Canton chef-lieu in Haute-Savoie (74)
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Population: 12,150 Rochois. 28,600 in the Community of communes of Pays Rochois (9 communes)
Celebrities: François de Sales (patron saint of journalists), Jérôme Coppel (cycling), Jean Marc Gaillard (Nordic skiing, two times Olympic medallist) Specialties: cheese (Abondance, Reblochon, Tomme of Savoy), fondue savoyarde, tartiflette, raclette, berthoud, Rochoise beer (silver medal in 2018).
Sport: La Rochoise Gran Fondo (June), Rallye des Bornes (June), Grimpée du Pays rochois (September). Cycling Club: Cyclo Club Rochois Economy: commerce, tourism, health, industry (bar turning, food industry, etc.)
Festivals: Carnival (March), Tales Festival (March), Zik’en Festival (July-August), Night visits, Roche Bluegrass Festival (August). September : Equid’ Espace (horse festival), Rétraumobile (vintage cars, September), Saint-Denis Fair (agriculture, Cctober), People’s Soup Festival (October)
Labels: Plus beaux détours de France, Ville fleurie (3), Station de tourisme
Websites and social networks: www.larochesurforon.fr / fr-fr.facebook.com/LaRoche.74/ / www.hautesavoie.fr / www.ccpaysrochois.fr / fr-fr.facebook.com/Departement.de.la.Haute.Savoie/ / twitter.com/dep_74 / Instagram.com/hautesavoie-dep74
LA ROCHE-SUR-FORON, A STORY
Pioneer of electricity
The main historical fact about La Roche-sur-Foron dates back to 1885 and precisely to the day when it became the first town in Europe to install public electricity lights. On December 16, 1885, Pierre Giffard, himself a great promoter of cycling, wrote in Le Figaro how astonishing feat the small town had achieved: “This is not Paris or London or Berlin or Moscow or nothing similar. It’s a very small Savoy city, ten leagues from the Mont Blanc, it’s not an even the chief town of an arrondissement, just a canton chef-lieu called La Roche. Do you know La Roche? La Roche-sur-Foron in Haute-Savoie? No? Well, this town that I’m proud to describe as a city of lights, has just decided, the first of its kind in Europe, to light its streets, squares, monuments and houses with electricity.” Twenty public chandeliers and 600 Edison bulbs lit the houses of the little market town which was already bigger than its shade.
LA ROCHE-SUR-FORON AND CYCLING
Local sports people shone more on skis than on bikes, like Jean-Marc Gaillard, twice a Nordic skiing bronze medallist at the Winter Olympics, but the town hosted the start of a Dauphiné Libéré stage in 1988. Portugal’s Acacio Da Silva won in Chambery and took the leader’s jersey in a edition finally won by Colombia’s Lucho Herrera.
This is the famous water tank that made La Roche-sur-Foron the first city in Europe in 1885 with public electric lighting. Built in stone, it served, between 1885 and 1904, as a water reservoir during the day by diverting the course of the Foron, so as to produce at nightfall the electricity necessary for public lighting. It was restored in 2011 and is advantageously located along the promenade of the public park of Château de l'Echelle.
Counts of Geneva Tower
The last vestige of the fortress of the Counts of Geneva, this 13th century tower is perched on a block of rock and dominates the banks of the Foron river, which probably explains the origin of the name of the city. The tower was in fact the keep of the fortress. It is one of the first circular towers built in Savoy. This new architecture was therefore an important step forward because it eliminated blind spots. Very beautiful examples of this type of military architecture exist in Savoy, in particular in the castle of Thorens, a few kilometres from La Roche-sur-Foron. The isolated circular master tower of the Counts of Geneva is built astride the natural fault of a very imposing rock. This erratic block transported by the Mont-Blanc glacier was laid about 10,000 years ago, when the ice melted. This fault was walled outside by the builders of the keep; they subdivided it inside, thus forming four superimposed natural cellars. Above the rock, the keep itself was made up of three floors.
1.2 km from the city center is the Fontaine Bénite (Blessed Fountain), a pilgrimage site renowned for several centuries. In the hollow of a valley, its spring with healing properties was said to have saved lives during the plague epidemics in the 16th century.
La Roche Bluegrass Festival
The international bluegrass music festival is unique in France, it is also the largest in Europe. Each year it brings together more than 30 groups from the United States, Canada and 10 to 15 European countries, for 50 free concerts. It always takes place on the first weekend in August. Initiated by American mandolinist Bill Monroe in the 1930s, this form of acoustic music played and still plays a role close to that of the blues in the inspiration of country music, rock'n'roll, pop or rockabilly, styles with which it shares its natural energy.
The international fair
In 1925, the Second-hand motor vehicles Fair was created, later became the Multi-sector Fair, and even received in the 1990s the label of International Fair (11th Fair of France), which remains quite exceptional for a municipality of 11,000 inhabitants. It took place in the city center until the 1970s, and then went to the Parc des Expositions and its 25,000 m² of covered space, the largest of the two Savoy departments and Ain regions. It is a great asset for restaurant owners in the city and the canton.
Chateau de l’Echelle
Its origins date back to the 14th century and it has an exhibition space and a 7-ha public park. Between 6 and 8 exhibitions are organized throughout the year by the culture commission of the municipality or by the Glob'Art association. The castle also houses the headquarters of the Faucigny Academy. This association studies historical, archaeological and scientific questions of interest to Savoy and, in particular, the former province of Faucigny.