The French alps are a majestic mountain range which lies mostly in France. It carries with it a very diverse mix of cultures, languages, geography and people. It is one of the greatest mountain ranges in all of the world. It is sought after by countless locals and tourists both winter and summer for sport as well as leisure. Some of the biggest towns in the alps are Chamonix, Grenable and Chambery. Mount Blanc is the highest point in the French alps, it is also the third most visited natural sight in the world.
The Rhone-Alps region is the meeting point of northern and southern Europe, bordering on Switzerland and Italy. This region contains a wide variety of sites and a wealth of historical, geographical, cultural and economic treasures. The Rhone-Alps region includes the Ain, Ardeche, Drome, Isere, Loire, Rhone, Savoie and Haute-Savoie departments. The capital of the RHONE-ALPS region is the gallo-romane city of Lyon. The mountains including Mont-Blanc (4807 meters), natural parks, rivers and mountains rivers, and famous vineyards.
The caves in the Appanzel alps show traces of neanderthal habitation. During the last ice age all of the alps were covered in ice so they preserved many artifacts from 15,000 years ago. On the Italian side of the alps there are many artifacts such as carvings and art left from the bronze age. There are also accounts from the Romans and Greeks on the alps. in 218BC the Carthaginian general Hannibal was the first to successfully cross the alps with his army of 38,000 infentraty, 8,000 calvary and 37 war elephants. This is still one of the most celebrated war achievements of ancient warfare.
The alpine region of the French alps was settled by Germanic tribes from the 6th to the 13th centuries. Many people in the Carolingian empire lived in the alps so the settlements did not swindle until the fall of the empire in the 11th century. The Frankish and the Habsburg empires in the Alps were strategically placed to keep invaders out of France, these are known as the alpine pass towns and were very important to the military of France. The western alps went through a huge power struggle between the lords of Savoy and Dauphine. In 1349 France took over Dauphine.
The power struggle was now between Savory and France, France pushed Svorie back bit by bit untill it was all the way into Italy. The region of Nice was a sought after place that was fought for by both sides and France managed to keep a hold of it. The central alps had it’s share of power struggles also. From 1291-1516 the Swiss Confederacy fought to gain controll of these lands from France. The Swiss ended up gaining much of this land and still holding it today. The eastern alps have a long political history which goes back to the house of Habsburg fron 1415.
This was a huge castle fortress in the mountians. The Swiss tried to take it but were mostly unsecusful. Habsburg also won part of Austria and had to fend off invaders from 1282-1803. In 1803 the house of Savoy took some of this land, mainly the southern part of the alps slopes. This meant Italy had gained more of Frances precious land in the alps. This was good for them because this was critical hunting land to survive in the cold winters. Chamonix is on the northwest side of the French Alps. it has 10,000 residents in it’s town.
It shares a boarder with Italy and Switerzland. Mount Blanc belongs to this mountain. All of the water supply in the swiss city Geneva comes from Mount Blanc. Chamonix is the mecca of winter sports enthusiasts. People come from all over the world to ski, ice climb, rock climb, paraglide, raft, canoe, mountain bike and to do anything else you can imagine. It is also home to the largest cable car in the world, Algullle de midi that was built in 1955 and goes up 12,605 feet high. There are thousands of miles in the summer for mountain bikers and for skiers in the winter.
Chamonix was founded in 1741 When two English aristocrats, William Windham and Richard Pocock, discover the Priory of Chamouni, they have no idea that their visit to this small mountain village and its glaciers, will have an impact on the whole of Europe. Very rich tourists, especially the English, come to admire the mysterious “Mer de Glace”. The local huntsmen of the mountains and crystal-finders, with their knowledge of the mountains, act as their guides. The first inn opens in 1770 in Chamonix and marks the the first of the hotel trade and the first mountaineering expeditions. The conquest of Mont-Blanc in 1786, contributes to the demystification of the summits and seals the destiny of this mountain community”. The influence of pre-romantic and romantic writers also helps to make this majestic place popular. The first luxury hotel was built in 1816 and the hotel industry continued to thrive through the 1800’s, helped by 3 wonderful palaces built in the early 1900’s. This helps with the development of summer tourism : the creation of the Compagnie des Guides in 1821 and the inauguration of the Montenvers Mer de Glace cog railway in 1908.
However the major turning point in Chamonix’s development was the creation of road and rail access. In 1866 under the reign of Napoleon III, the first horse-drawn coaches were introduced in the village square and in 1901 the railway line between St Gervais Le Fayet and Chamonix was inaugurated. The arrival of the train greatly improved access to Chamonix in winter and opened the way to winter-sports tourism. The first Winter Olympic games were hosted by Chamonix in 1924 and sealed the valley’s reputation as a winter Mecca, with an important number of lifts being built in the following years.
First were the Glacier cable cars (no longer existing) and Planpraz, followed by the Brevent, the Aiguille du Midi and the Flegere. Chamonix today, is not only an important tourist destination, but it is also a strategic link with Italy via the Mont-Blanc tunnel. The town works hard to maintain a healthy balance between tourist and transport demands and the preservation of an exceptional natural environment. The Dauphine region and the old frontier province in southeastern France, was divided in 1790 after the French Revolution into the departments of Drome, Isere, and Hautes-Alpes.
This territory, after the fall of the Roman Empire, constituted the largest part of the first kingdom of Burgundy. Later on, it progressively became in the possession of the Carolingian kings, then the second Burgundian kingdom of Arles and finally became a possession of the counts of Vienne, whose title, Dauphin, gave the region name. The last Dauphin of Vienne sold the region to France in 1349. Between the mountains to Provence, the Drome is above all about diversity, the product of a mingling of Alpine and Mediterranean influences is called the Drome.
Pine woods make up the landscape along side of lavender fields and olive groves, here where the Alps and Provence meet. Yet the Drome possesses authentic features of its own, which are shown in both its man made and natural environment, its artwork and its agricultural lands. On the eastern limits of the Drome lie the first bastions of the Alps. This is the Vercors, a densely forested region. Then there is the Diois, whose wealth lies on the Clairette de Die vineyards and wine. Further south, the “Baronnies”, home to lime trees, olive groves, lavender fields.
And to the west lies the Rhone Valley, closely planted with fruit orchards and vineyards. The specialties from Drome that are sought after world wide are olive oil from Nyons, is the only olive to be accorded “Appellation d’Origine Controlee” (AOC). Also White garlic which is delicious and used in all types of cooking. Truffles the black diamond Aromatic types that are so famous in French cuisine. Many medicinal plants and herbs ( thyme, mint, sage, fennel, rosemary and savory) are also grown here.
Cheese specialty of the Drome: The Picodon, which is a goat cheese and is amongst the very few cheeses to be granted and “appellation d’origine controlee. ” Savoie is another french providence in the Alps that has a rich history. The first people lived in this region is dated from 12000 BC. They are hunters and they are the first leaving some traces in Savoie. By 900 BC, different tribes occupied the region. They were mainly agriculture based. Between 121 and 61 BC, the Romans took the region. After a long period of occupation, the tribes of Allobroges decided to be a part of the Roman Empire.
The Romans improved the road system and develop the city of Geneva, Annecy. Savoie had always been the temptation of its powerful neighbor because of it’s beauty and size. This region had been occupied five times. In 1815, the people of Savoie “les Savoyards” tried to regain their ancestral monarchy. Under the influence of the revolutions of 1848, Savoie decide to be unified with Italy against Austria with heavy military contributions. Later on, Savoie will feel misled by Italy and “les Savoyards” will turn back to France.
The natural beauty in Savoie is outstanding, the Vanoise National Park is of the seven existing French national parks and La Vanoise was created first. It encompasses high mountains reaching over 3,000 m with many glaciers. Sheltered and protected from the ocean rains by the Pre-Alps , The range in altitude and the position of the Park contribute to its remarkable geological , floral and faunal richness. The region of the Haute-Savoie is situated from the Mont-Blanc 4,807m to the Lac of Annecy, from the forest of the Bauges to the vineyards of Cotes du Rhone.
La Haute-Savoie offer a variety of different countryside not common in France. The Artecheture in Savoie is amazing with lots of history. Fortifications marked a page of history in this region. Their edification started in 1815 at the end of the napoleonian wars and took place in three periods corresponding to the great franco-italian tensions. In alpine villages, the houses are typical of the region. The roof of the house are made of rock called “lauzes” used as an isolant for the snow and cold. The Baroque architecture is present in Savoie as well as Haute-Savoie.
Baroque churches are numerous in this region and they are unique in France. Beaujolais is a region in the Rhone-alps. It is in the low hills of the alps and is known for it’s fablous wine. It also has a long history with France. After Charlamagne in 843 the region became part of the kingdom under the rule of King Charles le Chauve. The Saone river was the boarder until 1423. This region was formed by monks from the Abbey of Cluny, they were the mediators between the counts of Lyon and the Dukes of Burgundy.