Why we chose Annecy as our new French base

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After three years residing in the Paris region, we finally moved to Annecy for our new French base. This beautiful part of Eastern France is located in the mountainous département of Haute-Savoie. There are many advantages to living in the area, particularly if you want an alternative to Paris or Provence.


Annecy is our new French base!

Annecy

Aimée and Rachel in Annecy © French Moments

When we moved from Sydney, Australia to France back in 2014, we naturally headed to Paris as there was work waiting for me. But deep down my wife and I were hoping to one day move to “la Province, that is somewhere in France outside the Paris region. By the way, the Province should not be confused with Provence, the region in South-East France bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

Annecy France French Base

The little Venice district of Annecy © French Moments

To move to another region in France is not always an easy process. Like moving in any country you have to think about finding a new home, a new job or professional activity, plan the change of address, transfer to new administrations, etc. Most of all you have to make sure your next place of residence is the right one, a home in a new region you won’t regret after a few weeks or months of life there. Moving from the hustle and bustle of a large city like Paris to a 3,000 inhabitants village near Annecy was a choice we thought about over and over before making the big jump. Of course we wanted some space, the quietness of a more rural place, a slower pace of life, a breathtaking view of the mountains… but you have to be sure you’re making the right choice though as the two ways of living – urban and rural – are so different.

French base Annecy Groisy

The view from our new French base in the Annecy region © French Moments

Let’s be honest, for us the triggering component of our big move was to be closer to family. We had friends in Paris but without family close-by. For us we had three choices: Australia, England or the French Alps. We chose the last option.


Why Annecy is one of the best places to set up home and make it a French base

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For many visitors in France, Annecy and the Savoie province is a bucket-list destination. There are many reasons for that. I can list a few that may help you choose this area too…

1. Annecy is very close to Geneva

Geneva Annecy Salève

View of Geneva, Switzerland from the Salève Mountain near Annecy © French Moments

Think about it: 40kms or 40 minutes from Geneva, one of the largest cities of Switzerland. Many expats have a job there and settle their homes across the border in the Ain or Haute-Savoie départements where the cost of living is much cheaper. Living so close to Geneva also means you have an international airport at hand with connecting flights to Paris, the UK, and many other European and international routes offered. Also good to know, you will easily connect with other fellow English speakers in Annecy who have settled in the area too!

2. Annecy is an area of natural beauty

Annecy Lakeshore Savoie

Annecy Lakeshore © French Moments

I have been talking about Annecy to many English-speaking people back in Australia or more recently in Paris. Most of them had never heard about Lake Annecy and many didn’t even know that the town was situated in the French Alps. Well, take a look at the above photo and you’ll appreciate how stunning Annecy is. The lake is one of the purest in Europe and is of natural origins. From the top of the mountains that surround it (Semnoz, Mont Baron, La Tournette) the views are spectacular and reach the Jura mountains, Mont-Blanc, the Vanoise and even Les Écrins.

3. Annecy is a human-size town

Annecy French Base

The old town of Annecy, our new French base © French Moments

With a population of approximately 125,000, Annecy is a relatively small town compared to Lyon, Grenoble and Geneva. It means that from the historic part of town, you quickly reach the lakefront and the mountains. In that sense, this way of life reminds me a bit of Sydney where wildlife is found very close to downtown. Also, you will be enchanted by the historic town centre made up of small canals, hence the nickname “Little Venice of the Alps“.

4. Annecy enjoys a rich cultural activity

The Annecy Venetian Carnival

The Annecy Venetian Carnival by papafranco2012, CC BY 2.0

Thankfully Paris doesn’t hold the monopoly of culture in France and cities such as Lyon, Lille, Bordeaux or Nancy have much to offer to their residents and visitors. And Annecy is no exception. Granted, there are no exceptional museums there (but Lyon and Geneva are not too far to travel to). But there are many events organised throughout the year: the beautiful Venetian carnival in March, the International Animated Film Festival in June, the Fête du Lac in August (one of Europe’s biggest fireworks display events), the Italian Film Festival in September, the Return from the Alpine pastures in October when the cattle come back from the pastures up the mountain where they spent the summer…, and the Christmas market in December. You won’t get bored if you choose Annecy as your French base!

5. Annecy is a mecca for outdoor activities

Annecy French Base Haute-Savoie

The Annecy region, a paradise for hikers © French Moments

After your arrival in the Annecy region you’ll quickly find out that sport and outdoor activities play an important role there. Thanks to the lake and the nearby mountains, you’ll be spoilt for choice with an impressive range of outdoor activities: aerial sports (hand-gliding, hot-air ballooning, paragliding, light aircraft…), nautical sports (rowing, kayaking, canyoning, fishing, windsurfing, diving, boat-trips, water skiing, stand up paddle boarding, sailing, wakeboarding…), Winter sports (ice-climbing, Glacier walking, snow-shoes, ski, dog-powered triking…), without forgetting mountain climbing, golf, Nordic walking, caving, and more more.

6. Eat authentic good food from Savoie!

raclette Annecy Savoie

Raclette Dish © French Moments

My last point for choosing Annecy as a great French base is about the food… mais oui… I’m French after all as well as Australian 🙂 To go to all the effort of moving country and region and not be able to enjoy great regional food would be a huge disappointment! Well, we’re lucky that Annecy and the historic province of Savoie are renowned for the quality of its food, particularly cheese. Who hasn’t heard of Beaufort, Tomme de Savoie, Reblochon, Raclette or Tartiflette ? You have to come and taste these delicious dishes and cheese. From the lakeside open-air cafés to the Michelin-starred gastronomic restaurants, you can indulge with delicious local food. You won’t have to worry about the amount of calories you’ll be eating because you’ll quickly lose them walking up the mountains the next day!

For more information about the Annecy region and the French Alps, we’ve found Michelin’s Green Guides quite useful. It gives you historical and cultural insights on the region, info on sights and attractions and even suggested driving tours.

 


Needless to say moving region can be hard and it’s not always as rosy as we’re making it sound but it is always worth it long term. This region of our new French base has so much to offer and opening our eyes each day to mountain views is incredible and something we never want to take for granted.

Annecy Haute-Savoie French base

The romantic Pont des Amours in Annecy, our new French base © French Moments

Our long term plan is to split our time between Australia and France and hopefully this dream will take shape in a couple of years. Although we’re based in the Alps for now we’re still be covering different regions of France and of course Paris! We’ll be posting more about our upcoming discoveries in the weeks and months to come so be sure to come back regularly on the blog or subscribe to our newsletter below to keep posted!

Mont Salève

Pierre at the top of the Salève mountain © French Moments

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About Author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. In 2014 he moved back to Europe from Sydney with his wife and daughter to be closer to their families and to France. He has a background teaching French and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations and a degree of Economics and Management.

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