Annecy: Magnificent Alpine City

April 11, 2015 @ 12:25 pm
posted by Sandra Sheridan
Lake Annecy, France

View of Lake Annecy from the “Champs de Mars”

Annecy is simply breathtaking.  We snaked our way down a curving road to crystal-clear Lake Annecy set against a spectacular backdrop of Alpine peaks.

Once in the city, we looked over the lake from the shade of centuries-old trees in the “Champ de Mars” – a cool and inviting lakefront park and gathering place for residents and visitors.  The second largest lake in France … and the cleanest in Europe … Lake Annecy has been fed by small mountain rivers through the past 18,000 years.  With many restrictions and regulations, they are devoted to keeping it that way!

The turquoise lake spreads over 14 miles below the Tournette Mountain soaring in the background.  Boats dot the lake; tiny birds practice their diving skills, and lazy swans entertain visitors along the canals that lead to the lake.

The scene is one that begs you to simply sit for a while and watch the sailors and swimmers and folks lazing under the trees on a warm summer day.

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Fascinating Secrets of Lyon

April 7, 2015 @ 1:02 pm
posted by Sandra Sheridan
Lyon France traboules

Vieux Lyon riverfront – Atout France/Jean François Tripelon-Jarry

A silk scarf and a bottle of wine. What could they have in common?

We look to the traboules of Lyon for their shared history, where these ‘hidden’ passageways are noble tributes to the resilience of mankind. Through the centuries, in fact, the traboules have served many purposes from passageways for water transport, silk workers, World War II resistance members and tourists. Though the historic traboules might warrant a full-length book, today we’ll focus on the silk workers.

Dating as far back as the 4th century, the traboules of Lyon originally helped move water from the banks of the river Saône to the residents of Veille Lyon. Chosen by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, this Renaissance district of Old Lyon developed primarily through the 15th and 16th centuries and included a maze of narrow alleys and remarkable courtyards. Over time the traboules continue to symbolize a virtual labyrinth of history and protection from the elements. Even today in-the-know residents may easily avoid crowds and inclement weather by winding through the passageways of Vieux Lyon and the Croix-Rousse districts.

historic passageways of old Lyon

The mystique of Vieux Lyon’s traboules

Let’s slip to the 18th century, when textiles – particularly silk – had begun to define Lyon’s industrial profile. Known as canuts, the nearly 30,000 silk weavers lived in the working-class areas of Croix-Rousse; where the huge Jacquard looms were located. The traboules, then, became fast, protected passageways for delivering bolts of silk to the city markets on Presqu’île peninsula between the Rhône and Saône rivers.

The hard economic times of late 1831 and the swing of silk prices from merchant to merchant prompted one of Europe’s first uprisings of the Industrial revolution. The outcry of oppressed silk workers resulted in the canut revolts in Lyon, when workers wanted fixed piecework tariffs. When negotiations failed and many of the large manufacturers refused the fixed rates, the workers amassed in the traboules and worked their way to the city center. Initially they gained a bloody victory, but King Louis-Philippe soon dispatched his 20,000-strong army to retake Lyon.

The seeds had been sown, and three years later salary cuts provoked a second insurrection – also defeated. In 1848 a third uprising arose over despicable working conditions. Authorities, though, crossed the ultimate line with their determination and actions to cut alcohol consumption among workers. They dictated that a carafe of wine would contain less wine at the same price. Imagine! This definitely was not in keeping with the ideals of the French Revolution!

In one of Lyon’s most famous and complex traboule courtyards – the Cour des Voraces – the incensed workers gathered to rightfully claim the full-size of their wine carafes. Now we return to your glass of wine and silk scarf … had you any idea! Imagine further how well the secret passageways served the Resistance fighters of World War II. For another day, that story easily rivals the plight of the silk workers.

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Fountains of France

April 6, 2015 @ 4:43 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan

A rinse of the hands by the little one

California’s water issues have been foremost in the news lately, as the state faces a critical water shortage with no end in sight.  Water has long represented the source of life and perhaps more so, the source of strife.    Who doesn’t recall the mystery and mayhem surrounding the blocked spring in the 1986 film Jean de Florette?

You see every imaginable type of fountain in France, from the simple ancient wall fountains in villages to the extravagant Medici fountain in Paris.  Aix-en-Provence is but one city with abundant fountains and the dual tags – “Town of Water, Town of Art”.  Until the invention of pumps, fountains relied on gravity to keep the flow of water running.

In petite villages around France, you discover lavoirs that captured the overflow of spring-fed fountains, basins where women gathered to wash their laundry and share local gossip.  On a hot summer day in Annecy, we watched children cup their hands to drink from the cool Alpine fountain waters.  In fact, soon we’ll explore many of the lakes of France – they are spectacular!

Hoping you discover  your fountain today and have a wonderful week ahead!




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French-Style Easter Celebrations

April 5, 2015 @ 9:39 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan

Oops! Little chocolate mice are eating the eggs in this window display

Mais oui!  The French have been preparing for Easter.  Chocolate chickens, eggs, bells and fish – yes fish – have long adorned window displays.  Today, children wake to look for lovely decorated eggs placed in the nests they prepared in their gardens.

Only Alsace incorporates Easter bunnies into their celebrations; other regions include bells and fish, the latter called “’Poisson d’Avri” (April Fish).  The fish appears on April Fool’s Day, when children stick a paper fish on every adult possible.  To cap the day, families will gather for a feast of traditional lamb stew.  One memorable sight – large chocolate roosters – sure to please those little ones (not to mention grown-ups with a passion for chocolate).

May everyone celebrating Easter and Passover enjoy the peace and renewal of the season and an especially joyous gathering with loved ones.



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