🐘Elephants in France? Sure, in the zoos and animal sanctuaries. But I’m not talking about those kinds of elephants. France is also home to two elephantine tourist attractions. The Grand Eléphant of Nantes, which is part of the Ile des Machines, which has large metallic sculptures of various animals, is the most famous elephant of France…and then there are the elephants of Chambéry.
Situated in the Savoie region, one of the main tourist attractions of Chambéry is the Fontaine des éléphants, which was erected in 1838 in honour of Général-comte de Boigne. A career military man, Boigne made his wealth while in the service of the Sindhias of Gwalior in the grand Maratha empire, before returning to Chambéry, where he dedicated his life to charity.
But the elephants in the fountain aren’t the only elephants in the city! For an interesting visit that covers all the historic elements of Chambéry, you can trace the elephant trail around the city…and we did just that! I’ve seen my share of elephants in India, fed a few, and even had a ride or two on the back of an elephant, but I was more than happy to add another elephantine memory to my album of souvenirs…and delighted by the cute little metallic elephants on the streets. 🐘 😉
It was a sheer pleasure to meander around the ancient streets of Chambery, holding a map and looking at street names, instead of constantly looking at the phone, or blindly following Google Maps from monument to monument!
We walked from the Palais de Justice, past several interesting buildings, towards the Fontaine des éléphants, before traipsing up and down historic alleys with charming shops and cafés, not paying much heed to the order prescribed by the parcours des éléphants.
Some of the alleys may have been dark and dank, but I couldn’t stop and marvel that I was walking in the shadow of centuries-old buildings. I might occasionally have thought of some of the crumbling, old houses you find in the historic cities of India, and even of Karol Bagh, but the lack of garbage in every corner made it just slightly more enchanting than walking down a purani galli of an Indian city.
After an enchanting hour spent meandering down the ancient streets, we finally ended our flânerie at the famous Château des Ducs de Savoie, a magnificent structure that has been around since the 11th century…and stood the test of time. The perfect ending to a lovely day!
Quick tips for making the most of a day-trip to Chambéry:
🏰 Make a reservation for a guided tour of the Château, so you can see the sections that have limited access to preserve the structure
☀️ Wait for good weather to go there, so the oldest parts of the city don’t appear as shady, and you can make the most of the colourful buildings in the city center.
🏰 Try and visit the city on a week day or a Saturday, when the shops and cafés will all be open. We went on a Sunday, and had to content ourselves with the beautiful window displays in the very charming boutiques.