Written by AIFS Resident Director, Miranda Rea
My favorite place in Grenoble has to be La Bastille. It is the first thing you see, rising above the city and in my opinion, it sums up all that is great about Grenoble – history, environment, science, culture, technology, sport, education – in a beautiful setting. You can walk, run or cycle up, or you can enjoy the views from one of the oldest urban cable cars still in operation. The original cable car line was built in 1934. Today’s “Les Bulles” (the bubbles) as they are fondly known, is an update built in 1976 by local manufacturer Poma.
Bastille means fortress in French, and although Grenoble is known as the cradle of the French Revolution, it has never had to be used to defend the city! Open all year round, anyone can enjoy its many attractions. There are three main entrances, and each represents a part of Grenoble’s history and brings it to life. The Jardin des Dauphins showcases women, revolution, and the environment. The Escalier leads to Musée Dauphinois, represents the city’s religious history. The Musée Saint Laurent is Grenoble’s Archaeological Museum highlighting the Gallo Roman history of the city. You can explore the fort’s underground Mandrin Caves and climb above the fort to Mount Jalla.
What is so wonderful about the Bastille? It has to be the views both from, and as you make your way to, the top.
- On a clear day, you can see the snow-capped peak of Mont Blanc, the highest point in Europe at 4,808m.
- In the near distance, there is a forest shaped to look like an eagle with its wings spread, in honor of Napoleon.
- The ski resort of Chamrousse is perched on the Belledonne mountain range with the villages, church spires scattering the hillside.
- To gain another perspective try the rope course and zipline which past students agree is a highlight of the visit.
- A look down on the red roofs of the old city stretching out from the riverbank towards the more contemporary designs of the suburbs and the longest avenue in Europe, the Cours Jean Jaurès.
- The street art of Grenoble is visible even from the top of La Bastille.
- Follow the tram as it travels across the river past the teaching hospital towards the university campus.
- Gaze down at the scientific research center with its “synchrotron” where particles chase each other, and new discoveries are always being made.
- Climb up past vines that have been replanted as they existed in medieval times.
- Taking a wider view, you realize that Grenoble is indeed nestled in a valley shaped like a Y – one direction Switzerland, one direction Lyon and one direction the south of France.
- At the entrance to the Jardin des Dauphins, Philis de la Charce (1645-1704) sits confidently aside her rearing house, a feisty woman, who legend says led armies, was a writer and whom Louis XIV appreciated. The gardens themselves by their name evoke the history of past dukes and nobles, while today providing protection to plants within its Mediterranean micro-climate.