I hadn’t had a day off work since March, so you can see why I was itching to get away for a whole week gallivanting around France – Lyon, Annecy, Marseille and the Calanques, to be exact. And it didn’t disappoint.
Day 1 began with me and Lucy catching the same flight from Heathrow out to Lyon, where we met the others who had travelled down from Paris by train. We stayed at Away Hostel and had an 8-bed room to ourselves, and aside from the sweltering heat and lack-of air con, it was the perfect place to base ourselves while exploring France’s third-largest city. The next day, a free walking tour led us from the hill of La Croix-Rousse round picturesque cobbled streets littered with markets, and we spent one afternoon exploring the city’s free zoo before cycling down by the banks of the Rhône. As well as munching on some delicious burritos and indulging in a silly night spent playing scattegories, we got the funicular up the Fourvière hill to see the view from Basilica of Notre-Dame at sunset – utterly glorious.
A day trip from Lyon took us to the alpine shores of Annecy, 22 miles south of Geneva. The main attraction was to see (and swim in) Lake Annecy, a huge and gorgeously blue lake that helps give the town its nickname of the Venice of the Alps. After a picnic, we hired a pedalo (with a slide, of course) and spent a blissful hour diving into the crystal water, before walking out to a public beach where we could lazily sunbathe, swim and enjoy the incredible views.
On Day 4, we left Lyon for Marseille, right on France’s south coast on the Mediterranean Sea at Vertigo Hostel. Although the city gets a bit of a bad rep due to its history of crime and drugs, a walking tour was revelatory about how the city has reinvented itself various times, from the Roman era right up to 2013, when it was the European Capital for Culture. Although we spent many moments stopping for coffees, wine and glasses of pastis, as well as my favourite, a tartare de boeuf, we found plenty of time for exploration. The old part of the city was packed full of quaint colourful buildings, winding cobbled steps, bobo cafe’s and shops selling Marseillaise soap, and we also went up the hill for amazing views from the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde. The old port itself is a bit of a tourist trap, with swarms of buskers, tour-sellers and fishermen competing for attention, but we had a lovely sunset picnic a bit further along where people swam up to the rocks into the early hours.
Arguably, you can’t visit Marseille without hiking in the Calanques National Park – and it definitely helps that at the end of the hike is a the beautiful Calanque de Sormiou, a cove boasting a beach with the glittering sea inviting you in for a post-sweat splash. It was hot, difficult and steep, but I promise I only complained once or twice…