When Meg and I first met, about fifteen years ago, we zoomed past 6-degrees of separation in to the 2-degree zone, quickly discovering similar upbringings in Europe and shared expat experiences — like a distinct memory of the curly butter served on the Statendam Ocean Liner or the same appreciation for JFK airport, that always signaled a summer of home-leave in the good old USA.
So it was hardly surprising when we learned that not only had we honeymooned in the same country (France!), but that we had actually stayed in the same places too — clearly subjecting both of our darling and unsuspecting husbands to relive our respective childhood memories.
One such place is in the charming village of Talloires, on the lake of Annecy and it remains, for me, a favorite experience and memory – even beyond the magical honeymoon. Many years ago, I attended a summer camp on the shores of Lake Annecy, which, with its aqua colored water and the backdrop of spectacular alpine peaks, is one of the most magical places I know. MacJannet Camp was located on a tip of land with a front row view of snowcapped mountains that plunged into Lake Annecy, where we swam, sailed and canoed in the clear (and frigid) aqua waters every day. It may have spoiled me for life, but it was clearly worth it.
I begged my parents to let me return, but unfortunately the camp was closed a few years after my magical summer there. The property, including the 11th Century Priory that was our dining hall, was later bequeathed by the generous founder to his Alma Mater, Tufts University, for their Center for European Studies.
Fast forward many years to a honeymoon with the man of my dreams, where I might have seduced him into staying at the marvelous Pere Bise hotel, while subjecting him to a visit of the MacJannet camp site, next door (and where, to my delight, I found a trophy with my name on it, for winning the recorder making instrument!). Little did he know what a talent he had married!
The magnificent Pere Bise hotel was founded over a hundred years ago and for many years, its gourmet restaurant held the prestigious 3-star award from Michelin. Over the years, the stars faded, but the setting remained spectacular, and now a new tynamic duo have taken over the management and restaurant, and it seems to be soaring toward the stars again (gaining a second star in 2017, which is no easy feat).
Under the leadership of the new, young (39) owner and Chef, Jean Sulpice and his wife Magaly, the hotel has been renovated and the restaurant has been re-imagined to great acclaim. Of the chef and his cuisine, Alexandre Lobrano (whose excellent blog about Paris restaurants is one of our go-to favorites) writes about Jean Sulpice’s cuisine in France Today: ” … The cooking here is nervy, incisive and witty – in keeping with the way that other young chefs of his generation are rebooting French terroir …. It’s also subtly respectful of the gastronomic heritage of a place that had existed for over a century before his new stewardship.” Quoting Sulpice, he adds: “Today gastronomic pleasure is created differently than it was 50 years ago. It’s no longer a story of foie gras and lobster, it’s about discovering foods that are profoundly fresh and local and cooked in a way that surprises you and creates emotion.”
Even without the incredible cuisine, the setting alone for this gorgeous hotel merits the trip. Needless to say, I’ve already petitioned my Monsieur to revisit Talloires and Pere Bise for our upcoming 30 year anniversary — so that I can give you a new first hand review!
On her honeymoon, Meg stayed in a similarly gorgeous Talloires hotel, just a few yards away, also on the shores of the pristine lake d’Annecy. The Abbaye de Talloires is an imposing, classically French stone structure that was once a small monastery, rebuilt in 1682 after the original wooden structure was ravaged by fire. In 1862, after multiple other existences during the French Revolution, it was turned in to a hotel — and luckily for Meg, has had a few updates since then!
I asked Meg to tell me about her experience there:
“We arrived exhausted, flustered and cranky after about eight hours on the road. The most magnificent view greeted us as we got close to Talloires: mountains framing an impossibly blue-green lake with quaint and charming homes clustered along the shore. Then we pulled up to L’Abbaye, a vine-covered 19th century hotel that was oozing serenity, beauty and tranquility. Once we got settled, we immediately headed outside to the lake. The air was so soft and still and smelled absolutely intoxicating. We opened a bottle of wine, cheered each other and started thinking about dinner. The next few days were just magical – we explored the village, spent hours next to the lake and spent most meals talking about the next meal. It was relaxing, invigorating and ridiculously beautiful!”
“The first night we arrived, we were too tired to head into town so we made a reservation in the hotel’s gorgeous dining room, overlooking the lake. The room was large and very grand…and we were the only ones eating that night (the hotel was getting ready to close for a week or two) Each course was delivered with great pomp and circumstance and I’m afraid I got a horrible case of the giggles. Eventually, we made friends with the waiter and ended up having a wonderful time (and the food was delicious!).
“But the sweetest story about the hotel is this: after a few days, it was time to pack up and head to our next destination. Off we went and when we arrived at the next hotel, I realized I had left my favorite jacket at L’Abbaye. I called them and explained what had happened. They promised to take a look in the room and try to find my jacket. Now, remember this was back in the day before cell phones, so I never heard from them again…until about a month later when a box showed up at home. It was my jacket with a lovely note from the manager. That’s some service!”
So … what triggered my visit down memory lane to Talloires France on the Lake of Annecy? Well, as an admitted serial stalker of real estate listings, I recently came across an apartment in old town Annecy, at the foot of the lake, which looked enticing enough to enlist a boat load of memories and dreams. Remembering Annecy as the quaint and charming medieval town of crooked narrow streets filled with flowering window boxes, I was drawn to the striking modern renovation of what must be a centuries’ old building.
So this is what led me past the charming walls of old town Annecy, down memory lane to MacJannet camp, past the delicious recollections of Pere Bise and the Abbaye, and up to the present day Huff Harrington, embracing the mix of modern and old, French and American, Louis and lucite, crunchy and smooth and the many shared experiences that add up to all the things we love.
And the short winded answer is that we just love to share our lust for travel and favorite hotels!