G = Grenoble, France

In 2005, we headed off to France with some friends to run the Paris Marathon.  What could be better than running a race at the centre of the universe? (have I ever mentioned my unending love affair with Paris?).

… but rather than spending 10 glorious days just in Paris, we thought it would be a great idea to take a side trip.  Target destination – Grenoble, 480 km away (almost 300 miles).

I had first heard of Grenoble as a child watching the 1968 Winter Olympics, but that wasn’t the draw on this trip.

The attraction was actually the famous Alpe d’Huez mountain climb from the Tour de France.  This was a time when Lance Armstrong was still THE name in cycling and had not yet been vilified.

G = Grenoble4

Off we went in a little rental car to tackle this incredible climb. It is approximately a 14km climb at an average grade of 8%.  There are 21 hairpin turns and a maximum grade of 13%.

In other words, this is serious climbing.

G = Grenoble
That’s a cyclist barreling down the mountain into that hairpin turn.

Sometimes we wondered whether our little rental was going to survive the journey.  I couldn’t imagine doing this on a bicycle.

G = Grenoble2

Part way up Alpe d’Huez is a small stone church snuggled between 2 hairpin turns.  The churchyard includes a tiny elevated cemetery with the most incredible view.  As far as eternal resting places go, this one has to be one of the most fabulous locations I’ve ever seen.

G = Grenoble3

It is in Grenoble where we all learned a very valuable lesson about ensuring you know exactly where you are going and how to get back.

The four of us all headed off blithely for an easy 30 minute jog to keep loose for the weekend race.  Since we all run at different speeds, it wasn’t long before we had split up.

Each one of us got horribly lost in the twisty confusing streets of Grenoble. We discovered – all too late – that even straight lines weren’t really.

Incredibly, none of us knew the name of the hotel where we were staying, or the street on which it was located.  It would be 2 hours before all 4 of us were eventually reunited safely at our hotel.

When we think about Grenoble, that is the story we all remember.



  1. This was a disaster for two hours. Joanne, I am so glad you all reunited safe and sound. It reminded me of when our high school group went to a museum, some wanted to shop afterwards but a few, enough to share a taxi, wanted to go back to the hotel and sleep. Oops! No cell phone, although we all knew Spanish didn’t know a lot about giving directions or landmarks, since none of us remembered the street. Like in the US where you may see Hilton’s or Red Roof Inns there may be two or more of each in a large city. Same thing. We paid driver to go to one place, sent best student in to see if it was the one we were staying at, back in taxi, head opposite direction and reoeat until we find the right one. Equivalent of about $80 split four ways plus tip. We didn’t get back in time for naps, had to hurry and get dressed for evening meal in a Spanish Grotto, a restaurant in a cavern.


  2. Great post!
    Thank you for connecting the Olympics (I remember that the Olympics were there), the Tour de France route, and the story of all of you getting lost.
    Very entertaining!


  3. Gorgeous shots! I thought I would die riding a 6% grade switchback downhill and can’t even imagine a 15% grade.

    What a hilarious (probably not at the time) story about getting lost.


    • I’ve done a few mountain climbs and descents but none of them quite as ambitious as Alpe d’Huez. No question that the descent would be a major adrenaline rush, but I think my hands would probably cramp from squeezing so hard on the brakes all the way down!!


      • The sensation I feared the most was either having the back end flip over the front because of too much brake or my being hit by a car coming up the road when I failed to keep the bike in my own lane when taking the curves.

        I’m sure it was fate that I am alive today, I certainly had no control, that’s for sure.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for introducing me to a lovely place. I’d heard of Grenoble but not really taken much notice. Some of the Tour de France climbs are crazy, this one included. An oh what a tale of your visit.


  5. That road looks amazing! I wouldn’t want to go up or down it on a bike, though. I’m a big fan of old cemeteries and that one has just about the best view of any I’ve seen – too bad the residents don’t get to enjoy it! I’ve gotten lost in strange towns before. I know make sure I grab the hotel’s business card before I go anywhere.


    • That’s a really good idea. I’ll have to remember that little trick!! It’s especially problematic when you’ve been travelling through several cities. They start to blur after a while. I think that was part of our problem. In our heads, our hotel was in Paris and this was just a small detour.

      I’ve seen some interesting cemeteries in our travels but this one was certainly the prettiest. Unfortunately I haven’t been very consistent about taking photos.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I would drive that road…absolutely. It’s gorgeous! I would also have to stop at that church, it’s so unique. What better place to be at rest than with a view of the mountains?


    • I certainly hope not!! It’s interesting visiting cemeteries in different countries and noticing their traditions.
      In this cemetery we noticed that family and friends would get tiny little stone monuments put on the grave. They would bear inscriptions “From Niece” or “From Brother”. It just so happens that these particular graves didn’t have any, but some graves had several. I thought it was such an interesting tradition.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Grenoble was my first trip to Europe. Our son was headed to Italy for a climbing competition and some of the older guys were in a bouldering comp in Grenoble. I well remember all of those twisty roads. I think we were lost a lot of the time. 🙂


  8. The thing I remember about Grenoble was how it always seemed to be in the shade of the mountains. I drove there in a 55 VW bug with stick shift and iffy brakes so I doubt I’ll even forget the drive (this was 1970)! T’is embarrassing when you forget the name of your hotel.


  9. Oh goodness! Maybe not the best memory but a beautiful place all the same! I’m directionally challenged so I definitely sympathize and I’m sure I would have been the first and most lost! BTW, reading this reminds me that I actually had a dream last night about visiting France although I’ve never done so. Can’t really remember the dream much aside of that detail either!!


  10. I have not heard of Grenoble. It looks like a beautiful part of France and those views! Wow! Isn’t it crazy to see the kinds of hills cyclists climb in Europe? They are insane😬


  11. What a marathon! What a graveyard! What a great story (looking back on it anyway). Great pix, Joanne. I have never heard of Grenoble before so now your story will be my association with it as well.


  12. Funny, how these place names, where there was some major sports event, linger in our memories! You surely got some lovely photos there, even though you got lost! 🙂

    I remember Sapporo, Japan, because in Sweden, there’s a tiny village up north … very few people living there … with the same name. It got a lot of attention during those weeks LOL


  13. Today it wouldn’t have been a problem – you’d have just pulled out your phone, seen where you were on Google Maps and called the others to arrange a meeting place! Technology is very good for some things!!


  14. Beautiful scenery. I’m sure you all enjoyed it right up to the “Oh crap” part of it when you realized you were lost. I’m glad it makes for a funny story in hindsight. Being lost in a place where I don’t speak the language would terrify me. I can’t imagine cycling there, either.


  15. Wonderful photos of what looks to be a place from another time. I can only imagine how scared and then irritated you must have been to get lost so easily! You were beguiled by the beauty of the place.


    • It actually was a very scary situation. None of us were carrying any money, no ID, and the other couple didn’t speak any French. It was very tense for a while.
      … but as with most disasters, we can laugh about it now.


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