Dwight Peck's personal website
quick visit to Chambéry
may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a
good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught
up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
in the Savoie Alps. Let's go to Chambéry instead.
as we were suiting up for a hike near Champagny-en-Vanoise, it rained! So here
we are trotting about the pedestrian Old Town of historical Chambéry, August
lies at the hub of lots of ancient trade routes through the mountains -- the north-south
route from Geneva through Annecy to Grenoble and the Mediterranean, and east-west
routes through the Tarentaise and Maurienne passes out of Italy to the French
markets of Lyon and Clermont-Ferrand.
that's why the medieval counts of Savoy (Savoie) made it their capital in the
13th century (1295). We all would have done the same thing, in their place.
Amadeus V of Savoy made a good start on this château early on, and Chambéry
was the capital of the Duchy of Savoy until the 16th century, during which time
the Savoie ruled, at various times, a lot of southeastern France, much of what's
now southwestern Switzerland (Geneva and the canton of Vaud), and a nice piece
of northern Italy (to this day, the waitresses in the restaurants above the Val
d'Aosta are more likely to speak quasi-French than quasi-Italian).
Dukes of Savoy moved their capital to Turin in 1563, but nevertheless the present
narrator, having spent a fair amount of time poring over the dispatches of English
agents in the region during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, really really wanted
to see Chambéry for himself. So, with sleety rain in the Savoie Alps, here
we are. A Dream Fulfilled.
that's the famous château and its humongous chapel. Let's barge in and roll
all about on the floor of history!
Or Not! It's the "Vigipirate". Somebody's been listening to the
Bushies again -- with their fixation on dark, shadowy, turbaned ideologues with
agricultural fertilizers strapped all about their waists and BIC lighters in their
evilly-grinning fists. Vigipirate ("vigilance against pirates" (pirates
meaning Arabs)) is a Tom Ridge sort of 17 colors of alert system so you can always
know exactly what the level of terrorist threat is. Like "today it's orange/burnt
umber" -- how bad is that?? -- slightly less bad than just orange, but better
than amber, but way less bad than RED!!! Oh, well, that's all right then.
it was a Vigipirate Red Alert and the château
was closed for the weekend, and we'd come all this way for Nothing (except a nice
lunch at an outdoor café, much of which however the narrator spilt on his
lap in his excitement at an article in the International Herald Tribune and had
to go sponge off in the men's loo. He still blames Bush for that.).
you might expect, we inquired of the tourist officials about what had caused this
"Red Alert" for this very weekend, unluckily for us!, but the perplexing
answer was that it's a Red Alert for EVERY weekend. The French are so orderly!
You can plan your Red Alerts weeks in advance!
a little hard to guess of whom the Vigipirate was so frightened -- everybody just
seemed to be going about their business, which was mainly eating at outdoor cafés
and restaurants, and we never saw a single armed raghead. Just some embarrassing
still a lovely old town, though, and makes you wonder what it would be like to
live there, in these 14th century alleys. Pretty dark.
at least the Petit Train was working, and the art museum had a very fine collection
of third-rate late medieval and Renaissance unknown artists. With late medieval artists, you can always fall back
on judging which of them painted the ugliest Baby Jesus' face.
of course, here in the centre of the French Resistance during World War Two, we
got to view the historical displays and photographs from that terrible time. Black-and-white
pictures of this very street with the nasty storm troopers marshalling the local
population in rows.
it was a nice day in the old town, and probably still sleeting in the mountains.
The street market
views the late medieval city prison as a cautionary tale, hopefully still in time.
we're back to Champagny in time for dinner, and then -- ooooff, bad news --- one
of us has to go back to America and the other has to go back to work, equally
Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, .
All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 8 September 2005, revised 20 March
2008, 29 August 2014.