Talloires, voted one of the most beautiful villages in France…
The charming village of Talloires near Annecy, in the Rhone Alps…
Just 13 kilometers away from the bustling city of Annecy, sharing the same pure, sparkling water of the lake that shares the city’s name, the village of Talloires goes relatively unnoticed Except for the folks who know about its beauty and quiet charm and come back year after year to enjoy its special gifts.
The trip from Paris to Talloires on the high speed train takes just over three hours. Or you can fly into Geneva, rent a car and drive the 45-minute drive through the mountains and down to the lake,
I first visited Talloires in 2011, when my husband and I stayed with a friend who had a summer home perched on the hill overlooking the lake. Each morning, I’d walk down through the narrow street of the village for a swim in the cool, clear lake, then stop at the boulangerie for some croissants or pain au chocolates to carry home for breakfast out on the terrace.
Both of us fell in love with the quiet elegance of the village, of how its tiny size made it seem like we were living in a movie set, surrounded by French vacationers with no Americans in sight. I loved speaking French when I chose my peaches, lettuce and tomatoes at the open market on Thursday morning, or when I bought wine, cookies and tea in the little super market.
Cherries and Apricots at the open market in Talloires…
The open market on Thursday morning in Talloires
The French didn’t seem to mind us being there, possibly because I spoke French. We relished sharing their experience of being ‘en vacancies’ in the slow, relaxed heat of the summer sun.
The village originally was settled by some monks and the best hotel, L’Abbaye, the site of their original monastery. It overlooks a bay that has been voted one of the ten most beautiful bays in Europe. They say that the monks chose the village and the site of the monastery/hotel based on the energy, and it still seems to hold true–there’s a distinct peace and serenity to the grounds, where many choose to enchange wedding vows. Some of the original buildings still stand, their arched walkways now sheltering tourists in bathing suits, not monks in long robes on their way to mass.
This past summer, 2013, we returned to Talloires, renting an apartment right in the center of the village, a two minute walk to the lake and a one minute walk to the boulangerie. We loved having a kitchen to prepare our own meals and a refrigerator to store all the bounty from the open market–fresh berries, reblochon cheese from the dairy up the hill, fresh eggs from the local hens.
Local Reblochon cheese from Chalet de L’Aulp
Again, I walked to the lake each morning to swim, returning home with a baguette or morning croissants. There’s not much to do in Talloires, which makes easing into the relaxation of summer that much easier. There’s reading a book under a tree along the lake, after a delightful swim. There’s going to dinner at the restaurant de la place, which often has live music on Saturday nights and where you may have to wait an hour for a table. If you want activity, you can take a water taxi or drive, bicycle or take the bus the 13 kilometers to Annecy and get your fill of hustle and bustle.
The old church rang it’s bells on the hour, every hour, even though very few parishioners went to church anymore and the priests had to rotate among the villages along the lake, saying mass on alternate Sundays. The sound of the bells gave a consistency to our days and our three weeks passed with a dreamlike quality of quiet enjoyment.
One day, we rented bikes and pedaled around the lake, stopping for lunch along the way. The tour de France came nearby twice, providing an exciting spectacle. Another day, we hiked in the hills above a reblochon family run dairy, then dined in their tiny restaurant, watching the sun set from the terrace as the cows went out for the evening, their bulky bells ringing in the quiet evening air. We savored the rich tartiflette, a sizzling specialty of the region, consisting of the local cheese, potatoes and bacon, paired with a chilled ‘cote du Rhone’ white wine and fresh baguette. For dessert, their fresh berry tart, topped off with cream from the cows.
My husband tried parenting, which involved jumping off a mountain and circling with updrafts under a tiny, flimsy looking parachute. He loved it.
As a special treat, on one of our last nights, we went to dinner at the L’Abbaye Hotel. As we sat in the garden under the huge old trees that must have dated back to the monks, sipping an aperitif, the sun slipped into the bay, the light glancing off the boats moored nearby. Sous chefs bustled from the herb garden back to the kitchen carrying their bounty. Each dish arrived with a flourish, the food decorating the plate as much as it tantalized our taste buds. When we strolled back up the hill to our apartment, happy and satisfied, the empty cobblestoned streets echoed with our footsteps, the bells telling us it was ten pm, and most of the village had gone to sleep.
Its always a quandry–as a travel writer, if I share my secret places, will I return to find them ruined? Yet Talloires hasn’t changed from the early photographs you can see around town. Can it stay as it is? My guess is that it can. Its very ordinariness is what allows it to go unnoticed and what also gives it its special charm. The village has cast its spell onto me. We will go back. And savor again its timeless quality of beauty and charm.
For more information, go to http://www.Rhonealps-tourisme.com