Cheese, cheese and more cheese

Today is my final day of a three-week summer school in Grenoble. Our timetable has been hectic at best and so my apologies for the long delay in posting my final posts from the Vanoise, something that I will do over the course of the next week. I’ve also had some pretty amazing adventures in the mountains around Grenoble whilst I’ve been here, so no doubt you’ll hear about them in due course.

Three weeks is a fair amount of time to spend away, especially when coupled with the two-and-a-bit weeks we were in the Vanoise shortly before this, and I’ll admit that I’m definitely missing Britain. So, in a break from my tradition of only writing about mountains, here are my (intendedly light-hearted) reflections on what’s good and what’s not about staying in France.

Why I miss Britain

  • Wholemeal bread. Don’t get me wrong, I love baguettes, but after three weeks of them I’ve had enough!
  • British weather. There, I said it! I’ve always maintained that I enjoy Britain’s weather, and I definitely feeling that more than ever now. I’m longing for a damp and misty day up on the moors, or a wet and windy day scrambling over some ridge line in Snowdonia; you can’t beat it. All this sunshine (ironically it’s just starting raining as I write this) is great for a change, but it lacks the dynamicicity and unpredictability of good old Blighty.
  • British cheese. We’ve been given more cheese in the past few weeks than I’m likely to have for the rest of my life; they definitely lived up to their stereotype! I do like French cheese, and some of my favourite cheese include Tomme de Chevre and Blue d’Avergne, but I still maintain that we have the better selection at the end of the day. Though apparently, no one outside of Britain knows about our great selection – I spent a good part of my three weeks educating people!
  • Driving on the left. I hired a bike whilst I was here, and I never did get used to cycling on the right; it just feels wrong.
  • British mountains. The Alps are all well and good, but they’re still not a patch on our hills. I’m also fed up of following signs and am longing to do some proper mapwork again!
  • Rock quality. Whilst we’re on the subject, I’m fed up of crumbly Alpine rock and having to test every single handhold before making a move. It makes me appreciate how lucky we are in Britian to have such good rock!

Why I’ll miss France

  • Tomatoes. Well, fruit and veg in general, but I’ve picked tomatoes as there’s probably the biggest difference between Sainsbury’s tomatoes (tastless and watery) to Carrefour’s tomatoes (rich, juicy and full of flavour).
  • Croissants and pain au chocolat. I do love a good croissant, and they’re just not the same over in the UK.
  • Good coffee. You’re hard pushed to find a bad coffee in France!
  • Provisions for cyclists. As far as a city goes, Grenoble is really good for cycling around. Cycle lanes are marked out everywhere, for the most part bikes get priority over cars and drivers genuinely seem aware of their two-wheeled counterparts; possibly because there are so many of us.
  • Cheap wine. I refrained from writing “good wine”, because you can get very good wine in Britain, it just costs one heck of a lot more! For around €2, you can get a decent red wine that would probably set you back £5 in the UK.

So, c’est la vie! And until next year at least, adieu la France!

Our group at ESONN, the European School on Nanostructures and Nanotechnologies

Our group at ESONN, the European School on Nanostructures and Nanotechnologies