Category Archives: Annecy, Chambéry & France

Sight-seeing in Chambéry

By   December 30, 2009

Having guests stay with you means you can finally be a tourist in your own town. Jessica, an English assistant from 2 years ago, was back in France to visit her boyfriend, and they stayed with us for 2 days before heading back to Annecy and then up to Strasbourg. Even though we’ve lived here for 6 months now, David and I still hadn’t really explored Chambéry much or visited any of the museums or sites downtown. On Monday we decided to go to the Musée Savoisien, which has a lot of archeological artifacts from thousands of years ago during the Roman rule and a special exhibit on 1939-1945. It was only 3€ and I found it really interesting, even if it reminded me that I really need to brush up on my French vocabulary (it took me forever to remember étain is tin and the difference between cerf and chevreuil, for example).

On Tuesday, we visited the cathédrale de Saint-François-de-Sales but it was a bit hard to see inside since there are few lights and it was cloudy outside. The entire interior is painted in a trompe l’œil design and it’s the largest one in Europe. We also visited the maison des parcs et de la montagne which is called an espace muséographique that teaches about the geography and animals of the natural parks in France, especially the ones around the Alps. There’s also a temporary photo exhibit that focuses on the 8 parks in this area that was really beautiful.

Afterwards we watched the film Les Chats Persans / No one knows about Persian Cats that was about a group of young people trying to form an underground rock band in Iran so they could leave the country and all of the obstacles (mostly from the government) that they have to overcome just to be able to do what they love the most. The film was actually shot (illegally) in Tehran in 17 days and it has a fake documentary feel to it. I’ve always been fascinated by Iran, but I feel so badly for the people who suffer because of the oppression. I can’t imagine living somewhere that censors and restricts everyone’s rights and not having the freedom to speak out against the government, or even leave the country.

So I’m glad we were able to have guests finally and therefore have an excuse/reason to get out and explore Chambéry. I could have gone without the mean beggar lady at the cathédrale though (she shouted radin! if you didn’t give her money), or the grumpy neighbor who kept pounding on the wall until 1 am because he thought we were making noise (sounded like someone hammering, but it wasn’t too horribly loud) when in fact, it was the apartment above us. He even had the nerve to tape a note to our door saying that the use of drills or tools that make repetitive noises is interdit after 10pm. I love how he just assumed it was us even though every single noise is this building echoes all over the place so you never know where any noise actually comes from. I’m pretty sure he woke up everyone in the building with his yelling out the window and pounding on the wall and radiator because that was about 10 times louder than the original hammering noise. Yet another reason why I hate living in an apartment…

Dreaming of a White Christmas…

By   December 19, 2009

Il a neigé sur Chambéry hier ! / It snowed in Chambery yesterday!

The parking lot yesterday when the snow started

The parking lot this morning

Someone didn’t know what to think about the white flakes

My poor little car (the roads and sidewalks are not salted or cleared at all)

I tried to make Canaille walk in the snow – he didn’t like it

But the birds apparently did

We also received presents with the snow!

The forecast says 50° F / 10° C and rain for Tuesday, so I don’t think we’ll actually have a white Christmas. I’m really jealous of people in the mid-Atlantic states. I want 20 inches of snow!!!

Le Marché de Noël à Chambéry

By   December 6, 2009

I have to say the marché here is a little depressing. It’s very small and there aren’t many decorations or interesting things to buy. Plus the weather is just awful, so I’m sure that contributed to my dislike of the marché. Shoving your way through the crowd is bad enough when it’s not raining and windy and there aren’t a bunch of umbrellas trying to poke you in the eye.  So I took about 6 pictures total.

Now I feel better at home drinking hot chocolate surrounded by my own Christmas lights.  I feel like my living room has more Christmas spirit than the city of Chambéry.

And another reason why I feel better at home:

Only six more days of work left for 2009!

Le Téléthon 2009 à Annecy

By   December 5, 2009

I had completely forgotten that the Téléthon would be in Annecy this year. France2 is showing live video from the lake right now. It is nice to see the pretty buildings and mountains on TV, but I’m still glad to no longer live there.  It is a great place to visit though, especially in the summer when you can take advantage of the lake.

Zoom sur Annecy

By   October 25, 2009

TF1 just did a reportage on Annecy, the lake and the possible Winter Olympics in 2018. You can watch the video at their site. It’s about 15 minutes long and even if you don’t understand French, it’s still worth it to look at all the pretty scenery.

“Le 13 heures vous emmène en balade aux bords du lac d’Annecy, la “Venise des Alpes”, comme on a coutume de la surnommer.”

Summer to Fall to Christmas in One Week

By   October 13, 2009

Last week I was still wearing tank tops because the temperature was still reaching 75° (24 C). This week it’s been probably about 50° or 60° (10-15 C) and the heat has been turned on in our building. We’re supposed to turn all the radiators on full blast to make sure everything is working properly and I absolutely love it. Our apartment had better be this warm all winter long. Anything is better than our heatless apartment in Annecy though, I guess!  After freezing for two years with no heat and no hot water in the evenings, it is nice to know that I will finally be comfortable in my own apartment.

We also received catalogs from Toys R Us and King Jouet today, advertising toys to buy for Christmas! It is October 13th. OCTOBER THIRTEENTH! I don’t even want to think about Christmas yet, especially since most of our money will have to go towards the stupid taxe d’habitation anyway and we’re staying in France this year so I will once again miss out on a real Michigan Christmas full of decorations and cookies and snow and Rudolph the Reindeer on the radio.

As much as I love summer, I’m glad fall is here. I feel better working and having a purpose in life instead of just being on vacation forever. Work is going great this year (minus all the scheduling conflicts) and I’m not having too many problems with students. Or at least I think I yelled enough at the immature boys last week that they got the point. Giving them seating charts and treating them like 5 year-olds works wonders sometimes. I think the best part is being able to work with students from last year because they know how I expect them to behave and simply already knowing their names makes things so much easier. And my Italian students! I adore them. I want to go to the Università della Valle d’Aosta just to tell them to send me more students.

Five hours of class tomorrow and I am en week-end again!

Switzerland vs. France (Not a Football Match)

By   October 13, 2009

Oddly enough, living in France near the Swiss border has more disadvantages than advantages. At first I thought it would be nice to be close to another country that isn’t even in the EU. Geneva’s international airport has served me well over the years, but I’ve got to say that I’ve never actually spent time in Geneva other than to go to the airport or to catch a train to Germany. Don’t get me wrong, I do love Switzerland, but it’s just too expensive and the trains between France and Switzerland aren’t all that convenient.

The main reason I don’t like being close to the border is the higher cost of living. So many people in Annecy and Annemasse commute to Geneva everyday for work and they earn twice as much money as people who are doing the same job in France. Property prices in Haute-Savoie have skyrocketed because of this, though they are still below the average prices in Geneva. Our taxe d’habitation even increased 100€ in one year because the taxes in and around Annecy went up so much. If Annecy is awarded the 2018 Winter Olympics, I hate to think how much more expensive it will become.

Now that we live in Chambéry, prices are slightly better  because we’re further from the border. But I still hear complaints from French people who work in Switzerland that “all Swiss people hate the French.” How is complaining that a nationality is racist towards you NOT also racist towards them?? I get sick of hearing these rich people complain about their working conditions. If you don’t like working in Switzerland, then don’t do it. But then they’d have to earn a typical French salary like everyone else in the country, and that would be horrible! After earning 3000-4000€ a month, how could they ever go back to a measly 1500€?

The extreme right political party in Switzerland, which has already been trying to ban the building of minarets, is now attacking French workers in Geneva. They call them “racaille” and even “criminels étrangers” in their latest newspaper ads in response to the CEVA project to start train service between Geneva and Annemasse to make it easier for commuters to get to and from work. I understand that they’re mad about the high unemployment in the Geneva area, but calling French people scum?? Come on.  How about you just give out fewer work permits to French people?

I wonder if tensions are as high in other bordering countries. I can’t imagine so since almost all of the other countries are EU and therefore must allow French people to work there. There is no debate about work permits. None of them offer much higher salaries like Switzerland either. And of course, the language barrier probably prevents many French people from working in Germany or Italy or Spain… But what about Belgium? Are salaries higher there? Do a lot of people in Lille commute to Belgium to work?

Foire de Savoie

By   September 19, 2009

Last night David & I went to the Foire de Savoie, mostly because one of their main exhibits was Tahiti et ses îles and I’m still really interested in seeing French Polynesia one day. Everyone was dressed in traditional Polynesian outfits and they were selling flowers, oils, jewelry, clothes and vacations to Tahiti. They even had a tattoo artist giving (removable) ink tattoos of Polynesian symbols.

tiki statue

In the other six buildings, most of the vendors were selling things for the home like couches, kitchens, pools, sheds, etc. which is great if you have a house but a bit depressing if you don’t. There were a few stands selling other things like Italian or Basque food as well as some activities such as fake palm tree-climbing and ziplining, but these were only for children. The only thing we ended up buying was some candy called chouchou – peanuts covered in crunchy caramel. If we had a yard, I would have loved to buy this:

I am glad we went – we entered a drawing to win a 10 day vacation to Tahiti so keeps your doigts croisés for us – but we had a bit of a scare on the way. It was really crowded because it was Friday night, and some roads were closed so the traffic was awful. We had just crossed some railroad tracks and stopped because of the red light further ahead. I noticed the car behind us actually stopped on the tracks instead of waiting to make sure there was enough room to cross the tracks before advancing like you are supposed to do. I made a comment about how that driver was an idiot because you never know when a train will come along and sure enough, the bells rang to signal that a train was coming. Lucky for him, the traffic started moving right away and he was able to get off the tracks without about 2 seconds to spare. I didn’t even see the train because it was going so fast that by the time I turned my head around to look, it had already passed. Just thinking about that car on the tracks made my stomach upset for the next half hour though.

La Maison de Jean-Jacques Rousseau dans les Charmettes

By   September 14, 2009

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, of Social Contract fame, lived in a house in the Charmettes, just outside of Chambéry, from 1735-1742. He kept a garden and vineyard there while he spent the rest of his time writing. It is open to the public for free and there is also a temporary exposition until December 31 titled “Je ne suis pas à vendre” that includes the showing of the film Crésus.

La Maison

Inside the House


Herb garden and house

View of Chambéry and the Alps

Let’s herbalize (?) with JJ!

I want this archway at my future house.

C’est dommage que les Savoyards ne soient pas riches,
ou peutêtre seroit-ce dommage qu’ils le fussent;
car tels qu’ils sont, c’est le meilleur et le plus sociable peuple que je connoisse.
S’il est une petite Ville au monde où l’on goûte la douceur de la vie
dans un commerce agréable et sur,
c’est Chambéri.
– Rousseau (writing with 18th century orthography)

It is a pity the Savoyards are not rich:
though, perhaps, it would be a still greater pity if they were so,
for altogether they are the best, the most sociable people that I know,
and if there is a little city in the world where the pleasures of life
are experienced in an agreeable and friendly commerce,
it is at Chambery.