We were slightly nervous about our half-term trip to France. Firstly, our amazing time at Bella Italia in Lake Garda was going to be a hard act to follow. Secondly, France was on strike. For the week prior to our trip the news was full of footage of cars queuing at empty petrol pumps, piles of burning tyres blockading ports and oil refineries, and police tear-gassing crowds of angry workers.
We tried not to worry. After all, we were flying to Geneva, which meant we could possibly skirt around French air space and its striking air traffic controllers. And the ever organised Swiss would surely have sorted themselves some petrol. And we'd be unlikely to need more than a tank for a week as we were staying only an hour's drive from the airport.
But then we read this article telling us that as of May 1st, it had become illegal for EU nationals to drive a non-EU registered car into the EU. In other words, British people are no longer allowed to drive a Swiss hire car into France. Luckily, when we rang the hire car desk at Geneva airport to tell them our plans they assured us that they could give us a car with German number plates and all would be well. And it was. Frankly, this new law must be affecting pretty much anybody renting a car in Geneva since it's almost entirely surrounded by France. As for the rest of the unrest, we saw only a couple of petrol pumps without fuel in the whole week. And no riots or demonstrations. Life seemed to be continuing as normal despite what had been in the press. We did have a power cut in the middle of our final night, but it was limited to the campsite.
We chose to go to Annecy simply because in the whole of the French-speaking world, Geneva was the only place we could find affordable flights to during May half-term. We paid £278 total for the three of us travelling with EasyJet from Manchester. I knew that good weather in the Alps couldn't be guaranteed, but I also recalled visiting Annecy with my family 30 years ago, and spending the whole time in boiling sunshine. Surely whatever happened, it couldn't rain every single day?
Well, yes, it could, unfortunately.
At the start of the week, the forecast was grim for the first couple of days, but improving from then on. But every morning, the forecast would change, and the magical moment of the skies finally brightening would be shifted on another 24 hours. In the meantime, the rain continued to fall, steadily and miserably. It hammered on our roof all night, keeping us awake. It turned the grass in front of our caravan to mud. It meant we were trying to entertain a five-year-old who was desperate to go out and make friends with other children all stuck indoors. It meant we couldn't dry our clothes or air our towels. And with only a blanket to sleep under and a single temperamental gas heater to warm the caravan, it was very chilly at night.
It's only seeing the news footage from Central France and Paris since we've been home that we've realised we got off lightly. There were no floods in our corner of France, and for that we must be grateful. Living in York, we endured a winter under water, and our city is still trying to recover from the aftermath of the Boxing Day storms.
All week, we had hopes for Friday. Friday was when the sun would come, said everybody. But Friday morning dawned just as damp and misty as the rest of them. We slumped into our chairs, defeated. How on earth could we fill yet another day of this? But mid-afternoon, there was a welcome break in the clouds and we headed down to the beach at Doussard. And by bedtime, we saw the Alps above our caravan at last! Just in time to go home early the next morning.
|Sunny Doussard beach!|
|Looking towards Les Fontaines from Doussard beach|
|The snow-topped Alps appear at last above our caravan!|
|Mille feuille and religieuse from the bakery in Duingt|
The beaches around the lake were deserted. It wasn't yet summer season, but nobody else would have been foolish enough to visit them in our weather. Some beaches charge entry in July and August - how gorgeous they must be with the sun beaming down on them, with people leaping off the diving boards into the water and tanning themselves on the grassy lawns. We blew bubbles from the boardwalks and watched the paragliders spinning in the air above us. The paragliders, at least, come out in most weathers.
|View towards Duingt from Talloires beach|
|View of Conflans from Albertville, with Tour de France bunting|
|Albertville and jersey bunting|
|The closed butterfly museum and chateau at Faverges|
|View from the Eurocamp tents|
|Main terrace of Eurocamp caravans|
We had booked an Esprit, which was never going to compare to the Avant we had rented in Italy. It was clean, but also quite dark and cold, and didn't have as much storage as other models we have stayed in. I possibly only noticed these things because of the longer periods of time I was forced to spend inside, rather than living mostly outdoors as on previous Eurocamp trips. The caravan was dark because it was under a tree, which may provide welcome shade if you were there in a hot spell. (It's so hard to imagine this!) The Esprit did have English plugs, which saved messing around with Continental adaptors. I think this site could benefit from duvet hire, as it really was hard to keep warm at night. We hadn't been able to bring bedding as we had flown over, though we had packed hot water bottles and thermals. However, the couriers brought us extra blankets on request, and this helped enormously.
|Our Esprit caravan|
|The main pool (covered area to the right)|
|Water slides (not really in use while we were there)|
|Resident campsite dog|
We ate in the campsite restaurant on the first evening - the food was hearty and rustic, and kept us out of the deluge which had just started and then wouldn't stop for 24 hours. I enjoyed my tartiflette very much, and they made a good pizza for our daughter. The restaurant was open every day for lunch and dinner, which is great, as there isn't anywhere else to eat in the immediate vicinity of the campsite (apart from another campsite). We walked down to the restaurant Chez Ma Cousine on the lake shore for lunch one day. Very good food here, but apart from the menu du jour at 19 Euros for three courses, it was expensive. It had its own private beach and offered a valet parking service in its tiny car park, which being on foot we didn't require.
|Chez Ma Cousine|
Even in the rain, it's a beautiful part of the world. I hope we have better luck with the weather if we go again, and that the situation in France calms before the big summer holiday. Thankfully, air traffic control called off their strike scheduled for the weekend we were due to fly home, so our journey back was without issue.