On a beautiful early spring Friday afternoon, we went on a guided visit of the old town of Annecy with our English teacher.
We started off from Bonlieu Tourist Information Centre and strolled down rue du Pâquier where we saw the former mansion of the De Sales family (17th century) with its busts representing the Four Seasons. Further down the street we stopped at the St Jean Well, a reminder of St Jean de Jerusalem church which used to stand there and belonged to the Knights of Malta. Bending over the well’s curbstone, we saw the coins some visitors had thrown down the bottom hoping their wish would come true. We turned left into rue Notre Dame to behold Notre Dame de Liesse church. In fact, a large part of the church was demolished during the French Revolution which led to the first incorporation of Savoy into France. The only remains of the original church is the 16th century bell tower. After the First Empire the house of Savoy was restored as the Kingdom of Sardinia and Notre Dame de Liesse was rebuilt in a neoclassical style in 1850. We noticed the statue that glittered like gold. Then we took the wooden footbridge over the Notre Dame Canal which is lined on each side by houses bathing in the water and caught a glimpse of how the old town looked before the quays were built. To the right and in front of us stood St Pierre Cathedral built in the 16th century for the Franciscans. It soon became the provisional Cathedral of the bishops of Geneva who took refuge in Annecy following the Reformation. The most illustrious of the Bishops of Geneva in Annecy was Francis de Sales who strengthened the religious and intellectual dimension of the city which became a small Catholic stronghold facing Protestant Geneva – with 19 churches and monasteries for a population under 5,000! In rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau stands the house of the choir school where the philosopher had music lessons as a teenager in early 18th century. Adjoining the cathedral we saw the bishop’s palace which has become a music and dance academy. We took a mysterious passageway that leads to the steps of the castle; we climbed the stairs and continued along rue Basse du château. Lined on the right by what looks like tiny houses but which are actually the top floors of the houses lower down, it is overlooked on the left by the enormous wall supporting the terrace which was the square of a former church. From the terrace we enjoyed nice views of the roofs and bell towers of the old town. We climbed the steep Côte St Maurice to the Place du Château. The castle was built by the counts of Geneva who lived there from the 13th century; the huge Tour de la Reine dates back to that period. The entrance to the castle was fortified in the 16th century. The castle was used as barracks from the 17th century to the 1940s. Nowadays it is home to a museum and the Alpine Lakes Regional Observatory.
As time was flying, to end up our visit we went down the impasse du Trippoz which is overlooked by the remparts and whose name refers not to a gambling den (tripot in French) but to old jeu de paume court of the Dukes of Genevois-Nemours. We took one last picture and went through Perrière Gate, the former gateway into Annecy from Italy.