November, 2016– Quirky photo opportunities and odd stories are always on my list when we travel through towns and villages. I hit the jackpot in Taninges, a small town in the heart of the Giffre valley on the Route des Grandes Alpes north of Cluses, France. Traveling from Samoëns, at the edge of Taninges, Jim and I found one of the most unusual brocantes we have ever experienced. Old cable cars lined the rear of the property and the warehouse interior was crammed with oddities and quirky objects with a capital “Q”. Do you need an antique bicycle, a Royal Butterbean jar or a sign for Pile Wonder? What about mounted heads of antelope, water buffalo, boar or pheasant, enough to claim you went on safari? It’s all there including a creepy-looking, huge ceramic Snow White.
The photos should tell the story, but a visit there could leave your head spinning.
We traveled through Taninges on our way to other areas of interest with frequent stops at their nice, modern grocery on the west side of town. But the turn at the center of town to the north with a curving, narrow road had the next point of interest for me. The tourism office information said I should look for the Sainte-Anne chapel and hear the merry tinkling of the 40 bells of the carillon, but there was no mention of Batman on top of a cable car. When our car swept along the winding road with the village houses and church below, we were amazed to see the sunlight gleaming on the superhero, protector of Gotham City – Batman! Taninges has its own Dark Knight, caped crusader at the northern side of town on a red polka-dot cable car. I wonder if Adam West knew about this. I grabbed quick shots through the car window and then returned later on foot. You must thank me for trekking up the hill with no sidewalk! I stood by the guardrail shooting photos as motorcycles roared uphill. Jim, my famous good guy, stood safely by the barn on the other side waiting to rescue Cat Woman from any danger. Yeah, you can see that, can’t you? Signs pointed to the Chartreuse de Mélan. In 1285, Beatrix de Faucigny chose Mélan to found the convent that would house her tomb and that of her son. She gave the property to a community of Carthusian nuns. For 500 years the nuns maintained Mélan, but after the turmoil of the Revolution it was turned into a school which continued under other directors until 1806. In 1923 it became an orphanage which was destroyed by fire in 1967. The remaining buildings are the church in Gothic style and the adjoining cloisters built in 1530.
I was amused to see the statue with the outstretched hands seeming to greet visitors with a big “Hi” despite the indignity of being cleaned when I was there.
Instantly, I remembered the French movie Bienvenue à Marly-Gomont (The African Doctor) which we watched a few days earlier (movie is available on Netflix, sub-titled in English). The giant friendly hand of the statue reminded me of the gracious doctor’s wife. The Congolese doctor, Seyolo Zantoko, had turned down the opportunity to be the physician to the President in his own country. He wanted to avoid corruption and consequently moved his family to a small French village. Dr. Zantoko’s wife Anne and the children struggle in the rural village which is lacking the excitement of city life, far from their Paris expectations. Anne reaches out to the locals with a big smile and friendly greetings and they gape and laugh at her like she has three heads and say in French what translates to “Holy Kamoley” in the sub-titles on our television screen. Afterward, she rushes around saying “Holy Kamoley” in greetings to everyone, but they continue to stare at her like she just landed from another planet . The movie was good entertainment and it had some excellent lessons in it as well. You will feel compassion especially for their children.
The bench built for giants had an even more expansive view, and the skaters reminded us to go easy on the French pastries!More red polka-dots were on display on the street just past the bicyclist with a begonia sweater. Totally quirky stuff popped up around every corner, but past all of this was a cemetery without entertaining objects. I was near to tears when I saw an elderly gentleman walking from one grave site to another, no doubt remembering his friends and family. We found one grave marker for the family Ambroise, which we believe is the name in part of Jim’s ancestry.
Taninges is worth a visit for more than the grocery store. I hope you have an opportunity to find its charm and interesting culture.
However, we never found a way to use the telephone in the center of town. Let us know if you find any other quirkiness when you visit.
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You can read more about France in the book “A French Opportunity” during your warm summer days. Perhaps you would like to CLICK over to check it out.