Travel Destination Search is a travel blog crammed full of useful destination guides from all over the world. Lovingly compiled by Matt & Deborah Preston, whether its ski holidays in the alps, memorable parties in Vegas or backpacking adventures in Asia, its all here. They offer their advice today on their favourite French destination and why you should visit. Today, they tell us about Grenoble.
This city is in southeast France surrounded with snow-capped mountains. It’s known as the “Capital of the Alps,” which is rather ironic for the flattest city in France.
La Vielle Ville
La Vielle Ville (Old Town) is a maze of cobblestone streets that lead past quaint houses to squares shaded with century-old trees and rimmed with outdoor cafes. Place Aux Herbes was the town meeting centre in the Middle Ages. Today, townspeople and visitors meet at the Farmers Market on Tuesday and Sunday mornings. In the 17th century, Place Grenette was filled with grain and animal markets.
Near the centre of the city is Mount Rachais with Fort de la Bastille sitting atop it like a crown. You can hike to the top, if you’re hardy, but you really should take a Bubble, a round plexiglass pod of a cable car, for an exhilarating, albeit brief (five minutes), ride over the most spectacular scenery. At the 19th-century fort, you have time to view Grenoble, the Isere River, the surrounding valley, jagged mountain ranges and gushing Alpine rivers. On a clear day, you can see . . . well, not forever, but far enough, to Mont Blanc 125 miles away.
The Bastille’s view
The fort now houses several art and history museums. At the Acrobastille, you can zip line or rappel down the mountain. There are trails with all levels of difficulty. One of them is the Jardin des Dauphins, below the Bastille, with terraces linked together with paths and tunnels, trees that range from cypresse to cedar and from Japanese medlars to European olive and plants of sagebrush, ornamental tobacco and bronzed fennel. And so much more.
Saint-André de Grenoble
When you want to regroup, stop at the Café de la Table Ronde, the rendezvous of artists and intelligentsia since it opened in 1739, still with the pewter counters and chandeliers of the 18th century. Have a bit to eat, for sure, but don’t miss the chance to have a shot of Chartreuse. The recipe for the green liqueur is known only to two Carthusian monks whose monastery is in the Chartreuse Mountains. All we know is that it is made from 130 herbs, plants, roots and leaves, and it’s potent! Drink it ice cold or on the rocks for the best flavour.
Local cuisine includes Gratin de Crozet, a rich, creamy baked dish with macaroni and gourmet French cheese with your choice of truffles, foie gras, escargot or crayfish mixed it. A specialty of the French Alps is Raclette, a dish that diners prepare themselves at the table with cheese, potatoes, meat and vegetables. And have something with walnuts! Walnuts are a point of pride in Grenoble. The surrounding countryside produces 15,000 tons a years. You’ll find an unforgettable pastry made with walnut cream at a boulangerie (bakery).
The Sassenage Cisterns
Take a short trip to the Sassenage Cisterns outside of Grenoble and walk through an underworld millions of years old. Winding paths, rushing rivers, galleries carved from the flint with rock sculpted by the drip-drip-drip of water for millennia. It’s said that Melusina lives there a water fairy cursed to shift shapes until the end of time. On Saturdays, you’ll see her legs turn into snake tails. (If she doesn’t appear in the cisterns, you can always see her on a Starbucks logo).
A week is not enough time to see and do everything in Grenoble, but we must return to our workaday lives and begin to plan our next trip.