Return from Alpine Pastures

1375266_429927610446971_885374075_n Or, Descente des Alpages, is an annual festival in Annecy that occurs on the second weekend of October. This is basically a traditional farmer’s festival and is a treat to attend! Despite being hungover from my late-night birthday celebration the night before, I was still able to enjoy it, which means this place is pretty awesome. It’s a sad day when you can feel the repercussions of a late night out, especially when you didn’t drink too much… Especially when the “late night” in question ended by 1 AM.

Annecy is known for being Little Venice of the French Alps. There is a huge amount of water surrounding the city, from Lac Annecy….

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… to smaller canals similar to those in Venice.

There are actually more pictures of the lake, but almost all of them have this one girl that was member of our little troupe for a brief awkward pause before she eloped with some other girl. Don’t you just hate when that happens? For about 15 minutes, we did the awkward dance where we waited for her to finish talking to that random girl before realizing that she was waiting for us to leave them alone.

Our program organized the whole event, which was such a deal… or so we thought until meeting up with another guy from our program who came alone because it was about 200% cheaper. Honestly, I knew better. It was one of those times where the peer pressure got to me—ignorance is a drug too, you know?

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And through the tourists pressed up against the fence, a small tinny clunk could be heard. I squirmed through the jostling bodies and gripped the rail with my hands, peering straight down into the clear, glistening ripples, reminiscent of the design on an exquisite glass piece. And there, bobbing in a bucket, was a bottle of wine some festival workers were cooling to enjoy during the ebb of visitors.

We didn’t realize there’d be a festival in Annecy this weekend until we stumbled into 500 people on the way into Old Annecy. Since one of my biggest pet peeves is not being able to walk two steps before reaching another body mass, I was disappointed to hear that the Annecy we’d be visiting today would be its tourist-trap cousin.

Surprisingly, I was a fan.

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It might have been the heady mixture of the French language, the hearty French food, or the tourists themselves! The people that attended were honestly the nicest people ever. I’m thinking there was something to do with the season—fall festivals are far superior to summer festivals in my opinion. Summer festivals are breeding grounds of grumpy people who are determined to make the best out of a bad situation. Fall festival promotes happy feels.

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While meandering through crowds bereft of the heat and frustration of summer festival crowds, the air was still warm enough to carry the scent of buttery bread, the crust forming as loaves baked, the sharp prick of apple cider wafting through the air, and the heavy, earthy sounds of cowbells. Underneath, so natural it’s almost hard to catch, was the consistent sashaying rhythm of an accordion—the sound of France.

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This was a heavenly, cheesy, thick mixture of potatoes and ham. The cooks stir this slowly in a large pot, allowing the flavors to mingle and move from one part of the mixture to the other. The large bowl was shared between Anna, Madison, and me. Whenever Anna and I would get our collective turn with the bowl, we’d eat half of what was left and then shamefully passed it back to Madison.

I would chase my huge bite with a bigger gulp of the 2€ bottle of freshly-pressed apple cider we bought earlier. Many people who walked by thought it was wine because of the bottle’s green tint, and smiled while giving me that knowing look. Although I appreciated the sentiment, I would’ve appreciated it even more if it really was wine. Or at least a spiked apple cider.

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Remember when I said the people were super nice? Well, the minute we broke our 2€ bottlewe had people who passed giving us their condolences. “C’est dommage!” they would say—not in the “oh you” kind of way you get back in the states, but actual distress at the spilt drink.

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We passed the sausage stand a while ago, but had to return to get these things! The outer bun is part of a loaf of french bread, the sausage had been simmering in its own juices and sautéed onions, and the vender slathered a THICK layer of real mustard along the bread before handing it over to us.

It’s strange because the color of the sausage threw me off at first. They were all pink, in sharp contrast to the brown liquid they were simmering in. For that reason, we both thought they were still uncooked, but when we ordered one, the vender quickly stirred them around and chose one particularly pink one straight from the pot!

Maybe the sausages I’ve had so far have been so unfresh that they needed to dye them something strange? Because this was cooked perfectly. I almost turned around and got one for myself—one downside of having small, weight-conscious friends: they want to share everything to try everything when you just want to eat everything of everything.

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trying on a beret
trying on a beret

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While peeking into one of their many, many shoe stores, we walked into a street artist’s performance. He was actually very interesting and bordered more on interpretive dance than simple street art. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to watch whatever he was preparing to do when I took that picture because he threw a temper tantrum. “Aucun respect!” he shouted, gesturing wildly to the passer-bys walking through the circle. At this point, we grew a little scared that he would start singling members of the audience not for participation, but as the receiver of his next lecture, so we left quite quickly.

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By this time, we were tired of walking around in streets shielded by surrounding buildings from the sun. So, as usual, we popped into a reasonably-priced café (if you’re looking along the canals, you won’t find one reasonably priced) and had afternoon tea. Throughout the weekend, we all took turns taking the bill. Oh, except me. Which is why, when we all calculated who owes whom what, I was the only one to whom no money was owed but owed everyone so much.

I promised next time to pay for everything just so I could collect a paycheck at the end for being their friend. I think maybe this weekend, since it was my birthday, I wanted to feel like everyone was treating me. Even when the reality was so… so different.

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1229817_532913883465424_2146311759_n After warming ourselves up with hot chocolate and crêpes, we lined up along the road to enjoy the farmer’s parade. Having no clue what to expect, we were so surprised and overjoyed by it all. Next time you’re by Annecy in October, make sure to drop by!

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It started out like a typical parade: old people being pulled in wagons, a marching band, cute dressed up children. And then it turned into something so much more.

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My face during all this!
My face during all this!

Yes. ANIMALS were part of the parade! We saw all different kinds of animals common on farms: goats, sheep, Saint Bernards, cows, milk cows, etc! Unfortunately, my camera died right after the goats…

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The people in the parade were SO nice! All of them wanted us to enjoy the sights and many of them tried to stop so that I could get a better shot. And, like French courtesy goes, I heard many a “Bonjour!”

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Immediately after one of the best parades I’ve ever seen, it all went to shit. And I’m not talking about the state of the cobblestone streets after all those animals.

As the last animal waddled by, rain started coming down like, well, cats and dogs and continued until it was time to leave. The weather made everyone justifiably cranky and for the rest of the time, we ducked into random shops to find refuge. This turned out to be a profitable venture when one of those shops sold all kinds of dried fruit!

At one point, all four of us nonbelievers found ourselves finding refuge in a church. Irony abounds. I, being the grandma that I am as of the day before, was prepared to camp there for the next hour until it was time to head back to the bus. Free entry, wooden seats, and a roof over my head? Sign me up! I usually prefer to view churches as architectural and historical landmarks rather than relate it to religion. My friend, on the other hand, was far more uncomfortable with the idea of inhabiting a church meant for the religious, so we left.

IMG_1673 An hour later, we found ourselves back onto the right bus, after stumbling into a few wrong ones. And then, a minute after departure, I fell asleep.

Silly 22-year-old, you think you can still roll with the young kids. Ha.

 Linking up with Bonnie today!

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  • http://elle-alice.blogspot.com/2013/10/travel-tuesday-montmartre.html Elle Alice

    So, so, so beautiful!! I LOVE France! I was in Paris and the Cote d’Azur in August. Annecy sounds and looks sooo beautiful. I hope to make it to that side of France one day! Great photos! Glad I found you through Travel Tuesday!

    • Michelle

      Yes, please do! The culture here is actually very different from that in Paris, which I visited last May.
      Thanks so much for dropping by and commenting :)

  • Lynn Chu

    Nice!