Thursday, May 26, 2011

May 26, 2011: Albertville - Conflans, Wood Turning, Olympics

Another outing today with the Sweet Home Grenoble group. Today's destination was Albertville, most famous as the site of the 1992 Winter Olympics, but also home to the well-preserved medieval town of Conflans.

We started our visit with Conflans. It was a bit of a sleepy town compared to the historic villages I visited in Provence, but also nice in that it wasn't so intensely touristy. Yet it also felt more genuinely lived in than Pérouges, probably due to the nearby city of Albertville just down the hill. We had a nice walk around admiring the old buildings. There were many interesting medieval signs, the kind that use pictures rather than words. It seemed like many of them were just for decoration, rather than demarcating actual stores or restaurants that we could visit.

But we did have the chance to visit one nice shop, run by a woodturner. I bought a beautiful bowl, which he told me was made from wood that had been growing on Conflans ramparts - it was cut down in order to improve the view of the valley below. We also had lunch in the charming town square. If the museum had been open we would have visited it as well, but it was closed for the typical long French lunch.

So we moved on to Albertville itself. You can see the evidence of the Olympics, as there are a number of newer streets, plazas and government buildings than I've seen in the downtown of most French cities, but it is all still put together in a charming way. One interesting aspect were the murals on building walls. Unlike Lyon where the murals are very elaborate and eye-catching scenes, these were more subtle, mostly architectural details embellishing what would have otherwise been blank walls and dull spaces.

The Albertville Olympics museum was interesting to visit. I must not have seen the opening ceremonies for these Olympics, because I'm sure I would not have forgotten the crazy costumes. There was a long documentary about the production of the opening ceremonies, with behind-the-scenes information about the costumes, the choreography, the music - all of it clearly cutting edge, avant garde art in 1992. It actually doesn't look too dated yet - just bizarrely entertaining.

Archways over stepped passageways within Conflans

The Cat's Boot - this would be a pub I suspect, rather than a shop...

Presumably Conflan's original castle, although there were several tall towered buildings in the area

A church with interesting exterior painted decoration

The church's interior

One of several fountains

We walked up the hill to try to get closer to one of the castle-like buildings, but our way was barred

Would this be a sign for a locksmith? Or perhaps the Key to Your Heart dating service?

A view of Albertville below

The view was from a lovely vine-covered enclosure

Costumes of the Albertville Olympics

The "Microbe Dancer" costume!

I could not figure out why there was a Coke can sitting in the ice cream case until I realized each type had a representative sample of the flavour (strawberry, lemon, pear, cola)

Two of the many murals enlivening blank building walls

Downtown Albertville

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