Au Revoir, Grenoble (Sniff!) Vous Nous Manquez.*

One cannot organize an adventure any more than one can rehearse spontaneity.  ~Trevanian (Rodney William Whitaker)

Breathtaking Belledonne Mountains

Transitions are rarely easy no matter how welcome they are; my blog posts have offered plenty of evidence of that. They have dealt with the adventures we experienced both in our day-to-day life and our foreign travels. Moving to a different culture definitely stretches one; but we can also say returning to the culture that you left is not always a piece of cake

When we first arrived in Grenoble, new acquaintances would ask what we missed about home. The stock answer we gave was “family and friends.” (All true!) We didn’t mention the stores where we could find almost anything we wanted, sometimes were open 24 hours a day, and would not close for one-and-a-half-hour lunch breaks. We neither told them about the abundance of mozzarella cheese in our land of plenty nor expounded on the plethora of different varieties of beans, especially in the southern states. Are you noticing a concern-with-food pattern here?

It wasn’t until we had been home for about a week that we realized how much now we miss Grenoble and our friends there. When we had first arrived in France, we were always saying, “in America….”  Now find ourselves saying, “in France….” We ask forgiveness of our American friends if we make these comparisons to you, and we hope you can understand the loss we feel. For those of you who have been asking us what else we will miss about France, we’ve come up with a short list.

What and whom we will miss . . .

Friends and Colleagues  at Open House Grenoble,  Sweet Home Grenoble and GEM (Grenoble Ecole de Management) and those we came to know through connections outside those groups. They welcomed us into their circles and embraced us.

Steve’s GEM Party

Fellow GEM Students and Mo

Denis, our boulanger extraordinaire,who greeted each patron warmly and treated each as though they were his most cherished customer. His baguette became our favorite not only because it’s the best we’ve ever eaten but especially because it was served with his sincere smile.

Denis et nous à la boulangerie

Marché de l’Estacade, the vibrant market, which provided fresh fruit, fish, flowers, vegetables, olives, cheese, and  meat six days a week, under the railroad trestle within a four-minute walk of our apartment.

Des fleurs au Marché l’Estacade

Politesse. It may seem corny, but we came to anticipate that as soon as we entered a shop, le vendeur (shopkeeper) would greet us with Bonjour, Monsieur-dame! (Sir and Madame concatenation) As endearing as “How y’all doing?” is, it doesn’t quite have the same ring.

Another mountain picture!

Les montagnes, namely the Alps, the Belledonne, the Vercors, and the Chartreuse Mountain ranges. The breathtaking views of these three ranges as we stood on our balconies are indescribable.

Beautiful, historic buildings that were built before America was even discovered and made us wonder how they made them so exquisitely without even a calculator let alone a CAD (computer-aided design) tool.

Le Musée Dauphinois courtyard

Transportation systems that allowed us to go practically anywhere we desired in relative ease and comfort and saved us from driving. And being able to use our own two feet to get to most places that we had wanted to go: GEM, centre ville, and outlying parks. (Our legs have never been in better shape.)

Les chiens who dutifully follow their masters off their leashes or submit to being carried in bicycle baskets and grocery carts, all the while ignoring the rest of the world. (See also Dogs Unleashed!)

They go everywhere. Even the ATM!

And grocery carts!

Leisurely sipping a coffee at le café du jour (coffee shop of the day) while trying to understand the fine points of French idiomatic expressions.

Sweet Home Grenoble Café Group

 Easy European travel afforded by living in Grenoble. We could hop on the Rhône-Alpes navette to Lyon aéroport and travel by easyJet, Lufthansa, Brussels Air, and other airlines to our hearts’ content. For a lark, Steve toted up the number of flights we made during our stay. He came up with 26 flights touching down in Europe, Africa, and the United Kingdom.

Graffiti paintings on the shop doors that made walking down the street feel like strolling in an art space.

Wine, excellent and inexpensive, which goes so well with that baguette and St. Marcellin cheese of which we have become so fond.

Cheese, the bountiful selection that threatened to overwhelm us by the multitude of choices and incredible tastes.

Artistic graffiti to which the photo cannot do justice!

French wine that we so enjoyed with friends at home or restos!

And some of our friends who helped over the rough patches….

Sheree, Bob & Einzel in Annency

Sheree, Bob, & Einzel in Annecy

Annette

Marie-Christine

Jean-Claude & Colette

Claude & Françoise

Last, but certainly not least, I will miss writing this blog. Thank you for joining us on this fantastic journey in our lives. We hope at times that we’ve made you smile, opened your eyes about things you didn’t know, or inspired you to do something you thought you might never do—embrace an adventure as we did!

As Mark Twain so wisely said, “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones that you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

(Thanks to our friend, Michelle Onofrey (Brock), a true entrepreneur, from Open House Grenoble for introducing us to the above quote.)

Thanks to la ville de Grenoble  for this very welcome video of some sights you might recognize from our previous posts of the town which we called “home” for too short a time:

*Good-bye, Grenoble. We miss you.


GEM: The Grenoble École de Management

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

~ Mahatma Gandhi

From Maureen: This post must be written by the one who experienced this challenge solo. Although I tagged along for this incredible opportunity to spend a year in Grenoble, Steve alone was put through his paces in order to have a unique academic qualification from the Grenoble École de Management bestowed on him. I hand over the blog reins entirely to him so he can tell you what it was like.

Steve’s Playground!

Back in October 2009, I was well into my eighth academic year as the director of the Engineering Entrepreneurs Program (EEP) at NC State University and serving on the faculty in the university’s department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.  Having cofounded BOPS, Inc., a venture-capital- backed semiconductor company, I was happy with the contribution that this background allowed me to make to the EEP and to the department, but I was also pondering that age old question of, “Now what?”  My business skills and gained expertise had been hard-won in the proverbial School of Hard Knocks, but I had always wanted to fill in my knowledge gaps with more formal training. Fortunately, I was at a point in my career at NC State that I was eligible for a sabbatical, and as Maureen and I had always wanted to experience living in a foreign country, I was ecstatic to find that there was a tailor-made program called the Grenoble Ecole de Management’s (GEM) AACSB-Endorsed Post-Doctoral Bridge to Business Program.

Maureen has covered much of our shared experiences in Grenoble, but this post gives me an opportunity to tell y’all about my experiences as un étudiant âgé (older student) in a non-engineering school surrounded by French speakers. I think I hit the trifecta!

I vividly remember my first day of entering the doors at GEM, not knowing where to go or whom I should see first.  Being GEM’s inaugural student in this program posed some logistical problems at first, but they were quickly solved, and I soon commenced what would turn out to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Maureen and I did not have to move to Grenoble for me to take part in this program—about 3 to 4 weeks total—in which you attend intensive 3- to 5-day workshops during the course of 12 to 18 months. The remainder of the program can be managed remotely online with your direct supervisor. But we both wanted an immersive cultural exchange; we wanted to learn to live as French people, and I wanted to learn to be a French researcher conducting international research from a French Grand École.

Many of my Grenoble days began with savoring a warm, golden-brown buttered baguette, from La Grange à Pains on rue Nicolas Chorier (see With Bread & Wine post), topped with a confiture de framboises (raspberry jam) along with a cup or two of my favorite French café.  After descending my one-hundred-plus steps to the street from our apartment, I was greeted by the city life—people moving by cars, buses, trains, trams, bikes, and foot. The delicious aromas of the outdoor markets, the freshly baked breads and pastries, and the newly brewed coffees being enjoyed by les Grenobloises at the dozens of outdoor cafes lining my path on the way to GEM were obstacles to my making my destination in a timely manner. My days were filled with reading, writing, rewriting! and researching, interspersed by meetings, conferences, and my favorite, des déjeuners avec mes amis (lunches with my friends). Les Français do many things well, but they truly excel at living in the moment when it comes to food, family, and friends.

On the whole, the weather in Grenoble is quite sunny with a delightful mix of seasonal brisk chill and dry warmth. On my back-and-forth walks to GEM, I was always treated to the spectacular panorama of the French Alps—les montagnes, the Belledonne, the Vercors and the Chartreuse—popping up from different views as I turned the corners down one rue to the next. If I were lucky, and I often was, they were snowcapped with a soft orange yellowish icing glow, graciously provided by the rising or setting sun.

Oh-la-la, les montagnes et la lumière!

Were my original expectations of the program met? No, not all the original ones, but a new set of expectations emerged during my time at GEM that far exceeded the original ones. While I am proud to bring home my new academic qualification to teach in business schools in North America, Europe, and Asia, I am profoundly pleased that I can count among my friends and colleagues so many new and interesting people. I happily have a list of those who had a significant impact on my GEM experience and our French experience, and I thank them sincerely—À tous, merci mille fois!  If I have missed anyone on this list (or missed any accents in your names), please accept my profuse apologies.

Dr. Valérie Sabatier presents le diplôme

The GEM “gang” (Corine, Sylvie, Jean-Luc, Valérie, Vincent, Christelle, Me, Didier, and Stéphane)

Stay tuned for le blog finale (the final blog post).

A+,
Stephen

*****************************************************************************

A+:  à plus tard: Until later

Merci mille fois à ….

Valérie Sabatier, Vincent Mangematin, Corine Genet, Caroline Gauthier, Sylvie Blanco, Khalid Errabi, Christelle Robin, Olivier Cateura, Barthelemy Chollet, Claudio Vitari, José Gotzsch, Celine Jullien, Aldo Geuna, Marc Humbert, Severine Le Loarne, Stéphane Malo, Federico Pigni, Philippe Le, Christophe Bonet, Isabelle de Menou, Stella Lishman, Magali Michel, Alan Moore, Andrea Carafa, Sebastian Schorch, George Watts, Hye Yoon Park, Nadege Friess, Stéphane Jaumier, Reza Movarrei, Delphine Vidal, Poonam Oberoi, Marko Pitesa, Pac Chatterjee, Jeff Yan, Isabelle Bodas-Freitas, MB Sarkar, Charles Baden-Fuller, Amélie Boutinot, David Catherine, Gregoire Croidieu, Andrew Parker, Alexandra Gerbasi, Thibault Daudigeos, Charles-Clemens Ruling, David Gotteland, Olivier Trendel, Christophe Haon, Carole Gally, Delphine Vidal, Ana-Cecilia Mauchamp, Jean-Jacques Chanaron, Benoit Aubert, Anne Brau-Monet, Martine Allegre, Pauline Cotton, Mireille Gavarri, Karima Messad, Florence Sibut, Florence Trottier,  and Any Reynier.

If a reader would like more information about my experience at GEM, feel free to contact me at stephen.james.walsh@gmail.com.


Wolfgang “Czechs” Out Prague

Wolfgang in Prague

Our wee NC State University gnome, Wolfgang, has traveled many kilometers with us while in Europe and was only left alone to guard the chateau when we flew to the Scandinavian countries. Now he and we had a hankering to make one last trip at this end of our stay in Grenoble. Wolfgang was packed for the last time to go with us to Prague, Czech Republic—Praha in Czech.

We arose at 4:45 am for the aérobus ride from the Grenoble gare to Geneva Airport. Our Swiss Air flight to Prague was leaving at 11 am, and we were catching the 6 am bus that would deliver us to Geneva in two short hours. We were toting all the earthly possessions that we were taking back to America; we were hauling the most baggage ever since our arrival in France. The airport was teeming with people in long lines. Oh, yeah. August is vacances (vacation) all over Europe!

The line moved quickly, and when we approached the baggage window, the Swiss Air worker seemed unperturbed by the masses. Steve was checking his oversized bag and the carry-on bag he usually takes with him in the cabin. His computer bag with TWO computers and his guitar would be his onboard luggage. I only had to check my oversized bag and would take on my carry-on bag, my backpack, and the 5.7 lbs. Le Robert et Collins French–English dictionary, which I had nonchalantly tucked under my arm as though it was my usual reading material. (I was going to donate the dictionary to the deserving Babel library, the language center in Grenoble, until I looked at the Amazon.com replacement cost. Our 35€ lexicon would cost me $120.00 at home. I wasn’t leaving that baby.)

Yogi Frog & le Robert & Collins

Steve hoisted the BIG bag onto the scale. Knowing it would be over the limit, we were prepared to pay for what we expected would be a small amount (maybe $50) to send this bag on the 1 hour 10 minute flight. We’d worry about Prague to the United States later. The bag was whisked off to baggage handling, and he was directed to take a slip of paper with the official noted weight over to the counter across the concourse to pay for the overage. The cheerful Swiss Air employee there took the slip, crunched some numbers, and requested 615 CHF (Swiss francs). Steve asked the conversion into U.S. greenbacks. She answered, “$846.00.” We could have bought it a racking-fracking seat for $250! He choked. The clothes inside weren’t worth eight big ones. He shot her the question, “Can I get the bag back?” She looked puzzled but told him to go to the bowels of the baggage area and request the bag. Long story, short… he retrieved all our bags and proceeded to perform a core dump of most of the contents to the astonishment of the baggage handler observing all this. “You are throwing out all your clothes?” he gasped. “I will send them to you. Give me your name and address.” In disbelief, I jotted down our information, and he gave me his. I’ll let you know if any boxes show up postmarked Geneva, Switzerland, on our doorstep.

Yuri @ Guest House Lida

After all that, the flight to Prague was uneventful. We had arranged to be picked up at the airport by Jiri (Yuri), one of the owners of the Guest House Lida, where we would be staying. He was an animated man who had a keen interest in history and enthusiastically told us a little about his beloved Prague as we passed some of the landmarks. He also spoke of the trials of the Czech people over the years as he drove towards the guest house. When we arrived, Yuri single-handedly lugged many of the bags  up the three flights of stairs to our clean and quiet room. “When you are settled, come downstairs, and I will serve you coffee and tell you more about Prague,” Yuri said. He was as good as his word; a little while later, we seated ourselves around one of the breakfast tables, and he revealed the ins and outs of the transportation system mysteries and must-see spots in Prague. We left the guest house armed with maps and knowledge and made for Old Town Prague with Kathy and Hilary, two American long-time friends, who had just arrived at the B&B as well and were heading in our direction.

The map of the Prague area was a challenge to us. It wasn’t because we are inept at map reading but because we are not very good at reading the Cyrillic alphabet. We had come up against this alphabet challenge in Greece as well; but there, the Greek words were mostly translated into English on the road signs. Nonetheless, we located a wonderful Czech cemetery—this always seems to put us in touch with the often untold history of the past denizens of the area (see An Artistic Haunt post)—and a moving but sobering exhibition that detailed the work of Nicholas Winton, the English stockbroker, who in 1939 rescued 669 Czech children from certain doom in Nazi death camps with his Czech Kindertransport.

Cemetery hands

The dated electric street car into the city center was readily accessible the next day, and we visited the Strahov Monastery and Library. In our efforts to determine the best beer in Europe, lunch and a brew (or two) at the monk’s brewery yielded more data for our study. After lunch, it was the Prague Castle in Castle Square, where we glimpsed in St. Vitus Cathedral the much celebrated art nouveau Alphonse Mucha stained glass window.

The special treat for us, thanks to Steve’s amazing colleagues at the Grenoble Ecole de Management, was the Best of Gershwin Concert at the small but ornate Spanish Synagogue. (YES, in Prague!) His friends had generously arranged for us to attend the concert as a gift to Steve in appreciation for all his hard work and because they took a fancy to this American man that we think they still find an enigma. The concert was truly enjoyable, and it surprised me to hear the other concert goers speaking so many foreign languages but who were obviously in love with Gershwin, too. Especially interesting to me was to be seated next to a Czech man swaying in near rapture to the music of this American icon.

Spanish Synagogue

The next day we trekked to the mini Eiffel Tower, the Petrin Outlook Tower. We had planned on taking the cool funicular, but the line was too long, and since the previous night’s rain had abated, it was a wonderful day for a hike up the trail al and allowed us to  take in the poignant monument to the victims of Communism, which is composed of seven bronze figures descending a flight of stairs. The statues “decay” the further away they are from you—losing limbs and breaking bodies open, symbolizing how political prisoners were affected by Communism.

The view from the summit was worth the hike and rewarded us with a great view of Prague. We found the shortcut down, and once on more level land, we marveled at the architecture that had mostly escaped the ravage of bombings during WWII.  Traversing the pedestrian only Charles Bridge that spans the Vltava River and was completed in 1400, we took in the kiosks offering jewelry, the local artists sketching both caricatures and serious portraits, the musicians with their open instrument cases waiting for coins, and the impressive views of the river and the bridge architecture. We didn’t tarry too long on the bridge because we had an appointment with a timepiece. The 15th century astronomical clock is one of the best shows in town. Joining the crowd in front of the clock tower a little before the hour, we waited in anticipation. More or less at 2 pm, the parade on the tower began. The Apostles and Jesus move along in a procession while Death strikes a bell tolling the hour.

Astronomical Clock

Our last stop was the Josefov—Jewish Quarter or Ghetto—where we peeked through the gates to see the over 12,000 tombstones that seem to be heaving from the earth. The Old-New Synagogue, the oldest extant synagogue in Europe, built around 1270, and the Jewish Town Hall were our next stops. We found the quarter to be filled with a mixture of tourists, devout religious Jews, and vendors with tables set up plying everything from ornate mezuzah cases to comic rabbi figurines. Yes, if you make it, a tourist will buy it!

We have had the luck a few times, and did again, to stumble upon a wedding! The beautiful Czech bride twirled with her new husband for the photographer’s camera making us feel lucky to be able to share in their joy. It was a wonderful way to end our visit to Prague.

There was more to explore in Prague, but all too soon we needed to hotfoot it to the airport for the grueling return to North Carolina. As usual, we never do anything the easy way!

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The Open House Grenoble “Welcome Mat”


Our sojourn from the United States last July and settlement in Grenoble for Steve’s one year sabbatical at the Grenoble Ecole de Management was sometimes fraught with both expected and unanticipated difficulties and inconveniences. Perhaps you remember some of them from previous posts (see OFII, Orange Telephone, Apartment Hunting, etc.!). But now that that is behind us, it struck me how those trials were often softened by all the hospitable people who put out the “welcome mat” for us here in Grenoble.

Before we had left North Carolina, I had done a cursory internet search for possible groups we might join to integrate ourselves more easily into French culture.  I came across Grenoble Life’s March 2010 piece, Anglophone Grenoble, a rough guide, and its reference to Open House Grenoble,  a group that has been around helping English-speaking voyaguers (travelers) just like us since 1987, and Sweet Home Grenoble.  I tucked these links into my computer favorites thinking that they just might be what we were looking for once we had  finally touched down in Grenoble.

After settling in, I beelined to the websites to find some particulars about upcoming events we might be able to enjoy.  I saw that Open House Grenoble held a weekly informal Tuesday morning get-together called Coffee Chat at a local café where the conversational language was English. It sounded like the perfect introduction to the organization without having to reveal our beginning French language ineptitude.  We met at Pain et Cie (Bread and Co.), a café in centre ville, and were delighted to find a mixture of amicable French and English-speaking people who seemed eager to befriend us.

Soon after, those of us who were regulars at Coffee Chat questioned why a similar morning meet-up couldn’t be created for speaking solely in French. (Yikes!) Café Français was born this January and slowly built a following on Thursday mornings coming together at our old stomping grounds, Pain et Cie café.  This became a great opportunity to share a coffee, stumble over our French words, and have native French speakers patiently help us with the practical issues we have negotiating life here in Grenoble.

When Steve and I formally became card-carrying OHG members in September, we discovered the French-English Exchange group that meets on two Fridays a month at CLEF (Association des Centres de loisirs Enfance et Famille). This group converses on impromptu topics and plays often humorous games aimed at language learning, dividing the time together between French and English conversations.

Getting our feet wet with the language groups led us to dabble in other OHG interest groups.   We sometimes found our way to a local Grenoble pub for Chill-Out on Thursday evenings to share a drink and some conversation. And for me, the Open House Book Group has filled a special spot.  Our circle of between 10-12 bookworms gathers at Le 5 Café at the Musée de Grenoble once a month where lively, stimulating, and intelligent conversation ensues about the books we read in English. (Note: The group is primarily native French speakers and readers; I am in the minority as an English speaker.)  In the same location, the Creative Writers Alliance was meeting to support both fledgling and veteran writers alike allowing them to share their trials and triumphs.

Understandably, there are some groups that we didn’t join. We didn’t fit into the Baby & Toddler Activities group or those that arrange seasonal activities for older children and occasional outings for the kids on the weekly “No-School-Wednesdays.” But we thought we might  join some of the outdoor groups that participate in Mountain & Outdoors activities and Cycling. Of interest, as well, was the fitness-oriented Wellness group that comes together at CLEF on Tuesday evenings with Hula dancing or occasional workshops featuring activities such as yoga, shiatsu, reflexology, or aromatherapy.

A Toast to Hôtel Lesdiguieres

Last, but definitely not least, OHG also delves into the gustatory world. We already drink  BEAUCOUP de café et de thé during language exchanges, but there is also an active Wine Tasting clique that explores regional wines in members’ homes.
Sometimes we attended the monthly Lunch Out activities, where together we sampled different Grenoble restaurants in the company of other adventuresome souls.  Sushi-Me was one month’s choice, and in April we lunched at the Hotel Restaurant Lesdiguieres, the Lycée des Métiers de l’Hôtellerie et du Tourisme (Trade High School for Hotel Management and Tourism).  This was the biggest and most lavish meal we’ll partake of and  was “soup to nuts” or rather Mise en Bouche à dessert. (Literally, Put in Mouth, a foretaste of what is to come, to dessert.) But with the myriad of restaurants in Grenoble, we had an eclectic list from which to choose. As you can imagine, we haven’t been waiting to try them and time is running short!

Open House has also in past years hosted a Christmas Apéro (apéritif, but here meaning a party) and a Summer Picnic where members and their families have gathered together for good food and fun times in the spirit of the seasons. We attended the Apéro, but missed the picnic. Quelle dommage!

Similarly, we were welcomed into the smaller Sweet Home Grenoble circle. We primarily availed ourselves of the French/English exchange that met most Monday mornings in various cafés around Grenoble including a used bookstore/café called the Bookworm Café,  which serves scones with clotted cream and English tea. Other times it’s the French Coffee Shop in the heart of the vieille ville (old city).

A recent post on  Grenoble Doors was as a result of the excellent opportunity I had to join the Sweet Home Grenoble guided cultural tour exploring the historic portes de Grenoble that was given in both French and English. I also was graciously welcomed to join some of the jaunts that a few of the members independently organized to take a ramble to the beautiful places outside of Grenoble. Tain l’Hermitage on the Rhône River with it’s winery and the Valrhona chocolaterie were most memorable! Dining at a small café on the banks of the Rhône was how a perfect afternoon is spent.

Our life in Grenoble has undoubtedly been filled with one-of-a-kind opportunities and welcoming people.  We have been fortunate to be able to easily partake of the  activities, and we’re going to truly miss all nos bons amis (our good friends) when we must return to the U.S.  So the next time someone from home asks me how I spent my time here, I’ll just have to point them to this post and let them envy all the convivial opportunities with our friends that we’re going to very reluctantly leave behind.

Here are the faces that we have come to love……..

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Pizza-o-matic Grenoble

Really Pizza to Go!

Curiosity got the best of us tonight. Over the last year, we have passed the slot dozens of times. Every time we said, “Before we leave, we have GOT to try this.” What is it? It’s the distributeur automatique de pizza (automated pizza dispenser) that is located across the road from us at the Forno Presto pizza parlor.

On our apartment street, cours Jean Jaurès, there are many pizzerias, but this pizzeria does a traditional respectable business selling pizzas, sandwiches, calzones, and boissons (drinks) and has a very limited indoor or outdoor seating area. But it was here that we found something we have never seen at any pizza joint in town—a self-service pizza dispenser that is featured next to their shop’s front entrance. Think of it: hot pizza available 24/7 with the choice of cheese or jambon (ham) and cheese. It was begging to be explored. So we did.

We must admit we have never worked harder to procure a pizza. After deciding to forgo the ham, we had to agonize over whether to take it chaud (hot) or froid (cold), where I guess you cook it yourself. We went for the chaud. After a few attempts, we managed to place the order and pay by CB (carte bancaire, aka debit card). The countdown began, and we focused on the digital timer, as our patient vigilance outside by the machine at the same time that the inside pizzeria was obviously  amused the passersby. It’s amazing how long three and a half minutes can seem when you’re not quite sure what to expect (and are hungry). We kept our expectations low and were not disappointed; never having been fans of frozen pizzas, we imagined this could be the French equivalent of the cardboard-box pizza garnished with cheese and pepperoni.

Pizza “Choice” Panel

Enfin (finally), the pizza was ready and popped out of the slot! Steve caught it on its way out, and I tried to peek inside to see if little French elfes (elves) were working away within to satisfy Grenoble’s passion for round Italian flattened bread with toppings. I could have sworn I saw them scurrying away!

     We took it back to the apartment and gingerly lifted the lid. Pas mal (not bad). It wouldn’t hold a candle to our favorite hometown pizza, but for something that comes out of a time portal and is baked by pixies, it was worth a try. Who knows? It just might endow us with some magical powers now that we’ve unlocked the mysteries behind the enchanted pizza door.

Steve makes the catch!

Consumer Warning Label

Le Tour de France Comes to Grenoble!

Le Tour de France

Oh, to be in France now that the 98th Le Tour is here!

Some Le Tour de France facts:

Started in 1903 as a publicity event by the French sports newspaper L’Auto and has run for 96 years. 

No Tour between 1940 and 1944 because of the War.

Consists of 3,600 kilometres (2,200 mi) and lasts three weeks.

The race is broken into day-long segments, called stages. Individual times to finish each stage are aggregated to determine the overall winner at the end of the race.

The race has always finished in Paris, but the course changes every year and  since 1975,  the final stage has climaxed along the Champs-Élysées.

The riders are awarded classification jerseys daily:

le maillot jaune: yellow jersey for lowest overall time at the end of the stage.

le maillot vert: green jersey  given to the leader of the points classification.

le maillot à pois rouges: white jersey with red dots given to the rider who is the

first to top the designated hills and mountains.

le maillot blanc: white jersey for the best young rider under age 26.

At the award ceremonies, the girls who accompany the rider wear a complementary dress… check out the pois rouges robes (polka dot dresses).

Polka Dot ensembles


 Parc Mistral was the point of departure for the Individual Time Trials that were run on Saturday, July 23. We joined the crowds along the barricaded street to see the riders whizz by. Before the trials began, advertisers mimicked Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with fitted-out vehicles from which riders threw out promotional freebies to the crowd. Bic pens flew through the air as well as yellow baseball caps and other products.

I did my best to capture the riders as they sped past us along the route, but my digital camera’s shutter speed was just not fast enough! Steve did manage to capture some of the excitement of the moment on his Flip Camera – check out the Official link and then Steve’s film below.

Rider on the Move!


Le Tour in Grenoble Official Video
☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯☯

The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live. ~Flora Whittemore (1890-1993)

Alice gets a new perspective

Now that you have mulled over the title of this post, I’ll assure you that I will be sparing you any boring pseudo-philosophy about opening and closing doors in life. If this post is going to touch on any deep meaning related to doors, I’d rather evoke memories of Alice in Wonderland and her experience with them. Indeed, Alice was confronted with quite a few doors, and for her, they seemed to have a real impact on her “life.” Luckily, for Alice, her adventures all worked out in the end.

Putting that aside, this letter is simply to tell you about some of the historic and beautifully made doors that I have discovered adorning the buildings of Grenoble. Since 2005, the ville has been following a restoration and valuation project of the buildings in the historic center. This is a big project because their inventory runs through many centuries. I tagged along on a guided tour called Grenoble Doors that was given to the  Sweet Home Grenoble group, which is an expat/French group in the Grenoble area, and I discovered a treasure trove of historic doors and spaces. The tour started at Notre Dame Cathedral, which was constructed in the 10th century—old doors aplenty here. We didn’t follow a route in chronological order, but the highlights spanned the 14th century through the French Revolution in the 18th century.

Notre Dame Cathedral ~ Grenoble

A little history lesson is in order—it is said that the French Revolution actually began in Grenoble with  la Journée des Tuiles, the Day of Tiles, on June 7, 1788. On this day, the people of Grenoble confronted and assaulted the troops of Louis XVI and threw roof tiles at the soldiers in the courtyard of the Parliament building. The king had sent the troops to put down a mass rebellion organized against a royal decree abolishing the local parliament. This was thought to be the start of the French Revolution that, of course, moved on to a little town called Paris. If only these doors could talk.

Sator Door

Fascinating doors seem to appear at every turn in the old center ville, but there are a few that are usually featured in books about Grenoble for either their historical significance or their artistic interest. I will only comment on a few starting with the Sator Square door with its much photographed Latin palindrome containing the words: SATOR, AREPO, TENET, OPERA, ROTAS written in a square so that they may be read top to bottom, bottom to top, left to right, and right to left. La Maison de Vaucason is found behind the ancient doors constructed in the 1630s that opens to a serene courtyard.

La Maison de Vaucanson

Vaucanson door to the Courtyard

The Glénat Publishing House is located in the Le Monastère Sainte-Cécile, and not only has a beautiful door, but also a statue of the comic book character, Titeuf, every third-grade teacher’s nightmare.

Titeuf

Glénat Publishing House

◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊◊ One of my favorite doors has two lions’ heads guarding the door handles at 16, rue Jean-Jacques Rosseau. Watch out, they bite!

16, rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Grenoble Apartment, Sweet Apartment

Even our Grenoble apartment door is a wooden work of art, but the door that we are now looking forward to opening is 4,300 miles away in North Carolina.

Here are some words of wisdom from a doorknob:

Alice: I simply must get through!

Doorknob: Sorry, you’re much too big. Simply impassible.

Alice: You mean impossible?

Doorknob: No, impassible. Nothing is impossible.

-Alice in Wonderland

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De Porte en Porte à Grenoble

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