Bourg St M Town Hall, Dec 2017. Has "Architecture of XX Century" status, alongside cinema & Arc 2000 cable car station. Click on photo for more

Monday, 25 August 2014

TAKING SHAPE: The Chapel at Arc 1800

Les Arcs' founder, Robert Blanc, described the lack of a chapel as "the missing link". Nearly 35 years after his death, a new building is now taking shape at Arc 1800.

It sits at a strategically important point - at the entrance to the Charvet parking and gare routiere.  The structure is in place, but it's difficult to see how advanced the association is in preparing the interior.

For more on the Chapel project, click here.

Charvet, Arc 1800, August 2014

Sunday, 10 August 2014

SEASON 2014/15: Football and Skiing

With the advent of the new football season, it's time to look again at which French ski resorts are the best match for the 20 Premier League teams.  (For 2013/14 and previous years, click here.)

Manchester City = TIGNES.  This sort of worked while Man City have been rising in prominence during these last few seasons, but feels less appropriate now somehow.  The idea was that the skiing at Tignes is arguably better than over the mountain at Val d'Isere (Man Utd), with the latter being better for lunch/executive dining.  But with City's giant cheque book, it doesn't feel that they are Tignes any more.  Maybe I can go over the border and say they are Zermatt: on the face of it they are very Swiss, with loads of history and character.  But these days it's basically owned/controlled by people who are not from round here.

Liverpool = CHAMONIX.  Fancies itself as the home of mountaineering/football.  Has loads of tradition, history, a real sense of place - everyone wants to go there at least once.  Other resorts tend to offer a more successful skiing package.

Chelsea = COURCHEVEL.  In many ways the easiest of all the pairings.  Money talks; the domain of well-heeled Russsians.  Oddly characterless.  Less affluent folk scattered in distant suburbs away from the centre.

Arsenal = MERIBEL.  Strong Anglo-French links, still very popular with domestic and international audience.  Some investment has been going into the lifts, but the locals aren't sure whether it's enough.  Lacks that little bit of altitude, but more resilient.

Everton = LA PLAGNE.  Can feel a bit retro at times, but great management means it is consistently near the top of the table.  Everyone likes them.

Tottenham Hotspur = LES ARCS.  Steady improvements in recent years, but just fails to qualify for the Champions' League each year.  Not out of the question though.  Glenn Hoddle probably would ski here.

Manchester United = VAL D'ISERE  Classic resort, famous around the world, popular with rich people from the south.  Expensive.  Overrated?

Southampton = LES 2 ALPES.  Has risen in prominence in recent years, although struggles to quite keep up with the really big players when the crunch comes.

Stoke City = LES SYBELLES.  Has no discernible centre, a modest kind of a place. But when you look at its record, this group of villages combine to form what is clearly a consistent player at this level.

Newcastle United = VAL THORENS.  Big stadium, good atmosphere, great nightlife. Very cold in winter.  Will always be with us.

Crystal Palace = VALMOREL. coming back to where they were in the 1980s. Surrounded by big neighbours, but has a lot going for it, good management (at last), very loyal support.

Swansea City = ISOLA 2000.  Remote geographically from the rest of the league. Was briefly in the top fight during the 1980s.  Can be good one day, and shocking another.

West Ham Utd = AVORIAZ.  West Ham may have its Olympic stadium, but Avoriaz has its own investment coming on stream at the moment. Neither ever really goes out of fashion.

Sunderland = ALPE D'HUEZ.  A bit harsh on Alpe d'Huez now.  Previous rationale was that Alpe d'Huez can be a bit ropey at the end of the season. But Sunderland are ropey all season, so may need to think on this one.

Aston Villa = FLAINE.  Actually this one is also a bit harsh on Flaine.  Villa increasinly punch below their weight, whereas Flaine is a bit of a hardy perennial, with one potentially dramatic developments in the pipeline - aka the proposed Funiflaine.

Hull City = ARECHES-BEAUFORT: Off the beaten track, quite well organised, patriotic locals.  Stronger than first impressions might suggest.

West Bromwich Albion = LA CLUSAZ:  Quietly goes about its business.  Has probably reached its limit, though has potential for a cup run.

Leicester City = VALLOIRE.  May not win a trophy, but when you look at what's there, it's good to see them both in the Premiership - see www.valloire.net for more.  Famous locals (Gary Lineker, Jean-Baptiste Grange).

Burnley = LE GRAND BORNAND.  Small place relative to others on the list, but the locals are absolutely mad on football/skiing, so let's see how they do.

Queens Park Rangers = LES CONTAMINES.  Close to other big players (eg Chelsea, Chamonix) but fiercely independent and likes to do things their own way.

Not seen in the top flight since the 1980s.
Oxford United's ski twin is Chamrousse, last seen in the 1968 Olympics
On the Grenoble Road, close to a major university, has potential.  One day....

Saturday, 2 August 2014

GIRO D'ITALIA 2015: In Liguria

Next year's Giro d'Italia's Grande Partenza will centre on a very special part of Italy: Liguria.

A bit like the Tour de France's Grand Départ from Britain, the three days have just about everything:

It all starts with a team time trial between San Lorenzo al Mare and the cycling mecca of San Remo.

Things then move on to a circuit finish in Genoa, taking in some of the Milan-San Remo route along the way.

And finally there is the ever-photogenic Cinque Terre, with some steep climbs along the way before finishing in the un-showy port that is La Spezia.

Here is Cycling Weekly's write-up.  According to Cycling News, the cost of bringing the race to Liguria will be around €1m, compared with the €6m price tag attached to this year's launch in Northern Ireland.

Completely oblivious to all this excitement, I cycled the route of the opening time trial in July.  It will follow the dedicated pista ciclabile recently created along the former coastal railway line.  The path is used by all sorts - walkers, runners, slow folk on "shopper" bikes (aka me), as well as serious road cyclists.

And it is absolutely beautiful:

Early morning above San Lorenzo al Mare

Km 0: San Lorenzo al Mare

Just outside San Lorenzo, appoaching a 1.5km tunnel

Riva Ligure

The beach at Bussana, just before San Remo