This past weekend was a real treat for us. One of the contributing teachers to our CUEF French class invited us to visit her and her family at her home in St.-Pierre-de-Chartreuse. It is not far from Grenoble, just 1 hour 12 min. by bus. The weather forecast was for a bright, sunny day with cooler temps. We couldn’t wait to take her up on it. Blondine told us to take the 7000 bus from le Gare in Grenoble at 14:15. We made our way down and bought our tickets. Traveling through 3 zones would be 4€ 30 ($5.35). The bus station was fairly busy with all kinds of travelers – kids with huge backpacks, elderly folks with hiking sticks and backpacks and young families whom I guess were traveling to spend their Sunday with family outside of Grenoble. The bus arrived 2 min. before the scheduled time, pulled into a slot and the passengers disembarked. We were boarding 1 min. before scheduled departure time. We would have pulled out EXACTLY on time but for a young guy who boarded and couldn’t locate his ticket in his pack( you can’t buy it on board, it has to be purchased at the ticket window.) We’ve learned that train schedules are adhered to strictly in most European countries. We took off and at first went through a big industrial area. In no time we left the highway and started making our way on a winding road. The road became really narrow, and I thought we had a few close calls with oncoming cars. In most of Europe, the bus has the right of way ( You don’t want to argue with the bus driver.). The way became more rural, and we started passing farmhouses so close I could have reached out my hand from the bus and almost touched them. Before long I saw a sign that said “3 tunnels”. I’ve not found that signs are in abundance in much of the area we have been in, but I couldn’t wait to see what that sign meant. As we went along we came to the 1st one. Luckily, the bus driver could see all the way through this tunnel that was so narrow that only he could pass through, and there were no other cars coming the other way. The next one had a bit of a winding road beyond it and so neither side could see if there was anyone else ahead. Just as we started through an Audi started from the other side. He stopped and just sat there. He wasn’t moving. The bus driver stopped and started motioning for him to back up. The Audi was not happy, but he did back up about 10 feet, and we were able to pass. He gave us a dirty look. The next tunnel was uneventful.
We passed through many small villages and saw the usual: cows, horses and donkeys grazing by the roadside. Finally, we pulled into St. Pierre, and there were people setting up for a festival. There were tents and vendors all over. For a look you can go to: http://www.en-chartreuse.info/?lang=en Almost immediately Blondine met us and told us about what was going on in the town. She said that St. Pierre is a ski resort town and at this time of year without the snow it is great for interesting, steep hikes. We dropped our bags off at her house, and she took us to a trailhead so we could do some hiking and see the town from up above.
As we hiked, we came to a spot where there had been a chapel built. As you can see from the picture it is small and decorated with lights. Not sure if they light it at special times or all the time. We could see through the grated openings that inside there was a shrine to Mary with an altar and flowers.
We hiked for about an hour and a half and made our way to Blondine’s home. She had invited some friends from Ireland ,Jacqueline & Rob and their two boys, who live near Grenoble to meet us and her in-laws, Sandra and David, were visiting from England for 2 weeks and were there as well. Her husband, Paul, and her two boys, William (3) and Thomas(almost 2) welcomed us as well. We had a wonderful dinner and plenty of wine to take us through the evening. When it was time to go to bed, Blondine showed us the guest room at the top of their beautiful “once hotel/restaurant turned into house “, called La Panoramic. The local church bells ring on the hour and half hour, but we didn’t hear anything until the bells tolled at 6 and it was time to get up and ready ourselves for the 45 min. trip back to Grenoble and to class that morning.
The trip back in her sporty Volvo (not available in the U.S.) was down the windy roads and hairpin turns. I couldn’t believe she did this almost every day. She drove shifting and talking all the way. I just hung on! I can’t wait to go back when the snow falls. I’m sure it will be even more beautiful than it is in the summer.