Grenoble: France’s Alpine Gem (9/08)

From the Fin Times, September 2008

General (why Grenoble?)

Why Grenoble? Because…of its literally out-of-the-world locale as the gateway to the French Alps …because it combines the coziness of a small town with the buzz of a big city…because of its tempting selection of four star hotels, chateaux, and top restaurants to choose from…because of its delightful assortment of musea, including one of France’s top art musea…because it is at once remote and—because of easy rail and air connections—easily accessible…because it may well be southern France’s best-kept secret…

Spectacular Grenoble

Situated at the confluence of the valleys of the rivers Darc and Isere, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, Grenoble is without doubt, France’s most spectacularly sited city. Indeed perhaps the best way to kick off your long luxurious weekend in Grenoble is to hop aboard les bulles, the special bubble-shaped Grenoble cable car that soars to the top of the ancient fortress of La Bastille the ancient fortress that overlooks the town. Revel in the panoramic view over lunch at the just refurbished Le Per Gras.

Accommodating Grenoble

For a city of only 150,000, Grenoble has an excellent selection of fine hostelries, including, in town, the dazzling, four star Park Hotel, and the cozy, centrally located Hotel d’Angletere. Prefer to stay at a chateau? The regal Grand Hotel d’Uriage located in a forest just outside of town, makes an excellent base camp for the visiting conqueror. So does the imposing Chateau de la Commanderie.

Fascinating Grenoble

A delicious bouillabaisse of the old and the new, this two thousand year old city, which was founded by the Gauls, has a long and somewhat idiosyncratic history, which includes the still-celebrated “Day of the Tiles,” the day in 1789, when the local sans-culottes climbed out onto their roofs and threw tiles at the royal troops who had been sent to subdue them. Find out more about Grenoble’s fascinating history at the Musee de l’ Ancien, which occupies a former bishop’s palace in the city’s historic center; underneath the museum lies an archaeological crypt containing the vestiges of city’s Roman walls.

Spend an afternoon lolling about the Musee de la Grenoble, feasting your eyes on its Noah’s Ark of modern art, including canvases by Tintoretto, Rubens, Gauguin, Chagall, Modigliani, Picasso, Monet, and others.