France: Grenoble and Les Deux Alpes

My husband had to convince me to tag along on his work trip to Grenoble, France.  Let me explain.  Prior to this trip, I had only been to Paris, and a quick google of Grenoble didn’t really live up to my ideals of a French city.  Also, since it was February, I pictured freezing cold days where Ellie and I would be holed up in our hotel room watching French TV.  Oh how happy I was to be wrong for once.

First, I was wrong about the weather: it was warmer than LA.  Like sunny and high 60s almost the whole week we were there.  Second, I was wrong about everything else.  Grenoble is a mid-sized French city with modern industries and tech companies–hence my husbands business trip.  But it is also layered with history.  You simply cannot escape its history from it’s maze of neighborhoods with wide boulevards and cobbled alleys lined with beautiful French-styled architecture to the large Bastille or stone fort looming over the city on a hilltop.  I spent a good portion of my days wandering in Old Town but also getting lost in other neighborhoods and discovering antique shops, ethnic corners, art museums.

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The art and food really surprised me there.  There were Michelin-starred restaurants and world-class museums for non-world-class prices.  I loved how art and culture were accessible to all and how really good food was everywhere and affordable.  (I know I’m comparing costs to Bay Area standards which is crazy, but I do see restaurants packed with French people who I assume are mostly locals.)  The Museum of Grenoble was stunning, from the building itself to its the collections.  Ellie was happy to discover that Calder’s giant metal sculpture can double as a slide.  Having read about Calder’s artful upbringing filled with handmade toys and art that are meant to be fun, I’m sure he wouldn’t have been offended.

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After almost a week in Grenoble, we drove to the French Alps for a weekend of skiing.  The snow back home is the best snow we’ve had in years and so it’s not really fair to compare these two places just based on the snow.  Maybe because it was so unseasonably warm in the Alps this year, but the snow was, in a word, sad.  The runs were icy and the snow slushy and almost down to the rocks in some spots.  The views, though, were amazing.

The gondola ride to the top was one of the longest gondola rides I’ve ever taken, made longer by the fact that I was terrified most of the time and couldn’t stop picturing us plummeting thousands of feet below to our deaths.  The peak is over 10,000 feet above sea level, and it really felt like we were looking down at a mountain range from an airplane.

My husband splurged on the lodging we had comfortable and pampered stay at the Chalet Mounier.  It was a cozy hotel housed within a old log cabin.  The decor was super cozy and low-key.  The bar and lounges were crammed with the most comfortable overstuffed chairs and couches, stacks of books, even for kids, games and a coffee table arcade with old-school games.  Where Chalet Mounier really shows its worth is the service.  Anything you would need, just say the word and it’s done.  Ski passes?  Ski lessons for your kid?  Ride to the ski lift?  Baby sitter while you go on a date night at the Michelin-starred restaurant located in the hotel?  Done, done, and done.  After traveling to so many different places with Ellie ever since she was a baby, this was the first time that I was able to feel so relaxed, so free to enjoy a few hours without her but still get to experience things with her and make memories together.  This kind of pampering, I could get used to.
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Bonus 12 hours in Lyon before we flew home.

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