Chambery. The name begs to be mispronounced by the Anglophone tongue in three or four different and equally disastrous ways. Fellow Anglophones, it’s sort of like this: “shom – beh – hree” – soft and grand.
A little city embedded in the pre-Alpine, glacial lake-filled edge of eastern France, Chambery is the capital of Savoie, a department that wasn’t officially a part of France until the 19th century. Resultant particularities of the language and culture persist today, and natives are proud of their “Savoyard” status.
A day or two is plenty for Chambery, whether you’re there to experience the feel of a quintessential French Old Town (narrow pedestrian streets, fountains, and churches), are thirsty for some history (Napoleon, royalty, and the fickle Swiss/Italian/French border), or want to do some all-season hiking (with several peaks that are not so high as to be inaccessible during the off-season).
- I went on a hike that had some lovely moments, even though I spent most of it lost and never reached the target summit (the Col de l’Épine), not super-surprising given my trail-following success rate here hovers somewhere around 50%. I’ll talk about failed hiking in France in a subsequent post so that you can try to avoid the same pitfalls.
- The Château des ducs de Savoie dates from the 13th century and has the look of one of those dazzling Loire Valley châteaux squished into the midst of a modern city. An area of the castle and its tidy little museum, which boasts royal treasures and information about the castle’s many historical layers, are both free to the public.
- Wandering the Old Town and peering into some of its nooks and crannies.
Travel Time and Trip Costs
I took the train from Lyon Part Dieu – about an hour and a half, 18 euros each way. The bus ticket to Cognin, where I made my attempt for the Col d’Épine, was a ten-minute ride and 1.30 each way. I bought a sandwich and a chausson au pomme at a bakery for about 5 euros.
Grand total: 38 euros and 60 cents for travel, 5 euros for food, 3 hours and 20 minutes spent traveling.