Geneva to Grenoble

On The Road Travel Essays

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Geneva to Grenoble

(COURIER: Time: 4 hours. This is sometimes a very winding route, so make sure that no heavy objects have been placed in the overhead racks.)

We cross the French border at St. Julien. Mont Blanc, which we also see, is the highest mountain in Europe: 15,771 feet high and its peak is on the French side of the border.

Annecy  The town has a really attractive center, situated on a lake, Lac d'Annecy (in Haute-Savoie). Population: 70,000. Annecy was in former times the capital of the County of Geneva (the castle is from the 12th-15th centuries, now a museum), which was part of the Duchy of Savoie. Annecy's importance grew in the 16th century, when the Bishop of Geneva (and his convents) moved from Geneva to Annecy. Francois de Sales was Bishop of Annecy at the beginning of the 17th century (he founded the order of the Salesians).

Aix-les-Bains  32,000 inhabitants in this spa (explain the word "Aix"). The springs have been known since Roman times. They are warm (about 110 Degrees F.), sulfuric and alkaline, and the waters are used for rheumatism, gout, and various feminine infections.

Chambery, see of the Archbishop of Savoie. The old capital of Savoie, today with 60,000 inhabitants. The Savoyards have a different origin from the French. They used to have their own independent state, which was courted by various European powers. E.G. during the time of Louis XIII and XIV, the Savoyards were at times partners of France, and at times they threw their lot with France's arch-enemy, the Habsburgs (Austria-Spain). It was during the time of two famous chancellors, Richelieu and Mazarin, that Savoie was reduced to a dependent French duchy.

(COURIER: Remember to point out that you are traveling in the Alps, and that the whole district gives a rather Swiss, not a French, impression. You may want to give your introduction to France at this point. France is the only European country that, other European countries have to import a large portion of their foodstuffs: e.g., England, more than 60%, Germany about 30-40%. France has comparatively few inhabitants in relation to its size: a mere 55 million or so. The average density of population in France is only 200 persons per square mile, compared to the Netherlands, Belgium, and England, where the density reaches the 700's and even the 900's.)

Grenoble  (214 feet above sea level.) Grenoble was the former capital of Dauphine, see of the bishop and university. Population: 200,000. The Winter Olympics of 1968 took place here. During the preparations for the Olympics, Grenoble put into effect a plan of modernization and urbanization. The French, apart or maybe including those in Grenoble, were very upset when Grenoble, under the auspices (or pretense) of the Olympics, rebuilt their Railroad Station, their Town Hall, Autoroutes, Grand Boulevards, and two new bridges.

But Grenoble is really a very old dwelling place, dating back to Gallo-Roman times about 380 A.D. The old name from those times was Gratianopolis (due to Emperor Gratian) from which we get Grenoble. At times it was part of the Kingdom of Burgundy. In the 14th century the last dauphin, Humbert II, ceded his possessions to the King of France.

Grenoble is now rather an industrial city, with such industries as paper, cement, pharmaceutical goods, electro-metallurgy (which is natural as Grenoble is donned by "la huile blanche" — hydro-electric power from the mountain rivers).

On entering Grenoble, you will note, of course, La Bastille, looming over the Isere river and Grenoble (situated on Mont Rachais — 500 miles altitude), telepherique.

The old part of the town is situated between the Isere and Place Grenette which is a lovely place in a pedestrian zone with sidewalk cafes lining it.


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