Adjusting to France and Grenoble, A Different Type of City

I have been in France for about three weeks. So far, so great! Even in the small connected world that we live in today, with everyone sharing opinions and ideas, France still maintains its differences. Here are a few things that, in my opinion, l’hexagone (so called because France it is shaped roughly like a hexagon) does wonderfully well… and what it could improve upon.

Availability of Good Food

I continue to be dumbfounded by the number of cafes, patisseries, brasseries, boulangeries, bars and restaurants both in Grenoble and Paris. On my way to university, I pass roughly thirty places to eat or drink. None of which are fast food joints. Every day I stare with fervor at the delicious creations in the display windows of these emporiums of taste. These said shops are always buzzing with activity, fueling the people of France. Cafes and bars bookend each avenue with their open air verandas, sweeping around street corners filled with friends and families enjoying a quick espresso or a beverage.

One such creation I have been introduced to through newly made friends is tacos. “Huh? A taco? In France?” That question might have crossed your mind. Of course this American in the fine cuisine capital of the world finds tacos. Before you judge, I want to state that these are not your average tacos. The culinary masterpiece includes; seasoned taco meat, a splash of a sauce of your choice and French fries, all stuffed into a tortilla-wrapped brick probably weighting about a pound. This greasy goodness and a beverage, clocks in at about five euros and is the perfect thing to have after a long day of class.

Enough Travel Options to Make Your Head Spin

After filling up on tacos, it’s time to start thinking about travel options. With a weeks’ vacation from class coming up, I decided to take a little holiday away from the exhausting task of being immersed in French culture, history, food and language to head to Madrid. The decision was not an easy one…when Turin, Milan, Paris, Geneva, Monaco, Nice, Lyon, Barcelona and more are just a quick train or flight away for relatively cheap, the decision is difficult. For example; if you are OK with living out of a school backpack, you can fly to London for fifteen euros. So after hours of scouring the Internet, making phone calls and discussing with peers, I decided on Madrid as a suitable destination. With tickets to see my favorite soccer player, I am beyond excited!!!

Showers…ugh…

I have very few negative things to say about France, however I want to air this one grievance: showers. America has “the shower” down to a science. Adjust the power, heat and pressure with levers or dials. A mounted shower head creates a comfortable rainfall that allows you to relax and unwind. Showers in America allow you to create a customized experience. Showers in France don’t.  In fact, every shower I have used, so far, during this program and on a previous trip to the country has been “military style,” which is a removable shower head that you hose off with three primitive settings. Not to mention that, with no hot or cold indicator, adjusting the temperature is a gamble. My host family has a shower curtain, however our hotel in Paris did not. Instead there was a transparent glass window, its purpose is still unknown to me…I have come to the conclusion that it is impossible not to make it look like a monsoon hit your bathroom in the aftermath of your shower.

Grenoble!

Grenoble is fantastic! With a good public transport system and a large student population, it reminds me of Boston, MA. With the Alps’ snow-covered peaks piercing the sky all around, the skyline is always breathtaking. The winding river of the Isère drives right through the heart of the city, creating a beautiful downtown area which populates the “Google Image” search for Grenoble. The city is also different from many I have visited in the past. Central shopping areas are scattered throughout the city, like mini burgs of shopping. Besides the business school, many of the universities are located in a “mega campus” on one side of town. Commuting there every day is interesting, seeing all these fellow students on the tram, exhausted on a Monday morning before their 8:30 am class. I still have much to explore in Grenoble, however so far every discovery I have made has made me like the city even more.

Andrew is an official API Blogger and is spending his gap year abroad with API in Grenoble, France.

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