Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Castle of the Dukes of Savoy

We slept in this morning as the Tour de France arrived far away in Provence last night. They are headed north again today and we’ll try to find them for a bit tomorrow on our way west. At the grocery store this afternoon we found two beach chairs on sale for a total of 13.50 Euros so the next time we stop we’ll have some chairs to sit on for the hours it takes to watch them whiz by! By the way…never had rain last night; just lots of wind and it’s hot and humid again today! Lance Armstrong Twittered Wednesday that Tuesday night in Chambery was “Quite possibly the hottest night of sleep I've had in awhile”. His coach had also twittered that he didn’t have air conditioning in his hotel that night so I’m assuming that Lance didn’t either!

After a light breakfast we headed into Chambery to see two of the most famous sights of the city. The first one that we found after we parked in a parking garage was the famous Fontaine des Elephants. This fountain was built in 1838 and commemorates one of their more famous citizens by the name of Bonoit de Boigne for his feats when he was in India. It has become a focal point and very popular place in Chambery. The other famous site sits at the opposite end of the street…you can actually see one from the other…is the Castle of the Dukes of Savoire (Savoy).

We discovered that the Tour de France actually left from this area yesterday….but it was much nicer to visit today without the crowds. We joined in with the 10:30 am tour (what luck…the next one would not be until 2:30 pm) and even though the guide gave the tour in French occasionally she would explain something very important to us in English. We were taken into the basement area of the oldest tower and then into a fifteenth century tower where we climbed to the roof for better views. The stairway we went up was actually rebuilt in the nineteenth century because it was weaken by fire. We stopped in the city council room along the way. The views from the roof were wonderful of the city and surrounding mountains. Chambery was a crossroad of many ancient routes and sits in a valley surrounded by mountains.

You’ll notice the “cows” of various colors. For years we’ve been seeing these all over Europe. They generally commemorate some special occasion. You’ll notice that in the Castle there was a red polka dot cow about the mountain climbs this week for the Tour de France and of course a yellow jersey cow representing the grand prize! They are sometimes used as fund raisers and/or to raise awareness of events but I’m just not sure how it works. But work they must because they’ve been around for a long time!

After the Castle we spent some time seeing the old part of the city and then finally the Cathedral. It is rather modern on the outside as it was remodeled in the 1990’s but the original structure dates from the 1500’s.

Back to the hotel to watch the race this afternoon on television and pack for our trip tomorrow morning; we splurged at the store on the way home and purchased ham and cheese for sandwiches for lunch. Not sure whether or not we will have the wifi tomorrow night as we are staying in a small hotel in the National Forest just east of the A75, a major route from Paris to Barcelona. On Saturday we will drive over a new bridge on the A75 over a valley; it is known as the Millau Viaduct; some of you may have seen information on this bridge on the internet…it’s a popular one of those ….who would want to drive this? Check it out when you’ve time. Recently completed it has the highest bridge piers in the world. The span is 2.5 kilometers from one end to the other.

The race is over and as the RadioShack Team’s Manager Johan Bruyneel predicted this morning on his Twitter: Mark Cavendish of the Columbia Team took first place. A bit of a mystery to us (no English) was the head butting that took place during the sprint at the finish line??? But, the overall results are still the same with Andy Schleck in first place.

The Tour de France is also going west on the same day and will arrive just south of us on Friday night. Hopefully we will have an opportunity on Friday to find it somewhere. If not…on Saturday it arrives just north of Carcassonne where we will be staying for a few days. So until next time…which may or may not be tomorrow…Au Revoir

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