Set on a big elbow in the Isère, where the Arly valley joins forces with it, industrial Albertville’s main claim to fame is having hosted the Winter Olympics in 1992, as recalled in the Maison des Jeux Olympiques d’Hiver (t 04 79 37 75 71).
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A fairly modern creation anyway, the town was named after its founder in 1836, Charles-Albert of Savoy. The grandiose administrative buildings left from that time were upstaged by the rebuilding of central Place de l’Europe for the Olympics, somewhat in extravagant salmon-pink Italianate neo-fascist style.
On a nearby rocky outcrop, the much older, deeply atmospheric village of Conflans looks down its nose at Albertville. Its ramparts and gateways protected magnificent dwellings built on the proceeds of prosperous trading on the route between the Rhône and northern Italy. The Grand-Place with its picturesque oval fountain and many flowers, and the arcaded Maison Rouge, actually look most Italian. The muscular brick mansion holds the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire (t 04 79 37 86 86), with quite interesting religious pieces as well as rooms dedicated to the place’s military past – it was even the original home of the elite mountaineering Chasseurs Alpins.
The whole village beyond looks almost over-prettified now, rather overstating its olde medieval charms, craft shops and restaurants with broad terraces competing with each other. Even the church tries to seduce passers-by with its saints painted on the outside, while the Baroque attractions within include the dynamic figures carved on the pulpit. From a broad esplanade one side of the village, wide views open up of the Isère valley beyond the 16th-century castle of Manuel de Locatel (undergoing restoration).
To find out more about the Isère valley and the département of Haute Savoie, read the Cadogan guide to the Rhône-Alpes.
Copyright text : Philippe Barbour 2011
Copyright Image : Wikipedia