Monday, 7 September 2009
Travel with a toddler... Auxerre & Annecy
Auxerre is a charming medieval town with narrow streets. We stayed at a hotel in the old town, which looked like a private dwelling. Our room was in an annexe in the courtyard. This type of houses are common, we found the charming brocante pictured above in another house, converted as an antiques shop. Downtown I recommend walking by the riverside, but do mind the mosquitoes at night!
On the way to Annecy, our final stop before Italy, we visited the Aire de Jugy. Aires are stops on the motorway that offer picnic facilites and toilets. Sometimes there are good restaurants and cafes too, so you can choose to eat in or bring your own.
If you want to eat at an aire, I recommend the Autogrill chain, which runs good establishments with great facilities. Their map is very good, although we had a Tom Tom, we often consulted it as even minor towns are clearly shown.
French motorways might be one of the most expensive in Europe but they are superb and in many tracts there was so little traffic the drive was relaxing too. Back to the Aire de Jugy, this is worth a stop because there are free play facilities shaped like mushrooms. Michela (pictured below) had a good time, as much as riding the hotel owner's big dog at Auxerre, which seemed to be trained to give children's rides. Pity I didn't snap her.
We arrived in Annecy early in the afternoon and it was sweltering, despite its proximity to the Alps. It's the cutest town I've ever seen, with plenty to see and do. It has narrow streets, old buildings, a castle on the hill, a river through it (see picture below) and restaurants spilling their tables on its banks. The local speciality are tartiflettes, which we couldn't sample. Annecy is very touristy so going to dinner at 9pm, like we did, is a no no.
There is also a grassy beach, basically a park by the lake and plenty of people were swimming. I regret not having a boat trip and not knowing about a beautiful outdoor pool, which only cost 8 euros for the three of us (Michela was too young to pay). Shame on the Rough Guide, for not mentioning this pool!
On the way to Italy we stopped at the Aire du Grenier, which had free games, such as a bouncing castle, table footy, a climbing frame, various table games and puzzles. The restaurants had a play area with books, a plastic kitchen and colouring materials.
My top tip: if you haven't got a portable dvd to entertain your toddler, take CDs of nursery rhymes and books. Car snacks are also essential (dried fruit, cereal bars, fresh French bread, madeleines, fruit...) to keep your toddler happy. They won't wait till the next stop if they are peckish.