Since June, and old potato factory was turned into a museum dedicated to a familiar vehicle, the bicycle. From rare samples of velocipedes to modern professional bikes, the museum rides along the history of cycling over 700 square metres. A 17th century bike is the oldest item on display. It is almost entirely made of wood. The Tour de France of course features prominently in the museum with scores of promotional items and posters. The museum is part of a larger complex dedicated to cycling, mountain biking and BMX.
Without painter Jean-Baptiste Greuze, no picture would be left of the young Napoleon Bonaparte. The Tournus-born painter was the first to execute a portrait of the future emperor in 1792. Napoleon was then but an ambitious 22-year-old lieutenant. Greuze kept the painting all his life before handing it over to his daughter. It now belongs to a private collector.
Much later, in 1803, Greuze was asked to paint another picture of Napoleon in his First Consul uniform. The painting, widely inspired from the first one, is now in the Versailles castle. Very popular in his lifetime, Greuze is a little overlooked today but the Tournus museum is a fine introduction to his work. Some of his paintings can be seen at the Louvre or the British Museum.
Tournus never before held a Tour de France stage yet the town contributed to the history of French cycling as the birthplace of Josiane Bost, the second Frenchwoman to win a world road title in 1977 in San Cristobal, Venezuela. Bost had previously be eclipsed by the first lady of French cycling, Genevieve Gambillon, winner of two world crowns in 1972 and 1974. Josiane Bost was very popular for her outspokenness but she is a little bit forgotten today, perhaps because the year after her day of glory saw the start of a young skier turned cyclist going by the name of Jeanie Longo. Bost won her title by boldly attacking on her own to upset favourite Connie Carpenter, who had to settle for silver. In 1972, a Tour de l’Avenir stage went from Tournus to les Rousses, creating a precedent for today’s stage.
|1st century||The Romans establish a stronghold on the Via Agrippa.|
|2nd century||Martyrdom of St Valerien.|
|11th century||Construction of the St Philibert abbey, a rare example of early roman art.|
|1685||Construction of the Hotel Dieu (hospital), which nowadays hosts the Greuze museum and one of the oldest pharmacies in France.|
|1725||Birth of painter Jean-Baptiste Greuze.|
|1815||Returning from exile on the isle of Elbe, Napoloeon Bonaparte awarded the Legion of Honour to the town of Tournus for the courage of its inhabitants in a battle against Austria in 1814.|
ST PHILIBERT ABBEY
Many parts of this former Benedictine monastery are still standings (dining room, cellar, cloister) and its church is one of France’s biggest roman monuments.
Built in the 17th century, Tournus Hotel Dieu is notable for its pharmacy, one of the oldest in France. It was installed in 1685 and its furniture is very picturesque. Wood shelves painted in gold were especially designed to hold the faience pots holding the medications prepared by the nuns.
Prefecture : Mâcon
Population : 571,000
Web site : www.cg71.fr
In size, Saone-et-Loire is France’s 7th biggest French department and its population is 550,000. In the southern part of Burgundy, it is surrounded by four regions, Burgundy, Centre, France-Comte and Rhone-Alpes. Its is famous for its fine wines and its beef, the world renowned Charolais, while Bresse is noted for its chickens. But Saone-et-Loire also has a rich industrial history with coalmining in Blany and Monteceau-les-Mines, metalworking in Creusot, Gueugnon or Chalon and ceramics in Digoin, Paray-le-Mondial and Charolles.
A nice little rural town with a few chicken farms and cattle from the Charolais race.
The 12th century St Martin church is surrounded by old houses and remnants of the old brick walls. The church is also made of red bricks with a tiled roof. The Bresse chicken festival is organised every year at Whitsun.
Prefecture : Bourg-en-Bresse
Population : 575,000
Web site : www.ain.fr
Near the Swiss border and close to Italy, the Ain department stands at crossroads between Lyon and Geneva, Northern and Southern Europe. Its location and the youth of its population generated a sound and active economy.
Ain is the third most industrialised department in France and is a national pacesetter in the food industry or plastics technology.
Yet it is also an ideal place to live thanks to a respected environment in each of its four main areas, Bresse, Dombes, Bugey and Pays de Gex.
Prefecture : Lons-le-Saunier
Population : 251,000
Located in the southern part of the Franche Comte region, Jura owes its name to the mountain chain which forms an important part of its territory. Because of its geographical situation, Jura was involved in most wars and conflicts between France and its neighbours. Among its most famous children are Jean de Carondelet, chancellor of Emperor Maximilian, composer Rouget de l’Isle, politician Jules Grevy or Louis Pasteur. Most of the agriculture is based on forests, livestock breeding, milk and cheese. Industry is scarce but specialised in fields such as textile, optics and wood. St Claude is famous for its pipes.
St Amour, on the foothills of the Jura massif, is a lovely city with old houses including the apothecary house, a listed monument. The Guillaume Tower (12th to 16th century) owes its names to Guillaume of St Amour, who left his fortune to the paupers. The auditorium and the royal jails are unique in the area. The St Amateur and St Viateur church, edified in 585 by King Clovis son Gontran 1, paid homage to two Christian soldiers slaughtered in St Maurice d’Agaune, in the Swiss Valais. Monks built a monastery around the church and miracles started attracting pilgrims. The fief was handed to bishop St Vincent of Macon who built the town walls. With time, the village took the name of St Amour.
Andelot is noted for its medieval castle, built in1206 by Humbert III of Coligny. Well preserved and characteristic of the Middle Ages military architecture, it is private owned and cannot be visited. During the French Revolution, the lords of Andelot fled to the New World and their belongings were confiscated.
The castle was bought after WW1 by wealthy American businessmen Belin d’Andelot and Dupont de Nemours, whose ancestors all hailed from the village.
The Vouglans dam, built by Electricite de France between 1964 and 1969 created an artificial lake at an altitude of 429 metres.
The lake is 35-kms long for an average width of 450 metres, making it the third biggest artificial lake in France.
Near Vaux, the St Romain de Roche chapel is dedicated to a hermit born around 390 near Izemore. Educated in the Ainay monastery in Lyon, he decided to live a hermit life in the Jura mountains in 425. He found the calm he was looking for here. His brother Lupicin joined him a few years later. They founded the Condat monastery (now St Claude) and another one in Laucone (today St Lupicin). Their sister Yole (Lola) also headed her own convent in La Balme, on a rock over the river Bienne. In 460, sensing the end was near, St Romain went to La Balme to salute his sister. He died and was buried on the spot. His relics were then sent to the St Claude Abbey.
At the foot of the Jura mountains, St Claude grew around a monastery founded in the early 5th century by two abbots, Romain and Lupicin. It was first called Condat – which means confluence – then Saint Oyand de Joux, after abbot Oyand, who developed the monastery in the late 5th century. In the late 12th century, the town took advantage of the discovery of the intact body of friar Claude, who died 450 years earlier, to attract pilgrims. In the 15th century, thanks to King Louis XI, who was a St Claude devotee, the town took its present name. It was only temporarily changed back to Condat-Montagne during the French Revolution.
St Claude first thrived by selling wooden objects to pilgrims and gradually specialised in the manufacturing of heather pipes, an industry which made it famous. A museum traces back the history of pipe making in St Claude. The town was also an important centre for jewellery. For the last decade, plastics engineering has attracted many companies in town.
Polar explorer Paul-Emile Victor spent most of his childhood in St Claude, which is also the hometown of French mountain-bike champion Alexis Vuillermoz.
Les Rousses can rightly claim more than half the medals won by France at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. First because Jason Lamy Chappuis, the Nordic combined Olympic champion hails from Bois d’Amont, one of the resort’s four villages. But also because all the biathlon specialists who collected six medals in Whistler were formed or trained in Premanon, home of the biathlon national training centre. Premanon was also the place where 192 Olympic gold medallist Fabrice Guy jumped for the first time. The centre is headed by Patrice Bailly-Salins, who was France’s first biathlon world champion.
Les Rousses is proud to be the birthplace of skiing in France and it is a claim that is confirmed almost daily. The legend goes that in 1899 the town mayor, Felix Peclet, met a former British officer in India who introduced him to this odd yet efficient means of transportation on snow. In any case, skis have been manufactured in the region for many years as a museum located in the basement of Le Grand Tetras hotel amply reveals. The last maker of Nordic skis in France, Vandel, is also based in Bois d’Amont, the village of Nordic combined Olympic champion Jason Lamy Chappuis.
The Transjurassienne, France’s biggest Nordic ski race, starts in the village of Lamoura while another classic is the Traversée du Massacre, named after the local forest.
Alpine skiing is not overlooked since Bois d’Amont is the birthplace of Leo Lacroix, silver medallist at the Innsbruck Olympics in 1964 and twice a runner-up to Jean-Claude Killy at the world championships n Portillo, Chile, in 1966.
Les Rousses never held a Tour de France stage before yet the area is very familiar to riders since the Col des Rousses, (1,140 metres, 3rd or 2nd cat), which leads to the Col de La Faucille, has been climbed more than 40 times since 1911. Most of the time, the bunch would continue to Divonne-les-Bains, Besancon or Belfort.
Le Col de la Faucille, overlooking Les Rousses, was also one of the first big climbs in the Tour as it was on the 1911 course. The names of famous climbers like Ottavio Bottecchia, Gino Bartali or Federico Bahamontes are forever linked to La Faucille while one rider was first on top both La Faucille and Avoriaz: Lucien Van Impe.
|16th century||Foundation of the village of Les Rousses.|
|1796||A Morez nail maker started making glasses with metal wire. It was the start of the spectacles industry in the region.|
|1848||Construction of the Fort des Rousses now used as a refinery cellar for Comté cheese.|
|1962||Talks of peace to put an end to the Algerian war of independence are held in Les Rousses.|
|1969||Creation of the Nordic skiing national centre.|
|1992||Fabrice Guy becomes Nordic combined Olympic champion in Albertville.|
|1993||The four villages united to create the Station des Rousses.|
|2010||Jason Lamy-Chappuis becomes Nordic combined Olympic champion Vincent Gauthier wins three medals in alpine skiing at the Paralympics.|
Built between 1848 and 1862 to protect France against an invasion from Switzerland, the fort was almost never used for military purposes. It is the second largest fort in France after Mont Valerien and could entertain 2,500 to 3,000 men. Abandoned in 1919, it was used for holiday camps and commando training before becoming a huge refinery centre for Comte cheese. A them park, Fort Aventure, also provides several activities for children and adults.
PAUL-EMILE VICTOR POLAR CENTRE
Polar explorer Paul-Emile Victor was deeply attached to Les Rousses, where he learnt to ski as a young man. He insisted on opening a polar centre in Premanon which is both a museum and a research centre.