After living in Grenoble for almost a week, we have adjusted to the time difference and have been very busy. Thinking back, we have accomplished much—we are finding our way around the vibrant city, discovering that cafes and restaurants abound and history is commonplace. Marketplaces open early almost every morning, selling fresh fruit, vegetables, meats, and, of course, cheese. The boulangeries start selling to the Grenobloises around 7 am. When we return from a morning run along l’Isere, the river that runs in front of our appartement, we can stop at the boulangerie to pick up the morning bread still warm from the brick ovens within.
Last Monday, we made our way to CUEF (pronounced Q-F), the Center Universitaire d’Etudes Françaises, to enroll in a language course. Even though we had been taking some tutoring before leaving the United States, we felt we needed to do a more intensive study. After taking the placement test, we realized that our French wasn’t up to snuff, and we still needed to enroll in the beginner course of study. So far, so good. The school is an easy ride on the tram from center city Grenoble. (If only transport in our part of America was as easy!) After buying a famille ticket for 4 euros 20, which is good for all day for both of us for all rides, we walk to the station 10 minutes from our apartment. The silent tram, running on electricity, is clean and comfortable and takes us right to the université in 15 minutes. Two minutes later, we walk to our classroom and meet up with our fellow students, mostly Americans who have never taken French, but also many students who are in Grenoble from many parts of the world—Turkey, England, Mexico, Taiwan, Rome, Ethiopia, Syria. Our teacher is a “hoot” and very energetic and patient. The course is an intensive course, lasting four hours per day, scheduled either from 8:30–12:30 on two days or 12:30–16:30 on the other three, combining class instruction and a listening lab. The pace of the class increases over the weeks, but we are becoming comfortable with our fellow students and our teacher.
After the first day of class, we boarded the tram and rode to a store called Carrefour, a chain store, but this one located in a shopping mall. Can you imagine a Super Walmart on steroids? That’s this place. It is the largest store I have ever seen, sporting 52 checkouts! Almost anything you could possibly want can be had there, and the prices are the lowest we have seen. We bought a shopping bag on wheels, the type the little old ladies use in cities, and were able to pack everything in it and easily manage it on the tram. We realized that the backpacks and cloth bags we had brought from America won’t cut it here for toting groceries without our needing serious orthopedic sessions for shoulder and back strain.
We have begun enjoying the European pace of living. Our first Saturday night, we made our way out to dinner finally at 22h (10 pm) to Place Grenette, an outdoor open space full of restaurants and some seating under canopies in the square. The World Cup between Spain and the Netherlands was being played, and it was riotous! A large-screen TV was set up in the square, and the diners were enjoying much more than the food as they cheered their teams. We ordered some food, and although we weren’t sure of what would arrive, we were rewarded with the novelty.
Right now there are horns blaring—Spain has advanced to the Finals for FIFA-World Cup Soccer! Many Spaniards live here, and I can’t wait until Sunday to see what happens. Soccer (football) is so well loved, and since we have been here, there have been a few victories, and the fans are really present. Flags are flying and fans are sporting the colors.