Spending 3 weeks in Montpellier definitely had us in a good routine, so the thought of vanlife again was sort of daunting to be honest. We got used to the easy access to a shower, a toilet, a washing machine and most importantly…a bed that we could stretch out in.
Our mission was to get from Montpellier in the south coast of France, up to Chamonix, in the French Alps, where we are settling down for the ski season. With winter well on its way and the temperature colder than anything we’d experienced in Europe this far, we decided a 3 day roadie from Montpellier-Chamonix would be primo.
First stop, Grenoble. A stunning city located right at the base of the French Alps. The city is known for its winter sports, its student lifestyle and its amazing views. An adventure lovers heaven with all year-round skiing, hiking, mountain biking, canoeing and more. You could spend a week here, bouncing from activity to activity, or just a few days and you’ll still get to explore most of this beautiful city.
Autumn in Grenoble is truly beautiful and I highly recommend it if you’re still knocking around Europe in October/November. Since most of the summer hot spots have quietened down by this point, Grenoble is a great place to go, with plenty of people to feel like the place is vibing without being overrun with tourists. The crisp cold air, the autumn leaves, the snow kissed mountains and the picturesque Isère river, lets just say you can expect a pretty amazing stay. With a short 36 hours in the city, we spent our time exploring, eating and drinking. Standard. So without a further introductory…heres what you can expect.
8:30pm – Arrived in Grenoble and just in time for dinner
Upon arrival, we drove Cassie in, without a clue where to park and just picked somewhere along the river. Perfect we thought, minus the no shower, no toilet sitch, but hey…thats vanlife. We were 10 minutes walk from the city centre, so we rugged up (a scarf, jumper and coat is essential in autumn time) and walked over the bridge and towards the town.
A turkish kebab was screaming our name but there’s plenty of options in the city centre for food. You’ve got ya cheaper options, your wine and dine type restaurants and your classic pub feeds, the choice is yours.
9pm – Go for a drink
What to do when you’ve had your dinner, but it’s too early to go back to your cold van and go to sleep? Have a drink of course! Grenoble is a student town, so there’s no shortage of young people, bars and atmosphere. Pick somewhere that has a congregation of young people and park yourself up with a beer or five. We hit up “O’Callaghans” because…well….Bryn and I have sort of become Irish bar lovers. They’re so legit when you’re travelling, always rowdy, always fun and most times always english speaking if you’re in a foreign country.
“Les amis d’abord” is another bar we heard is pretty rad. The cheapest pint you’ll find in Grenoble! The students here give it a fun, young vibe, but arrive early to get a seat.
If you’re feeling as cool as a cucumber, head to Barberousse, a bar with loud music that only sells rum. Lots and lots of flavours of rum.
Ken for a rager? Hit up “Club Vertigo,” you’ll be set till morning
11pm – Bed time
Wobbling home, it was time for bed. Back to the van we go. For a chilly November’s night, Cassie was nice and warm and our first night back in the van was lovely.
9am – Go to Pain & Cie for a delish breaky
Ready for the days adventure, we headed for Pain & Cie for the standard french breaky. Bread, bread and bread. Freshly made bread, pastries and homemade spreads (think chocolate, white chocolate and jam) and great coffee too. This is the best place for breaky, brunch or lunch. YUM.
10:30 – Stroll through Jardin de Ville
After breaky and on your way to the Grenoble Bastille Cable Car, stroll through Jardin de Ville. We stumbled upon this and the autumn leaves really got our attention, it was beautiful! Plus it’ll make for some good photos, so if you’re there in autumn, take a wander through the park.
11am – For the best view in Grenoble, head up the Cable Car
This is a must! You can’t visit Grenoble without catching the “bubble” cable car up Bastille. I say “bubble” because each little cable car looks just like a bubble. The whole experience is beautiful, fun and adventurous. If you’re not lazy like us, you can flag the cable cart and hike it right to the top.
From where the cable cart drops you, you get one hell of a view of Grenoble city and the snow kissed mountains in the horizon.
Walk around, check everything out and enjoy the view. If you’re up for it, continue walking up the hill on the gravel path, you’ll see some caves up in front and you can go right inside them. There were some dodgy stairs in the cave too, leading to nowhere. We got about 50m deep and all we could see was more stairs. I chickened out. Not prepared to walk down into hell, not today.
1pm – Head to the cat cafe for a coffee and a cuddle
After getting off the cable cart, I had one thing on my mind. THE CAT CAFE. I’d never been to one, but anyone that knows me, knows I’m sliiiiiiiiiiightly obsessed with cats so it was a no brainer when we’d happen to walk past it on the way to the cable car.
Called “Neko Cafe,” this was a fun and silly little thing to do, which definitely added to our time in Grenoble. Grab a coffee, a drink or even some food and of course, play around with the cats. There was even a sphinx! Honestly, the misunderstood no haired cat, felt like a bald mans head. I loved him.
1:30pm – Lunch time
It was time for lunch, we were craving some asian and what do we find? ASIAN! Our lucky day and it was bloody good too! “Mr Warung” is worth heading to if you’re after a Renkon style feed. Nothing fancy or expensive, just a bowl full of meat, sauce, noodles or rice. Perfect.
2:30 – Hire a bike and cycle along the river as far as you wish
Grenoble, like many cities in Europe, have an awesome bike hire system. So on your stay in Grenoble, whether it’s for 24 hours or 1 week, hire up a bike at the train station and ride along the river for as long as you can. Theres wide cycle lanes, making it easy for everyone, not to mention, it’s a really good way to see the picturesque buildings stacked along the river and bridges connecting both sides.
4:30 – Time for dessert
Time to put your feet up, you deserve it! Head to one of the dessert bars “Haagen-Dazs” or “Amorino” near the Jarden de Ville. Sit in and splurge on all the delicious treats or (for a cheaper option) takeaway always does the trick too! We went to Haagen-Dazs, got two crazy/amazing looking ice-creams and scoffed them down. If you’re budget is a little bigger than ours…get the chocolate fondant it looked TO DIE FOR, but for 21Euro, I just had to stare.
5pm – Drink mulled wine at the xmas markets
During mid November, the xmas markets around Europe pop up and spring into action. In Grenoble, the centre of the city is full of little brown shacks, fairy lights and a whole lot of xmas spirit. The cold night makes mulled wine in hand the perfect match. If the mulled wine isn’t for you, theres beer, cider, baked treats and more. Fun for the family, a couple or friends, this is the perfect way to get excited for Santa.
6:30pm – Head to the Irish pub to cheer on the All Blacks, wobble home and sleep tight
It’s always a proud kiwi moment when you’re so far from home and its game day. Lucky for us, during our 36 hours in Grenoble, we got to watch the All Blacks vs. Ireland. Back to O’callagazs Pub, because there’s no where better to watch the All Blacks play Ireland then an Irish pub. This made our stay in Grenoble all the better, with that little taste of home and an All Blacks win! Grab a bite to eat while you’re there and you’ll be in for a great night.
9am – Time to wave goodbye. Thanks Grenoble, its been real.
Up early the next morning, its time to hit the road. Another short trip on its way and this time…in Annecy. Watch this space.
Leah | free & addicted
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