A long weekend in Lake Annecy: part two
Catherine Henderson enjoys high thrills and haute cuisine in Lake Annecy – arguably one of France’s most beautiful areas
Continued from Saturday
Strapped into the tandem harness with Vincent, we ran together, feeling more albatross than eagle, towards the edge of the cliff, my mind blank with sheer terror. No more than 10 steps taken and the chute inflated and we were pulled smoothly up into the air. Settling onto the tandem seat I relaxed enough to take a breath and look around, the lake glistened far below in the afternoon sun, and birds swooped around us in peaceful bonhomie as we glided above the trees and Vincent found new thermals to take us higher still.
Fifty metres away, youngest daughter Beth, whooped with exhilaration as she took the controls under Laurence’s careful instructions. The entire flight took 30 minutes, and was captured by our co-pilots both on photo and on film for lasting proof of our daring deeds. After a gentle landing Laurence and Vincent set off for flight number two, with husband and elder daughter – while Beth and I recounted to each other our personal flight highlights and watched paragliders and hang gliders smoothly descend all around us onto the valley floor.
Our afternoon with Laurence and Vincent was proof that such high octane deeds aren’t just for adrenalin junkies in their twenties and that’s life affirming in itself, but equally feels a positive message to send to our children (who at times feel their parents are no longer up for such daring do).
After a more restful and dream-free night’s sleep we had a leisurely morning’s cycle ride beside the lake – by next year Annecy’s cycle path (previously a train track) will circle the entire 38km perimeter of the lake. After the stomach turning thrills of paragliding we were now happy to move onto the relatively calmer challenges of French cuisine, with a visit to local cookery school, Bocafina. The school has opportunities for tourists, be they small groups or families, to stock up on their cookery skills and at the same time sample the best that French cuisine, combined with local produce, has to offer.
Perched dramatically on the hillside, Bocafina looks onto the Lake through panoramic picture windows which could provide inspiration to any aspiring cook. The school is a relatively new addition to the lakeside activities and is the personal inspiration of English woman, Joyce Lamy who, two years ago persuaded her French husband and two children to move to the relative calm of Lake Annecy after 17 years of Parisian life as a successful international business woman. Keen to use her business skills, Joyce has transformed what was a large outhouse on their property to a state of the art teaching kitchen, equipped with every labour saving gadget that money can buy. Engaging some of the best local chefs in the enterprise, she now offers courses tailored to tourists, businesses and locals alike.
François, a local chef who has previously worked in Michelin starred restaurants in France and Canada, and now is a freelance chef based in the Annecy area, was our teacher for the afternoon. In less time than it takes to flip a crepe François had Kate and Beth chopping fresh herbs and peeling potatoes with an enthusiasm never previously witnessed back at home. Meanwhile adults were shown how to expertly filet fish for our starter whilst discussing the subtlety required when using white truffle oil within a perfectly balanced vinaigrette.
The ingredients for our three course meal had all been sourced locally wherever possible, and François was generous in handing over skills which we would all be able to use once we’d returned home. Two hours later, and more patience from a qualified chef than we’d ever witnessed on our weekly viewings of Masterchef, we sat down to a memorable meal which we had collectively helped to create.
Enjoying the views of the sun setting over the Lake, eating a meal which had become an intrinsic part of our holiday experience, and with our only remaining challenge being to re-navigate Annecy’s one way system on our return to Geneva, we raised a glass of local wine to Lake Annecy and the thrills, spills and delights that could be delivered in the space of an eventful and memory packed weekend.
Need to know
Bocafina Cookery School
Takamaka : paragliding and cycle hire
Savoyard Cuisine at L’Etage
We stayed at the Allobroges Hotel
Lake Annecy official tourist website
Flights to Geneva Airport from Edinburgh, Bristol, East Midlands, Manchester, Liverpool, Dublin, Luton, London (Gatwick, Heathrow, London City)