Killing time in Grenoble

Wednesday 20th May

Miles: 0

Finally, a rest day! (The first of three, in fact.) 

It was chilly today, something like 13 degrees! I was back to wearing three layers again. 

We made the short walk into Grenoble, and spent the day taking a look around. 

It’s quite a normal sort of town, it seems pretty nice.

There’s an old town. 
  

Nice rivers:  

There’s also an olympic area, from when Grenoble hosted the winter olympics (a while ago, it doesn’t seem like it’s as big a deal as the olympic area in Barcelona). 

Here’s the old olympic torch:  

And a stadium:
 
We wandered round the old town and the park, bought a few bits from a camping shop… sat around a bit eating biscuits. 

We also saw this crazy thing… it’s a giant vending machine that’s like a mini supermarket!   

A bit like Lourdes, our favourite thing of all was the amazing views of the Alps which surround Grenoble. 
   
 I cooked a very fancy dinner of spaghetti carbonara tonight – no mean feat on a one-hob camping stove, so it took a while. I asked Eric what he thought and he said “It’s very nice, but maybe we should only have it when you start cooking early.” Point taken Eric, point taken. 


Thursday 21st May

Brrr! Another unseasonably chilly night. We had been looking at the weather forecast for the Alps and were coming to the painfully sensible conclusion that the weather wasn’t good enough to go up there on Saturday. The prediction was for clouds, showers and a storm on Monday, with things improving by Wednesday. 

Stuck in Grenoble for almost a week! This is a long time in the world of cycle touring. 

This felt like bad news indeed, until we realised that camping was Not Our Only Option. And then I started to think: real bed, private bathroom, running water… roof over our heads! As much electricity as you want! Seasons 3 and 4 of Modern Family on French Netflix! 

A bit of research on AirBnb was all that was needed. Tomorrow we would be checking out of the campsite and into an apartment for just 30 euros per night (thank God, there was only so much longer me and Eric could spend hiding in the sink cubicles of the toilets in order to charge up the iPad). 

We also visited the Musee de Grenoble, a modern art gallery, where we were lucky enough to see this:

  
I have no words. Which is fitting, because the artist didn’t have a lot to contribute either. 

There were some actual pictures as well, including a Kadinsky (I took this picture by turning my camera on it’s side, and when rotating the image in “edit” mode I really did have to take a good guess at what was the right way up). 

  

A couple more…

   
 
It was a good gallery, but there really is a lot of rubbish modern art (three rectangles of colour on a white page sort of thing) which doesn’t stand up to any of the older stuff. 

We had a tin of cassoulet for dinner, which is the superior French version of baked beans with the little sausages. Even their cheap tinned food is better than our cheap tinned food. 


Friday 22nd May

Miles: 0

Today it was goodbye tent, hello apartment! 

We were met by a very nice French lady who explained everything to us in rapid, quiet French. I just keep smiling and saying things like ‘oui’, ‘tres bon’ and ‘merci’, and then hissing ‘what did she say?’ to Eric at every given opportunity. 

We only had one other job to do today, which was pick up Eric’s new Captain of Crush gripper (weighing 300gr) which, after a tactful conversation, Eric had agreed would replace his Vulcan Gripper (at least 1kg). Obviously this is to do with Eric’s grip strength training routine. 

Strange grip training implements:

  
At the post office we had an awkward moment where, when the lady at the desk said ‘Bonjour’ we both just looked at each other blankly, waiting for the other to do the talking. I resolutely dug my heels in and stayed silent, as did Eric. A couple of very long seconds later I managed to hiss: ‘You say!’ to Eric (again with the hissing) as a) it was his package and b) he is the designated French speaker. Eric hissed back ‘You’ve got the information!’ which was a reference to the iPad I was holding, which showed the delivery confirmation email. Now very thrown off, and incapable of saying so much as ‘soup du jour’, I handed the iPad over to the grinning post office employee with a sheepish apology. It’s hard being introverts abroad. 

With a few hours of the day left to kill we went and bought a tennis ball and played throw and catch in a park for a couple of hours (just felt like doing it. Don’t know why). I found out that I can’t throw with my left arm, as Eric pointed out ‘With one arm you throw like a normal person, with the other arm you throw like a girl.’ Thank you Eric for that casual sexism. I should tell him he grips like a girl… then I could watch him cry like a girl (see, abuse breeds abuse). 


Saturday 23rd May

Miles: A LOT 

Today we decided to climb this mountain, called the Moucherotte:

  
It stands at a daunting but doable 1900 metres. Our plan was to reach the smaller peak on the right first (called les trois Pucelles) which is at 1400 metres, and then make our way up to the top. 

Our flat was more or less on the other side of Grenoble, so when we left at 10.30 it took us about an hour and a half to actually reach the foot of the mountain. It didn’t look that far away, but as we got closer we realised that we only had this impression because it was so huge! 

So we started on the serious incline at around midday. I was quite hungry at this point, but I’d had a big breakfast, so I was OK. An hour later, I was really quite hungry, but according to Eric we were apparantly ‘nearly there’. We all know that the best thing on a walk up a mountain is the lunch with the view, if you give in and have lunch before then you’re only cheating yourself. So we carried on.

Up, and up, and up, and up… 

I distinctly remember thinking about baguettes when I took this photo.

  
An hour later and Eric is bounding up carrying the backpack while I stagger along behind, panting and saying things like ‘I feel weak’, and ‘I really, really want a sandwhich’ (to Eric’s credit he didn’t mock me until after we had eaten). 

At 2 o’clock we reached a car park of all things (ah, to be at one with nature, away from all civilisation). ‘We could eat here’ said Eric. I knew all too well this suggestion was entirely for my benefit. ‘We’re nearly there now, we might as well make it,’ I replied. We entered the final stages of a steep zig zag path to the top, and my complaining reached new levels (I blame the altitude). 

Finally, after a long, long time climbing we looked at our iPad map (with GPS) and realised that we had actually overshot the first peak and were at about 1500 metres… with no view! I had walked for four and a half hours waiting to eat this sandwhich. This mountain owed me a view.

Luckily, even though we were still amongst pine trees there were some large, craggy boulders around, and we found one where you could glimpse some view through a gap between the trees. This would have to do. 

So at about 3 o’clock we sat down and ate the most anticipated sandwhich of my life. And God it was good. There was ham. There was cheese. There was delicious white crusty baguette. Then came the biscuits – they were like little jam tarts except with a crumbly biscuit base instead of pastry. They’re about 50 cents for 12 and oh boy are they good.

After lunch we carefully climbed up the craggy boulder, and… finally, here was our view! 

  
First impression: moody, grey, blue and vast. 

After seeing the mountains individually from within Grenoble, it was fascinating to see them together, and to understand the overall shape of the landscape. 

    

In the foreground was the trois Pucelles peak, on which you can make out some rock climbers (I guess that’s the only way to access that peak, which is why we walked right past it!).

  

In the distance we could see the shadows of even bigger mountains, completely dwarfing those which surround Grenoble. 

  

We stayed up here for a while and I took many photos. As it was 3.45 we had to conclude that climbing the remaining 400 metres to the Moucherotte was not a sensible option. It was time to make our way back down. 

   
  

 More photos on the way down:

      

We finally reached a boulangerie at 6.30, where we guzzled a fizzy drink each (I could feel the glycogen entering my bloodstream). We walked into town and found an excellent restaurant called Le Couscous – though to be fair we weren’t exactly discerning customers at this point. We sat down to dinner at 7.30. It had been a long day, and here was the second best view: 

  
(The best view being the sandwhich of course.) 


Sunday 24th May
 

Miles: more than planned

We woke up with some very achy legs and feet. Eric didn’t really want to do anything today, but as the weather was due to be good today and bad tomorrow, I persuaded him that we should get out of the flat and go do the touristy stuff. 

We packed a lunch and took the gondola nicknamed “the bubbles” six hundred and something metres up to the location of the Grenoble Bastille.

  

At the top was a stunning panorama of Grenoble and the mountains. 

  
  
The view was probably better than the one we worked so hard for yesterday (or at least more photogenic with a camera as basic as mine). But there is no doubt that I felt less satisfaction than when we had earned our good view ourselves. Still beautiful though… 
  
  

 
We had lunch there at the sensible and appropriate time of 1.30, and then slowly made our achy way up the final 300 metres to admire the view from the summit. At the top was a ruin of a building which stood right on an edge, and was barred to the general public, but of course people had just ducked under the fence to have a wander, and who were we to question the wisdom of this? 

   
  

 
After hanging around it was time to make our way back down again. Instead of getting the gondola we walked, passing many puffing, tired-looking people on their way up. It gave me a glow of wellbeing to know that we were heading firmly in the other direction. 

Back home to the flat to honour our commitment of finishing Season 4 of Modern Family. We have two more days, it can be done. 


Monday 25th May

Rest day

Today I woke up with legs even more achy than yesterday! Dammit! We’re meant to be resting in order to be full of beans for the Alps.

Eric, who took this route through the Alps on his last cycle tour, keeps dropping frightening hints, such as ‘We’re in for a tough, tough few days’ and ‘I can’t believe that I’m going to do this again’. This is the guy who spent weeks letting his Czech kick boxing friend beat him up so that he could strengthen his solar plexis. If he’s worried, I’m worried. 

Anyway. Today was a rest day. After a relaxed morning we went… shoe shopping! Yay!! We visited Decathlon, which has sort of become our spiritual home, where we looked for sturdy walking sandals to replace our enormous walking boots. Eric couldn’t find anything quite right, but I found these:

  
They look just like the ones I had when I was ten, except with no glittery butterflies. The best thing is, I can send my gargantuan walking boots back! 

We had a few hours to spare, so it was back to the park to work on my left-arm throw. Then more online TV. We are living the dream!


Tuesday 26th May

Rest day

Today we were meant to be carbo-loading for the Alps. Unfortunately Eric was hit with a mild stomach bug which made food retention a little more difficult than usual (I suspect the slice of turkey that he ate after dropping it on the floor had something to do with it, though I had to agree that, yes, it could have been anything).

He was feeling not-too-bad by early afternoon, so we got on with the job of the day, which was sending back some more of our stuff in order to lighten the load.

Here’s the list:

  • My walking boots
  • A camping kettle
  • Eric’s vulcan gripper
  • A bent nail (Eric wanted to keep it. Of course.)
  • Finger bands (for grip strength)
  • Two small tupperware containers
  • A travel pillow
  • A spare pair of scissors
  • Two pairs of thick socks
  • A travel mirror
  • An adjustable spanner
  • A padlock
  • A spare firelighter

  
The whole lot came to just under 4 kg, which is brilliant! That’s 4 less kilograms to drag 2000 metres up a mountain. 

This and a birthday card came to about 21 euros to post, which is so cheap compared to the Royal Mail. 

After this it was back to the flat for lunch. Bearing in mind what we’ll be doing tomorrow I didn’t hold back on the bread. Or the chocolate mousse. 

We’ll pack tonight, and then it’s goodbye to Grenoble, which has really grown on us both (probably to do with seeing the place from the tops of a couple of mountains).

In the meantime I don’t want to tire myself out… more resting is required… 

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One thought on “Killing time in Grenoble

  1. In my experience the difference between English and French shops is that in England, the customer waits for the shopkeeper to say, “How can I help you?” But in France, the shopkeeper waits for the customer to say what they want.

    So when a Brit goes to a French shop, the shopkeeper thinks, “When is this wimp going to say what they want?” and the customer thinks, “This shopkeeper is so rude!” And once more a century of diplomatic efforts to secure the entende cordiale goes down the pan.

    Your post office story is a perfect example of this.

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