Nov 12, 2011

hiking in the Chartreuse mountains

So our neutron diffraction beam time got cut short by 1 day because my colleagues had some sample impurities. Huge bummer, but we made the best of the bad situation and went hiking in the mountains surrounding Grenoble. The city is surrounded on all sides by 3 different mountain ranges, the Chartreuse, the Vercors and the Belledonne.

We started by climbing up the big castle on the hill called La Bastille. This fort goes back to the 16th century and was used heavily fortified during the French Revolution. The view of the city is absolutely breathtaking! There was a little bit of haze at first, but it improved as the day went on. 

When we reached the Fort about halfway up the mountain we ate some lunch at a cafe. I speak no french - nothing - so I struggled with the menu and with some help I ordered steak tartin with salad and chips and this is what I got.

GROSS! What you see there is like a pound of raw ground up steak. It was really funny to see the chinese guy with us order his meat "80% cooked." The waiter laughed in his face, but he was dead serious. The request made perfect sense to his scientist brain.

After lunch we kept hiking to the top of the mountain and got completely lost trying to come back down the back side. It was awesome. 
At one point we were trying to find somebody to ask how to get home (my buddy Maged speaks a little French) and we saw this little really, really old man holding a tennis racket/paddle thing and he starts yelling at us. I can tell something's up because Maged is acting really confused and the old man is saying/yelling the same thing over and over. Turns out the guy must have been crazy. Maged told us he kept asking over and over if we wanted to play tennis with him even when Maged was asking how to get back to Grenoble.

It was an awesome day and a killer hike, although far longer than we expected it to be when we set out. It was fun to see downtown during the day too. We saw a strike/protest of some sort happening. It wasn't nearly as romantic as Les Miserable had me thinking French protests were. No singing, strange cartoonish signs and about 30 kids with drums and face paint.

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