Grenoble Life editor James Dalrymple delves into the archives to relive some of the highs and lows of the past few years online in the Capital of the Alps.
A great many articles have been published on Grenoble Life since we started in October 2008, contributed by a wide range of contributors from Britain, the USA and Australia, to India and France itself (or should that be herself?). It occurs to me that a number of them deserve revisiting, if only because I can’t make them all instantly present on the front page at the same time. Moreover, some my personal favourites – perhaps owing to the dark arts of Google – seem to have fallen off the radar. In any case, here is a little sum-up of what you may have missed from the Grenoble Life archives.
It may be unfashionably erudite for a website built upon social media, but Grenoble Life has hosted a number of well-informed and beautifully written pieces about the city’s rich past. For a potted history of the Capital of the Alps, you won’t do better than this splendid two-parter, while one of the Dauphiné’s more colourful historical characters is dissected, literally, here.
The history of any region of France must also necessarily be the story of its food and drink, and Grenoble is no different. These posts on the popular local green stuff, Chartreuse, and the humble walnut, also known as noix de Grenoble, provide a nice entry point into two regional specialties. Meanwhile the city’s contemporary food culture – from high to low – has been celebrated here in a number of ways, from this ode to Grenoble’s foremost covered market Les Halles Sainte Claire, to advice on where to find “decent hot chillis here and stuff like lemongrass, galangal, and other Southeast Asian vegetables and spices,” or where an “impoverished young person” can get cheap eats “served with customary indifference and a bad attitude.” By contrast, the cities bars and cafés have been received with greater warmth here and here.
With Grenoble being surrounded by mountains, the site has not neglected to mention skiing, particularly the bargain basement variety, while the city itself has been treated as both a travel destination in itself (for once) and the starting point for epic journeys on “The world’s least user-fixable vehicle.” Skiing asides, the imposing massifs have also provided inspiration to budding climbers and photographers alike, proving there is more to the Alps than the snow, while Grenoble Life’s armchair mountain enthusiasts have been able to “take a walk on the wild side.”
If that convinced you that Grenoble only catered for les sportifs, I would like to think – from its thriving music and cinema scene (covered here and here) to its brocantes – the cultural side of the city has not been entirely neglected. Add to that the opportunities for young people to participate in English-speaking theatre and musical events for a charitable cause, the city has something to offer for those, like myself, with “gym commitment issues.”
Grenoble Life hasn’t always been about consensus, however. The French education system has proved a passionate subject among English-speaking residents past and present, both for its detractors and supporters. The exigencies of French administration have also come under scrutiny, whether it be for starting your own business or simply getting a valid visa.
A critical eye has also been cast upon Grenoble’s public conveniences, albeit with a wink, while the greatest controversy was sparked by Grenoble Life’s Daily Deconstructionalist, sadly inactive of late, whose acerbic takes on French road safety campaigns and the City of Grenoble Magazine drew a colourful response. While there is no harm in vigorous debate, perhaps it was the gathering clouds of acrimony that inspired me to write this well-attended general Grenoble love-in.
And all this barely scratches the surface, given that I have not mentioned the many illuminating interviews and practical posts that have graced these pages over the years. I hope that Grenoble Life will continue to be a source of information, discussion and amusement to English-speaking residents for some time to come. That said, I should mention that none of this would have been possible without the goodwill of aforementioned contributors, and that I still very much welcome your blogging suggestions, no matter how subjective they are, or how new to the city you may be. Your participation is, and has always been, the life-blood of the site.