Chambéry, FRANCE //  Saturday November 27 – Sunday November 28, 2010

Chambéry is possibly the coldest place in the world – from a France-centric point of view anyway… I’m not quite sure what lead my roommates and me to this south-eastern French city, but we won’t be going back any time soon, at least not during the winter months! We probably should have realized what we were getting ourselves into while we sat comfortably onboard the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse = High Speed Train) as it zipped across the snow covered French countryside.

Travelling through a snowstorm!

Our first order of business upon arriving in Chambéry: finding our hotel. Located conveniently in front of the train station was a map of the city. Unfortunately, we all failed to properly read that map as we ended up walking in the wrong direction for 10 minutes, which wouldn’t have been so bad if we weren’t half frozen! Realizing our error, we turned around and walked all the way back to the train station and did what we should have done in the first place, head south. I had never been so happy in my life to see a hotel! We warmed up by the heat of the radiator and knowing that if I wanted any chance of surviving in the cold weather, I put on an extra sweater and a second pair of socks – I knew my ski socks would come in handy!

We eventually got the courage to leave our warm hotel room and ventured into centre-ville. We ate lunch at a tiny sandwicherie on the Boulevard de la Colonne which is located just down the street from the Fontaine des Éléphants, one of the most famous landmarks in Chambéry. The fountain was built in 1838 to honour Chambéry native, Benoît de Boigne’s feats when he was in India. We walked around the main streets and not even an hour after lunch, we stopped inside a café mainly for the heat!! You’re probably all thinking, what kind of Canadian am I? I should be used to cold weather; after all, everyone knows that there are two seasons in Canada: winter and construction! And, I’ll take snow and winter over sticky, humid summers any day! But in my defence, it was r-e-a-l-l-y cold that day and we spent almost the entire day walking around outdoors. Furthermore, anyone who has experienced winter in Europe knows that a damp cold will send a chill straight to your bones!

La fontaine des éléphants

We weren’t going to spend the entire day indoors (although, if we had the choice, we probably would!) so once we finished our chocolat chauds, we ventured outside. We had heard that there is a château in Chambéry, and so we set out to find it! We were doing a good job at reading our maps and we were definitely on the right path but, maps = tourists and so a kind woman thinking that we were all students and lost, decided to lead the way to the château. Along the way, she shared facts about the Château des ducs de Savoie and also pointed out various other notable places – we had our very own tour guide! We weren’t able to enter the château, but we did visit the adjacent museum. Next, we wandered over to the nearby jardin botanique where we believe it or not, played in the snow and had a mini snowball fight – I think it’s perfectly healthy and normal to act like a child once in a while!

Château des Ducs de Savoie

We worked up an appetite playing in the snow, and so we walked back towards the main streets in search of a restaurant. We stopped for dinner at Le Vivaldi where I feasted on the pizza mexicaine (Mmmm… chorizo!), which I enjoyed with a glass of wine. After dinner, we decided to call it a night. We walked back to our hotel room and before turning in for the evening, we watched television (with no tv in our residence, we’ve been slightly deprived for the last couple of months…), what did we watch, you ask? Wrestling! Ha! And not the legit sport of wrestling, but the fake “wrestling” that exists solely for entertainment purposes. There were only so many options at that hour, and beggars can’t be choosers and besides, we enjoyed laughing at the sheer stupidity of it – after all, when else do grown men have the opportunity to wear tights and behave like savages?

Day two in Chambéry was a travel day. We had covered pretty much everything the day before and so decided to sleep in. Anyhow, it was a Sunday and nothing is open on Sundays. We caught our train back to Mâcon just before noon, and arrived in Mâcon just after 2pm (after a 1 hour stop-over in Lyon) giving me plenty of time to do laundry, relax, make dinner, and prepare my lesson plans for the week. Next weekend, Geneva, Switzerland here I come!


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