Stage 13: Tours to Saint-Amand-Montrond
Every two years in April, some 60 exhibitors, craftsmen, member cities of the Ville et Metiers d’art network and professional schools attract more than 7,000 visitors and the Arts Trade Biennial Fair in St Amand Montrond. The prestigious event, conceived in 1998 by Serge Voncon, the president of the Ville et Metiers d’Art network between 2001 and 2007, is more and ore successful with each edition. Some 32 different crafts and professions were presented in 2012 and the visitors were kindly invited to buy the works on display. The Fridays are reserved to students and pupils, allowing them to discover new trades and possible vocations. Every year a gold bar is melted on the spot. The next edition will be held in 2014.
For Carlos Sastre, St Amand Montrond really was the city of gold as the Spaniard resisted a Cadel Evans charge in the last time trial of the 2008 Tour de France to retain his golden jersey and take it all the way to Paris. The Australian had to wait for three more years to be crowned at long last. Yet the day’s stage could once again be decided on a bunch sprint. It was the case in the Paris-Nice stages held in town and won by Frederic Moncassin in 1996, Alessandro Petacchi in 2002 or Tom Boonen in 2006.
Listed as Historic Monument since 1988, the fortress is the only fortress with bastions built in the centre of France. It spreads over the whole of a hill overlooking town and gave St Amand the other half of its name. The site was a strategic at the confluence of two rivers, Cher and Marmande. Until the 15th century, Montrond on the right bank and the Orval Castel on the left bank formed a bolt closing the Cher Valley. In 1601, the fortress became the property of Sully. In 1651, during the Fronde civil war, the fortress held by Grand Condé, who grew there, was besieged for 11 months by the troops of Louis XIV before surrendering. Cité de l’or: (see link)
Successively the town residence of the Noirlac abbots, a women’s convent and a prison, the building, flanked by a gorgeous garden, has been the home of St Amand’s museum since 1938. The town’s history is told from the Paleolithic to WWII.
The Canal of Berry (first known as Canal of Cher and Canal of the Duke of Berry) was 320-km long. Built between 1808 and 1840, it was used until 1945 and definitely discussed in 1955.