In the next posts I will write about the places I’ve lived in (after I left Spain) as I’ve been highly influenced by them. To begin with, today is Grenoble’s turn.
To put you in the picture, I lived there for 2 years while I was studying at ENSIMAG, a top French Engineering School (“Ecole d’Ingenieur”) in Computer Science, Mathematics and Telecommunications fields. This school has a ‘double degree’ agreement with the Polytechnical University of Madrid (UPM), where I’ve studied 5 years.
Grenoble is a beautiful city situated at the feet of the French Alps. Because of that and because it hosted the Winter Olympic Games in 1968, it is often called ‘Capital of Alps’. The population is about 150.000 inhabitants in the urban area and more than 500.000 in the metropolitan one.
Above all it is recognized as a major scientific center because it hosts scientific universities, laboratories, and research centers such as the CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research), Minatec (nanotechnology) and the CEA (Nuclear Energy Commission) with the most powerful synchrotron radiation source in Europe. Besides, there are many companies with established research hubs in the city surroundings, such as Schneider Electric, STMicroelectronics, Bull, Hewlett Packard, Xerox or Siemens.
Grenoble is an amazing city, and not everything in Grenoble is about studies or research! Being right next to the mountains gives many opportunities, mostly in sports: any sports related to snow, climbing, hiking, alpinism and speleology, just to mention a few. And there are almost 200 ski resorts within a distance of 150 km! I’m passionate about snowboarding so you can imagine how much I loved living there.
Social life is never a problem there. A huge mass of students arrive every year keen to meet new people and to party. Also, there are many European Universities with exchange programs with the Universities in Grenoble, so there is also a large international community.
The University campus is located in Saint Martin d’Heres, one of the Grenoble’s neighborhoods. The campus is nice, with many green zones; soccer, tennis or rugby courts; big library, and most of all, lot of life. Usually, students are living in residences, where they have a little room (some with a bathroom inside, such as Ouest or Berlioz) and always sharing the kitchen. That’s a key fact because the kitchens are the heart of the residences: where everybody meets to have dinner, and where most of the parties take place (until the guard come to throw everybody out!). I stayed at Ouest during my classes and when I started an internship I moved to Home des Etudiants, a newer residence in the center of Grenoble.
The classes usually are from 8 and 9 am to 12, lunch break, and 13:30 to 18. For having lunch, most of the people go to the public RUs (“Restaurants Universitaires”), where you can have lunch (and even dinner) for about 2.80 euro, much cheaper than any other place. Some people complain about the food, but I liked it :). Another place in the Campus to highlight is the Eve, a kind of student community center with free wifi, where you can drink a coffee or a beer after classes. They organize many weekly activities such as theater, music shows, movies, etc.
I should not forget about the students clubs. The most famous one is EGUG (Ecole de Glisse), because the members of the club can buy “Les Deux Alps 3600” or “Les 7 Laux” ski resorts tickets much cheaper than buying them another way. They also provide cheap ski or snowboard courses, not only for beginners but also for experts (there are really good freestyle courses). And finally, if you like mountain sports, stop by the Gucem/Esmug club. They organize excursions and trips with professional guides. I participated in many of them: hiking, climbing (including a weekend in Orpierre) and speology (sport which I discovered with them).
Apart from all of the above about Grenoble, I recommend you to dinner on a Friday at “Casa de España”, a typical Spanish 1970s bar converted into a non-profit association, where you can find Spanish food (tapas, croquetas, calamares, chorizo, tortilla, etc.) and beverages really cheap. The association is managed by some old Spaniards who emigrated to France when Franco ruled Spain. Another restaurant worthy is the restaurant next to the Fort Saint Eynard, where you can taste the regional dishes (tartiflette savoyarde, raclette or fondues) enjoying the best views of Grenoble and its surrounding mountains.
Well, I think you can have a pretty good idea of Grenoble after reading this! Don’t hesitate to ask me about anything you want if you plan to visit or even live in Grenoble.
Next post I will write about Nice (Niza) area in the South of France!