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Last updated : Nov 2009
Rhône, Savoie & Dauphiny
Rhône, Savoie & Dauphiny - TravelPuppy.com
This region includes the French Alps and their foothills, and the vast long valleys of the Rhône and Saône rivers. The départements are Loire, Rhône, Drôme, Isère, Ain, Ardèche, Savoie and Haute-Savoie.

Lyon, in the deepest part of the Rhône valley, has a proud gastronomic tradition. More and more city-breakers are flocking to the city on gastronomic trips, exploring the city’s myriad of eating and drinking opportunities, opportunities that many locals and visiting foodies argue more than match those of the capital, Paris. France’s second city, Lyon is a major cultural, artistic, industrial and financial centre, with international festivals and trade fairs. The Cathedral of St Jean is well worth a visit, as are the Roman remains of the city and the Musée de la Civilisation Gallo-Romaine.

The French Alps stretch across Savoie and Dauphiny on the border with Italy. Napoleon came this way after escaping from Elba during 1815. Landing with 100 men near Cannes, he intended to march along the coast to Marseille and up the Rhône Valley to Lyon and Paris, but he received reports that the population on that route was hostile and was forced instead to head inland through the mountains. They reached Gap (150km/93 miles) from the coast) in 4 days, Grenoble a few days after and arrived in Paris (1152km/715 miles) from Cannes) in 20 days with a large and loyal army in tow. It is possible to retrace his route, which passes through much beautiful scenery, each stopping place is clearly marked. The Alps have demanded much of France’s engineers and some of the roads and railways are themselves tourist attractions. Notable examples include the 9km (6 mile) steam locomotive run from La Rochette to Poncharra (about 40km/24 miles from Grenoble), and the 32km (19 mile) track (electrified in 1903) from Saint-Georges-de-Commiers to la Mira (near Grenoble), with 133 curves, 18 tunnels and 12 viaducts. White-water boating (randonnées nautiques) can be enjoyed on many of the Alpine rivers. Hiking is popular and well organised, utilising the GR (grandes randonnées or main trails) maps that show where the official marked trails pass. The rivers racing from the Alpine heights into the Rhône provide a great deal of electrical power and good opportunities for some trout fishing. The Fédération des associations agréées de Pêche et de Pisciculture de la Drôme in Valence can lead a fisherman to the right spot (HQ in Valence, but branches in 36 cities).

Skiing, however, is the principal sport in the French Alps. The best skiing is found, for the most part, west of Grenoble and south of Lake Geneva. All the resorts are well equipped, and provide warm, comfortable lodgings and have excellent food. Some specialise in skiing all year round, but almost all have summer seasons with facilities such as golf courses, swimming pools, tennis courts and natural lakes. At the lake resort of Annecy, there is an unusual Bell Museum with a very fine restaurant, where the international festivals of gastronomy are held throughout the year.