Sunday, July 28, 2013


Town of Talloires on Lake Annecy
Canal leading into Lake Annecy
Italy has many long tunnels but the Monte Bianco (Mont Blanc) tunnel from Italy into France definitely takes the prize: 7.215 miles long.  It also has an astronomical price: 41.40 euros one way (about $55.00). Begun in 1957 and completed in 1965, it is one of the major trans-Alpine transport routes.  Italy relies on the tunnel for transporting as much as 1/3 of its freight to northern Europe. 

St. Francois Church 1610 Annecy
Our first stop in France was Lake Annecy, known as the Venice of the Alps.  14 km long (just under 9 miles), it is the cleanest lake in Europe, a tremendously popular summer resort attracting bikers, boaters and hang gliders.  

Palais de I'Ile
The town of Annecy was occupied as early as 4000 BC. Today, its canals winding through 16th century buildings are lined with restaurants and shops.   

Le Thiou River
The Palais de I'Ile sits on the River Thiou, one of the shortest rivers in France, and has been a residence, fortress, prison and museum.   

The drive to the small city of Beaune was rather adventuresome.  Our GPS which we rely heavily upon led us on a roundabout route which crossed through logging forests and was eventually blocked by a fallen tree across the road.   
Notre Dame Cathedral Beaune
Hotel-Dieu Charity Hospital

Vineyards surround Beaune

 When we finally found our way over the mountain and onto a toll road, the driving was much easier. However, in Europe the toll booths are not attended and one must pay with credit card; we've done so a number of times.  On this occasion, the machine chose to keep our American Express card.  It took a while to get a human being to appear, open the machine and eventually discover the whereabouts of the card. 
French princess: her cart says 'Shopping Gourmand' 
Biking the Grand Cru Route

Beaune is a very nice walled city with several claims to fame.  One is that it is the heart of Burgundy wine country.  Beyond the old town are vineyards as far as the eye can see.   One day we drove through the surrounding vineyards and villages.  The next day we joined a bike tour along the famous Grand Cru route to nearby villages.  The tour concluded with a wine tasting. 

Beaune is also known for Hôtel-Dieu, a magnificent medieval charity hospital founded by the Duke of Burgundy in 1443.  It is now a museum with exhibits that reflect its history. Thanks to donations over the years, the Hôtel-Dieu now owns 63 hectares of valuable vineyards and holds the world’s most famous wine auction every November.