Being in Grenoble, I was a short distance away from some amazing cities & towns to discover. Those towns include: Annecy, Lyon, Les Deux Alpes, & Vizille. Especially if you are traveling in the Rhone-Alpes region of France, keep these places in mind!
Annecy: the Venice of France – a statement that I stand by. I remember long before I left on my exchange I had found a gorgeous photo on Pinterest of Annecy, knowing that someday I’d love to visit. This whole exchange was full of surreal moments of discovering places I’d only seen in photographs. Though not as colourful during the winter, this town is beautiful. I love being around water, I cheesily find it magical. Annecy is full of Venice-like canals along with a breathtaking crystal blue lake situated right in front of lovely mountains.
We only went for a day trip, as the town is quite small. We wandered around, walked up a hill to see the church at the top, stopped in a few unique shops, ate lunch, drank vin chaud for the first time (basically mulled wine), and then picnicked by the lake for a few hours chatting and passing around a bottle of wine. I would LOVE to visit Annecy in the summer. Swimming in that lake would be so nice.
Lyon is the second largest city in France. I went with my friend Colleen for two days. On this trip, I experienced my first stay in a hostel. It could’t have been better. SLO Living Hostel is modern and fresh. Not once did I feel uncomfortable sleeping in a room full of strangers. I thought to myself, “if this is what all hotels are like, backpacking will be a breeze”.
Our plan for the trip was to just aimlessly wander. We hadn’t done much research on what to see, but at every turn we were amazed by the architecture and sights. There are some areas that I particularly liked: Place Bellecour, Place des Terreaux, quartier Renaissance Saint Jean, and walking along the Rhône & Saône rivers – which you can’t miss, since the city is between them. But for the most part, I don’t think you really need a game plan. We even had a great time just people-watching in Place Bellecour and my oh my, there are a TON of hot guys in Lyon.
Aside from the attractive population, Lyon is known for it’s delicious food. There are so many great meals to be devoured within this city, so stay away from the tourist trap restaurants! While wandering, we happened upon a specialty chocolate shop where I tried my first ever German Hot Chocolate (seen below) at Le Comptoir de Mathilde in Saint Jean. If you aren’t familiar it’s where you stir hot milk with a stick of pure chocolate – milk chocolate with caramel in my case. I will never be able to drink regular hot chocolate again.
My first time skiing in the Alps! Our school arrange a weekend trip to Les 2 Alpes, so we had a huge group of friends sign up. The bus ride was about 2 hours, but we left early in the morning to get enough time on the slopes. This was in January, so it was freezing! Especially being at such a high altitude, windburn was common. But the view was breathtaking and convinced me to put up with the cold a bit longer. My friend Jennie and I got separated from the group accidentally and ended up on a narrow path along a steep hill, that looked like it led to nowhere. Being in the Alps, getting lost wouldn’t be too tricky. Thankfully, we found our way back to the lodge and got lunch. Debating on whether to go back out before Apres Ski, we said no to the cold and enjoyed the view from the warm lodge.
My favourite part of the trip was definitely Pano Bar. Not only was it my first time experiencing Apres Ski (aka drinking after skiing), it was in the coolest spot for it. There’s basically an open patio up in the mountain with a VIP-styled section full of couches. Since we were a large group and we got there early, we had the whole section to ourselves. The photos don’t even do it justice. For the most part the skies were clear and you could see the mountains surrounding us, but at that time everyone was having too much fun chatting and dancing to think of photos.
After dinner that night, everyone got together and went to the town looking for a good bar. Polar Bear Pub is where we started off. For the most part we had the upstairs to ourselves but then it started to get busy and we witnesses some drunk people playing leapfrog – genuine entertainment. After the pub we went on the search for a discotheque and ended up at L’Avalanche Club. A bit sketchy at first (only older people lingering around), but then the music picked up and we all had a blast dancing the night away. Some of the guys even took turns at the pole, channeling their inner Magic Mike. It was hilarious. The next day, more skiing and then back to Grenoble on the buses!
It wasn’t until the last week of exchange that I visited Vizille. Our friend had a car, and the drive is only 20-30 minutes away from Grenoble. If you don’t have a car you can take a bus for 10 Euros. I was really interested once I learned this castle was the hub during the French Revolution. I had high hopes that it’d be a cool historical site, but it ended up being a purely French (no duh) art museum. No history learnt there BUT I did discover this meme displayed on the wall, freaked out laughing “IT’S REAL”, and then was shhh’d by the staff.
Though the museum was dull, the gardens were magical (I know I use that word a lot). The castle was obviously a great sight but the depth of the garden was a lovely surprise. We sat by the water and had a picnic, taking in the scenery – even put some flowers in our hair. It was a really nice trip!
Where have you traveled (or where would you want to travel) in France, aside from Paris? Let me know in the comments :)