Celebrating Airborne Sports
If it flies, you’ll find it at Saint-Hilaire du Touvet’s Coupe d’Icare (Icarus Cup). Hang-gliders and paragliders soar skyward, intrepid free-fallers in wing-suits plummet earthward from helicopters, multicolored kites dip and sway, and hot-air balloons rise gracefully into the early-morning air.
According to Greek myth, Icarus used wings constructed by his father from feathers and wax to fly from his island prison on Crete. Every summer, 8,000 modern-day aviators relive his dream of flight, launching themselves into the crystal mountain air from the breathtaking Plateau des Petites Roches to glide gracefully down to Lumbin, 600m (1,968 ft.) below.
The packed schedule is based around stunt-flying displays and aerial demonstrations, but the theme of air, wind, and flight encompasses everything from a flight-related film festival to a night-launch of thousands of illuminated miniature balloons and flight-related activities for kids. The highlight is the Masquerade Contest, with prizes for the most “innovative and poetic” flying invention. Dragons, flying cars, and giant footballs drift or plummet, to the delight of an enthusiastic crowd.
Amateur pilots who obey the event’s strict safety rules can even try their luck from the plateau on Thursday and Friday before the professionals take over. Bring your own wings.
In nearby Grenoble, where you’ll likely bed down, make time for a ride on the Téléphériquq-Greoble-Bastille cable cars, which take you over the Isère River and its surrounding valley. The commanding views of the surrounding mountains, city, and Fort de la Bastille, are worth the trip. —DL
www.coupe-icare.org/GB_home/html. Rhone Alps Tourism (www.rhonealps-tourism.com).
When to Go: Sept.
Grenoble (27km/17 miles).
Paris (31⁄2 hr.).
$$–$$$ Park Hotel Concorde, 10 place Paul-Mistral, Grenoble ( 33/4/76-85-81-23; www.park-hotel-grenoble.fr). $$ Hôtel d’Angelterre Tulip Inn Grenoble, 5 place Victor-Hugo, Grenoble ( 33/4/76-87-37-21; www.hotel-angleterre-grenoble.com).