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Yesterday’s ascent of around 800m to La Moucherotte was quite exhausting so I have decided to do a smaller hike. Today’s hike is in the Belladonna mountain range, which is one of the three mountains surrounding Grenoble, the other two being the Vercors and the Chartreuse. The receptionist at my hotel suggested I go to Lac Achard which is a small hike (~400m) from a small town named Chamrousse. The 1968 winter olympics were held in Grenoble and seem to have developed the city as well as neighboring towns.

On reaching Chamrousse, I could see that it has been developed for skiing in winter with many cable cars to take people to the mountain summits. In the summers, people come here to trek in the Belledonne range but this time of the year falls between winter and summer so everything was closed. Perhaps the restaurant and hotel-owners were themselves on a vacation!

I had a quick glance at the map on my iPhone and decided to go in the direction of the lake without looking it repeatedly. As it would happen, I soon lost the way but decided to keep going. My motto during hiking is: There is only one direction – Upward!

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After some more time of climbing, my Google Map suggested the lake is only a few meters away from where I was heading, although there was no trail leading to it. And how could it be; the map’s top view seemed close enough but not the side view!

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Lac Achard (Lake Achard)

Anyhow, I decided to go to the Croix de Chamrouse, which is a peak from where people ski (in winters). There was snow enroute, just as the Russian couple in the bus had suggested. I took some quick pictures.

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The cable car lines in the background, which carry people uphill for skiing in winter

The higher I went, the windier it would get. My investment in the NorthFace rainproof windproof jacket seemed to pay off since it was the only jacket I was wearing. It was surprising to see a couple climb without much cold protection and I was so amused, I asked them for a selfie.

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Crazy awesome Europeans!

I took some pictures at the top – la Croix de Chamrouse but it was windy so I started my descent soon.

IMG_6123Indeed there was a cross, the French word for which must be “croix”.

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The “croix” of Chamrousse

I quickly descended in under an hour and waited for the bus. Since there were two hours for the bus and shops and restaurants were all closed, I hitchhiked from the same aforementioned couple to reach a latter bus-stop with restaurants. The hike was excellent so far except that I forgot my hiking poles (borrowed from Shashank) in their car. I will buy a new pair (as good if not better) in Interlaken, Switzerland tomorrow hoping that he won’t be too mad at me! May be I can buy a        for him and his wife just to be sure 🙂

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Local French/Italian cuisine

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I’ve been in Grenoble for two days now and am loving it. Grenoble is surrounded by mountains (the Vercors, the Chartreuse and the Belledonne (wow, I could recall all of them!)) on all sides with two rivers — Le Drac (the lion) and Le Isere (the serpent) — going through it. Indeed, it is the capital of the Alps.

Today I went on a hike in the Vercors mountain range, climbing the peak Le Moucherotte (1910m). I started in the morning by taking a bus from the Grenoble station to Saint-Nizier (110m) and started my hike from there.

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Signboard at the start

It was a perfect sunny day as I looked up to La Moucherotte.

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La Moucherotte

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The path went through scenic woods but it was a brutal, merciless ascent without resting spots.

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Crazy mountain biker!

Tired as I was climbing, a dog ran past me followed by it’s owners. “Bon jour”, I replied my ego crushed. I saw quite a few people on the way – people and their dogs and bicycles – doing the trek. Here is a mountain biker.

Finally I reached the summit after the promised two and a half hours, much to my surprise.

Beer time!

Beer time!

The circular table is called an orientation table and it helps to find which mountain range you can see in every direction.

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Snow!

There was some snow on the way, to say the least.

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View during descent

Waiting for the bus, chilling with some Italian food.

Waiting for the bus, chilling with some Italian food.

I am on a trip to CIRM, Luminy which is a research institute in the town of Marseille in France, for a conference in mathematics. CIRM seems to be a wonderful place for Mathematics, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The campus is on a mountainous terrain which meets the Mediterranean sea at stone’s throw. The result is a beautiful trail leading to what the French call a “calanque“.

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Since this has been my first visit to France, I couldn’t help but observe a few quirks about the place. At the train station, there was a mobile charger which you needed to pedal, to charge your phone; can’t imagine this in the US! I traveled from Paris to Marseille, which is a distance of 800 km in 4 hours in the famous TGV train. Bullet trains are also unusual in the US.

CIRM is a purely research institute and in fact, is purely for conferences. Every week there is a conference in some area of Mathematics and researchers around the world in specific areas gather here to attend it. The lunch and dinner at the institute are elaborate and methodical and indicate to me that the French take their food seriously. Every meal is a five-course meal : entrée –> main dish –> bread + cheese (baguette et la fromage) –> dessert –> café. One of the days, we were served the famous Bouillabaise of Marseille, which is a popular local fish dish. It was served with white wine, customized to pique the mathematicians’ taste buds (read the description).

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The Mathematician’s wine

Today I went to the local supermarket to buy fruits and other groceries. It was amusing to see the number of aisles reserved for cheeses and vin (wine). Language has been a problem because only youngsters seem to know English. But politeness and the willingness to learn their culture and language go a long way in making good conversations.

Umm… what else? Well, cars park on sidewalks, cats roam freely. Roads seem narrower and cigarettes are longer. But my sample-space of a part of a small town may be too small to generalize. Tomorrow I hope to conquer Mont Puget which might offer an excellent view of the Mediterranean. More later, au revoir!

About me

Abhishek Parab

I? An Indian. A mathematics student. A former engineer. A rubik's cube addict. A nature photographer. A Pink Floyd fan. An ardent lover of Chess & Counter-Strike.

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