Chartreuse MassifThe Chartreuse Massif, designated in 1995 as the Parc Naturel Régional de Chartreuse, (www.parc-chartreuse.net) stretches north from Grenoble towards Chambéry and, like Vercors, is not easy to visit without your own vehicle. The landscape, however, is spectacular, and very different to that of the Vercors: precipitous limestone peaks, mountain pastures and thick forest.
France > Alps > Vercors > Chartreuse
The main local landmark is the Grande Chartreuse monastery, situated up the narrow Gorges des Guiers Mort, southeast of St-Laurent-du-Pont, and some 35km from Grenoble, one of nineteen Carthusian monasteries still functioning worldwide. The Carthusian Order, dating from the eleventh century, was the last great monastic reform movement, and was founded in answer to the degeneration of the Cistercian Order. Practising a strictly hermit-like existence, its members live in cells and meet only for Mass and a weekly communal meal, eaten in silence. Since 1605, however, the Carthusians have been better known as the producers of Chartreuses powerfully alcoholic herbal elixirs, ranging from the better-known green and yellow variants to a number of gentler fruit liqueurs. The monastery is not open to the public, but near the village of ST-PIERRE-DE-CHARTREUSE, 5km back on the Grenoble road, you can visit the Musée de la Grande Chartreuse, formerly La Correrie monastery, which illustrates the life of the Carthusian Order (July-Aug daily 9.30am-6.30pm, May-June & Sep daily 9.30am-noon & 2-6.30pm, April & Oct daily 10amnoon & 26pm; €3). St-Pierre is also known for its annual festival devoted to Belgian-born singer Jacques Brel, which takes place in July. More information about the festival can be found at the tourist office at 58 cours Becquart-Castelbon in Voiron, the main town in the area, which is 30km west of St-Pierre (MonSat 9amnoon & 26pm; tel 04.76.05.00.38, fax 04.76.65.63.21). While in Voiron, head for the Caves de la Chartreuse, on boulevard Edgar-Kofler (AprilJune & SeptOct daily 911.30am & 26.30pm; July & Aug daily 9am6.30pm; NovMarch MonFri 911.30am & 25.30pm), for a free guided tour of the world's largest liqueur cellars, which includes a showing of a 3-D film on the history of the monastery, plus a chance to taste and, of course, buy some of the monks' numerous alcoholic products. If you're looking for a hotel, St-Pierre has several options, the best of which is Beau Site (tel 04.76.88.61.34; €5570; closed mid-Oct to Dec). In Voiron you can stay at the small but comfortable La Chaumière (tel 04.76.05.16.24, fax 04.76.05.13.27; €5570).