« Au bout de chaque rue, une montagne… » / “At the end of every street is a mountain…”
– Stendhal, 1783-1842
The very mountains that captured my heart when I landed in Grenoble in 2009. I could see them from the window of my bedroom, from my classroom, from the windows of the bus during my daily commute, from almost any point in the city I stood and looked up. The mountains I had been waiting to see again since I was in Grenoble for my exams in May 2010. The mountains that greeted us as we drove into the city…as majestic and beautiful as I remembered them!
Located at the meeting point of two rivers, the Drac and the Isère, Grenoble isn’t just a mountain city. The seat of France’s high-tech industry, home to several big companies, the city is also known for its university and the well reputed Ecole Superieure de Commerce. It is also a hub for ski enthusiasts, and a cultural city with a vibrant vibe through out the year.
We were there for the weekend, with plans to visit Lyon for a day for the famous Fête des Lumières, which didn’t give us much time to soak in everything. We started the day with a visit to the alma mater, and spent a lovely hour walking around the campus, refreshing my memory.
A short tram ride brought us to the famous cable car, or « les oeufs » as the locals call the bubble shaped aerial lift that takes visitors up to the Bastille for a bird’s eye view of the city. You can also walk up, but we didn’t have much time, so we took the faster route up to the fort, from where you can spend hours admiring the view of the city and the mountains surrounding the city. If you aren’t like me and scared of cable cars, the ride up also gives you fabulous view of the city and the river flowing through it. Once you’ve had your fill, you can head to the contemporary art center to discover new artists, before settling in for a drink, or even a meal at the restaurant.
Back in the city, you can meander by the river, before heading back to the city center, but first a stop at Grenoble’s fine art museum. The Musée de Grenoble has an excellent collection, featuring artists across the centuries, but we were fortunate to be there while they had a once in a lifetime exhibition of Picasso 1939-1945, showcasing the works of the great artist during this painful period of human history. Works that we don’t always know about or see. Works that reveal Picasso’s thoughts about the war and its horrors, through the grotesque, scatalogical and macabre.
After a lovely afternoon, soaking in so much beauty, we were more than content to saunter along the lanes of the city, stopping to admire the many squares of the city, with a stop for a drink at a Brugs, a Belgian Friterie at Place de Berulle, walking around the Marché de Noël before we settled for dinner at Hippopotamus at Place Grenette.
Grenoble deserves much more than a day, and I’m not saying this because I love the city so much. With at least two more museums, access to some of the most famous ski resorts in the world, a great outdoorsy vibe, and lots of shopping options, the city has so much to offer to every kind of tourist. In fact, if you can stay in Grenoble for more than a few days, it’s also a great base to visit other cities like Annecy, Chambery and even the Mont Blanc.
Getting to Grenoble and then back to Paris was quite an adventure because of the ongoing SNCF strike. You can read about it here.