time we were back at the lake, the obstinate rain had followed us down, so we decided that we would be more amused, as well as stay dry, by visiting the 

Charlie Chaplin museum at  Vevey - Switzerland, which opened 2 months ago .


The museum is situated at the grounds of the Chaplin's family estate above lake Leman , 20 K from Luzan, and is fabulous and most entertaining, highly recommended.


Driving on the way there, along the Western bank of the Geneva lake Leman we enjoyed spectating the the wooded mountains, enormous very green valleys and meadows, with  roaming cows and horses, rolling vine-yards, carpets of most colorful wild spring flowers as well as many cultivated ones, mainly spectacular roses grown at the villagers' gardens we passed through.


The return drive heading back to Anncey. was on the Eastern lake's side, passing the charming spa towns of "Evian-Les-Bains" and "Thonon- Les-Bains"

 

The weather which couldn't make up his mind all day, if to cry or smile, at times both raining and sun-shining, finally had brighten up late afternoon, painting the Alpine valley and lake by amazing colors.


Back in Anncey

After walking some more the Medieval enchanting streets of Anncey town's center the finale of this long day took place at "L'Etage" an understated  restaurant on the second floor, known more to the locals, and less to the tourists , thus the food was fantastic and priced reasonably.

The other good one, I recommend from the previous day, is attached to an hotel called: "Ouberge de Lyonnais"

*************************


Date: June 20th/2016

Place: From Annency - Chamounix - Lago Maggiore


40 years ago David and I visited this part of the Rohne's Alps region of France, as

"just married young couple".

I was as excited to return to the Grand Alp tour streatch for the second time, as I was the first, in my early  20th.

As then, when I was in the spring of my life, I was consumed with bewilderment and owe for the grandiose scenery, only now my forehead, was plowed with few more wrinkles.


Spectacular Alpean route - D 909

Prior to arriving in midday at the Chamoinx -  Mont-Blanc we departed Annecy in the morning and drove through the spectacular Alpean route D 909 via few of the most popular enchanting French winter ski resort villages mentioned below:


Thones,  La Clusaz - our favorite.

 

Crossing over Col de Aravis  mountain pass, (1486m)


Megev,  St. Gervais , Chamonix, Argentier



Mer de Glace- Glacier - Chamonix/Mont-Blanc

I was glued to the glass window of the old faithful red cho-cho train, pulling us up the steep wooded mountain, while my astonished eyes gobbled the stunning views, all the way up to the " Mer de Glace" glacier, main attraction at Chamonix.



The "Mer de Glace" (Sea of Ice) is the largest glacier in France, 7km long and 200m deep and is one of the biggest attractions in the Chamonix Valley



Alas.. what we encountered when arriving at the top, like our own youth.. was not  "Mer" but  a "Memoir of Glass" .. the enormous swiveling milky white glacier, we had seen and remembered, and which had densely filled the entire depth of wide canyon 40 years ago, is mostly gone - non existent. It has melted, weathered away, evaporated due to the Global Warming on our planet.




Once off the train and further down by cable car, it is now needed to climb down very looong flights of provisional step ladders, extended annually, as to get to the bottom where the shrinking left-over of the once majestic glacier base was.



As one goes down plaques indicating the glacier decline by the year, are posted.

Furthermore ,many of the mountain tops, we passed along the way, lost their white distinguished heads, and are now fully exposed, barely covered by snow.


This unavoidable change, the work of time and weather, left us shocked, bewildered and sadden. Nothing stays still ... "there is no there - there" as Gertrude Stein had better , coined upon returning after many years, to her old long gone Oakland neighborhood.


Crossing over to Switzerland


On our way from France, crossing to Switzerland we drove through "Martigny"

This small Swiss town is located on the Rhone elbow in the Lower Valais, area

which is the hub of the Alpes Pass routes across the Simplon, Great St. Bernard and Forclaz -Passes.


Paying visit to Idit at the Sion Wine Region

We couldn't resist the temptation to visit Idit -the daughter of our very dear friends -

Chemda and Jacob, from Haifa .


Idit - an accomplished talented artist resides in the Swiss version "Zion" - a wine country landscape, surrounded by vineyards rolling off the steep meticulous mountainous terraces. The views are absolutely stunning.


Sion (or Sitten in German), the capital of the Canton of Valais, is known as the most

sun-blessed town of Switzerland. Thanks to its central location, the small town abundant with culture, is also an ideal starting point for exploring the summer and winter holiday resorts in the Valais side valleys.

It is located in the middle of one of the most important wine-growing regions in Switzerland. Fendant, the region's white wine is in particular well known 



Seeping the fantastic local wine which Idit offered, tasting cherries right off the tree growing in the front of her house, as well as viewing her art. was a well worth short hour we spent in the enchanting neighborhood and its magnificent vistas,


To view Idit's art work you can use these links

A website that soon has to be up-dated, glimpse of all her work done until 2010 with the paintings section,  music and angels can be found:          

The latest cows series she started from 2013 on are the most successful and popular.  With at least 3 perpetual expos in well frequented places, publicity works its way out for her.


Crossing to Italy via Simplon Pass



Then as to cross to Italy, we drove through the amazing Simplon pass (video_

(2,005 m or 6,578 ft)

Words can not describe the owe one is fills in witnessing this nature

Divine mountainous carving and scenery.

Being so obsessed with the weather, the timing of driving throughout the mountainous areas, was totally aligned, and not by design. but by sheer great luck, with a perfect weather conditions. The bright, cleare blue sky of a shiny day facilitated a fantastic visibility and comfortable temperatures, all day long.



Lago Maggiore - Italy

The driving continued all the way to Verbania north-west of Milan on the shore of

Lago Maggiore, where we checked in at twilight into a wonderful hotel:

"The Grand Hotel Majestic" on Lago Maggiore lake, happy to get to bed after this loong day...




Date : June 21st /2016 :

Lago Maggiore to Lake Iseao


The good weather also "cooperated" today, which started with a morning walk throughout the gorgeous famous "Vila Taranto Botanical Gardens"



Located at the western shore of Lake Maggiore and very near to the hotel we stayed in,.

the gardens were established in 1931-1940 by Scotsman who bought an existing villa, and its neighboring estates, cut down more than 2000 trees, and undertook substantial changes to the landscape.

The visit to the gardens is a must for gardens lovers. The variety and colors of plants, trees and flowers are a feast for the eye. (See Video)




Driving around the most panoramic and glitzy Eastern bank of the Maggiore Lake, enjoying particularly the stretch between the enchanting towns of "Baveno" to "Stratza" we were amazed by the elegant hotel structures , beautiful landscapes, gorgeous villas, manors and castles,




: MonteIsola -Lake Iseo and the "Flouting Piers"


"Lago Iseao" - was the highlight of this planned trip.- Floating Piers



Lake Iseao, is the place where the "Floating Piers" designed by famous 71 years Bulgarian artist Christo were on display and for the enjoyment of the public

from June 18-July 3 2016.  


For 16 days, “The Floating Piers,” a saffron-colored  3 kilometers stretching walkway, will connect two small islands in the lake to the mainland..




"Lake Iseo" or Lago d'Iseo is the 4th largest lake in Lombardy, Italy.


It may not be the most famous of the Italian lakes, but could be Italy's most charming secret treasure. The surroundings is beautiful and most understated, from all the lake environments we had frequented


There are several medieval towns around the lake, the largest being

"Iseo" and "Sarnico", filled with bars, shops, cafes, hotels, B&B's..


The countryside surrounding the lake is dotted with immaculate vineyards, medieval castles and monasteries. (more lake tresaures)


"Monte Isola" (or Montisola) an Island on Lake Iseo



Monte Isola is the island In the middle of the lake, we were lucky to have found accommodation at for 2 nights,as it provided an easy access via the regular running lake ferries

It is the largest lake island in Europe, on which one feel as if one has gone back in time, since there are no cars, except for the priest’s, the doctor’s and the mayor’s and public

 

Booking at the last minute, 2 days before arrival, we were really really lucky to get the last room in a quaint modest place called: "La" Foresta" on the Island

 where faded hand-woven fishing nets are draped above cafés.


The floats stretched from the island toward one side connecting to the main land to "Sulzano", and to another connecting to tiny island  "di .s Paolo".


Since access to private cars was denied to where the piers begins and as parking was impossible, access requires bus or train rides.

We were so very lucky to just get out of our Island's hotel, turn left or right, and start walking on the floats.


When we approached the lake, some signs in English were posted off the main highway, directing toward the Floating Piers at the lake. But that was the only assistant relief offered in English to orient foreigners, at this widely exposed international  attraction.


Luckily we arrived after the weekend's grand opening. Yet, still the traffic around the lake leading toward the floats, as well as the walking pedestrian on them,or in lines for buses and on foot toward parked cars, were voluminous‎.

The never ending serpentine river of the walkers on floats and on land looked like humongous mob walking Exodus


Nor the project's assigned assisting staff nor the Policemen on duty could understand English, thus we had to also to forget expecting it from plain visiting Italians.


With no directing post sings, it took us a while to find the ferry pier to take us across, to the the hotel on the Island . The sole person's we encountered who did converse in English was a security guard who screened my luggage before me boarding the boat, and she was not Italiano but actually from Romania, a temporary worker on the job...


At some point in the evening, when we manged to be squeezed to dinner we didn't  pre-book , at the over-booked hotel's restaurant, the crowd cheered when the artist "Emperor" Christo was waving from his boat which run parallel to the floats , to the walking herd .



Date: Jun 22, 2016

Place: Lake Iseo "Flouting Piers"


This morning my illusion about walking the piers in peace, at the cool early hour of 7:00am, in hope to avoid the incoming pour of crowds, bubble-busted,, as soon as I set a foot outside of the island's hotel.


The lines had started inflating, with early risers, alike, by the flouts' gates connecting from Monte Isola the big island we stayed at, toward tiny St Paulo Island, much earlier..


Allegedly,the flouts should have been opened to the public for 24 hours ... but theory and practice, apart, like in Marriage Italian style... (Marcel Mastroianni And Sofia Lauren).


 During the 40 minutes wait, before the crowd was let loose to flood the floats, the lines, from the gate backward, had elongated for over one km..


Swarms of visitors, mostly Italians had arrived from all over, near as far periphery to partake at this lake's crossings mania.

The Italian crowd was amazingly restrained, waiting politely in patience, and once access was given, visitors proceeded with no pushing nor shoving occurring.

Nor other unexpected expectencies which started percolating in my over-stimulated head, like scenarios of floats puncturing , or falling into the lake, occurred, when the masses galloped, all at once, onto the floats...


We, then further realized, how fortunate we were to listen to our dear Astrid's advice and focus our accommodation search on the only two hotels overlooking the piers in Pescheria area. Thanks to David's perseverance and my luck.. combined with the misfortune of a couple who got mixed up about its staying dates, vacancy was available at this quaint most modest " Albergo La-Foresta" hotel,

The Albergo/ hotel is situated right on the pier pass, and could be observed from our room's balcony.




The bright color scheme of the psychedelic yellow-orange runway floats, as wide as 30m, against the background of the tranquil bluish lake water, evoked in me the same emotive response as does the color palate does, off the Dutch Vermere's paintings.


Furthermore the actual pilgrimage walk on the springy, lightly crib-like swaying floats, in the open-air space and against the backdrop surroundings of the beautiful wooded mountainous, transpired such an elated feeling of sacred freedom.



After most relaxed breakfast over looking the water visible from the hotel's comfort,

the volume of people had swollen by the minute. To distance ourselves from the dense action scene we hopped on the local public bus to explore other parts of this beautiful strangely square island, where dipping in the lake would bring a relief from the heat wave, and would not cost one's chopped head by the passing boats.


The panoramic winding hilly road leading up to a small quaint village "Carzano" at the North East part of the island, passed through very narrow allies, olive trees, vineyards and other fruit orchards .


Running into Chabad's Rabbi Pertz

Lo and behold , while David took his swim in the lake, and I - my mid-day nap on a shaded bench by the water, I was suddenly warmly greeted by a big grin on his face, by Chabad's Rabbi Pertz, who was in charge of the  SF North Beach Chabad  branch.

He was also a frequent visitor at the San Francisco Tora class, we both have been attending for years.


Running into him, at most unexpected circumstances, wearing only a bathing-suit was like a miraculous mirage - out of context... How cool it is, that this unusual bright, modern, open-minded, Jewish scholar Rabbi, is also an art lover who flew specially to Italy for 3 days vacation stay, to be energized, by this amazing Italian experience.


We had to catch the bus back so had only few short minutes to exchange some sentences, but I am sure will continue, when next meet at Tora class.




We kept away from the sun and crowds during the peak heat ours of the day finding a refuge in our hotel’s room, until it was dinner time.


Restaurant Castello - Lake Iseo

Fabulous restuarant on the island with fantastic view of the lake



Then when it started cooling off, we ventured out again to the Costelo OldoFredihotel next to us, were we had a lovely dinner on the enchanting open air elevated terrace, overlooking the beautiful views of the lake. The deserts -Chocolate Cream and the Home made Ice-cream were both heavenly and heavily…


Running into Friends

To our delight Susie and Barry - friends from the Bay area, with their friends - the Kaplans from LA stopped by the restaurant to say hello on their walk on the flouts .


Susie and I had emailed  each other for the past 2 days , in hope our paths would cross on one of the walking floats , so finally it happened. When we  finished dining we caught up with them and accompanied them on the floats, on their way over toward  Sulzano on the main land.

When trying to come back to the island, we were stopped by the guards because we tried to turn around to return back to our hotel walking through the exit end.

We were requested to properly line up in the long line with the rest coming in via the formal enterance

After we explained that our hotel is on the other end , we were requested to show a written proof of a reservation made. Luckily I had the hotel key room with me, which I could dangle as a proof, so finally we were let pass and return fast, against the exiting current.

We made it back after midnight , very tired but very pleased to face another adventurous day..


Friends we met on the floats


*Below you can also read more on Lakes' experience shared also by my friend Astrid

from the weekend and prior to our arrival

On Sun, Jun 19, Astrid wrote:


“Evidently Michelle O’Bama, Leonardio diCaprio and Brad Pitt are all here :)”


Travel by train, not by car or bus; narrow, two lane roads that are totally backed up.  Avoid weekends.  


Monte Isola, the island in the middle of Lake Isola, is an ideal place to stay.  If you can find a place in Peschiera I would do so.  

Another option might be something in Sensole, a town on the island’s SW.  We are staying north of there, also on the island, in a place called Menzino.  Not as convenient by any means.  


On the mainland, Sulzano is really overwhelmed.  At  one point today they even closed the railroad station because of the crowds.  Forget cabs, uber.


Spent about 4 hours walking on a portion of the floating piers.  Back in our hotel for recuperating before heading out this evening to walk from Monte Isola to Sulzano.  Then we will have walked every inch of the floating piers.


If you have an umbrella, bring it. It will provide a nice shade.  Today got pretty warm, I wish I had had water with me"


On the way to lake Como we stopped at an Unesco Heritage site North of Bergamo named: "Crespi d'Adda"

A town from an era long gone...an outstanding example of the 19th- and early 20th-ce 'company towns' built in Europe and North America by enlightened industrialists to meet the workers' needs.

The year was 1869, the industrialist Mr. Crespi, the product a cotton mill.

The site, long sold to many private hands is still remarkably intact and is partly used for industrial purposes, although changing economic and social conditions now threaten its survival. Worth reading more on it.


Then we headed to this magnificent - glacial origin- Lake Como Lombardy Province, which we last visited 20 years ago, and still found it as spectacular as ever. It is the third-largest lake in Italy, after Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore, and the one of the deepest lakes in Europe.

A very popular retreat for aristocrats, wealthy rich and famous since Roman times.A very popular tourist attraction with many artistic and cultural gems. It is surrounded by the steep Alpean mountains and many villas and palaces such as :

"Villa Olmo",  "Villa Serbelloni" and "Villa Carlotta".

Most attractive popular villages to visit are: "Belagio", "Verenaje" "Tremezzo" and "Como".


*************************

Continue with European Lakes part 2 as of June 23/2016