Today marks my second weekend in France and I can definitely say that Grenoble has my heart! Grenoble is the perfect city for me! It has all I want and I already love living here. It’s a completely different culture but I’m trying to stay open minded and patient.
Why I love Grenoble:
- It’s a small town but has the perfect dynamic: It’s lively, fun, and cosmopolitan but at the same time it’s historical, has character, and charm. I enjoy the hustle and bustle of city life but at the same time I need a relaxing environment as well.
- The town offers so much. I love how the town is always busy, people walking everywhere, so many stores, and a great energy and vibe. I could walk through it all day long! I can’t wait until I’m even more acclimated with the city whereas I know my way around with ease.
- The tram system here is incredibly efficient and helpful. There’s a stop conveniently right by my house and it takes me anywhere I need to go, like the Monoprix (like a Target), my school GEM, ect. I have an unlimited pass so I can ride from dawn until dusk if need be! There are multiple lines A, B, C, D, and E which at first seemed difficult but it’s such an easy system to understand and use. I’m very grateful for this.
- The mountains surrounding the city are absolutely stunning! Grenoble is in a valley so the mountains seem bigger than they really are but I love it. You literally can see a mountain on every street corner! I love mornings here because every day I get up and the first thing I do is open my windows. My room is pitch black dark but when I open my French wooden shutters and let in the light, I’m immediately happy and ready to start my day. The air is so fresh, the sun is bright, and the mountains are in full view!
- There are so many outdoor activities to do! There’s 2 rivers in Grenoble, the Drac and the Isere, which I run along in the morning. The mountains provide lots of hiking and in the winter I’m excited to go skiing!
|This is the day we hiked down the Bastille. It’s a looking viewpoint up very high and you wouldn’t believe how many stairs we had to go down. My legs weren’t used to it so afterwards they were shaking!|
|More stairs to walk down but in a cave like structure.|
- Boulangeries are everwhere! Currently, I am slowly figuring out which ones I prefer by trying all I can. I want to have a place where I am a regular! French pastries are amazing and I plan on consuming all the croissants, pain au chocolats, tarts, macaroons, quiches, and other delicacies as much as time and Euros allows!
|Like I’ll take one of each please…|
- There’s a way to get by cheaply if you know the right places to go. So far I’ve come across a Two Euro store which is the French equivalent of the Dollar Store in America. Also I’ve come across a discounted makeup store and another one that has markdowns on items from shampoo to clothing.
- I feel very safe in the town. There are many times I am alone whether on the tram, running, or walking back to my house and I feel secure. It’s reassuring to feel a strong sense of safety in your living environment.
- There are fresh farmers markets everyday! There are stands that are literally straight from the farm featuring local sellers and also more commercial stands. The produce is so fresh and real you can just taste the authenticity! I LOVE eating fruits here because they are so juicy, soft, and delicious.
I haven’t been in France very long yet but I’ve already learned some good lessons and have started to understand more about French culture, traditions, and lifestyle. I will share what I have discovered thus far:
- Theft is very real in France (and I’m sure all over Europe as well), nothing at all like in America. In the U.S. I never worry about someone stealing from me, even in a big city. Unfortunately a couple days ago I became a victim of this! I was on the tram heading to a crepe making event with my exchange group CEA and as we were walking away I noticed my phone was missing. Immediately I knew it had been indeed stolen, just in a matter of seconds. I am always holding my phone but had put it in the side pocket of my backpack without thinking. I was amazed at how quickly something as devasting as that can occur. It was a big lesson for me in the department of stealing, pick pocketing and thieves. I am so much more aware and alert of what I carry on me now. I am taking better precautions to avoid another instance.
- Restaurant and store hours are very different here. On Sunday’s hardly anything is open and during the week people take 1-2 hours for lunch break. (Lunch break is taken very seriously here. People will stop whatever they are doing, even if they are driving, to sit down and eat lunch). Restaurants close from 2-7 a lot of the times. There are fast food places that offer ‘tacos’ (that actually look like burritos) anytime but mostly the French stay on a very structured eating schedule.
- I love how there is no tax or tip in France! When you see a price for anything you know that’s exactly what you’ll pay at the cash register. It makes life very easy and simple.
- The French live off bread! Everyday I see people holding their baguettes in their arms to take home with them. In America bread is looked at as a carb but here it’s more equivalent with a vegetable or something. The people here are very thin because of their balanced meal times, no preservatives, and eating well.
- Also kind of a random discovery is that people love orange juice here. At cafes I often see women drinking a glass of orange juice (jus de orange) and it always looks very delicious and fresh! I also regularly see people drinking cartons of orange juice on the streets. I am definitely a fan of this because I love having my orange juice every morning.
- Every store makes you pay for your bags. If you’re buying one or two items that you can carry then you’re good but unless you want to juggle all your groceries you’ll have to pay a price for the bag. That is why for 1 Euro or so you can purchase reusable bags. The French are very stingy about this rule and it’s implemented literally everywhere.
- There is no such thing as taking your leftover food ‘to go.’ The French take their time with meals and eat the entire plate. The portion sizes are actually normal here (and healthier) so it makes sense but unless you want to eat an entire pizza, then I have learned to think ahead of what I can actually consume.
- France is taking the necessary precuations about safety. I say this because I sometimes spot soldiers in full uniform armed with a gun walking around town in case of any circumstance. It’s a little frightening to see these men but I just remind myself that they are there for everyone’s safety.
- I read in a book about French culture (called Talk to the Snail by Stephan Clarke) that the French always believe they are right. I believe this is entirely true and there’s nothing you can do about it. If you ever want to get your way you must stay calm, tell them they are right, accept their stubborness, and carry on this way. As long as it was them that was right, the French are incredibly kind and friendly people. *I have learned a lot from this book and reccommend it to anyone going to France!
- Strikes are the French people’s favorite game. They are planned, national events that happen quite often and disrupt the daily lives of busy people. When there’s a strike, for whatever reason, the trams shut down and you are forced to walk to your destination. I have already had to walk 30 minutes to school because of a strike. That day I witnessed a large parade through the streets with people protesting whatever the cause may have been. The people looked very passionate about the cause with large flags waiving through the air, loudspeakers, chanting, and music. It was a little nervracking but definitely harmless. Luckily, there’s a convenient app you can download that lets you know the days and times of pre-scheduled strikes.
- I’ve learned to get by without a handy GPS system. In America I rely on my phone’s GPS to get literally anywhere, but here in France I don’t have that luxury. I don’t want to pay for an expensive data plan and have gotten used to looking at actual, ‘old-fashioned’ maps. When I am going someplace new, I look at my map beforehand and write down the trams and street names that I take to get to my destination.
- The French smoke a ton. It’s considered a cool thing to do and the fact it’s a terrible habit must not have caught on yet. Smoke breaks are popular among students in my school but I will certainly not start smoking despite its cultural popularity.
Well, this has certainly gotten to be a lengthy post! As you can see I have already immersed myself a lot in the French culture and even though it’s only been a week and a half here I can tell I’m going to have a very productive semester. I aim to use my time wisely so I can see, do, and learn as much as I possibly can!
|This is our city! (at the Bastille with friends Isabel and Heidi)|