Grenoble, France — Wednesday May 10, 2016

There won’t be as many pictures of Grenoble today as there were of Paris in yesterday’s post. I took the train early this morning from Paris here to this city, where 12 years ago I spend an academic year studying at Stendhal University, part of the larger University of Grenoble. This small city in the Alps has the reputation of being a university town with many international students, many from Asia.

The train I took from Paris was a TGV, France’s version of a bullet train. I lived in Europe in the early 1960s, when such a journey by train would have taken most of the day. Today it took three hours. However, in those days the trains were much more comfortable, and the passengers had more space. Today, second class in a TGV is more cramped than the economy class section of the 787 in which I flew over here.

My seat companion was an elderly Arab woman. When I say elderly, I mean she looked more or less my age. For the first hour I read and we didn’t chat, but then I got bored with my magazine and put it down. She started a conversation in French. It was a good experience for me, because French is the weakest of the languages I speak, and I certainly need the practice. She spoke only French Arabic, and I welcome the chance to converse with someone who didn’t switch to English.

She was on her way here to visit one of her former philosophy professors, who met her at the station and to whom she introduced me. He appeared to be in his 90s. She asked for my email address and promised to write. We’ll see if she will.

When I got arrived at the station, I decided to walk the three miles to the hostel, dragging my rolling suitcase and computer bag behind me. I felt as if I had sufficient exercise when I got here, and I only went out later for one short walk. I should have used my time better, because rain is forecast for the remaining two days of my stay.

Grenoble is known as a ski resort as well as a university and high-tech center. There is a large cyclotron just outside the city, and several scientific and technology companies have operations in or near the city.

If you just walked around the city and didn’t look up, you would wonder why anyone would come here to ski. The weather is generally warmer than Paris, and during the winter that I lived here, it seldom snowed in town. However, if you find a spot where you can see between the ten-story apartment buildings, you will notice that Grenoble is in a valley and surrounded by mountains that are still snow-capped in this month of May. One of Grenoble’s nicknames is the Capital of the Alps. The surrounding Alps make the view from some parts of Grenoble scenic, but they also trap pollution in the valley where the city is located.

I took this picture of one of the lower Alps out the window of the room where I’m staying. The sky had been blue when I started my walk from the station, but the picture shows the sky already beginning to cloud over. Also note the look-alike apartment buildings. Most French and Spanish people buy apartments instead of stand-alone houses with a yard to mow. The higher population makes excellent public transportation more practical.

I took the following photo as I was walking to the hostel. The sky is not quite as cloudy as in the picture above. I had been looking for a clear space between the buildings to photograph one of the mountains, and this was the best chance I had up until that time. The cement structure in the foreground supports a freeway. The road sloping up is an entrance ramp. Why someone is walking on the ramp I can’t explain.

I took the picture below on my short afternoon walk. The sign with the blue triangle marks the hostel. The snow-covered mountains in the background are barely visible and are starting to be shrouded in clouds. The sky is also darker.

My plan for tomorrow was to walk partway up one of the Alps that overlook the city to the old Bastille fortress that is borrowed into solid rock. I also planed to visit the monument to the fallen French Mountain Troops, which is located above the Bastille. However, the weather does not look promising. It would not be a pleasant hike.