Sunday, July 14, 2013

French walks

We had a bit of free time as a family in Grenoble, so we got to do some "hiking"/ walking. I'm never really sure where the boundary between hiking and walking is, but no matter.
We went up to the Bastille, which sits on top of a large hill overlooking the city (476m). The entire hillside is terraced and there are a multitude of winding pathways, dark stairwells and switchback roads all leading directly up. Most people take the funicular, but we strapped H into the front pack and headed up. We were rewarded with lots of terrific views along the way, despite the overcast skies. In fact I liked the hike so much that I powered up with Heiko again the next day. That time we "bubbled" down... Which was slightly terrifying but also fun.
We also stopped in at the local hiking information office, where we had a funny interaction with the clerk.
- "Do you have any suggestions for easy hikes with a child?"
- "Yes, a lot".
Full stop.
Eventually we did get some more helpful details from this guy, so on Saturday we assembled some ginormous baguette sandwiches and set off. Following his recommendations, we ended up hiking some trails on a low hill just outside the city. At first when we entered the forest, the deep shade under the tall and thick forest canopy was a relief after the exposed roads of the nearby village. Birds sang cheerfully overhead. As we went on, the trail seemed to cut deeper into the forest floor, sometimes becoming quite muddy, and was pocked with large slippery rocks. As it was primarily a horse trail, we were dodging piles of shit, and flies buzzed consistently around our ankles. At some point, the birdsong seemed to become more shrill, constant and ominous, and we encountered only one or two other hikers. With Heiko asleep in the carrier, we fell into a quiet and steady trudge through the dark forest. Although neither Patrick nor I said anything to each other at the time, we much later discovered that we were both thinking about the war. Sometimes visiting countries like France it can be hard to reconcile the knowledge I have of the wars with the present day vacation experience of cities and civilization. Being in the dark forest, even on that hot summer day, I could begin to visualize some hint of the country's challenging past. Needless to say, I didn't take any photos of that part.
But enough of all that! We eventually came to the edge of the forest and entered into a picturesque open area (see above). We found a picnic spot and revived ourselves with our sandwiches and a mini bottle of wine. Yeah, this is French style hiking people. Side note: the almost overbearing smell of ripe cheese, cantaloupe melon, saucisson sec and basil is such a powerful smell memory from childhood trips to France.
Cue bad parenting moment:
We took a different lighter and brighter route back to the tram, so we were left with only happy thoughts of our hike outside grenoble.

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