The snow peaked mountains is something uncommon for someone who lives in a tropical country.
I lost count on how many mountain peaks there were at the French Rhone Alps, one thing for sure, this small city was surrounded by them.
It is the beginning of winter in December when I arrived a week before Christmas, and the change in temperature is surely a wonderful thing for someone who lives in the hot and wet country.
Fumbling with layers of clothes is somewhat new to me and the French chilly weather was both interesting and annoying at the same time.
Upon arriving at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, I really wanted to move and get going, see and experience this new place where I only read and watched in movies.
Besides, being cramped in the aircraft seat for 13 hours is not the best experience at all, because I am not a person who would sit around for hours.
Yes, I did walk up and down the aisle, but after awhile, it gets bored.
Grenoble is my destination, a French city 600km South East of Paris, a city famous for its ski resorts, a mixed of French/Italian cultures and history.
It is also one of the oldest French city which was first mentioned in 43 BC, but then it was called Cularo, one of the important Roman city.
|The Parliament House of Dauphine|
A small portion of the old Roman wall is still there today, though it is not like the coliseum, but the small arched wall protected by modern gates, still stands today in this new millennia.
Aside from that old Roman wall, the old buildings build from the time of the feudal lords can be seen today like the Bastille, which was used nearly throughout each French historical moment from the time of Italian/French war, Napoleon era and the Second World War.
On top of all that, this small city also played host for the 1968 winter Olympics.
To me, history is the essence our current being, an identity that tells us, who we were, and how we strive till where we are today, and because of that, I am heading there.
I took an hour and a half train ride to Lyon then another one hour train ride Grenoble.
The weather, cold and chilly, unlike back home, but there was no snow in sight throughout those two train rides, where all I could see are miles of French farms and small French districts that seemed to welcomes my arrival.
It was dark when I arrived, despite the time showing only 6.30pm, but it sure looked like 9pm back home and no mountains can be seen at that time, only little lights that spread far all over town that looked like stars at night.
Though every now and then the star like light would be moving upwards or downwards, that clearly tells me that those lights are not stars at all.
Despite the temperature dropping to nearly -2 degrees Celsius, it did not stop me from exploring the city at night, because Christmas is near, there were Christmas Markets almost everywhere at the town square and the garden, in this case it was at the town centre called Victor Hugo.
The Christmas Market or Marche’ Noel as they say in French is similar to our Bazaar Ramadan or Chinese New Year bazaar in Kuching, minus the heat and humidity of course.
At the market, everyone who spoke other than French is there, as winter is the time for holiday makers go up the French Alps for the ski resorts and Grenoble is also a student city as it is also known for its universities and research labs.
|Grenoble is famous for its ski resorts and here skiiers are getting their ski passes at Les Sept Laux.|
The city dies down fast here, as by 9pm, the city centre seems deserted as everyone heads home, only a few would hang around till late but I can say only less than a handful would do that in this city of 500,000 population.
“During the winter holidays, everyone would go to the ski resorts or go back to their hometown,” said 28 year old Frederic Aman.
Frederic is one of the Post Graduate student at Grenoble University, and he too would go back to his hometown in Briancon, not far from Grenoble, like any typical Frenchman, Frederic struggles with his English and took his time during our conversation.
That went on well for me, whose French is limited to basic greetings and the most common, Merci’ or thank you.
The mornings in Grenoble is rather late, as the sunlight can only be seen at noon, if you are lucky or very late in the afternoon, so life during the day is rather late here, but regardless of that, I really wanted to see the mountains which looked like a scene from Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit.
And I finally did, Grenoble is surrounded by mountain tops, some with snow, some looked like the Grand Canyon with little houses spreads around it, sharing the border with Italy and Switzerland it is nothing like the tropical mountain range in Borneo.
Since I am already at the French Rhone Alps, I took the trip up the mountains to experience the ski resorts, but the lack of skiing knowledge led me to go trekking on the icy mountains at Les Sept Laux.
Being a normal hiker, the mountain trail is not much a challenge and the mountain chill is a good reason for anyone to keep on moving faster to keep the body warm.
I spent nearly the whole day at the ski resort, and I too felt quite disappointed for not being able to ski or to snowboard like one of those 2 year olds crisscrossing calmly down the icy slopes in their cool skiing gears like professionals.
Yes, I am envious of them, but till my next trip, I shall return.