Time, Ghosts and Coffee


Main Canal (Thiou), Rue de la République, Annecy. Autumn planting for flowers with jumble of medieval buildings and distant mountains

To walk the cobbled streets of Old Town, Annecy, one strolls a time machine. Underfoot are time-worn stones, irregular and smooth, in staggered rows and circular patterns. The colors of facades, some freshly painted, derive from a pallet of the south of France, such as Riviera Pink or the Patina-like Chinese Vase Green. Certain window lentils are elaborately adorned with friezes and the occasional balcony sports a Rococo railing that catches the eye on some street corners.

It would have an air that would seem ‘démodé’ (stale, outmoded) where it not for another element that brings time screeching, jarringly into the present. The storefronts one passes are nearly all the ubiquitous brands of any mid-sized city almost anywhere in the world. On display are the latest fashions, books, housewares, greeting cards, toys and eyeglasses that one could expect. Whether you, dear reader, might find the cookie-cutter of modern, retail commerce discouraging or comforting, I admit that during the bi-annual sales, the presence of so many customary brands (Zara, Nocibé, Esprit, Timberland, Boss, North Face, Bennetton, et ainsi de suite) can make this an absolute paradise for the fashion-conscious bargain hunter. I say that particularly because I now live in Switzerland, where it seems the Helvetian borders shelter prices that are often one-third higher or more.

After a reflective lunch at L’En-Cas this solo plunge might seem a strange catechism in the streets of Annecy which burgeon for this New Year’s Eve of mild weather and madding crowds. Nonetheless, I have a mission. I used to live in this town and I welcome its chaos as familiar. In particular, that is because I know that this jostling frenzy of pedestrianized streets hides its secrets too. I make may way to one of them now. Continue reading