Bonjour from Grenoble
Grenoble is in the southern end of the Rhône Valley at the foot of the Alps, 147 km south-west of Geneva.
To study – if you are smart enough! Grenoble has shaken off its image as a manufacturing hub at the base of the Alps and it is now regarded as one of the world’s centres for science, technology and nanotechnology in France. Grenoble, like Melbourne, even has its own Synchrotron. Thus Grenoble feels like a thoroughly modern city with an international edge, surrounded by spectacular mountains, renaissance and medieval architecture. Hiking and climbing are obviously popular pursuits.
As you would expect being surrounded by mountains Grenoblois love, love, love eating and cooking with cheese. A popular mild blue cheese around Grenoble is Vercors-Sassenage blue. Fondue is popular, and a restaurant worth a 10-minute detour outside Grenoble is Auberge des Montauds. Here you can order slabs of terrine made from local rabbits and chestnuts along with chunky sweetbreads. Keep your eyes peeled at any bistro for ravioles, which are pasta parcels filled with cheese (traditionally semi-aged Saint Marcellin). The majority of France’s walnut production is in the valleys around Grenoble, and they are available fresh in October, and then dried from December. You’ll find walnuts in everything from salads to tarts.
Chartreuse – a liqueur made by monks in the Chartreuse Mountains. It can be served as a shot, or over ice as a digestive. The flavour comes from the local mountain herbs and apparently more than 100 plants make up the secret recipe. The great news for us is Chartreuse is meant to be a healthy tonic to get stomach juices flowing (a good thing when consuming all that cheese). The flavour is herby and a little like the digestive Strega.
Best food souvenir
A hand-blown glass bottle of vintage Chartreuse.
Getting there and around
Catch the TGV from Paris in about three hours. There are super-efficient bus-trams (navettes) throughout the area of Grenoble, as befitting such a techno-town. Bike hire is readily available with sites all over the city.