Saturday, March 5, 2011

March 05, 2011: Grenoble - Markets, University, River, Restaurant

Ah, a good night of sleep, and we wake to sunshine. Mark's co-workers have said that the weather is unusually nice - spring seems to be coming a month early.

We headed down to our local market. I've walked past it more than once, but this was my first time actually wandering through the aisles up close. It's tremendous - flowers, fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, fish, cheeses, breads, wine. Almost any food you can think of is for sale here. There's one stand that is a giant wall of roasting chickens and turkeys. Not all of the food is local - there is a lot of citrus fruit that wouldn't be in season, but most of the non-local food is from other European countries at least, like Spain. We also saw a box with a baby goat and puppies for sale. The goat was hardly any bigger than the puppies, and seemed perfectly happy to be tumbled in with the dogs. They're all adorable. We also went over to another weekend market, at Place Saint Bruno, but it turned out to be more of a flea market.

Although we went intending to buy food, we decided that we would go out for dinner for the first time since arriving here, so we held off on any purchases. After packing a picnic lunch of sandwiches, mandarin oranges and half a chocolate bar we headed off across the city, to find the university building where Mark will have to give a few lectures.

We stopped to eat in Parc Paul Mistral. The park has an eye-catching tower, built by August Perret in 1924. It was built for a festival celebrating hydroelectric power (big in this region of glacier-fed rivers), and is 95 m tall. The flowers have started to come out - I saw daffodils, croscuses and snowdrops coming up. I also saw pansies, which I can only assume have overwintered.

It was a long walk out to the university, but interesting, because it went through a more modern part of the city than I had explored the day before. As we got closer to the university it changed from contemporary to 60s/70s era modernist buildings - kind of a time capsule of when the major development took place.

After finding the chemistry building we walked back along the embankment (le digue) that borders the Isère river. There were lots of people out enjoying the sunshine and walking their dogs. I'd read that France has one of the highest rates of dog ownership, and I believe it now. Unfortunately there's no culture of shame in letting your dog poo on the sidewalk, so you really have to watch every step. We've seen several fenced in "espace de chien" spots, where the city is trying to encourage owners to get their dogs to do their business.

By the time we got back to our apartment (about 10 km later) we were ready to rest our feet. It was still too early to go for dinner, so we kicked back and relaxed for a few hours, then decided where to eat. We narrowed it down to fish/seafood, and I mapped out a few options. I was thrilled that I got us to our first option without getting lost or having to consult the map, but it turns out it had closed. So we headed on to the second, which was open, and not too crowded. We were able to almost entirely conduct our business in French, although I was stumped by how to order "medium rare".

Le Marché de l'Estacade (the market is under the train tracks - all of the supports have been painted with murals of plants and produce - such a great use of space that might otherwise be dark and dismal)

There's a trophy store near our apartment - most of the trophies are pretty straightforward, but what is this one supposed to commemorate?!

Unfamiliar ladybug-like insects basking in the sun in the parking lot outside our apartment

Apartment building with corrugated-cardboard-like texture on the wall

Flowers blooming in Parc Paul Mistral

The former Electrochimie et Electrometallurgie building on campus (Mark noted that those would have been big areas in science research when the building was first constructed - now the words have been taken down, leaving behind ghostly impressions)

A high-water level indicator along the embankment - without it there would be serious flooding of the city. Plaques indicate the dates of the highest levels.

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