Day Trip: Chambery

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). 


My Highlights:

  • 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.
This is when I was still on the trail…
…and this is where I lost and never found it again and walked past the same farmer three times until he laughed.
  • 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.
Inside the gates of the château
Part of the museum’s exhibit of the royal collection
  • Wandering the Old Town and peering into some of its nooks and crannies.
Old, very old, road, more like a tucked-away time portal

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. 


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