- The Race 2010
- All about the race
In 25 years, St Paul’s Youth Book Fair has become an institution without losing sight of its original objectives - to develop a taste for reading in children and teenagers and also to bring together writers, youths and grown-ups around a mutual passion for books. The idea sprang in 1985 around an exhibition on Victor Hugo. The Tricastin Reading Fortnight was launched and already followed the same pattern as today with animations in schools during the day and evening events for adults.
In 1989, a first book fair was held and five years later, the festival was cut down to a week ending with the book fair on the weekend. In 1995, the festival was opened to professionals and the Pitchou Prize was created, crowning the best book for very young children. The Sesame prize, launched in 1998, is awarded by high-school pupils.
More and more professional, the festival has now spread outside town with events held in Bollene, Donzere, Nyons and Montbrun les Bains.
The French tradition of offering a lily of the valley on Mayday was born in St Paul Trois Chateaux, in the mansion known today as Hotel de l’Esplan. In the 16th century, the house belonged to the knights Girard of Maisonforte. In 1564, the Queen Mother Catherine of Medici was returning to Paris from consulting fortune-teller Nostradamus and she stopped in St Paul. She discovered lilies, a flower she did not know, and the knight Girard offered her a bunch for her garden. Present that day, future King Charles IX thought it a good idea to offer the flowers to the ladies of the court saying: “May these flowers bring you luck and so be it every year.”
At the beginning of the 20th century, it became custom on the 1st of May to give a sprig of lily of the valley, a symbol of springtime. The government permits individuals and workers' organisations to sell them free of tax. It is also traditional for the lady receiving the spray of lily of valley to give a kiss in return. Now, people may present loved ones with bunches of lily of the valley or dog rose flowers.
Never visited by the Tour de France before, St Paul Trois-Chateaux was the start of a classic Paris-Nice stage in 2009. The peloton was heading for the Montagne de Lure for the main mountain stage of the edition. Impressive in the last climb, Alberto Contador won the stage and took the leader’s jersey with a commanding lead over compatriot Luis Leon Sanchez. He however lost the race the next day after bonking spectacularly in Fayence. The year after, St Paul was again the start of a stage of the Dauphine Libere and it did not bring luck to Contador either, as the Spaniard was seriously beaten on the climb to Risoul by Slovenia’s Janez Brajkovic.
|4th to 1st century BC||The town is the capital of the Gaul tribe of the Tricastini.|
|4th century||Civitas Tricastinorum becomes a bishop see.|
|12th century||Construction of the cathedral, a masterpiece of Provencal Romanesque art.|
|16th century||The Reformation gains grounds and several mansions are built in town, like the Hotel de Castellane, now housing the town hall.|
|1685||Construction of a new hospital.|
The cathedral was placed on the first list of Monuments Historiques by Prosper Merimee in 1841. The 24 metres-high vaulted nave is impressive. The 18th century organ is another masterpiece. It was made in 1704 by Avignon’s Charles Boisselin. The strange bas-relief on the pillar of the pulpit is another must-see.
The old 16th century mansion bears the name of the Catsellanne family, powerful landowners in town. Two of the town’s bishops in the 18th century were members of the family. Bought by the municipality in the late 19th century, it now houses the town hall.
Prefecture : Valence
Subprefectures : Die, Nyons
Population : 473,500
Website : www.ladrome.fr
Mountainous in the Vercors and Devoluy, provençal to the South, busy and dynamic in the plains, in Valence, Romans or Montelimar, Drome is a summary of the whole Rhone-Alps region.
Its industrial vocation – textile, aeronautics - is still vivid and adapts to the times while its agriculture retains its high standards, symbolised by its fine wines – Hermitage, Die clairette – its olive oil in Nyons or its truffles. For the tourist, the reasons to stop are plenty, from the Grignan castle, to the surrealistic Palace of Postman Cheval or the picturesque village of Mirmande. Yet nature is probably Drome’s main asset, in the beautiful Vercors massif especially.
Suze’s main activity is viticulture over 1,600 ha of AOC wines. Its prestigious castle overlooking the town and its vineyards used to be the property of the Princes of Orange and now houses the Wine University, a private establishment dedicated to vine growing and equipped with a training centre and laboratories. The old Suze village, is full of archaeological sites from periods, and restoration is underway in the old streets, townhouses and the castle, nested in the 23 ha La Garenne park. In the park, several sites tell the long story of Suze –an antique buried ice-house, the 17th century St Michel chapel, a 16th century real tennis court built for the visit of Charles IX, an old pigeon house.
On the Wine Road, Tulette is an old stronghold of the Princes of Orange annexed by the Dauphine in the 16th century. Tulette suffered a lot from the Wars of Religion. It housed a Benedictine priory headed by Jules de la Rovere, who became pope under the name of Jules II. The village with its 12 century walls is entirely devoted to wine.
A medieval town at the foot of a rocky mound, close to the Mount Ventoux, and spared by the winds thanks to its location, Nyons has been dubbed the little Nice for its sunny weather. Renowned for its famous black olive, Nyons should be better known for the riches of its heritage. Invaded by the Germans in the 5th century, by the Saracens in the 10th, fief of the Princes of Orange, French in the 14th century, Nyons has a long past history. It can still be admired today with its Romanesque bridge, its Randonne tower topped by a Virgin, two of the town’s most celebrated monuments. Curiosity will be rewarded by walking into the old town through the St Jacques gate, the only one left from the medieval walls. From the 13th century Arcades square, one goes up along the main street lined with ipretty grey houses with blue shutters. After the 17th century St Vincent church, the Romanesque bridge appears. Built between 1341 and 1409, it sill deploys its 18-meters-high arch over the Eygues river.
It is an astonishing chapel with a pyramid-shaped bell tower, topped by a huge 3.50-metres-tall statue of the Virgin Mary. Built in 1270 by the Baroness of Montauban, it served as both a keep and as a jail. Converted into a chapel and renamed Notre-Dame de Bon secours in the 19th century, it still keeps a splendid colourful altar-piece.
Legend says that Condorcet was built on the site of an old druids holy wood. The Cluny Abbey founded a priory on the spot in the 9th century and the Counts of Die ruled over it early on. The Princes of Orange took over and handed it to the Caritat family, whose most famous son was Jean Nicolas, marquis of Condorcet, a philosopher who became one of the leading figures of the French Revolution. The old fortified castle, the berth of the family, is in ruins. Only a few towers remain. The keep is the best preserved section. The walls and were destroyed by a royal edict in 1627.
Sahune is established in a quiet and sunny basin surrounded by rocky mountains at the mouth of the picturesque St May gorges. The village is renowned for its fruit and olive. The remains of the old village and castle recall its glorious past. Sahune was for nearly four centuries the home of a sheep breed known as the Sahune breed. It led to the organisation of several markets and fairs in which breeders sold their best production. As a result, tanning was also a thriving activity.
After the picturesque gorges of St May, past a small green bridge, one reaches the small village of St May, hanging abruptly over the gorges and its yellow rocks.
Once a land of the Count of Provence, St May remains a beautiful perched village dominated by the ruins of the Bodon abbey, founded in the 6th century. Only a portico remains, a few Gothic windows and sculptures. Nesting against a rock face, the village is scattered with stairs and keeps a lovely little church, remains of walls eaten by rosebushes, vaults, a fountain and a few sundials.
Remuzat is sheltered at the foot of the Caire Rock, a long cliff facing the East. The rising sun makes it a warm place early in the morning, which helped reintroducing vultures on the site. A walk on the crest allows birdwatchers to approach the timid birds of prey, who were almost extinct in France. Their flight takes place between 10 and 12 am when it is warm enough for them to go hunting for carcasses. In the village, a House of the Vultures gives all types of information on the bird.
Prefecture : Gap
Subprefectures : Briançon
Population : 132,000
Website : www.hautes-alpes.net
Hautes-Alpes (High Alps) is the highest department in France in average. The Durance river is the backbone of its territory, on which live a population of 118,000. Isolated until the arrival of the train, the department has learnt through history to live on its own resources, which helped in hard times. It is a mainly farming area – forests, pastures, fruit, milk – but tourism has been developing quickly thanks to the ski resorts of Serre-Chevalier Vars, les Orres or Montgenevre and in the summer to the many campsites around the Serre-Poncon artificial lake.
Rosans is a perched village squat around its imposing Romanesque tower. Its disposition still follows the one imposed by the fortifications protecting it against the endless struggles between Dauphine and Provence. The village is dominated by its 12th century Saracen Tower remarkable by its structure in diamond-shaped cut-stones. Several gates lead into the fortified village. The main one is close to the Lesdiguieres castle and it is still possible to stroll along the walkway. In St Andre de Rosans, the village keeps the remains of an old Benedictine priory founded in 988 with superb friezes and Romanesque mosaics discovered in 1998 and now restored.
L’Epine is an old village displayed along a narrow central street with several historical traces like lintels and old roofs. At the top of the hill a castle used to stand. Only remains a 19th century windmill. L’Espine celebrates gourds and the annual Gourd Fair, in September, is a festive and pleasant event.
A big village built in a half circle at the foot of a rocky mound, Serres belonged to Provence, to the Kingdom of Naples, passed to Dauphine in 1298 and saw Catholics and Protestants involved in bloody battle.
From the Middle Ages, when Serres was a fortress surrounded by walls, subsist the 12th century St Arey Romanesque church and the remains of the towers and walls of a 14th century castle.
The city is enchanting with is small square with arcades, its sculpted walls and windows, the former house of Constable Lesdiguieres, its old gates, Romanesque church, its Jewish quarter and the Renaissane town hall, the birthplace of geographer Alexandre Correard, a survivor of the Raft of the Medusa wreck.
Small town at an altitude of 814 metres, Veynes keeps traces of both its medieval history and of its more recent past as a major railway junction. A Veynes-born engineer, Adrien Ruelle, in charge of the construction of the PLM line chose Veynes as a junction between lines from Marseille, Livron, Grenoble and Briancon. The frist line from Marseille was inaugurated in 1875. The construction of a reparation depot completed the site and Veynes became a major rail city until the end of the steam engines. Some 700 families lived from the rail at the time. The rail also helped local agriculture export its apples, its pears and its sheep.
The birthplace of novelist Ponson du Terrail, close to Veynes, Montmaur keeps a pretty 14th century castle built on the site of a Roman castrum. Round angle towers were added in the 16th century. It was bought in 2006 by the Hautes-Alpes department and restoration is underway.
The Manse mountain pass is the main path between Gap and the High Champsaur. At the top can be found a Napoleon refuge, one of six shelters built thanks to a donation by the Emperor to thank the locals for their support when he returned from exile on the Elba Island. The Tour took the pass twice, in 1972 between Carpentras and Orcieres-Merlette and in 1989 between Gap and Orcieres. Joaquim Agostinho and Steven Rooks were in the lead at the top.
The small village overlooking Gap is now famous for the climb bearing its name on which Joseba Beloki crashed heavily in 2003.
We mentioned the French singing priests in last year’s Tourist Guide and they even gave a concert during the Tour stay in Gap last year. Since then, their success is sensational. Some 750,000 copies of the first CD were sold, making it one of the best-selling records in France in 2010. Les Prêtres recently released their second album.
It all started as an idea from Gap bishop Jean-Michel de Falco, who took inspiration from Irish band The Priests to convince three members of his clergy to make a record to fund the construction of a new church in the village of Notre Dame de Laus. The trio recorded an album called Spiritus Dei, which became an instant best-seller and chart topper. Jean-Michel Bardet, curate in the centre of Gap, was a trained musician while Charles Troesch had sung with a famous child choir. The third man in the band, Dinh Nguyen Nguyen, is a seminarist. Royalties from the record will also be used to buy computer equipment for a school in Madagascar. Les Prêtres sing classics of the religious repertoire like Ave Maria or Minuit Chretien but they also tackled songs by Jacques Brel or Leonard Cohen. A recent tour has been extremely successful.
On the flanks of the mountain overlooking Gap, the domain of Charance stretches from 100 metres to 1,903metres in altitude, displaying an exceptional view. Since 2004, the domains hosts the National Alpine Botanic Conservatory, which studies, preserves and promotes the plants and flowers of the region. Guided visits, lectures, training sessions and other activities are organised on site while a museum and part of the gardens are open to the public. The conservatory itself opens up in the summer to teach nature lovers about the local vegetation. The Gap municipality and environmental associations are working hand in hand to provide the most comprehensive information to tourists and students.
In Tour de France history, Gap will long be associated with the finish of the 9th stage in 2003. Four kilometres from Gap, in the descent of the Cote de la Rochette, Joseba Beloki’s wheel snapped, sending the Spaniard onto the canvas just in front of Lance Armstrong. The American was forced to ride his bike across a field to make it back on the road, displaying convincing mountain-bike skills. Thanks to his sense of balance, Armstrong again avoided disaster and went on to win his fifth Tour. As for Joseba Beloki, the crash marked the actual end of his career.
In 20 visits to Gap, the Tour saw victories by cycling greats such as Raphael Geminiani, Gastone Nencini, Jean-Francois Bernard, Erik Zabel or Alexandre Vinokourov. But the town was also the start of legendary stages towards Briancon marked by the triumphs of Louison Bobet, Fausto Coppi or Federico Bahamontes.
In 2010, the winner was Portugal’s Sergio Paulinho.
|20 BC||Creation of Via Cottia, linking Turin to Valence. A Roman camp is located near Gap.|
|14th century||The installation of popes in Avignon results in numerous travels from and to Italy and Gap thrives on wool and tannery.|
|1626||Death of Francois de Bonne de Lesdiguieres, the last Constable of France. His mausoleum can be found in the Gap museum.|
|1692||The troops of Victor-Amedee of Piedmont destroy the city and the population flees.|
|1790||Gap becomes the Hautes Alpes Prefecture.|
|1802||Baron de Ladoucette, prefect of the Hautes Alpes under Napoleon, develops the city and creates the local museum.|
|1815||On his return to Paris from the Elba Island, Napoleon makes a stop in Gap.|
|1875||Arrival of the train.|
The museum holds the mausoleum of Francois de Bonne de Lesdiguieres, the last Constable of France. It was made in black marble by sculptor Jacob Richier.
Built between 1866 and 1904, the neo-Gothic cathedral Notre Dame and St Arnoux replaced an older medieval building.
The riders tackle the sub-Alpine massifs, limestone chains formed some 40 millions years ago. The area is a rugged and hilly one as a result of a major event six or seven million years ago. A sudden draught of the Mediterranean led to the acceleration of the river floods, which formed canyons. Towards the end of the stage, the riders reach the Alps, a massif whose growth continues at a rate of 1 mm/year.