Grenoble, FRANCE // Saturday December 11, 2010

My day began literally at the crack of dawn, as my roommates and I caught the first train out of Mâcon to Grenoble at 7:46 am – call us crazy, but we were going just for the day and wanted to maximize our time there. Grenoble, for those who don’t know, is a city in south-eastern France, located at the foot of the Alps. And for those old enough to remember, you know that Grenoble hosted the X Olympic Winter Games in 1968. We arrived in Grenoble just after 10:00 am and from the train station, we followed the advice and directions of one of the teachers Jenny works with (she was on our train) and walked towards la Bastille. “Bastille” is French for “fortress” and this specific fortress is located on the Chartreuse mountain range and offers wonderful views of the city. While walking towards the cable cars that would take us up the mountain, something caught my eye – a large Canadian flag painted on the front of a restaurant window’s roller shutter! The restaurant’s name? Ontario Restaurant – I felt right at home! Unfortunately, we didn’t eat here, and I regret not looking at the menu as it would have been interesting to see exactly what type of food a “Canadian” restaurant in France is serving!

We bought our lift tickets, entered the “bubbles”, and we were off – don’t look down!! Actually, I’m not afraid of heights, so while the cable cars slowly carried us up the mountain, I took in the views of the city and snapped a couple of photographs. It being the beginning of December and considering the fact that we were on top of a mountain, we decided to warm up inside the Musée des Troupes de Montagne. The museum explains the history of French mountain troops which date back to 1888 – not very exciting, but it was free, and the building was heated 😉 Next, we decided to wander around the mountain. One advantage of being so high up, the breathtaking views of the city. Luckily for us, the sun was out and the sky was blue that day! We came across the “Mandrin” caves, which were dug out in 1844 by the army as a military tactic. Legend has it that Louis Mandrin, a French brigand, hid his treasure here. Unfortunately, we did not find his treasure. Instead, we found a picnic table and enjoyed our packed lunch (yes, we are penny pinchers!). Before taking the cable cars down the mountain, we found a little exhibit of vintage (snow related) movie posters; as you can imagine, a few were quite amusing!

"It's where the HE's meet the SHE's on SKIs and there's only one way to get warm!"

While in the cable cars on our way down the mountain, we spotted a small Christmas Market and decided to make that our next stop. I love the atmosphere of European markets; whether Christmas, or the regular weekend fruit and vegetable markets, there is definitely something warming and inviting about them. This particular Marché de Noël even featured a skating rink, albeit a fake, non-ice skating rink, but a skating surface nonetheless! We continued walking around Grenoble and came across another, larger market! Then, out of nowhere, a woman approached us and handed each of us a small gift bag, and added that we’d find the other half of our “petit cadeau” at a store. What was in the bag? One knitted fingerless glove! I have no idea what I am going to do with just ONE glove!!Feeling a little hungry and tired from all the walking, we decided to stop at Punto Gusto for crêpes and tea. I had the Crêpe Dolce Latte and it was delicious! I scooped up every last bit of the ice cream – if I could have (and by could have, I mean if it was considered socially and publicly acceptable), I probably would have licked the plate clean because it was that good! We finished up our meals and continued our adventure. We walked and walked, and of all things we found yet another market! Thankfully, I had run out of cash, otherwise I think I would have been tempted to buy a few items! Among the vin chaud, tartiflette (a French dish made with potatoes, cream, reblochon cheese, and lardons) and roasted chestnut stalls, artisans were selling all sorts of items: from homemade soaps, to handcrafted jewellery, to smoked sausages, there was something for everyone! We were having fun walking through the crowds and taking in the wonderful sights and smells, but before we knew it, it was time to walk back to the train station to catch our train home.

Mmm... roasted chestnuts!


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