A year in Grenoble…

A rolling stone gathers no moss, they said. Well, we’ve definitely been rolling for the last few years. As we start the new year, I took a small trip down the last one year in Grenoble.

We landed in Grenoble, in our second round of setting up the Adaptiv HQ in France, on 31st October to a nip in the air, clear blue skies and the first whispers of a mask-free life. In the last twelve months, I’ve developed an intense relationship with the city, and I learnt several things about France, the city and myself. 

✨ Everything they say about French and their extremely complicated bureaucratic ways is true. They can be infuriatingly stubborn about their processes and have absolutely no flexibility and imagination for the extraordinary when it comes to administration. Some of the processes still give me headaches, and I dread the days I have to do any kind of admin-type work! 

But the infuriatingly slow pace for which the French administration is infamous didn’t touch us. Once we had understood the system, found the right portal, coaxed it to work for us and accept our documents, our work moved along at the promised pace, and we almost always got our documents on the D-day of the promised deadline. The key, as a friend once told us, is to be patient, and never give up hope. The key to surviving French bureaucracy is patience and perseverance.

✨ It isn’t easy for anyone to find a house in France. Competition for houses is fierce, and you need to prove that you are a legal resident of France, and have a  very reliable source of income. And they need a “garant” – somebody who couches for you, and agrees to pay the rent if you default, and has to prove their willingness by submitting all their papers! WTF! 

So when you come with a dossier like ours, and say that you don’t have a garant, but are going to subscribe to a platform that acts as a garant, the French brain literally freezes in lack of comprehension. Mais non, c’est pas possible !  On more than one occasion, I could see how they struggled to wrap their heads around our profiles. An entrepreneur with a background in software and a French teacher who wasn’t going to teach, but build an EdTech platform. Neither has a contract..instead there’s a dog! Mon Dieu, mais comment comprendre (et accepter) un tel dossier ? 

✨ We did find a house though, with a very logical and understanding landlady. And though the house was not the French house of my dreams, it did have a view. A bloody fantastic view, in fact, of the Massif de Chartreuse. A view that made me fall in love all over again with the mountains that continue to inspire me to reach higher. A view that will stay with me till the end of my days. 

✨ On days that we weren’t admiring the fantastic views of the mountains from our window, a park, a café, or the Bastille, we made it a mission to explore. I’ve always enjoyed going to museums, but over the last twelve months, I’ve discovered a whole new world of museums that educate, inspire, and bewitch. Isère has 11 museums, and we decided to visit as many as we could, especially since some of them were easily accessible with our public transport pass. From the French Revolution in Vizille and Egyptology in Vif, to the science of hydro-electricity in Lancey to the history and evolution of the trams and buses in the region…with each new museum, my childhood love for random bits of knowledge and cultural insight came back a bit more. 

✨ Museums proved to be a haven and a shelter from harsh weather. While the heated interiors of museums proved much relief in the winter months, I found greater pleasure (and relief) in the air-conditioned interiors during the harsh summers of Grenoble. I have never been the biggest fan of summer, but summer in Grenoble was unbearable and harsher than any summer I’d endured in India. When the mercury hit 40° C, I found myself listless and apathetic.

No fans.

Sunrise at 5:30 AM and sunset at almost 10PM.

I was dying…🥵

…and the public transport didn’t help with its completely irrational summer schedule.

✨ I am still a firm believer (and user) of public transport, even though not being able to drive in France has meant putting aside my desire to visit certain locations, not accessible by bus or train. One of the first things I loved about Grenoble were its trams, but over the period of one year, the eccentricities of the TAG schedule, especially at night and in summer, drove me up the wall. I craved speed and regularity of public transport, and found myself wistfully thinking of the Bombay local train and BEST limited bus 255. Comparing Bombay public transport to Grenoble’s TAG? Unfair comparison, yes. But that was the first sign that deep inside, I was still a big city girl…and that got proved in summer ‘22

✨ Back from Paris in September, I found myself craving the hustle of a big city, seeking a different kind of energy and experience. While I continued to enjoy the peaceful evenings, and took pleasure in the small things that make life in a small city so charming: the ease of life, the familiarity of people & places, the friendly interactions….I realised that deep inside, I am a big city girl, and need the energy of a busy metropolis to feel that buzz again in my veins. 

And so, in 2023, after enjoying the slower pace of a small city for an entire year, I find myself looking forward to a new chapter in a big city once again.

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