I’ve wanted to dedicate a post to discussing what it’s like living in Grenoble for a while now because it really was my home for almost five months. I could not have picked a better place to study abroad in France. Grenoble is a beautiful place and it has a wonderful combination of things to do outside, museums to visit, and nightlife.
When we first rode into Grenoble from the airport in Lyon, my first though was “What did I get myself into?” There was a lot of construction going on and graffiti everywhere. However, as I soon learned, that didn’t diminish the beauty of the city. Besides, it really wasn’t as bad as I had thought.
I lived with Marie and Mathilde away from the heart of the city and a 45 minute tram ride from the school, one of the longest trips from Stendhal, the university I attended. The tram is fantastic though. If we had one of these things in my town in Virginia, I’d flip. It runs through the entire city and there are four lines: ligne A,B,C, and D.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzPeLN7KIPM (Sorry about the re-re tramway thing. I didn’t make this video)
Isn’t it cool?? The first clip was the one I always passed on my way from home and where I changed lines to get to school Every weekday, I would walk about two minutes to the stop closest to me, called Fontainades-Le Vog and scan my little tram pass. The trams run every 2 to 5 minutes, but you could always see people running to catch it. I’m guilty. Those are precious moments, people! Everything is closed on Sunday, everywhere in France, so the trams were a lot farther apart. Don’t even try to catch a tram on Sunday. Guilty of that too.
Strikes were also typical. Even if the strike wasn’t transportation-related, the trams would only run for a couple hours so that the strikers wouldn’t be hit while walking through the street. Once on a school day, I had to get to class in 30 minutes but there was a strike going on. Luckily I saw the last tram clear down at the next stop, so I booked it down the street like a lunatic. What I sacrifice for my education.
There are forever interesting people on the tram and at the stops. Some would swing from the bars inside, like they were in the Olympics, and a lot would bring their dogs on board. My favorite was the Radio Man. I was sitting at one of the stops around 11:00 pm when I heard someone singing on the other side of the track. He was completely belting it too, no reservations for this guy. I looked up and there was this old haggard man holding one of those old-fashioned state-of-the-art radios in his hand. He was singing along to the song that was playing. If we could all burst into song like him, what a world it would be…
The school was pretty cool too. The campus was surrounded entirely by mountains. The students there usually only pay $100 to $1000 a semester so the university itself is not as glamorous as the ones in the states. Not a bad deal if you ask me. We were all required to take a language course every day for our language level, and the rest were our decision. I took History of France, Art History, Translation, and French Politics. No classes for me on Friday though. Woot! The classes were very lecture-based. All we had to do was sit and listen for two hours. The great thing about France is that all students get a two hour lunch break.
When classes were over, my adorable language teacher, Madame Avenier,invited us over for an aperitif, appetizers and drinks before dinner. She’s in the middle in the striped shirt:
Just goin to school and checking out some mountains. No big deal:
Hangin out on campus after class:
Picnicking for lunch in the middle of the Alps:
Almost every Thursday (and any other day possible) we would visit Miranda in her office, about 15 minutes from the school, and talk to her about our week, get the weekly newsletter, eat cookies, and grab a cup of tea. It was our little group gathering every week. Miranda was an absolutely wonderful study abroad director. She talked to us when we needed to talk to someone about homesickness or the likes, she made sure we knew deadlines and things, and not to mention she took us on awesome trips around France.
Walking to Miranda’s office:
If I had free time (quite often), sometimes I would shop for groceries at Monoprix (kinda like Target) , hang out in the French Coffee Shop (said in a French accent and better than Starbucks), or go back to the house and hang out. Marie and Mathilde were a joy to be around. They’re such a sweet family and the relationship between them is amazing. Marie adores her daughter and she’s such a good mom. Mathilde is an imaginative little girl. She was always singing or talking to herself or humming, and she loves theater and dance. She watched the Notre Dame de Paris the theater version at least 5 times while I was there. Marie is very musical too, and she went to a choir class every Tuesday.
Straight cheesin with my host family. I was kinda sunburned…
They were always welcoming and nice to me, but I really didn’t get as close to them as I would’ve liked. It was hard for me to think of what to talk about with them in English, let alone in French. I didn’t know how to get comfortable in the house either. It had nothing to do with them. I think it just takes me a while to get used to people. If I wasn’t doing my homework, I would watch a movie with them or sit down and read Harry Potter. It was a really relaxing atmosphere. Marie always had music playing or incense burning.
The house was very artistic too. I don’t really know how to describe it. It was just colorful and well…artsy. Every morning for breakfast, I would usually have baguette toast and jam. There was a bakery right down the street, so it was always fresh and amazing. Sometimes I would have cereal. Milk in France is so weird. It doesn’t even need to be refrigerated, and it tastes kinda icky. Luckily, my host family put their milk in the fridge and the cereal covered up the ickiness.
Laundry was always an interesting experience. I had to walk down these god-awful terrifying steps to the basement whilst clinging to the tiny side rail. Washers are a lot smaller in Europe than in America, so you really can’t wait like 3 weeks to do your laundry. They didn’t have a dryer at my house either. I would take my wet clothes to my room and pull out this metal clothes hanger thing and hang them in the hallway. This thingy!
I definitely missed warm, soft clothing after several months of this.
Taking a shower was even more fun than doing the laundry. They had a telephone-shower head that you had to held in one hand while standing in the shower. Marie must’ve known whenever I took a shower because there was water sprayed all over the place: the floor, the walls, the mirror across the room…Despite it flaws though, I loved living there and I wouldn’t have wanted to stay anywhere else.
Walking to the tram stop:
I could sometimes see the moon between that pinkish house and right above the mountain. It was incredible. I took a picture of it with my iPod so the quality is terrible, but you can sorta see how cool it was:
If you look father down you can see a tram leaving. Under that awning to the right is where I would wait for the tram:
On Mondays, Caroline and I volunteered at American Corner, an organization aimed at fostering relationships between the States and France. They would hold events every month that we and the other volunteers attended. The organization had just opened so there wasn’t much to do, but Dominique, the president, was absolutely wonderful to work with. She was the sweetest lady ever.
The park on the way to American Corner:
During the weekends, if people wanted to hang out, we would meet up at the tram stop Victor Hugo and find something fun to do. For some reason, the streets were always busy on a Thursday night. Sometimes we would hang out with the French students we had met through Miranda. It’s a lot harder to become friends with French people than I had thought.
I was obsessed with the Vieux Manoir, a dance club across the river. Everything about it was awesome: the music, the atmosphere, the people. No one else in the group loved it there as much as me and they all thought I was crazy. Didn’t stop me from going though. I had some great times there, and I kinda miss it.
A popular activity in Grenoble is hiking the Bastille, ruins of a fortress that was built years ago. The Bastille as well as the bridge to le Vieux Manoir. Those tiny bubble things to the left and up take people to the fortress if they don’t wanna hike:
One Saturday, me, Meagan, and Megan went up together. I think hiking it is much more rewarding. I mean, just look at these pictures:
I technically lived in Fontaine, not Grenoble, seen in this picture:
Just a few nights before we left, a couple of us took the balls up to the Bastille. I didn’t realize how terrifying it would be. The balls are see through and they go right over the water. The wind shakes them a little bit too. I was freaking the hell out. Fortunately, I survived to see Grenoble all lit up:
During my very last days as a Grenobloise, I took as many pictures as I could. This is the bridge to my house:
It was always fun to walk across because it goes over the highway and le Drac river. Sometimes if I were going across at night, I would stop and wait for an eighteen wheeler to go under. Try it some time. The other side:
"Our true nationality? Humanity." Wise graffiti on the bridge:
Place Victor Hugo, our meeting place and where the rich of Grenoble lived:
Quik! the McDonald’s of France, only better:
Place Grenette, near Victor Hugo and full of restaurants and shopping:
Place Verdun. Megan and I were reading here in the grass:
Place Saint Andre:
Jardin de Ville:
Pain et Cie, the first and best restaurant Miranda took us to:
Pedestrian shopping streets:
Maison du Tourisme, the tourist information center of Grenoble:
Tram stop Hubert Dubedout-Maison du Tourisme. It was always exciting to hear the recorded voice on the tram pronounce it:
Betweetn Place Grenette and Victor Hugo. This place was packed with shoppers on Saturday:
Grenoble is my favorite city on the entire planet, and my second home. The people I met there and the memories I have from Grenoble are the ones I will without a doubt keep forever.