The city of Grenoble is Y-shaped and is surrounded by four mountain ranges, of which three you can see from anywhere from within the city. Le Massif de la Chartreuse in the north, Belledonne in the east (it also forms a physical between France and Italy, so on the other side it’s known as Belladonna), Le Massif du Vercors in the west, and finally, Les Oisans in the southeast. Back in winter, I’ve gone skiing in three out of these three mountain ranges, and one spring weekend back in early April, we were just chilling when E suggested we go hiking up the Chartreuse. It’s just right behind our house (see map below, my house is the pink star) and quote, “I’m sure we can reach the top and get home within 3-4 hours.”
“3 to 4 hours? Sure!” I replied, getting excited looking at the sunny weather outside through the window.
So we left the house with some packed lunch (one banana, two pieces of bread, 4 small onigiris) and one small bottle of water each because, 3 to 4 hours only right? And there are vending machines or shops up there right?
■Almost 2 hours later…
After walking past a random chateau or house of a lord back in the old days, some artificial beehives, a nice park, a cute couple with their golden retriever <3, we came upon this magnificent patch of grass overlooking the whole east side of the city. Here’s my awkward auntie pose. Note that I was still energetic and excited for getting to the top of this rock mountain.
So after lunch, we were like oh hey the view is already so great we must be near the top! But no, when I looked up the huge rock still looked so far and… unattainable. But E says, we’ll get there in 30 mins!
30 mins later, we are still climbing…
An hour later, still climbing…
Both thirsty and frustrated that the path just continued and we never seemed to get closer to the top, we continued to push while looking forward to the promise of a nice soft drink and a panoramic view at the peak. Of course things got a bit tense between E and I because I was getting impatient and angry because we were taking so much longer than he had said. But he calmed me down by saying he would belanja me a drink when we get up there so I persevered. What other choice did I have lol.
■Let’s fast forward to two hours later = Four hours since we started
We made it to the top!! We were momentarily distracted by the awesome views. It didn’t let me down. So much higher and better than the view atop Bastille (another ancient fort in the middle of the city)!
And here’s Le Fort St. Eynard, located 1338m in altitude. Using my limited French, I figured out that this fort was constructed in 1879, after French lost to Germany in the Franco-Prussian war, “to fortify French borders in order to prevent enemies from entering France through the Chartreuse mountain range.” Although occupied by troops for a certain period of time, the fort was never used in military battle because of its location far away from battle zones in both the First and Second World Wars.
All this history is good and nice, but for us living in 2016 on a hiking trip after climbing for 4 hours without enough water, at that moment we were really more interested in something to drink.
BUT IT WAS CLOSED. It was only going to open in MAY. Well I was ok, I still had a precious sip of water in my bottle so I sipped on it to get ready for the looong hike down.
■Another 3 hours later…
We’re finally at altitude zero, and E was so desperate he almost drank from a water fountain clearly labelled “NON-POTABLE” in red but I had to pull him back. 10 minutes later, we finally saw a gas station and gulped down some of the best-tasting lemonade ever. And when we got home, we ordered some really greasy pizza because we earned it!
If you thought Chartreuse sounds familiar, yes, it’s the name of a French liqueur made from herbs by the monks living up in the mountain ranges. They sell it at all the supermarkets here. You see the green bottle on the top left of this really messy sushi dinner?↓ Yeap, that’s it. It aids digestion so French people sometimes take a shot of it after dinner. It’s an acquired taste, though, very herby and sweet and reminds some of mouthwash but I like it.