Grenoble, capital of the French Alps

Grenoble with its “bubble” cable cars

I am slowly catching up on a few posts that are behind schedule. Recently Mike and I camped just south of Grenoble. When we arrived at the campground, the owner greeted us and said that she had seen a picture of our RV on Facebook. An owner from another campground where we had stayed had posted our picture. The woman we were talking with said that she might also post our picture with the comment “Me Too”.

Grenoble is regarded as the capital of the French Alps which made it an interesting area for Mike and I. Apparently Grenoble is the largest metropolis in the Alps regardless of country, which surprised me.

Our first visit to Grenoble was on a Monday. Grenoble has cables cars called “Les Bulles” (Bubbles) that connect the town to the summit of La Bastille hill, named for the 18th-century fortress on its slopes. We thought that a cable car would be easy on my leg and I would tour as much as I could of the fortress and then sit in the restaurant while Mike wandered up and down. Well, we paid for the ride, got to the top and found out that everything: the fortress, the restaurant, the information booth, were all closed on a Monday. We did get to wander near the walls and get a good look at the views.

I didn’t realize that Grenoble was one of Europe’s most important research, technology and innovation centres. I read that one in five inhabitants work directly in these fields which is a statistic that really astonished me. On the other side, the city held the title of European Green Capital in 2022.

Monument to the “Day of the Tiles” in 1788

Mike and I went on one of our audio walking tours that we so enjoy in the various cities. This picture was taken on the Place Notre Dame. It is called the Fountain of the Three Orders or the Centennial Fountain. It is a monument commemorating the Day of the Tiles which occurred in 1788, one year before the official start of the French Revolution. The Day of the Tiles (Journée des Tuiles) was one of the first disturbances which preceded the French Revolution, and, is credited by some historians as the start of the revolution.

Mike and I had lunch in the Café de la Table Ronde. It wasn’t until after we left the restaurant that we found out that it was the second oldest cafe in France (the oldest is in Paris). I was wishing that I had paid more attention. Thanks to its proximity to the Palais de Justice, the restaurant quickly became very busy and was the meeting place for litigants and lawyers. Its name was changed from Café Flandrin to Café de la Table Ronde in 1797. We had seen the sign saying 1739 on the front of the restaurant but that hadn’t really sunk in. Just think this restaurant came to be more than a hundred years before Canada was formed (1867) and even before the US became a country (1776). The history in Europe is so different from that in North America.

One day Mike and I went for a drive up in the mountains. At around 1000 metres we entered the clouds which isn’t great for mountain road driving. We kept hoping that we would break through above the clouds, and have a glorious view. This didn’t happen. The highest we got was over 1700 m or 5700 ft and we were still in the cloud when we started to descend.

We did quite a bit of driving around the Grenoble area. Mike hasn’t been doing much cycling as he still, three months later, needs to do it on his own which isn’t as much fun for him. My leg is getting better but slowly. I keep thinking that everything is great because I can get around in my RV so easily without any help. Then I try and do a new exercise or something simple and find out that I can’t do it at all with my bad leg and I get upset. I did meet someone the other day who told me that the good news is that even though her broken ankle took a long time to recover, now she couldn’t even tell me which leg was broken.

Domaine de Vizille

One of the towns we visited in our drives was called Vizille. Their large chateau had been turned into a “Museum of the French Revolution” which I thought might be interesting. Once we got there and looked at the chateau from the outside I decided to sit and have a glass of wine while Mike toured up and down the stairs. Just as I was about to order my wine, Mike came back and told me that elevators had been installed so I could actually visit the museum. There was a strange combination of exhibits some translated in both French and English and many others just in French. You can only translate so many signs using your phone before you give up. We missed a lot, I think.

Some of the towns in this part of the world had interesting names from an English point of view: Apt, Oz, Die.

After Grenoble we wanted to visit the Swiss cities of Geneva and Lausanne both on Lake Geneva. Our initial plan was to enter Switzerland and camp on the north side of Lake Geneva. For a variety of reasons, including cost, we ended up on the south side of the lake, the French side. This will be fine, and we will be able to visit cities in both France and Switzerland from there.

Lovely but very crowded city of Annecy
Annecy fort on top of steep hill

Driving from Grenoble to our Lake Geneva campground in the RV we passed the town of Annecy. We decided that we would drive back one day with the car when we had time to explore. Annecy is known as the “Venice of the Alps”. I think that every town anywhere that has a lot of canals calls itself the “Venice of _____” (fill in the blanks based on the area).

We hadn’t realized that the day we visited Annecy was in yet another long weekend and the town was jammed. It is a lovely town, but I would really like to have visited it on a “normal” work day.

We followed one of our audio GPS walking tours in Annecy and ended up walking up a very long and steep hill to the chateau in the picture above. At the ticket booth they said that there were lots of stairs in 4 separate towers to walk up and down if you wanted to tour the chateau/museum. Obviously, I couldn’t do that with my cane. I asked if I could just walk in a few feet and have a look over the wall near the ticket office, at the view over the lake. I was told I could do that as long as I paid. You wonder that France hasn’t been our favourite country on this trip.

By the time we walked down the steep hill, my leg was not in good shape at all. I can walk on flat ground fairly well, but the steep hills cause problems that I paid for that night and the next day. I did end up taking the following day as a day off and doing nothing but reading and playing games on my tablet and computer in the RV so maybe there were some benefits.

Look for our next posting about Lake Geneva within the week. I will try and get you up-to-date on our travels fairly quickly.

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