Today it became winter. Summer here comes away like a slice; one minute I was wearing t-shirts and getting sunburnt, now I’m typing in gloves. The mountains outside my window are a vista of snow, but my halls haven’t turned on the heating.
Conversely, the coming of winter is celebrated in the Alps. This Saturday I went on a trip to Annecy, the ‘Venice’ of France where Rousseau once lived with his slightly doubtful ‘Maman’, but today the scene of the ‘Retour des Alpages.’ Traditionally, this is the time when all the livestock are brought back down from the mountains for winter. The lanes of the old town were full of market stalls selling potato stew, chestnuts and apple juice, through which was later squeezed an entire procession of animals: cows, sheep, goats and donkeys. The cows created the greatest stir, occasioning great laughter from the tightly packed crowd. When asked what was going on, a Frenchman turned to me and said that evocative, recurrent word ‘les bouses.’
But all is not just countryside and cowpats here. Earlier in the week I found myself in the Grenoble Chamber of Commerce, having been accepted on a kind of business programme that introduces exchange students to local enterprises. To this end I have been given a business coach, Hervé, who is promising to take me out on trips, introduce me to his family and generally show me the region. He even sweetly added that, if ever I was to ‘have the cockroach’ (be homesick) I can give him a call.
Well, we’ll see where that goes. I now have to organise a project linking Grenoble with Scotland.
So – will Grenoble have its first ceilidh? Will the central heating turn on? As yet it’s hard to tell. However, for now, I’ll get my coat.

Categories: France, Grenoble

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