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To the east of Voiron is the “Parc Naturel Régional de Chartreuse” and the Chartreuse monastery and museum (dedicated to the history of the Carthusian order) at St Pierre de Chartreuse. The Chartreuse mountains offer a range of out-door activities from easy walking and orienteering to out-door adventure parks (for both adults and children) to mountain trekking, paragliding, rock climbing, a Via Ferrata (between Crolles and St Hilaire du Touvet), and the St Hilaire du Tourvet funicular. Downhill and cross-country skiing are available in the winter. South and east of Grenoble are “Les Grandes Alpes” with the more famous ski resorts of Alpes d’Huez (90 Km, about 1 hour 40 mins by road from Voiron) and les Deux-Alpes (90 Km, about 1 hour 30 mins by road from Voiron).
To the south-west of Voiron is the “Parc Naturel Régional de Vercors” mountain plateau – famous for its spectacular cliffs and gorges – very attractive and at the same time easy to approach. The area also has historical importance to the Résistance during WW2. In June 1944, the Free French government in London called upon the maquis and other people of the Vercors to take up arms so as to distract the German army prior to the Allied invasion of Normandy. In response, German parachute and glider-borne troops landed on the plateau (being unable to access the plateau by road) and suppressed the uprising. Over 600 maquisards and 200 civilians died, and many villages were destroyed. At the end of WW2 the French government undertook the rebuilding of the villages, to their original architecture. There is a museum (at Vassieux-en-Vercors) and several memorials to these activities.
These mountain groups are part of what are usually called the pre-alps. The Isère River flows through Grenoble between the mountains towards Voiron (and then further west to join the river Rhône). The area to the north and west of Voiron comprises rolling green hills and farmland, including a former glacial lake – Lake Paladru. All told, a very picturesque area
To the north of Voiron is Lake Paladru, and the lake-side town of Charavines (14 Km from Voiron). The lake has facilities for many types of water sports, and Charavines is home to the Paladru Archaelogy Museum (English language guide available) – with exhibitions on the history of the lake including the underwater excavation of a Neolithic settlement, and other lake-side settlements dating from about 1,000 AD. Nearby, is the impressive 11th century Château de Virieu, whose history is also related to that of the lake.
Other interesting places include the nearby small town of La Côte St André (20 Km from Voiron), home town of the composer Hector Berlioz (1803-1869), where they have a museum to the composer, and hold a yearly festival in his honour.
Southeast of Voiron is the city of Grenoble (population about 400,000), with all you would expect in terms of museums, cafes, restaurants, etc. Grenoble hosts three universities, plus several worldwide renowned engineering and business schools. It is also the home to important multi-national research centres in nuclear science and nanotechnologies. Several high-tech industries moved to the city in the late twentieth century: computers (Hewlett-Packard), processor chips, and more recently solar cells. Thus Grenoble is an important city with a largely well-educated and multi-national population. A famous castle 15 Km south of Grenoble, the Chateau de Vizille, is known as the place where the French Revolution started in 1789, and has a museum dedicated to the Revolution. There are also sites in Grenoble that relate to incidents from the Revolution. During Roman times the city was known as Gratianopolis, and remains of the original Roman walls of the city can still be seen near the centre. Worth visiting in Grenoble are the Bastille (an ancient series of fortifications on the mountainside overlooking the town and accessible by “Les Bulles” – a system of egg-shaped cable cars that run from Grenoble, over the river Isère to the Bastille), the Musée Dauphinois (in a converted convent below the Bastille and overlooking the city) – containing an exhibition of rural life for peoples of the alps as well as an exhibition on the history of skiing, the medieval Notre Dame cathedral and St André, St Hughes, and St Laurent churches, the old Parliament building in St André square, and the many city centre squares and fountains.
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