Tour de France, Stage 13 – Grenoble

Text read by Mary Peters

Geneviève arrives in the city of walnuts and discovers some “green stuff”.


Welcome to Grenoble, a university city, a science hub and an official city of art & culture. It is a modern city with a good quality of life. 

Its main attraction is the attractive old town, full of lively squares, shopping alleys lined with old houses. There are a few museums with rich collections. There are parks and gardens to relax in. 

Start in the Saint-André square which is lined with cafés. While you sip a coffee, look at the Gothic and Renaissance facades of the old Dauphiné Parliament Building. The hub of Grenoble life is Grenette Square. There are shops, restaurants, and cafés. 

To get a good view of the town and area, take the cable car from Grenoble to Fort La Bastille. The town offers a wide range of festivals and entertainment. History buffs can use their time in all the museums of which there are quite a few, starting with the archaeological museum and finishing with the contemporary art museum. The wide variety will satisfy all persons. 

Grenoble is the birth town of Henri Beyle, known as Stendahl. (1783 – 1842). His most famous novels are Le Rouge et Le noir. & La Chartreuse de Parme. There is also a museum dedicated to his life and works.

When you are in the region around Grenoble you will probably encounter Chartreuse. Since 1737, Carthusian Monks from the Grande Chartreuse Monastery, about 30 km south of Grenoble, have been producing this liqueur.  

Green Chartreuse is the only liqueur in the world with a completely natural green colour. It is strong stuff, with an alcohol content of 55%. At any time, only two Chartreuse monks know the identity of the 130 plants, how to blend and distil them into this liqueur. They are also the only ones who know which plants they have to macerate to produce the natural green and yellow colours. And they alone supervise the slow ageing in oak casks.

How do you drink it? To bring out all its flavour, it should be consumed very cold, possibly even on the rocks. Traditionally considered as an after-dinner drink, it is being increasingly enjoyed as a long drink. 

You can easily identify the liqueur by its presentation, it is elegantly packaged in a traditional Chartreuse liqueur bottle with the embossed seal of La Grande Chartreuse.  

You can actually learn more about the liqueur in the museum in Voiron. (Closed for renovations until December 2021). Here you can learn about how it is produced today, (the distillery is in Aiguenoire) and also buy and taste it. 

The monastery itself has been around for over 900 years. It is not open to the public, but there is an interesting story here. The German filmmaker, Philip Gröning approached the monastery in 1984 and asked for permission to make a film about life in the monastery. The reply was, “we would like to think about it”. Sixteen years later, permission was given and in 2002 and 2003, Gröning spent 6 months filming everyday life. Another 2 ½ years were spent cutting and editing the film. The result is a 3-hour documentary with no dialogue or sound effects. 

One hundred- and forty-kilometres east is the ski station of Méribel. It was constructed at the end of the 1930s at the behest of the Scotsman Peter Lindsay. The first lift was opened in 1938. 

Méribel is one of the stations in the 3 Valleys (les trois vallées). It is known as a charming Savoyard village. They have kept the chalet which provides a special Alpine flair. From Méribel you and easily reach the resorts of Courchevel and Val Thorens by skiing or by ski lift. In the pretty village, you have a large choice of activities and shopping. Don’t forget to taste the “Fondue Savoyarde” in the evenings. 

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