11 weeks in France and I still have not returned to the UK! This seems quite incredible when I think about it like this as before I started my year abroad, I had never been abroad for more than six weeks at one time. A year ago, six weeks would have seemed like a very long time but now that I have done nearly three months in France, I think six weeks would seem comparatively easy! However, although I have not made it back to England recently, I did have two very special visitors for four days last week. My parents!!
As you can imagine, I had been looking forward to the day my parents arrived since they told me back in September that they would be coming here. They arrived on Sunday afternoon and stayed until wednesday afternoon which was lovely as we had lots of time to catch up and to go and visit lovely areas of the Rhone Alpes region together. It was also nice because we stayed in a hotel in a small town called Charavines which is about 40 minutes away from Grenoble by car. I had never been to Charavines before so I enjoyed being able to see another new place and also to be able to enjoy the peaceful countryside with my parents.
During their visit, we visited a few small towns in the Parc naturel regional de Chartreuse. These included: Saint Laurent du Pont, Entre deux Guiers, Les Echelles and Saint Pierre de Chartreuse. I instantly fell in love with all of these places as they were typical old fashioned French towns with Boulangerie's and Fromagerie's spilling out onto the pavements, little French cafes full of local people enjoying each-others company, and the spectacular views of the Alpes in the background. Not only this, but we saw some fantastic rivers, waterfalls, and forests whilst we were out and about which really made the scene complete. We also got to see some breathtaking scenery as we drove on the mountain roads. One sight that led us to stop the car and take photos was a gorge which wound it's way around one mountain that was like something we had never seen before. It was just standing on it's own at an incredible altitude sticking out of the top of the gorge. This was certainly something that we don't see everyday so I think between the three of us we took a fair few pictures of it. It was pretty scary for us being in a French car and driving on the opposite side of the road to what we are used to (especially on roads as windy as these!) as we felt like we needed to stay as close to the middle of the road as possible in order to keep a distance between us and the vertical drops on the other side of the car. Scary times!
In between our daily adventures, we also explored a good selection of French dishes in some very traditional and old fashioned restaurants which really topped off the experience. One of the restaurants that we ate in was a gorgeous 1940's style French cafe/restaurant with a selection of decorations hanging from the ceilings and household items of the time, such as sewing machines and old radios. The food was also fantastic! We treated ourselves to a three course meal as there was not a menu that didn't make us feel tempted! We ate here twice because it was so wonderful! The first time I had a pumpkin soup with a lump of cheese, a tomato, and some basil in it followed by a lovely beef dish with homemade handcut potatoes and vegetables, and then to finish, I had a beautifully rich chocolate mousse. As you can probably imagine, by the end of this I could hardly stand up but it was well worth it! We ate in another restaurant too which was also lovely and for lunch we treated ourselves to baked goodies from the Boulangeries which went down a treat! So by the end of our little holiday, we had eaten very well but had also done an awful lot of hill walking so I think we deserved the food :)
To finish the holiday, we went up the Grenoble Bastille on Wednesday before my parents dropped me back at the Auberge and set off on their journey home. The trip up to the Bastille was rather mysterious as we went up in a cable car and found ourselves disappearing into clouds. Grenoble looked like a ghost town with the blanket of white over it. I also noticed how noisy you realize the city is once you are out of it. That is coming from a typical country bumpkin!
We had a fantastic few days travelling around a part of the region that none of us had ever visited before. It was a very tearful goodbye on my part as it is always hard going back to being alone in a foreign country without your friends and family there with you. However, it is now only five weeks until Christmas so I am now back into the swing of life at work and trying to get the most that I possibly can out of the last part of my French placement. I am going to leave you now but please take a look at the 'Photos-Grenoble/Rhone Alpes' page of the blog to see the photographic evidence of how amazing the food and scenery that I have just told you about was. Prepare to be amazed!