Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Bird's-Eye View of Grenoble

Jeudi, 26 juin.

Stendhal, the famous 19th century French writer about whom I should probably know much more, was born and raised in Grenoble. (And trust me, they don't let you forget it.) He once praised one of his hometown's most well-known sites, a mountain fortress that overlooks the city, explaining that he could not even begin to explain the incredible and ever-changing view ... "Je n'ai pas la force de décrire la vue admirable et changeant tous les cent pas, que l'on a depuis la Bastille."

So in honor of Stendhal -- and in following my current trend of climbing tall things in my free time -- I decided to spend my last morning in Grenoble at the Bastille. The site was constructed on Mont Rachais in order to survey and protect the city of Grenoble; now it welcomes over 600,000 visitors per year to take advantage of the amazing views it affords. Luckily, unlike Stendhal, I didn't have to stop every one hundred steps to appreciate the view ... or, as I suspect was more likely, to catch my breath. Ever since 1934, the fortress has been accessible by cable car, or téléphérique. Although some people still opt for the grueling hike, I was more than happy to shell out a few euros for a five-minute cable car ride.

The téléphérique was like nothing I have ever seen! Its unique space-age cable cars -- nicknamed "the bubbles" -- have been around since the 1970s and travel constantly between the Bastille and the station at the base of the mountain. The cars rise above the Isère River and travel along approximately 2,250 feet of track, conveying their passengers almost 900 feet above the ground. Each little "bubble" seats six people, which meant that as we made our way up the mountain, five strangers got the pleasure of witnessing a mix of excitement and sheer terror on the part of a certain American tourist who had conveniently forgotten her hatred of heights prior to climbing aboard.

Is that two-inch gap SUPPOSED to be there?! Apparently -- and inexplicably -- yes. 

Although the ascent was more than a little terrifying, it was worth it. I emerged at the top of the hill (all in one piece!) and walked out onto a completely empty viewing platform. It was calm, quiet, and absolutely breathtaking.

There's a surprising amount of stuff to do and see on top of the mountain. People who make it to the top can visit a modern art gallery, learn about the history of the Bastille, and even eat at a swanky mountain-top restaurant. As for me, I had a blast just walking around and taking photos!

Although the view from the Bastille is incredible in its own right, I'd read that Mont Jura (the hill pictured on the right in the photo below) is the place to go for a truly amazing panorama view. Unfortunately, although t's only about a 30-minute walk from the Bastille, I didn't have the time to make the trip. But doesn't it look just lovely?!

Far too soon, it was time to head back down to reality. Back to the "bubbles" I went!

This time, instead of being safely situated in the last car, I sat in the VERY FIRST ONE. Which would have been okay, except that while MY "bubble" was dangling over the edge (and my blood pressure was very quickly rising), the operator was forced to stop the cars -- TWICE -- to help a passenger in the last car descend. Oh, and did I mention that as all of this unfolded, I was the ONLY PERSON on the entire thing?!

On the plus side, my extended stay at the top of the mountain allowed me to take some pretty cool photos from inside the téléphérique. Including, naturally, a couple of terrified selfies.

What a wonderful way to finish off my stay in Grenoble!

1 comment:

  1. How beautiful! I'm so proud of you for going on the bubbles! haha! I love that name! What a view! I also love that you included you in a photo. You are amazing!

    Love, Mommy