Dreaming in Color: Two Days in Annecy

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Forget a pool-side resort or a month-long cruise. To lose yourself in the beauty of summer, head to the French town of Annecy, just south of Geneva and the Swiss border, where sun, mountains, and lakes come in a million hues of blue, gray and green.

Our two-day visit there this summer left me stunned and wishing that I had come sooner to benefit from weeks of this cozy city of just 50,000 inhabitants.

We were welcomed by a friend with whom we spent a lazy afternoon picnicking on the lake and staring out over the glistening light blue waves. Then we rented a pedal boat from a wide choice of vendors, rode out to the middle, and enjoyed a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains and the other boats of all types and sizes.

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Later, we took in that same view, but this time from atop the Col de la Forclaz at 1157 meters of altitude and a quick, twenty-minute climb from the lake. Apart from the landscape, entertainment included the amused observation of an endless stream of paragliders sailing into the wind from a take-off pad nearby. Annecy is one of the few locations in the world that has perfect conditions for paragliding: its rock formations allow for upward drafts of air that set the paragliders on their way. We sat and watched for hours, weighing the pros and cons of the sport, in admiration of its enthusiasts and wondering if we would ever find enough courage to give it a try.

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Then it was back to town to savor some specialties of Annecy’s Rhône-Alpes region, including tartiflette. Though it is understandably a winter dish- it is essentially composed of potatoes topped with thick layers of various melted cheeses- the long hours in the sun and water had worked up enough appetite to enjoy it with salad and few glasses of white wine. We followed it with heaping ice cream cones from a choice of what seemed like hundreds of ice cream vendors in the small cobblestone streets, which teem with tourists of all ages and nationalities during the summer months.

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The next day, we meandered through the downtown area with our friend and excellent guide. Our tour started near the lake, whose shores wash right up to a small park in the city. Then it was a march through the historic district, a cross of Alsace’s brightly colored buildings, Swiss chalets, and typical French cobblestone streets. Its charming canal winds lazily through gaping tourists, scores of restaurants, movie theaters and wine shops. The fact that everything one would need is packed into such a small city, combined with the nature that surrounds it, has given me yet another option for an ideal place to settle down in France…

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1000-year anniversary of the Strasbourg cathedral 

This year marks the 1000-year anniversary of the Strasbourg cathedral. We celebrated by enjoying the city’s summer light show projected onto the cathedral. This annual event had a new twist this year: the lights were projected onto the southern side of the cathedral instead of the front to offer a larger, more spectacular show that can be viewed from the newly-constructed Place du Château. 

    
    
    
    
    
 

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Slideshows from Ardèche and the Jura

Between Lyon and Montpellier lies a hidden gem: the département called Ardèche. It has all the essentials of a perfect relaxing vacation, including mountains, hiking, camping, great wine, lakes, and rivers. Most importantly, it is not overrun with the tourist rush that is found in other regions of France. Here are some slideshows of our relaxing and refreshing hiking trip last summer. It ended with a weekend in the Jura, another road-less-travelled département 1 1/2 hours north of Lyon near the Swiss border and known for its delicious Comté cheese, unusual wines, and rolling green hills.

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From Rocher, we headed 20 minutes southwest to Balazuc, a village whose architecture stands still in medieval times.

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We then stopped in Ruoms, 15 minutes south of Balazuc and founded in the 5th century.

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We then headed 1 1/2 hours north to Saint-Eulalie, a town of less than 300 people in the Rhône-Alpes region.

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The next day, we began our day-long hike to and from the Mont Gerbier de Jonc, through pastures, lost country roads, and wild meadows.

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The next’s day’s hike took us to the Ray Pic waterfall, but not before a challenging 6-mile obstacle course over steep slopes and through a dense, dark forest. The destination was worth it, as well as the walk home through a flower-covered meadow. We made it back to our car parked in Sagnes-et-Goudoulet, the village at the start of the trail. We paused to explored its church, which has been a pilgrimage site since the 17th century. Back then, it was known for healing a local skin disease. Then it was back to Saint-Eulalie for some well-deserved rest.

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Next we drove one hour northwest to Le Puy-en-Velay in the Haute-Loire département. This city is a step on the Saint-Jacques de Compostelle trail.

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Finally, we stopped to visit some friends in a small lakeside town in the Jura département, 1.5 hours northeast of Lyon near the Swiss border, before heading home to Alsace.

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French-American Friendship in Nancy

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The American flag flies above the Place Stanislas in Nancy for the 70th anniversary of city’s liberation from the Nazis.

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Nancy in the Lorraine region, the city welcomed French and American troops and veterans, school groups and the general public for a commemorative ceremony.

After a military parade on the Place Stanislas, participants were given the opportunity to join Laurent Hénart, the mayor of Nancy, in a ceremony in the Hôtel de Ville. With its 18th-century grand hall as a backdrop, Mr. Henart not only paid honor to the heroes of 1944 but also expressed his condolences and strongly condemned recent acts of violence towards American and British journalists and humanitarian workers, reminding his listeners that threats to democracy still exist today. Despite small disagreements that the United States and France may have over societal structures or globalization, the alliance will endure, he assured, and the United States will continue to be supported by their long-standing ally.

Amy Westling, the Consul General of the United States in Strasbourg also paid tribute: when it comes to peace, “there is no way to fully honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice here in France and across Europe,” she declared, and then addressed the youth in the audience, reminding them that peace and freedom is never won, but is a constant process of hard work and dedication.

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Amy Westling, Consul General of the United States in Strasbourg, reminds youth of the importance of working for peace.

Finally, Mr. Hénart paid  tribute to the “youth of Nancy,” who, he reminded his listeners, were a major part of the resistance against the Nazis: their names appear on several street signs in the city along with the words “fusillé par les Nazis” (executed by the Nazis) as a solemn everyday reminder of their sacrifice. Several high school students were then awarded citizenship awards in honor of their service to the community, and then everyone was invited to come together over refreshments in a symbol of French-American friendship and to enjoy the spectacular view from the Hôtel de Ville overlooking one of France’s most splendid treasures: a plaza where, 70 years ago, the two countries came together to preserve democracy, freedom and friendship among all people.

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French and American troops march through the Place Stanislas after a commemoration ceremony at the Hôtel de Ville.

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