Chambéry is north of Grenoble and south of Annecy, and was the capital of Savoie from the 1200s until 1563. It is an important frontier town on the way to Italy from France through the Alps and also the gateway to many of the skiing resorts in the Alps. There is a pleasant old town in Chambéry that was built around the Count Thomas de Savoie's castle in 1232 and is made up of narrow cobbled alleyways and courtyards.
Rousseau was an advocate of Chambéry, spending quite a bit of time here in the 1730s, and the town only became part of France in 1860, so it remains very 'Savoyard' in ambience.
Map of Chambéry
Chambery airport information - www.chambery-airport.com
There is a distinctly Indian feel, however, to the town's most prominent monument, the Fontaine des Éléphants, a homage to the Comte de Boigne who spent his time as a mercenary in India and his money on improving his native town of Chambéry. South of the place des Éléphants is the Musée Savoisien (€3.20) in the square de Lannoyde-Bissy, which houses an unusual collection of secular 13th-century paintings and other artefacts depicting the history of Savoie since the Bronze Age. The Musée Jean-Jacques Rousseau (€3.20) is in his old cottage, 2km south of the town on chemin des Charmettes, which is furnished as it would have been during the time he shared it with his lover Baronne Louise Éléonore de Warens (1736-1742), and it has a pretty garden and orchard. In town on the place St-Léger is the residence they shared in 1735, now nestling alongside dozens of cafés and a fountain.
Chambéry has a good range of accommodation, from the luxurious Mercure at 183 place de la Gare (04 79 62 10 11) with rooms from €100-125, to the cheap Des Voyageurs at 3 rue Doppet (04 79 33 57 00), via the rural and charming Hotel aux Pervenches at 600 chemin des Charmettes (04 79 33 34 26) with rooms with views from €30-40 and a good, reasonable restaurant. Chambéry is a good place to sample the regional Savoyard cuisine, including lake and river fish, at places such as La Chaumière, 14-16 rue Denfert-Rochereau (04 79 33 16 26). Alternatively you can get delicious food at Le Tonneau, 2 rue St-Antoine (04 79 33 78 26) with €15-35 menus, or similar cuisine on more expensive €30-70 menus at Le St-Real, in a converted church at 86 rue St-Real (04 79 70 09 33).