Wednesday, March 2, 2011

March 02, 2011 - Grenoble, France: Nous sommes ici!

March 02:

We're here - in France! All went well with our travels - relatively short lines at Pearson, a straightforward flight to London (I finally got to watch "Black Swan"), an easy transfer in London (we'd been worried we wouldn't have enough time, but since it was the same terminal, no problems), and landed in Lyon, where Immigration let us in without any questions whatsoever (literally - the woman took our passports, stamped them, and said not one word - but in a friendly way), found the shuttle to Grenoble and got tickets with just a minute to spare before boarding. I slept most of the way (it's an hour-long trip), waking to find myself surrounded by sheer mountainsides - very dramatic. When I wasn't sleeping I was re-reading a favourite novel by Connie Willis, "Doomsday Book", in which the main character goes back in time to the Middle Ages to do historic research. She thinks she's prepared, having researched how English would have sounded at that time, but she's completely wrong - she can't understand a word anyone says, and in the end the Plague kills them all in spite of her efforts to save them. I do love a good tragedy.

We got out of the bus, oriented ourselves and had about a 15-minute walk with our suitcases to the apartment building - no real worries about getting lost, even though the city streets dash off at all sorts of crazy angles, because all we really had to do was follow the train tracks most of the way. It was the lunch hour, so we knew reception would be closed, but they'd put our keys in the safe and had given us the combination in advance, so we were able to let ourselves in and have a much-needed nap. We found that we'd been upgraded to a one-bedroom apartment from a studio which is nice - we've got two levels rather than one.

Then up to introduce ourselves to Estelle at reception, who drew out a map for us with the nearby grocery stores and bakeries. We stocked up on some basic household items and enough groceries for dinner and breakfast at the Monoprix. Our kitchen here is very small - a tiny microwave-sized oven, a two-burner electric stove top, a bar-fridge and a mini dishwasher (which is surprising - with such a small kitchen who needs a dishwasher?). We won't be able to do any ambitious cooking - even making pasta for last night's dinner was a bit of a challenge, having to reach behind the pot of boiling water to saute the vegetables. Ah well - at least shopping for food will be fun - there's a large outdoor market just down the street, and it's open 6 days a week. Stand after stand of vegetables, fruit, cheese, baking and meats...

After supper last night we managed to stay awake until 8:30 pm by watching two episodes of True Blood on Mark's computer. A bit of a fitful night of sleep - we were tired, but the time zones are 6 hours different, so we woke up at odd times, convinced that we wouldn't fall asleep again.

It's definitely warmer here than in Toronto - no snow or ice on the ground whatsoever, and temperatures high enough above freezing that I took my scarf off during the walk (but not the gloves). We even passed one bush that was flowering, although nothing else is yet - but it looks like it won't be long.

Everyone is pleasantly amused by my attempts to speak French, and promptly switches to speaking in English - what a relief. In my head I'm much more fluent, but on the spot I get terribly tongue-tied. But I'll keep trying!

The next four months are going to be good!

The view from the ground-floor window, through old-fashioned pointy iron bars

The view from one bedroom window. The graffiti seems that much more incomprehensible since it's French, although I'm sure I can't decipher half of the English graffiti in Toronto.

The view down a different street from the other bedroom window.

The dining area (note the bottle of wine - purchased for 4.5 Euros - $6.11 Cdn! - in the grocery store - so inexpensive - and it wasn't even the cheapest one there)

The mini kitchen - the apparent cupboard and drawer on the right, below the sink, is the mini dishwasher; the apparent microwave up above is the mini oven ; the shiny dark area on the far right of the counter is the mini stovetop, with the mini fridge underneath

The bathroom - relatively spacious, especially when compared to the other rooms

Upstairs - the 'office' seating and desk area

The bedroom - with our upgrade to a one-bedroom from a studio we get a bed that is permanently horizontal (the studio has a Murphy bed that folds up into the wall)

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