Saturday, July 11, 2015

An American blogger in Grenoble (and Frankfurt)

Part one and two of the June 2014 trip to France.

Well, now that it's been more than a year, I suppose I ought to talk about our trip to Grenoble. Our friend Aaron was living in Grenoble at the time as a facet of his PhD program. (So. Lucky.) He purchased train tickets for us, with the warning that there had been a lot of strikes of late. As luck would have it, our train was canceled due to strike as well, but Aaron told us to simply get on the next train about twenty minutes later. Exchanging tickets was a huge hassle, but even that didn't prepare us for worse yet to come.

The Horrible Train Adventure
We didn't understand that people who had originally booked the second train had reserved seats, so we just chose the first seats we saw. The first embarrassing part happened when I asked the gentleman across the aisle, "Est-ce que vous travaillez à Grenoble?" I meant to confirm that we were on the right train by asking him if he was traveling to Grenoble also, but it had been such a long time since I'd taken any French classes that I actually asked him if he worked in Grenoble (the correct verb would have been voyager). He sounded confused and I realized my error - but not before he switched to impeccable English. *face palm*

Just as he was trying to help us, another gentleman stepped up and asked us to get out of his seats. We bounced from seat to seat for a while, fruitlessly trying to find a spot that wasn't already claimed. At one point, we asked an attendant where we were supposed to sit, and the entire train car chuckled softly at us, filling me with impotent rage. We noticed other hapless patrons of the idiotic French rail system sitting on stairs and on the floor, so we squished ourselves into an open luggage area, next to our suitcases, and prepared ourselves for a miserable few hours.

Eventually, the train got on its way and I spotted an unclaimed seat. I forced Tyler to take it, since he's a leggy fellow and much more uncomfortable tucking himself into a baggage compartment than I am. Luckily, a nice gentleman who saw us split up offered us his seat and the empty one next to it, and relocated himself. (My theory is that I was a cute girl and he felt guilty making me sit on the floor. I'm usually not a fan of benevolent sexism, but this time I fairly leapt at the chance.) Tyler felt embarrassed the whole way to Grenoble afterward, but I was satisfied.

Grenoble was worth the only horrible experience I've ever had with a train. Our apartment was huge and quaint, the town beautiful and framed with imposing mountains. Few people in Grenoble seemed to speak English, but they were all really friendly. Also, Aaron was there, so I could finally relax and let someone else drive the Frenchmobile at restaurants and such, for the most part.

We had a great time in Grenoble and ended up wishing we had spent the majority of our trip there instead of Paris. We tried chartreuse and a variety of walnut-flavored things (they're big on walnuts there), including an amazing ice cream.

Aaron took us on a little side trip to Annecy to visit our friend Denis and his fiancee, who met us at the train station with three bikes despite being on roller blades. They took us back to Denis's parents' home, where we ate ice cream and bread, and then to a lake. The lake was fun until I got out and found a teeny tiny LEECH attached to the webbing between my last two toes. I nearly threw up from terror, because I'm a big baby but also because leeches are fully disgusting. Happily, the leech was no match for my freak-out and fell off of its own accord within a couple of minutes. Its memory lives on, though: Aaron and Denis will tease me about it forever.

On our last night with Aaron, Tyler and I joined him for a free classical concert in an outdoor park. It was a beautiful and relaxing way to wind things down.

The next day we flew to Frankfurt, Germany, for a 23 hour layover. We ended up so glad that we'd decided to visit! We tried schnitzel and spaetzle at Klosterhof; explored the beautiful city center; visited the old Jewish cemetery adjacent to the Jewish Museum; and drank tons of Apfelwein, a delicious hard cider and a Frankfurt specialty.

Thumbing his nose at us!

These gents weren't impressed.

I had never seen the word "vulva" graffiti'd anywhere.


I was fascinated by these weird geese.

The names of those who died in the Holocaust. The wall is really long..

The old Jewish cemetery.

Anne Frank.

From what we could tell of the many celebrations going on around Frankfurt, few people were boycotting.

And that's it! At last.

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