Chambéry: The Mystery Château

My friend and I were looking for a relaxing destination to celebrate our winter break and — after discovering the the Swiss hotel with the internet-famous infinity pool cost more than 600 francs a night — settled on the much more affordable option of a day trip to Chambéry. Gui suggested the French city and former capitol of Savoy because he had read about its cute old town and château, and with lovely 50+ degree weather and blue skies on tap for Thursday, we were sold.

We left Geneva a little after 10am due to a — GASP — train delay (it was a French train though, so not really so shocking), and found ourselves in Chambéry less than an hour and a half later. We spent the next couple of hours wandering through the lovely old town, taking in the famous Fontaine des Eléphants and eating giant, delicious pizzas for lunch.

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The hiccup came afterward when we set out to explore the château and were puzzled to find that, despite the multilingual tourist signs welcoming us to come right in, all the towering metal gates surrounding the castle were locked. Convinced we had just missed the proper entrance, we circled around the exterior until we found a driveway for cars with an empty guard booth, yet again flanked by a tourist sign inviting us to enter. We cautiously walked up the driveway in search of the promised chateau experience — but, alas, it was not to be. The château is now filled with government offices there was no sign of the exhibit advertised on the signs, so after checking out the exterior of the locked church and the carillon of bells mounted outside, we slipped out of one of the locked gates behind one of the apparent employees. We later looked in my guidebook and found that the château is closed to visitors through mid-February, so that likely explains our problem, but those darn ‘come on in’ signs were really quite misleading 😛

We finished the afternoon with a trip to the local Musée des Beaux-Arts, which was a really interesting mix of super modern work displayed next to very traditional, religious art. With one last stop for macarons, we boarded the train back to Geneva, still a bit disappointed by our château-less afternoon but with very happy bellies. Bon weekend!

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