2016-07-16 (Day 30) Aix les Bains – Annecy

Today’s photo shows floating flower beds in the Thiou river in the old town of Annecy. The French love their flowers and you often see them hanging from flower baskets on bridges and buildings. But here at Annecy, they have flower beds floating in the local river something I haven’t come across anywhere else.

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Camping du Sierroz in Aix les Bains. The campsite was very busy and practically every pitch was occupied. Most of the pitches are gravel but the chips are small and comfortable enough to sleep on.

One of the tents beside us. A German family arrived on 2 motorbikes with sidecars. They had 2 small children with them and how they fitted all their camping gear including 2 tables and some chairs onto their motorbikes I have no idea.

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Discussing where to go next at Camping Sierroz. The campsite was very busy but it was very relaxed with lots of facilities for the kids including table tennis tables and boules. We were issued a PIN code for the campsite barrier but used it to let another car out thinking that all vehicles used the same PIN. But the PIN issued at Camping Sierroz is unique to each vehicle so that the campsite can keep track of every vehicle coming and going. We had to get an emergency number to get into the campsite and also another emergency number to get out as they couldn’t issue another number unless we made another booking.

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Total traveled on Friday in the Jeep – 70 km.  Total traveled so far – 830 km. After 2 days in Aix les Bains, we decided to go to Annecy for 2 nights before then going to Anglefort on Sunday to see the Tour de France.

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Ski resort of Semnoz. We could have taken the main road to  Annecy, but chose the more scenic option of climbing Mont Semnoz. We passed quite a quite a few cyclists on the way up the climb. The road from Leschaux is quite steep and narrow in places but fortunately there were hardly any cars coming down that side of the mountain as there was little room to pull in should you meet anything. At the top, there were quite a few cars parked up and lots of hikers who were taking in the views from the summit of Mont Semnoz.

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Quintana wins at Semnoz during the 2013 Tour de France. The climb has only been used once in the Tour de France during the 100th edition and it was the last major climb of that year’s Tour. Ever since Quintana’s victory 3 year’s ago, it has been a popular climb for cyclists and we must have passed about 100 “grimpeurs” on our way up to the summit.

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View from summit of Semnoz. At 1608m in altitude, Mont Semnoz is not that high an Alpine pass but it is steep in parts and well deserves it’s HC or Haute Categorie status. However, the climb is well worth it as the view from the top is simply stunning.

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Iron cross and ski lift at the summit of Mont Semnoz. The region around Lake Annecy was conquered by Rome around 25 BC and they called this mountain range Semnoz which means salmon in Latin as it looked like a leaping salmon. The mountain nearest to the ski resort of Semnoz is known as Cret de Chatillon with Cret being the French word for crest. We tried to jump on the ski lift but the chairs were about 5 feet above the ground. No doubt, it is probably a lot easier to climb on and off the ski chair in the winter when there is a foot or two of snow on the ground.

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Plaque at summit of Cret du Chatillon. In addition to an iron cross and a viewing platform, there is also a plaque which honors Captain Peter Churchill at the summit. Captain Churchill was a British agent who was parachuted onto Semnoz on the 14th April 1943 so as to meet up with Odette Samson, who was in the French Resistance. However, two days later, they both were captured about 10 km away in Saint Jorioz and the 2 of them were then deported to a concentration camp in Germany. Incredibly, both Peter and Odette survived the war and they later married in 1947.

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Camping le Verger in Annecy. After an hour or so at the summit, we made our way down the mountain towards Annecy. We called into Camping Belvedere where I had stayed 2 weeks previously but it was full. So we then tried Camping le Verger which is only about 100m from the lake and they had a few pitches available.

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Start of climb to Semnoz in Sevrier. After pitching our tents, we walked into Sevrier to get some dinner. On the way, we passed these signs for the climbs of Semnoz and Leschaux. There are actually 6 different routes up to Semnoz and of course, Will from Cycling Challenge.com has climbed all six. If only, I had my bike, I would have got up early the next day and tackled the climb myself from Sevrier as it is much quieter than the main route from Annecy.

Mural celebrating 100th edition of the Tour de France in 2013. On June 28th, I had passed through Albertville and came across an electrical sub-station painted with the same murals as on this one in Sevrier. The mural shows Maurice Garin who won the first Tour de France in 1903. Just like in Albertville, the Tour was due to re-visit Sevrier this year and there were signs up all over town saying that the main road would be closed in a weeks time for about 5 hours on Friday July 22nd to facilitate the Tour.

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Church in Sevrier. Camping le Verger in Sevrier is just someone’s front garden which they have converted into a campsite. With space for about 30 campervans, that means they can make about €5k a week renting out pitches to holidaymakers during the peak summer season. That is probably about 5 times as they would get than by renting out their house. The campsite is located only about 5 km from Annecy town center and was very busy when we were there. Annecy is a popular destination for tourists and Camping le Verger is one of the nearest campsites to the city. So it was no surprise that the campsite was full when we got back from our evening meal.

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A spin along Lac du Annecy on hired bikes. The next morning, we hired 4 bikes from Sevrier Sports and set off along the greenway towards Annecy. I had cycled along the greenway 3 weeks earlier while travelling from Albertville to Annecy during the Tour de Travoy on a Friday afternoon. The greenway was busy then but this morning it was even busier with thousands of cyclists out for a spin.

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Total cycled today along Lac d’Annecy – 25 km. The greenway between Annecy and Duignt is about 12 km in length but the “voie verte” actually goes on for about another 20 km to the small town of Marlens. From Marlens, you can cycle another 20 km to Albertville via Ugine on mostly quiet roads and some sections of greenway. The greenway between Annecy and Duignt was opened in 2004 and it was extended to Marlens in 2007. The first greenway in France was opened in 1996 between Cluny and Givry in Burgundy and since then hundreds of all railway lines and canal and river paths have been converted into greenways suitable for cyclists. But I would be surprised if there is another greenway anywhere in France more popular than this one along the shores of Lake Annecy.

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Floating umbrellas in the Thiou river in the old part of town. We first cycled about 5 km from Sevrier to Annecy. After locking the bikes, we went for a stroll around the old part of town. The old town is lovely but the stand out feature were these bright yellow umbrellas floating in the River Thiou. I think these umbrellas were meant to only be a temporary art exhibit a few years ago but the locals liked them so much, they have been here ever since and are now a permanent feature in the river.

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The water is crystal clear. Lake Annecy is known as “Europe’s cleanest lake” because of strict environmental regulations introduced in the 1960s. The River Thiou is only a small river but it is the only river to exit Lac d’Annecy. The Thiou flows into the Fier river about 2 km from here and the Fier then flows into the Rhone near Seyssel about 60 km away. 2 weeks ago, I had followed the route of these rivers during the Tour de Travoy and we planned to follow the same route the next day on our way to see the Tour de France.

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You can book a boat trip from Annecy around the lake. This boat is called “La Belle Etoile” or “The Beautiful Star” and is owned by Compagnie des Bateaux who operate a number of cruise-boats on Lake Annecy. You can buy an “Omnibus” ticket for this boat and this ticket entitles you to a 2 hours cruise around the lake stopping at 8 villages on the way. The cruise costs €18 for adults and €12 for children and there are 5 cruises a day during the summer. There are other cruise boats available which tour around the lake in an hour without stopping and these are slightly cheaper.

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Small cafe near Saint Joriaz. It was very hot so what better way to cool down than by stopping for an ice cream. By now our bike hire period was almost up so we headed back to the bike shop. After dropping the bikes off, we walked back to the campsite in Sevrier at Camping Le Verger. Earlier, we had decided to go to a quieter campsite and had asked at a few places during our bike trip if they had any space. There were pitches available at Camping Duingt so we loaded up the Jeep with our tents at Camping Le Verger and headed to Duignt for the night instead.

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Camping Duignt. There was loads of space at Camping Duignt to pitch our tents compared to Camping Le Verger. By now it was about 3 o’clock and I had to go and try and collect my bike from D’Velo’s in Epagny. The bike shop was only about 20 km from Duignt but I would have to go through Annecy to get there. So I allowed 2 hours to drive there but fortunately, the traffic was light and it only took about an hour to drive to the bike shop.

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Total traveled on Saturday in the Jeep – 50 km. Total traveled so far – 880 km. I had been reluctant to move campsite as it meant a longer drive to collect my bike in Epagny but it was worth it in the end as the campsite in Duignt was much quieter and more spacious than Camping le Verger.

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D’Velo’s bike shop in Epagny. I arrived in plenty of time before the bike shop was due to close but unfortunately, the bike had not been fixed. The guy I was dealing with on Wednesday was due to go on holiday but promised me he would leave instructions with a colleague. Someone had been working on the bike as the bar tape had been removed from around the shifter but that was all that was done to the bike. The sales assistant checked on the computer but there was no notes about the bike. Worse again, there were no mechanics available that afternoon so nothing more could be done with the bike. I had no option but to take the bike with me and try and repair it myself. At least, I wasn’t charged for having someone look at the bike but it was disappointing not to have got it fixed despite it being in the bike shop since Wednesday.

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