For someone who once lived in the French town Annecy in Haute Savoie, it’s a disgrace that I never made it to some of the tourist attractions there, such as the old jail. So, I recently rounded up a few others and we spent the day as tourists, checking out Annecy’s offerings. We started at the jail, officially known as Palais de l’Isle. It’s funny to think that a jail is actually a palace, but indeed it is! I suspect it’s also the most photographed structure in Annecy. As the name suggests, it is an island – perfect for a jail, but it was actually built in 1132 for the Lord of Annecy to live in. It’s also been a mint, amongst other things. Two rooms show where the coins were made, and some areas of the jail are open, including the toilet holes, which lead directly into the canal.
Now, if you’re thinking this wouldn’t be a bad place to be incarcerated, think how frustrating it must have been to be just feet away from either bank of the canal, hearing the bustle of the city around you, and being stuck in an overcrowded, smelly, cold jail, right in the centre of Annecy. We looked at the scrawlings left behind by anonymous inmates, then moved onto the chateau.
The chateau in Annecy is one attraction I had already seen. A few years ago, as a French language student in Annecy, a group of us had checked it out. We noticed some dead fish in the fish tanks, but apart from that, it had an interesting assortment of artwork and artifacts. Actually, our French was so bad that we told the teacher that “nous sommes allés á le chapeau et les piscines sont mort” (“we went to the hat and the pools were dead”, when we meant “we went to the castle (‘chateau’) and the fish (‘poissons’) were dead”. Time has passed since then and no fish were dead on this particular visit. Favourite bits were the Emile Cohl exhibition, the sock monster and the 3D miniature of the lake and mountains of Annecy.