Grenoble is surrounded by three mountain ranges. To the north lies the Chartreuse, to the south and west the Vercors, and to the east the Belledonne range. For the French, Grenoble is the capital of the Alps. All of these areas are accessible to us without a car, and we can see all of these ranges from our terrace. Trips by bus from the gare take about 40-50 minutes. We have made two trips to the Vercors, one to Chamrousse in the Belledonne range and one to the Chartreuse of which I posted earlier titled, St. Pierre de Chartreuse.
The first time we visited the Vercors we did so at the suggestion of Marie-Hélène, our friend from our CUEF days. Marie-Hélène lives in Lans en Vercors, a small village that attracts hikers and skiers. She had told us how beautiful it is, great for hiking and very accessible. We took the bus from Grenoble and got off at the tourism office at the entrance to the town. After picking up some information, we headed into the village. The Saturday market was in full swing in the town square. We were checking out the sausage vendor’s stand when we spotted Marie-Hélène buying vegetables. She looked at our maps and gave us some hiking advice. We bid her à bientôt! hoping to reconnect with her later in the day.
Trekking down the only real road in the village, we passed a few local cafés and a boulangerie (where we availed ourselves of some tartes for dessert!). Just as we left town we spotted a field with cows and their companion sheep. My own personal postcard!
In a few minutes we were heading up a trail. Even though we are fairly good hikers and consider ourselves sure-footed, we have found hiking in this area of France to be a different experience. It seems akin to climbing a stairmaster with loose gravel on it. Directional signs are often posted after you would have already taken the turn, so we are usually hoping we’ve chosen the right path. Red and white marks are placed on trees to keep you on the not-so-straight and often narrow. We’ve found that the levels of difficulty that are assigned to the trails seem to be arbitrary. Some labeled “easy” have been challenging for us. But we’ll keep at it in hopes that our muscles will acclimate to the terrain.
After our hike we returned to Lans en Vercors and found that the town square had emptied of all the vendors of the morning. As we sat on a bench under the cool shade of a tree, we took in the 11th century church clock tower and the statue of St. Jeanne d’Arc.
There was a small restaurant adjacent to the church’s cemetery. While we were sitting there we noticed festively-dressed people coming out of the resto and assembling in the town square, they seemed to be keeping an eye on the main road coming into the village. Soon we heard the clip-clopping of horses’ hooves on the cobblestones, and a bride and her father appeared in a horse-drawn carriage. Her father held a white parasol above her head against the rays of the sun. I whipped out the camera, but was too late to get a shot before he closed the parasol. Next, we saw the Maire (below, the one with the blue, white and red sash) step out of the building behind where we were seated. We discovered that in France all marriages must be officiated by a French Civil Authority, it would be the maire in this wedding’s case, and then only after that civil ceremony may a religious ceremony be held, but those ceremonies have no legal status. The bride and her father entered the building while the carriage stood waiting outside. A short time later, the ceremony over, the guests started coming out of the building. Some returned to the restaurant, and a few climbed into the carriage and headed out of the square and around the town for rides. The carriage driver did this for some time until the bride and groom were ready to leave after their wedding feast.
The pictures that I post here can in no way do justice to the beauty of the mountains and valleys. Saint-Nizier-du- Moucherotte and Chamrousse are ski areas that accommodate hikers during the summer months. We decided to take advantage of these sites before the winter weather prevents us from hiking here.
St. Nizier is a smaller ski area, but it played a part during the 1968 Olympics. It was the station for the 90 meter ski jump. We’ll probably visit there again during ski season to take advantage of the slopes.
Chamrousse is a bigger resort, and we took the télécabine-gondola up to La Croix de Chamrousse -2250 meters above the base. When we arrived we decided to picnic near the cross before taking off on the hike to Lacs Robert. It was a beautiful day, and there were a good number of people taking advantage of the weather and the beautiful scenery. There were hikers mostly, but cyclistes sur la montagne also ride the gondolas up to the top and ride down the steep mountain at breakneck speeds. Down in the village the ever popular summer fair with tents and vendors was in full swing. They were celebrating wood art that day, and there was a competition for wood sculpting with chain saws going on.
I think we could live here for many years before we would ever exhaust the opportunities for hiking. The next big adventure will be skiing!
La jeune mariée and son père: young bride and her father
Le Mairie de Lans en Vercors: the townhall of L en V.
cyclistes sur la montagne: mountain bikers