January 25, 1924: The first Winter Olympics begin at Chamonix in the French Alps. Spectators were thrilled by the ski jump and bobsled as well as 12 other events involving a total of six sports. The International Winter Sports Week, as it was known, was a great success, and in 1928 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) officially designated the Winter Games, staged in St. Moritz, Switzerland, as the second Winter Olympics. The 2006 Olympics were held just over the Alps in Torino (Turin); in 1968, about 2 hours down the road at Grenoble; In 1992 Albertville, France saw the Winter Olympics (25 air miles east of Aix-les-Bains). On the 18th of March (2009), Annecy was selected as France’s candidate city to host the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
La Roche-sur-Foron sites in the heart of the Haute Savoie region, near Chamonix's many resorts, some 20 kilometers from the Geneva border. Pictures and information about some of the unique offerings of the area are HERE. The town boasts of its heritage as a medieval city with a vibrant city centre. The Foron is the river that runs through the town and la Roche is the rock next to the river upon which the town grew. Pictures HERE
Annecy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annecy -- Mont Blanc Annecy, the "Venice of Savoie," has its origins back to 3000 B.C. The lake of Annecy, framed by mountains, appeared 18,000 years ago and covers 10.5 square miles, with an average depth of 135 ft. Today, it is one of the cleanest lakes in the world and home to a wide range of wildlife and fish. The Mont-Blanc is the rooftop of Europe (15,775 ft-high as measured in 2001), located about 30 miles from Annecy. Stage 18 of the 2009 Tour de France began and ended here, the individual time trial. Often it can be this stage that the race is decided; but probably not so this year 2013. http://www.letour.fr/le-tour/2013/us/stage-20.html
Annecy is located halfway between Genève and Chambéry, so it strongly was influenced by these two political centers for 1000 years. Starting as the capital of the county of Geneva, after the end of the counts of Geneva, it became integrated into the House of Savoy's possessions in 1401. In 1444, it was set up by the Princes of Savoy as the capital of a region covering the possessions of the Genevois, Faucigny and Beaufortain. With the advance of Calvinism in 1535, it became a center for the Counter-Reformation and the Bishop's See of Geneva was transferred here. During the French Revolution, the Savoy region was conquered by France and Annecy became attached to the département of Mont Blanc, of which capital was Chambéry. After the Bourbon Restoration in 1815, it was returned to the Kingdom of Sardinia (heir of the Duchy of Savoy). When Savoy was sold to France in 1860, it became the capital of the new département of Haute-Savoie. The Cathedral of Saint-Pierre, built in the 16th century, was the cathedral of François de Sales and is home to a number of artworks and baroque pieces from the 19th century.
Aix-les-Bains: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aix-les-Bains -- Lac du Bourget Aix was a bath during the Roman Empire, even before it was renamed Aquae Gratianae to commemorate the Emperor Gratian, who was assassinated not far away (in Lyon 383AD). Numerous Roman remains survive. Its thermal sulfur springs, have a temperature range from 109° to 113°F (43-45 °C) and are still much frequented. The town stretches along the eastern end of the beautiful Lac du Bourget, the largest natural lake in France.
Aix-les-Bains' architecture (e.g. the Art-Deco Thermes Nationaux) derives from its belle-époque, when high society from across Europe dropped in (by train) to relax and take the waters. Queen Victoria, calling herself the Countess of Balmoral, made several visits incognito. Today, it's a more sedate and genteel place, particularly popular with French pensioners who populate its facilities. Everyone else is on the lake. Aix-les-Bains has almost a hundred hotels. The Hôtel de ville incorporates a small imperial Roman temple, dating from the Julio-Claudian period. The temple now serves as site's Archæological Museum. The association of the goddess Diana with this structure may have resulted from a second century reconstruction, but the building seems originally to have been dedicated to the Gallic spring god Bormus (Borvo), who is attested in local inscriptions.
Chambéry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chambéry -- Massif Chartreuse Chambéry has been the historic capital of the Savoy region since the 13th century, when Amadeus V of Savoy made it his seat of power. Chambéry is also an archdiocese. Amadeus IX, Duke of Savoy and his Duchess Yolande of France built a ducal chapel for their prized relic, le Saint-Suaire, the Holy Shroud (now in Turin). In 2010 the Shroud will go on display in Torino for one of its rare close=up appearances. Visiting the town of Chambéry -- Le Patrimoine Culturel (anglais) Interestingly, the burn marks on the original Saint-Suaire come from a cathedral fire (December 4, 1532) at Champéry.
Bruno was born in Cologne, Germany to the Hartenfaust family in about 1055AD. He became an instructor in theology at the Cathedral School in Reims and later the director of the school. After 1080 he lived as a hermit. He founded the Carthusian Order, embracing a life of poverty, manual work, prayer and the transcription of manuscripts. The order was founded while Bruno was living in isolation in the mountains north of Grenoble. His feast day is October 6th. He was never formally canonized due to the reluctance of the Carthusian order to accept public honors, but Pope Clement X designated his feast day as a "double feast" and he is regarded as a Saint. In later years, the Order fell out of favor and was subject to a crusade and the region subjected to a land grab.
Nowadays, the Grande Chartreuse is off limits to visitors, and visiting motor vehicles are prohibited on the surrounding roads. However, about two kilometers away stands a museum about the Carthusian order and the lives of its monks and nuns. The order is supported by the sales of Chartreuse liqueur. The principle monastery of the Carthusians, which is north of Grenoble (département Isère), La Grande Chartreuse (founded as noted above in the 11th century), today is known best for a type of liqueur, not radical political theology. It lies southwest of and across the valley from Chambéry on the massif that also bears its name.
Pictures of this site are HERE.
Lost in most discussions of the history of the region is the period between Roman occupation (such as at Aix-les-Bains) and the time of the Savoy domination. In the year 369AD, the Roman Emperor Valentinian I enlisted the aid of the Burgundians (a Germanic tribe possibly from Scandinavia) in his war against another Germanic tribe, the Alamanni (which forms the the root of the French word for Germany). Within 100 years the realm of the second Burgundian Kingdom (centered around Lac Léman) covered most of what is today southern Switzerland and South-east France. Map Here Historian Pline tells that Gonderic reigned the areas of Saône, Dauphiné, Savoie and a portion of Provence. He set up Vienne as the capital of the kingdom of Burgundy. In all, eight Burgundian kings of the house of Gundahar ruled until the kingdom was absorbed by the Franks in 534 (Merovingian dynasty). Notably during this time, as allies of Rome in its last decades of Empire in the West, the Burgundians fought alongside Aëtius and a confederation of Visigoths and others in the battle against Attila at the Battle of Châlons (451). Also, in 493 Clovis, king of the Franks, married the Burgundian princess Clotilda (daughter of Chilperic), who converted him to the Roman Catholic-oriented Faith. Clovis est le premier roi barbare à se convertir au catholicisme (les autres ont choisi l'hérésie arienne).
For 300 years Burgundy was part of France/Germany until the breakup after Charlemagne's death (devolved into part of Lotharingia). The Dukes of Burgundy remained powerful, indeed a counter-point to the French Capetian dynasty; but by that time, the Dukes of Savoy were in charge here (the eastern half of the original Burgundy), as their influence and rule developed from the collapse of the larger Burgundian Kingdom in the 11th century. Chambéry was Savoy's historic capital for 500 years. Tour de France 2010 Host site.
Stage 9 (Tuesday July 13th): Morzine-Avoriaz to Saint-Jean de-Maurienne, a heavy, heavy Mountain day. Maurienne is one of the provinces of Savoy (Savoie). The oldest possessions of the Counts of Savoy were the countships of Maurienne, Savoy proper (the district between Arc, Isère, and the middle course of the Rhône). The Duchy of Savoy, which had been a French-speaking province under the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Piedmont, was invaded by Revolutionary France and later permanently annexed. Relics of Saint John the Baptist, which came via Egypt about 1500 years ago were not lost and remain today. Not just another ancient town, it is at a pivot point. Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne is an access point to several Alpine passes (the Croix de Fer, Telegraph, Lautaret, Grand Cucheron, Madeleine, du Glandon, the Iseran, Mont-Cenis and Galibier). It sits beneath the domain of the Sybelles and Vanoise Park.In 2006, this was the départ point of a stage in the Tour de France. It is only a short hop west to the next day's start point at Chambéry.
Albertville: Albertville (http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albertville) sits by on the Arly River, close to its meeting with the Isère River. In Roman times, the town on the rock was an important stop on the way to Milan from Vienna. Located at the strategic confluence of two rivers, the Romans named the city ad confluent, hence its name. The plain below the city was in turn occupied by the customs and border post and was called ad publicanos. In the late twelfth century, the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem founded a hospice to accommodate travelers and pilgrims to the Holy Land. The 1992 Albertville Olympic Games were the last Winter Games to be staged in the same year as the Summer Games. Only 18 of the 57 events were held in Albertville itself, while nearby resorts hosted the rest. http://www.olympic.org/uk/games/past/index_uk.asp?OLGT=2&OLGY=1992
It was not until 1835, under the order of the 19th of December that the King of Sardinia, Charles Albert joined the two historic towns of Conflans and Villefranche Hôpital to form Albertville. "In the mutual interest of both cities . . . it was recognized that their joining into one body of community will be a sum of advantages to their respective inhabitants." Albertville then was built by Charles Albert, King of Sardinia, in 1845 to replace the fortified town of Conflans, which still stands as a small village on the opposite bank of the river. Conflans remains attractive with some interesting structures of medieval origin. The baroque church dedicated to Saint Grat dominates the town, with its sculptured pulpit and fine gilt altar. On the overlooking hillside presides a château from the 16th Century. Conflans Pictures The 1992 Albertville Olympic Games were the last Winter Games to be staged in the same year as the Summer Games. Only 18 of the 57 events were held in Albertville itself, while nearby resorts hosted the rest. http://www.olympic.org/uk/games/past/index_uk.asp?OLGT=2&OLGY=1992 (Barcelona)
A picture of Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste in Albertville is HERE; but, it looks a lot like the picture of Église Saint Thérèse -hmmmn, you can be the judge. Town Centre Pics