Monday, March 21, 2011

March 21, 2011: Grenoble - French/English Exchange at Bookworm Cafe, St Roch Cemetery, Béchamel Experiment

In the morning I went to a French/English exchange group at the Bookworm Cafe. This one is run by an organization called Sweet Home Grenoble, and all of their activities are conducted equally in both French and English, so that both languages can be practiced. For the first hour we chatted in French and for the second in English. It was good to get more practice conversing in French, and nice to see the Bookworm Cafe - it has a number of second-hand English language books for sale (I was tempted, but held off on buying any yet).

After the Bookworm Cafe, Maureen suggested going for a walk through the cemetery. I'd been meaning to check it out, but it's a bit far from my usual walks, so I hadn't been yet  (although we did pass by the outside of it our first weekend, on our long walk along the river). It reminded me quite a bit of cemeteries in Cyprus - not many trees or grass (unlike cemeteries in Toronto, which are often some of the lushest park space) and many elaborate graves (photographs of the deceased, elaborate floral arrangements - often in ceramic), and you could tell that space was at a premium, with family plots detailing a series of names, rather than individual markers for each grave.

Dinner was a bit of a failed experiment - I wanted to make something like a chicken pot pie with our leftover roast chicken. Although I could buy béchamel sauce right off the grocery shelf (so convenient!) there was nothing like a pastry shell or puff pastry in the freezer section, and I'm not equipped with enough baking supplies here to make pastry from scratch. So it was a collection of chopped vegetables, chunks of bread and chicken in a casserole dish baked with béchamel sauce - it took a long time to cook and was really too rich in the end to be worth it.

A Citroen, in what I thought was an appropriately bright citron colour

One of the stranger sights at the cemetery - a polychromatic plaster head, safely ensconced in a plexiglas box - is it the colouring or the box that makes it feel weirdly disembodied?

The village I grew up in was called "La Salette", and there isn't any real consensus as to why (there wasn't anyone French living there).

My favourite gravestone, possibly ever - just a big interesting rock with information carved on it, an little plants growing in crevices - like something from a bonsai arrangement, only bigger

A gravestone you wouldn't see anywhere other than in the Alps. Note also the Italian name - you really got a sense of the high Italian population in Grenoble while reading names at the cemetery.

An interesting "temple" with a view through to a cross-shaped window

Strange profusion of plaques and other "offerings"

Many plots were in disrepair, with stone structures subsiding or dismantled - a bit sad

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