First week in Grenoble

Trip Start Oct 26, 2006
Trip End Aug 2007

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Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Bonjour tout le monde!

I apologize for my tardiness in writing the first of my weekly updates to our travel blog. I've been trying not to speak too much english now that I'm in french school in Grenoble, but it's definitely inevitable I will speak some.

All is well here so far. After a teary-eyed departure with Seth, the flight went just fine. When he dropped me off, he took my bags in for me while I watched the car. After saying good-bye I went inside to then be scolded by a woman with Northwest Airlines for leaving my bags unattended for what was maybe 2 - 3 minutes. After just having said good-bye to Seth, I uncontrollably burst into tears in front of her. She then took pity on me and stayed with me until my bags were completely checked. They also only charged me for one of my overweight bags. Getting on the plane was fine, and even in coach we each had our own TV monitors! That's a first for me. My arrival into Amsterdam and then Geneva went smoothly, despite only 2 or 3 hours of sleep on the plane. I'm always nervous about using my french upon arrival, and knowing that I'd be jet lagged when I got there certainly didn't help. Before heading to Grenoble for french school I had to drive (a rented car) from Geneva airport to Châtel (where we will be spending the winter - about 1.5 hours from Geneva). In Chatel I needed to drop off some winter items that I didn't want to lug all the way to Grenoble with me. However before heading there, I had to do some research about the train from Geneva to Grenoble, which I would take the next morning.

Geneva has by far the coolest airport I have ever been to. It's very simple. First off, they didn't even look at my passport (much less stamp it). The luggage carts are FREE (and with 2 checked pieces of luggage weighing in at 70 lbs. each, I was quite grateful). All passengers exit via the same door after getting their luggage, so the person picking them up knows exactly where to find them (not that this mattered since I was on my own to go rent a car). Then, the train station is attached, so you walk about 200 meters from where you exit the luggage carousels and you're in the train terminal (still without even exiting the building). The first challenge came when I went to ask about my train ticket. I was able to get my ticket just fine, but then I had to ensure that the train I wanted to take would allow bikes (depends on what train you take). Per the Swiss guys at the baggage service desk, it's forbidden to take your bike over the Swiss/French border into France via the train. WHAT?? That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. And since when was that in effect?, I asked. Oh, about 2 or 3 years ago, they said. Hmm, that's interesting, considering that Seth and I did the same thing when we were here in 2004. I asked the woman at the rental car desk what she thought about this, and she thought the same thing I did. She said that maybe I should ask someone else (in the hopes of getting a different answer). In all my tiredness I just wanted to get to Châtel and go to sleep, so I decided I would just try to get on the train tomorrow with bike in hand and then play dumb if anyone said anything (better to beg forgiveness than ask permission, right Papa Davis?). If they wouldn't let me, I would then just have to ride my bike through the center of Geneva (a daunting task) and over the french border, then catching the train on the french side.

I got my rental car just fine and headed up to Châtel. It was still light and absolutely beautiful when I got up there. Surprisingly warm as well for the end of October at 3,000 feet. I found and was able to get into the apartment just fine. I then got my 2nd wind and was able to put my bike together. Finally, after a little food and a call home, went to bed after probably 30 - 35 hours with only 2 - 3 hours of sleep. I slept deep! The next morning I had to get up early to get back down to Geneva in order to return the car and (hopefully) catch the train. As I suspected, it was no problem at all to take my bike on the train from Switzerland to France. Later I would explain to my host mom what had happened, saying that possibly it was a miscommunication in the translation. Her response was, no, maybe not, as sometimes the Swiss are funny that way. Who knows!

So now, a week and a half later, I am well settled into my french school life in Grenoble. I am staying with a wonderful french family, the Jacobs. They are a family of 6 (names omitted to protect the innocent), and have given me the warmest welcome into their home. I have a beautiful bedroom that is normally occupied by one of the daughters who happens to be in the States for a year. She is an artist, so I am fortunate to have her room with beautiful artwork all around. My room also has french doors that open up to a view of the garden.

After a week and a half I've already seen quite a bit of progress in my french. Some of it I think may be due to getting back into it, as well as adjusting to the speed at which my french family speaks. When they speak amongst themselves I always understand the subject and some of the details, but not all of the details. This is good, as it means I can gradually pick up more and more over the next 2 months.

It's quite cold here, but very dry, so no signs of snow yet. Everyone tells me to have patience, as the snow will come (hopefully soon is what I'm thinking!).

This past weekend I went for a hike in the Chartreuse, one of the mountain ranges that surround the city. I went with my friend Nicolas, his girlfriend Severine, and her son, Vincent. Photos attached are from the hike, as well as some of my cute bedroom.

I hope all is well! I will try to send updates more often now.

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