I left a bit of my heart in Grenoble

Les Bulles over the IsereLiving our vagabond life takes us to some amazing places.

I found myself housesitting in Grenoble, France, looking after a wonderful old cat named Wallace whilst his owners took a three week trip to Vietnam.

What a marvellous treat to spend a few weeks immersed in French life.

Having never been to France before {yes, I know, shocking!} the journey was a little daunting.

It had been a good long time since I had spoken any French and that was at high school and not to any actual French people.

I made the entire journey by train, from Birmingham to London then on the Eurostar to Paris to make the connection to Grenoble. I was travelling alone with a big backpack and my biggest concern was traversing Paris from the Gare Du Nord to the Gare de Lyon during evening rush hour.

It was no problem, I took notes from Seat61 and it turned out to be a breeze.

The hardest bit was travelling underneath a city that I had never seen yet dreamed of visiting! All I saw of Paris was the metro.

TGV Duplex

The TGV duplex train which whooshed me through France from Gare de Lyon was brilliant. A double decker train, it was quiet and roomy.

Unfortunately night fell quite soon and we were shrouded in darkness so I missed the scenery.

Katie, Wallace the cat’s mum met me from the station {she is also Chris’s cousin}, luckily their flat was just around the corner, so handy.

Grenoble Station

Katie and Simon left for their adventure in Asia and I settled myself into life in Grenoble. The apartment was in a modern complex behind the railway station, I could have used the tram to get me into the heart of the city but it was so easy and pleasant to walk that I never used it.

I carved myself some lovely routes into town over the first week, it was just so wonderful, everything was so French!

The city lies on a flat plain, surrounded on all sides by mountains which create a stunning backdrop. Most of the city sits between two rivers, the Isère and the Drac.

Grenoble town

At the heart of the city the older streets are wonderful to get lost in.

I loved meandering from the areas around the Cathedral down to the river, passing all the little indian shops with their produce in baskets outside.

At the river the city abruptly stops and a number of bridges span the Isère. I walked for miles every day, camera in hand.

Overlooking St Laurent Bridge

I was there in the Autumn, the trees covering the hillside on the opposite side of the Isère River went from green to red over that sunny month.

I loved wandering across the river to the St Laurent area and walking up through the trees to the Bastille. Only once did I forgo the exercise and take ‘Les Bulles’, the bubble cable-car, to the top of the hill.

Les Bulles

View from the BastilleThe views out from the Bastille are breathtaking, well worth the climb: looking beyond the labyrinth of the city to the mountains in the distance.

The Bastille has a restaurant, a snack bar, a little gift shop and a museum. We also saw a photographic exhibition up there too. It is completely free to explore the Bastille.

Just behind it you can walk out to the Mandarin Caves {take a torch, and a friend. I chickened out investigating them alone!} and further up the hill to Mount Jalla and the Memorial to the Mountain Troops.

Handsome Wallace

Wallace, my only companion for the first couple of weeks {Chris joined me after a fortnight} was so lovely to come home to after a busy day exploring, he loved hearing my exploits as we curled up on the sofa watching Un dîner presque parfait {The French take Come Dine With Me so much more seriously than we do, not a dodgy Tiramisu in sight!}.

The Lion and The Snake Fountain

This magnificent fountain stands at the foot of the path which lead up to the Bastille. The snake is not stone but bronze which has gained a colourful green patina over the years, it’s my favourite statue in all Europe.

Place Verdun, one of my favourite spotsEvery now and again, the narrow streets and long boulevards open out into charming squares.

This one, Place de Verdun, was my favourite.

Beautiful green lawns, a fountain, grand white architecture and the glorious backdrop of magnificent mountains.

It was a wonderful place to people-watch, it was well used by the locals as a place to relax, have their lunch or meet with their friends.

Autumn trees cut through the cityI visited quite a few of the museums over the three weeks I was there. I particularly enjoyed the Natural History Museum. It’s free on a wednesday afternoon making it busy but full of life. I ended up going twice!

Grenoble Museum is a must see, especially for its modern art collection, think Picasso, Chagall, Matisse. A feast for the eyes.

I also found the Archaeological Museum fascinating, there is even a 4th Century crypt in situ underneath the museum.

Rain, Grenoble

I wandered in and out of churches, markets, bakeries, supermarkets, and my most awesome find of all, an independent macaron shop!

Oh my, they were divine.

I tried others but non compared to the ones I bought in this little shop. If you ever find yourself in Grenoble do get yourselves to David et Francois. I discovered it on one of my walks into town. It became a regular route.

Macarons, David et FrancoisGrenoble is an excellent place for cyclists, there are many dedicated routes. We borrowed bikes one day and cycled out to Sassenage, which was great fun and nice to get out of the city.

We cycled round the village then had a picnic at Parc d’Ovalie, sitting next to the small lake watching the fishermen.

cycling to Sassenage

I was nervous that my school grade French wouldn’t pass muster but it turns out I had retained a lot and I soon found it flowing from my lips. Even better, I found I could understand it, so long as it was in context.

I found myself chatting away to random strangers, I rarely speak to people back home in the UK!

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no fluent French speaker, it’s more words than sentences but it totally got me by.

I may have only spent four weeks there but it buried deep into my heart. I just adored Grenoble. It was a wonderful experience in a beautiful location.

Stick around!

A Whistle-stop Tour of The French Riviera Out of season and very beautiful!

36 Hours, 10 Trains and a Night in Luxembourg I might have taken the longest route through Germany ever!

Copenhagen on a Budget Getting value for money in this fabulous and expensive city.

Amsterdam: James Bond, Ships and a Vermeer Doing my own thing in Amsterdam.

A Thrifty Wander Through London’s Parks When the sun comes out, London can be your thrifty playground!

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13 Responses

  1. Lucky you! Grenoble looks beautiful! thanks for sharing with us your adventures and lovely pictures! Love the picture of the aerial view of the city!

    • aren’t I just! The views from the bastille, looking down over the city were just wonderful. I walked up there so many times, watching how the light changed the city and the mountains xx

  2. Great post! Loved reading about Grenoble, must go there some day. I especially loved your photos of the city from above – those red roofs are great. And I loved the photo of Wallace and the one of the bronze lion. How would you compare your experience in Grenoble to your time in Paris last summer?

    • Cheers, I loved it so much. I loved it a wee bit more than Paris as it was less touristy and so pretty. Not so many sites/things to see but the mountains and the fresh air more than made up for it.
      Wallace was super, unfortunately he has passed away now but I have many happy memories.

  3. offmotorway says:

    I’ve never been to Grenoble either, it looks fabulous! And I too am a big fan of the man in seat 61, he’s helped us out on many a trip!

  4. Gorgeous photos! I particularly love the one of the trees running through the middle of the city into the mountains.

    I have only ever been to Grenoble for the airport but you’ve made me want to visit it for real!

  5. bakearama says:

    Stunning! Especially that macaron lollipop 😉

  6. I love that Seat61 – really helped us in our travels abroad last year. You painted a beautiful picture of Grenoble!

  7. Beautiful photos Rachel!