Why Annecy Is A Real Life Fairytale Town


While you may never have heard of this charming town in the Rhone Alps, you will probably recognise it from screensavers or widely shared articles on “towns to visit before you die” type lists. Annecy is the kind of place that does not just live up to your expectations, it goes above and beyond and will overwhelm you, enchant you and perhaps even inspire you with its magical fairytale features. 

Annecy has always been high up on my bucket list but until now I never had the chance to visit. Along with Colmar, it is probably Europe’s most famous fairytale town – a whimsical destination that makes you feel as if you are walking through a picture book.

As the second stop on our epic 6 month Cork to Cape Town adventure, it’s only natural that we were slightly overwhelmed with how well our trip was going and how we had seriously lucked out with the itinerary we had chosen. Here’s a look at what  made our short time here so special and why I would highly recommend all you fine people to visit this amazing part of France some day!

Picture perfect around every corner.

Annecy is an Instagrammers dream. Around almost every corner there is another picture perfect photo spot, with hanging baskets full of flowers, beautifully painted houses and canals full of water so blue it almost looks photoshopped. I had to drag poor Ian all over the town, taking so many photos that eventually my camera battery died! So then I just continued taking pics on my phone and sharing out adventures with my Snapchat followers.




Ridiculously friendly locals.

As we were walking along the far end Lake Annecy heading back to the Doussard to catch the boat back across the lake, we were picked up by a super friendly local by the name of Pierre Philippe. He passed us in his jeep singing happily and offered us a lift. He said he could take us anywhere we pleased, turning to us saying “You wanna go to Italy? i can take you to Italy? Want to come swim in my pool? You can do that too!” He was so lovely and we had a great chat about what’s going on in France and how he believes everyone needs to be kinder to each other and help in any way possible. 

At the market we also met lots of friendly locals, never rushing us to make a choice or buy anything and offering us endless tasters of cheese and dried meat!

The bluest lake in the world.

Okay, I’m using my creative licence with this one but the water in Lake Annecy is honestly some of the bluest water I have ever seen in my life. When you take a photo of the lake, it looks like a page from a picture book. It’s so blue, so clear, so clean and of course so inviting!

We spent an afternoon doing an amazing boat tour of the lake. The pass allows you to get on and off wherever you like, so we stopped off at two towns along the lake shore. Again, we took far too many photos and were blown away by how beautiful both the lake and all the tiny villages on its shore were – it’s a place I would definitely like to return to with my kids some day.




People flying in the sky.

As one of Europe’s premier paragliding destinations and home to the World Paragliding Championships, you can’t go anywhere is Annecy without seeing hundreds of people flying over the skies above you. It’s quite the sight watching literally hundreds of paraglider doing trick shots in the air, spinning around and then land a few feet from where your standing.

I had great fun flying my drone over the lake and capturing beautiful Annecy from above as you will see in the pics below.



FULL of Gelateria’s and Chocolate Shops.

I don’t know about you, but my idea of a dream town is one full of delicious treats, a la Hansel and Gretel. I know my Dad is probably nodding his head in agreement reading this. One of the best things about the old town in Annecy is that every second store is either a chocolate shop or a Gelateria. It is paradise for all you sweet tooths, myself included.



You can’t take the same route twice.

One thing we especially loved about our time in Annecy was that we always took a different route home. Not exactly by choice, but more thanks due to the winding streets, tiny canals, tunnels and back alleys. There was always a new and interesting street to be found which made every hour of every day that bit more magical.


A magical location in the Rhone Alps.

I can’t really talk about Annecy without mentioning the stunning backdrop that surrounds the town and the lake. Surrounded by high peaks and some of Europe’s best ski resorts, Annecy is perfectly located in the Rhone Alps region of France combining all the delights of French cuisine with the spectacular views afford by being nestled right on the border with Switzerland.



Castles around every corner.

In most countries I visit I love taking photos of castles and get pretty excited every time I see a new one. in Annecy, they are literally around every corner. Up on the hill or down by the lake, situated on their own little private plot of land or right in the middle of everything else – there are castles of all shapes and sizes that will fit perfectly into you ideal of a fairytale town.

Old and new, big and small, many privately owned – it’s quite the eye-opener to see such wealth and prosperity in such a small place. Be sure to take a boat trip around the lake to see/visit as many of these castles as possible! If you’re budget isn’t too tight you can even sign up to Airbnb and stay in your a castle!



A town of myths and legends.

Annecy is full of fun myths and legends, the most famous o which concerns one the most beautiful bridges in the town. Lovers Bridge, as it is known in English, is said to have magical powers and if two people kiss on the bridge they will stay together forever. So think VERY carefully about who you go about kissing in Annecy! 



Markets you only dreamed about.

We all know France is famous for its food so it’s no surprise that picturesque Annecy is home to one of the best food markets I’ve ever visited. Think stall after stall after stall of mouth-watering fresh produce, straight from the farm to your mouth! Cheeses, vegetables, delicious fruit and freshly squeezed juices, an abundance of dried meats, and a huge variety of olives, sauces, breads and anything else you can dream up.





Food fit for a king (or Queen!).

One word for you: Fondue. Annecy is known for being one of the best places in France if not the world for eating Fondue. It’s a real occasion and while a little pricey, your stomach and memories will thank you! Think a huge saucepan full of the most delicious cheese you can imagine, along with some delicious fresh bread to dip into the hot, sticky goodness. Shared with friends and accompanied with a great wine – food fit for a king!

We also enjoyed pretty much everything else we ate in Annecy. From our delightful picnic in the park, to the fresh quick we ate at a tiny local cafe down a side alley (I’m always keen to avoid tourist traps!) to the pizza we shared on our last night – it really is a foodie heaven.



Dreamy accommodation options.

What sort of fairytale town would Annecy be without some amazing hotels to complete the package? From the spectacular (and super famous) L’Imperial Palace Hotel which dates back to the belle epoque and overlooks the lake with pride of place, to some smaller but charming options (and well within your budget!) such as the Atipik Hotel Alexandra which is within a stones throw of the Old Town and is where I spent two lovely nights while in Annecy. Although Atipic Hotel hosted myself and Ian for our two night stay and I can highly recommend staying there – their purple chandeliers in the rooms were so unique!



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Cork To Cape Town Overland – Announcing My Big Adventure


Most people that follow me on social media will know of this epic adventure already, as I fear it’s all I have talked about for the past two months. However, it came to my attention this week that many of my friends and family members that may not be as addicted to Instagram or Snapchat as I am, had no clue what I was up to or where I was going. So, dear readers, friends and family members, in case you did not already know, on Monday August 22nd (thats….TOMORROW!!) I embark on a 9 month overland trip from Cork to Cape Town. The catch? I am not allowing myself to take any flights!

How did the idea come about?

Lot’s of people keep asking how this idea came about. in truth, it’s something i wanted to do for a long time and is the culmination of a lot of crazy ideas as well as a not so nicely worded email from a friend suggesting I stopped flying everywhere!

Essentially, I’ve been a little obsessed with Africa ever since I lived in a remote township in South Africa when I was just 18 years old. I had just graduated from school and jetted off to South Africa to teach Business and Economics for a year. This incredible, and testing, 12 months honesty shaped me as a person cementing my love for travel and starting a decade-long love affair with the African continent.

Teaching in South Africa, 2004 - 2005

Teaching in South Africa, 2004 – 2005


Teaching in South Africa, 2004 – 2005

Don’t be fooled into thinking I’m ‘incredibly brave’ (as some people keep putting it) to be travelling through such a long list of unusual destinations. The truth is, I’ve been to most of the countries on this list before when I was a lot younger and a lot more naive! During University, I spent every summer either travelling or volunteering in East Africa, exploring remote parts of Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya. I also returned to Kenya for a month to study WASH projects in the remote North as part of my Masters Thesis project. East Africa honestly feels like my home stomping ground and I sometimes feel more at home in Africa than I do in Ireland.

This was before digital cameras, social media and LONG BEFORE I had a travel blog. This means this will be my first opportunity to properly document my African adventures – something I’m very excited about.

Making new friends in Kenya, Summer 2006

Making new friends in Kenya, Summer 2006

Making friends while writing my Masters Thesis, Easter 2012.

Making friends while writing my Masters Thesis, Easter 2012.

At first, I simply thought about booking a one way flight to Cape Town and just winging it. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world and I could happily live there for a few months hopping from one awesome hostel to the next. That seemed like too easy an option, however, and wouldn’t be the most interesting read! If I wanted to go to Cape Town, I should at least attempt to follow in the footsteps of Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor and take the long way down!

Finally, as a travel blogger it can be very hard to differentiate yourself from the crowd. As a blogger that focuses on solo female travel and tips for those planning long backpacking trips on a budget, I believed I needed to do something really epic to keep my already awesome readership more engaged. I wanted to do a trip than no one else I know has done – one that will set me apart from the crowd. Whether this trip will be enough or now…only time will tell. If you’re read this far at least, do me a favour and leave a comment!! ;-)

What’s the route / itinerary?

Not surprisingly, the second most asked question this summer has concerned what route I plan to take. How exactly does one get from Cork to Cape Town without flying?! Every Generic John, Ais and Niamh From Across The Road seem to have had their own opinions on what route would be best, why I should not bother going to X and Y and some pretty outlandish suggestions about how I should do the trickiest part of the adventure – getting from Turkey to Egypt. I myself have settled for the Cargo Ship option…whether that is a success or not..we’ll see!

While I do have a rough itinerary, it has already changed quite a lot in the past few weeks and I have no doubt it will change again. It feels incredibly liberating to have no time limit for the trip, a factor that means I can choose to stay in certain countries for months at a time if it feels right.

Below is my rough 6 – 9 month itinerary for Cork to Cape Town.  

Following a 16 hour ferry ride from Ireland, it will take me across these 14 European countries: France, Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Albania, Greece and Turkey.

Then following a two day cargo ship journey to Port Said, it will take me through the following 14 African countries: Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa.


What are you MOST excited about?

I don’t want to give away too much, but I will be partnering with some amazing hotels, activity providers and tourism boards long the way. Right now I am most excited about a 6-day Grand Train Tour of Switzerland that we’re taking at the end of August. We’ll be touring one of the world’s most beautiful countries in Panoramic Trains with big glass windows and stunning views. We have partnered with some funky hotels and hostels around Switzerland too, which I can’t wait to share with you.

What do you pack for such along, crazy trip?

Good question, want to come help me pack?! I’m not going to lie guys….i’m struggling!! I am a big fan of packing light but when you work as a travel blogger you need to travel with an insane amount of photography equipment! My “gadgets” are currently taking up over half my backpack leaving just a teeny bit of room for slightly less important things like: clothes, shoes, towels, toiletries etc.

Here’s the (slightly ridiculous) amount of equipment I’m bringing with me in my backpack:

  • GoPro Camera (plus accessories).
  • DJI Phantom Drone and controller. 
  • Canon DSLR.
  • 3 extra Canon Lenses.
  • Macbook Air.
  • iPhone.
  • My old Samsung (just in case!)
  • Skyroam Hotspot device (to stay connected).
  • A million chargers and adapters.


Previous African adventures 

Here’s a quick glimpse at some of the crazy adventures I had while travelling in Africa about 10 years ago – funny stories that I (for the most part) never shared on this blog!

  • Celebrated the Millennium TWICE due to the 7.5 year time difference in Ethiopia
  • Bought a flight to Addis Ababa to meet a guy…booked flight 72 hours before leaving.
  • Got stranded on a remote island in Uganda with nothing to eat but Pineapples.
  • Attempted to hitchhike to South Sudan with Russian truckers.
  • Waded through a crocodile infested river.
  • Hitched a life home on top of a truck load of fish.
  • Lived with Irish nuns in a missionary compound in Kenya.
  • Taught Business and Economics in South Africa and 12 months.
  • Taught English in very remote Kenyan village in Turkana.
  • Wrote my Masters Thesis on Comprehensive Security problems in Kenya.
  • Got both Malaria and Dengue Fever (5 years apart in different countries).
  • Suffered terrible side effects from taking too much Anti-malarials.
  • Hitchhiked to Mozambique at the age of 18.
  • Saw a Lion Kill in Kruger National Park.
  • Found a man murdered outside my hostel in Maputo.

I’m thinking I will update this list as I go, so leave your questions below and I can edit this post and answer them for one and all to read. For now all I ask is that you…. WISH ME LUCK! 

Janet x


Hostel Review: Curiocity Backpackers, Johannesburg


When arriving in Johannesburg one does not exactly have the highest expectations. It has been listed as one of the top 7 most dangerous cities in the world and the most dangerous city in the world by The Guardian. Not exactly what you want to read when setting down in South Africa’s largest city.

Curiocity Backpackers, located in an up-and-coming urban redevelopment area called The Maboneng Precinct, is one of those places that you love from the minute you walk through the door and dispels all myths about inner city Joburg. It’s one of those places that us writers and bloggers find very difficult to describe, unsure what exactly makes it so special, unable to pinpoint the exact feelings it evokes in us.



Arriving in the hostel at around 5pm on a Saturday meant the place was totally alive, an eclectic mix of stylish locals and not-so-stylish backpackers who have probably been wearing the same clothes for two weeks! I was immediately given a flying tour of the hostel by a very friendly employee (for the life of me I can’t remember his name!!) and introduced to the main hot spots around the hostel such as the (now hopping) bar, very chilled out balcony area and the hostels very own outdoor Jacuzzi!

I was seriously impressed with the 8 bed dorm I had booked. I think it’s probably the cleanest, most spacious dormitory I have ever stayed in. I love the crisp white sheets and high ceilings, and was happy to see an extension cable to ensure all occupants could charge their phones / spare battery packs / laptops etc. Us backpackers no longer travel light, it would seem!



One of the best things about Curiocity Backpackers (in my opinion anyway) is the wonderful, amazing, super fast free WiFi. Just thinking about how fast it is makes me smile. Other digital nomads and travel bloggers will nod their heads when reading this, as nothing frustrates a blogger more than staying somewhere with no WiFi connection!

While most people staying here are just passing through, having either just got off an international flight or en route to do a 4 day safari in Kruger National park, it also seems to be somewhat of a melting pot for locals. I spent all day Sunday lounging on comfy bean bags on the balcony with 6-7 locals who were nursing their post-pride hangovers with some cold beers and reminiscing about what seemed like one crazy night out in Joburg. They were so welcoming and encouraged me to join their little posse within minutes, ensuring I got another glimpse of what it might be like to live in this crazy city. While some were born and bred here, others were from the US or France and had simply found themselves never wanting to leave this eclectic city. They said they loved chilling out at Curiocity some weekends as the accommodation was cheap, the beer is cheaper and it’s in a pretty cool area. You know you have checked into the right place when even the locals praise it.



As I often try to bring in interviews with digital nomads and entrepreneurs to this blog, it should be noted that the story behind this hostel is a pretty interesting one. One of the co-founders, Bheki Dube, was just 21 years old when he set the hostel up in 2013, a true entrepreneur who is trying to show tourists that there is more to Joburg than first meets the eye. He set it up to give both locals and backpackers an authentic experience of the city and to help them leave with a better understanding of what makes Joburg such a special place to many. Before taking on this venture, he worked as a tour guide (Founder of Main Street Walks, a walking tour on inner city Joburg) and as a photographer. His love of art can be seen all over the hostel, with interesting photographs adorning every wall.

You will also see the passion and dreams of Dube, the staff, famous South Africans and even of the backpackers who arrive here each day written on the walls of the hostel. Inspiring quotes about travel, love and life and a quick insight into what the building was used for years before Curiocity backpackers was even set up.

This hostel is full of character, the staff are incredible and it has already opened my eyes to whole new side of a city I would have overlooked in the past. If you are passing through Johannesburg, you know where to go!



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Hostel Review- Curiocity Backpackers, Johanessburg



Why “Don’t Worry About Money, Just Travel” Is Actually The Best Advice Of All Time


There are different types of travel, just as there are different types of people.

Just because we can’t all move to Europe to pursue a masters degree or spend a summer sailing around the Greek Islands on a yacht with a group of other twenty-somethings, does not mean we cannot travel. Or, at the very least, does not mean we should be dissuaded from doing so, as Chelsea Fagan does so articulately in her recent Medium article entitled, ‘Why “Don’t Worry About Money, Just Travel” Is The Worst Advice Of All Time’.

Fagan says that travel is ‘a way for the upper classes to pat themselves on the back for being able to do something that, quite literally, anyone with money can buy.’ I would argue that travel is not something that one can simply ‘buy’. People can buy flights, and buy bus tours and buy expensive meals in exotic locations, but money cannot buy genuine experiences. Money cannot buy new friendships, an appreciation of different cultures and an insight into how people live in other parts of the world. That is all up to the individual. That is all up to the traveler.

I believe that most people in this world could drop everything and move to another country, if that is their inner most desire. It’s not just about money, it’s about courage. The courage to let go of possessions, normality, relationships, friends. The courage to do something that might not work out for the best. The courage to do something that perhaps nobody you know has done before.

Fagan writes that ‘nothing about your ability or inability to travel means anything about you as a person.’ I would argue the exact opposite is true. How can such courageous and often life-changing decisions not say anything about you as a person? I believe it says everything about you as a person. It shows your desire to learn, your appetite to experience new cultures, to meet and interact with other nationalities through different languages. It shows your need to grow as a person and your willingness to understand more about this great world we live in, accepting there is more to this world than the small bubble of your home country.

Travel does not always mean dropping everything and following your dreams. It doesn’t mean you will, for one second, totally forget about money and bills and healthcare and every other type of worry we are burdened with on a daily basis. But that should not, for one second, stop anyone from at least dreaming of a life overseas. It should not stop us from writing down our goals, our dreams, our inner most desires, in the hope that we can one day achieve them.

Just because you don’t have a lot of money does not mean you cannot travel. Just as there are different types of people in this world, there are also different types of travel.

First of all there is the nomadic type of travel, reserved for people looking to get back to their roots and to live in nature. Reserved for people who might not have very much money, but who are also lucky enough not to have to provide for their elders or look after their younger brothers or sisters. They are free to wander the world at a slow pace, living off the land, walking or hitchhiking wherever they go, camping by lakes or on mountains and relishing their (temporary) distance from civilization.

Next you have the working abroad option, perfect for people who have always dreamed of living and travelling in another country but cannot escape financial responsibilities such as student loans, a mortgage or providing for family members. Take teaching in South Korea, for example, where your return flights are paid for, your accommodation is free for the year and you will probably be left with more disposable income that you had back at home.

You could choose to be a nanny in Russia or an Au-pair in Ireland, or you could get yourself to Australia and work very long hours on a rural farm or in a mine and earn more money than you could ever dream of.

Many people opt to volunteer abroad, a perfect option for those with basic savings but not enough to fund long-term travels. I’m not talking about the ridiculous variety of ‘volunteeting’ chosen by upper-middle class gap years, who pay 1,000’s of dollars to play with lions or spend 2 weeks in a children’s home in Cambodia.

I’m talking about programmes such as Wwoofing and HelpX, which give slow travelers a place to stay, food to eat and a small allowance in exchange for a few hours of work each day. Programmers like this allow for people ona very small budget to travel exotic locations such as South America or even Europe for up to six blissful months.

Travel does not have to mean saving 1,000’s of dollars and leaving your job. It could be working from your computer as you go. If you are sufficiently skilled at copy-writing, blogging or have a specific skill set you can sell online, you could consider becoming a digital nomad. If you can make the same amount of money you were making in the US and in the UK, but were suddenly paying 90% less on rent, money (or lack there-of) would no longer be as big a burden.

Money is important and you should never brush it aside as something trivial, but it also should not be the sole thing stopping you from travelling if that is your dream.

Apply for travel bursaries or student scholarships in countries you have never heard of. Hitchhike, sleep in tents, couchsurf. Work for food and accommodation. You could sing on Grafton street in Dublin and make up to 200 bucks a day then continue your travels around the country.

There really are options for everyone, if you open your mind wide enough to see them.

This article is also live on Medium, you can read it here.


Travelling Overland From Kenya To Sudan

102a. Girls from the Turkana tribe - Kenya

This post is an extract from my travel diary, which was written 9 years ago! The musings of a somewhat naive 20 year old backpacker, with big dreams of someday being a travel writer. This post is about my hitchhiking adventure travelling overland from Kenya to Sudan (now South Sudan). Enjoy. :-)

Imagine a small cowboy town in northern Kenya, ten hours away from any form of civilization. The atmosphere of this outback town was ecstatic; Turkana tribesmen adorned in animal skins, and hundreds of coloured beads, herding their goats through the narrow dusty streets, the naked man sitting on the street corner. Children playing with old tires and with little toy cars made of used milk cartons while the old ‘gogos’ sit around cooking maize and gossiping with their friends. This entire scene is happening to the beat of booming Congolese tunes played on repeat by the local bad boys. This is Lodwar.


Kerrie, Beth and I had been living here for nearly two months, surviving on goat and small rations of water. Everyday here was an adventure; we never knew what would be waiting for us around the next corner, when we would get our next shower or when and what would be our next meal.

Our crazy weekend away all started at a local disco on the Friday night. We hitched a lift into town on the back of a locals pick-up truck, shaky start to a shaky weekend. We arrived to the scene of 200 local boys breaking it down to Sean Paul and jamming to Bob Marley under the light of a full moon. Our arrival, three strange white girls, caused quite a stir.

Hours later after twisting and shaking to every song under the sun, chewing ‘miraa’ and tasting jungle juice we got talking to some guys dressed in camouflage. It turned out they were troops from the African army on their way to Sudan on a peace-keeping mission. We befriended them quicker then lightning with the intention of bumming a lift to Sudan. After much begging they obliged and told us to meet them at the local prison at 5am- very random!


Our friend Teddy collected us at our little hut inside the missionary compound. To our dismay, he was still drunk so he let Kerrie take control of the taxi!! She flew the car down the bumpy desert road, right across the airstrip, narrowly avoiding a tree and zooming up the hill to the old jail. We’re lucky to still be alive! The guard on duty who had very little English must have thought we were 3 insane ‘mzungos’ when we ran inside and explained why we were there: “Hello we met the soldiers at the disco and they told us if we met them here at 5am they would bring us to Sudan”.

Our soldiers, however, were nowhere to be found. Our lack of sleep caught up on us and while waiting on a wooden bench inside the prison walls we conked only to awake an hour later to the sound of all the prisoners shouting at us and clanging their bars and all the local guards lining up with AK 47s in hand. Time to get out of here…


We walked the three kilometres back into town as the sun was rising only to be met by a huge convoy of UN and Red Cross trucks. Suddenly a huge, white, gold tooth clad Moldovan trucker shouted over to us ‘Oi, White Ladies, truck! Now! Sudan! Go!’ so in we hopped without any hesitation and off we went in what was to become our huge Moldovan mobile disco – starting the most random morning of adventure in our personal histories. Our toothless, bald driver proceeded to complain about every thing he believed wrong about Africa, while he chugged back beer chucking the bottles out the window, while driving!! “In Africa, houses SO SMALL, In Russia, houses BIG, very big!”, he repeatedly told us.

Five hours and two breakdowns later (including one outside Kakuma refugee camp) and a headache from the booming Russian dance tunes, we arrived in Lokichoggio where we felt we had dived into the movie set of ‘The Constant Gardener’. After a long trek to the boarder posts in 40°C heat and further flirting with Immigration officials our luck ran out. It turns out it isn’t that easy to just go have lunch in a country thousands of people are fleeing daily. We spent the night drinking in Loki with all the aid workers and truck drivers who gave us Irish a run for our money.


We had to hitch a lift home to Lodwar early Sunday as we had been invited for dinner with Father John and the Local Nuns. It made for a very conservative evening, in vast contrast with the weekend we had just experienced. We never did make it across the boarder but the journey trying to get there; the road to Sudan was one of the most exciting adventures I have EVER had and which I will never forget.