Yet another month has passed since I last posted, and it is finally looking like winter here in Le Puy-en-Velay. Last night we got our first snowfall that actually stayed on the ground, and now our town is covered in white; a welcome change of scenery.
Of course, we weren’t just going to sit around in Le Puy for the entire cold, snowless month of January (especially since it was my last month of 3-day weekends!), so two weeks ago Igor and I headed over to Grenoble for a long weekend. Our main motivation was skiing, since our last experience in the Alps was less than ideal. When we went to ski with my parents back in December, it was so foggy that we could barely see 10 feet in front of us, and one treacherous ride down the mountain took us an hour and a half. We were all happy to have made it down alive, considering it was impossible to see where the actual trail was and periodic red circles were the only thing keeping us from skiing off a cliff.
This time, the weather was lovely, and Igor and I went to Les 2 Alpes, a ski resort with a glacier at the top of the mountain. The views were nice, the hot dogs were amazing (finally!), and despite another near-death experience where I windmilled down a steep hill of ice and then nearly skied on my face for the rest of the hill, resulting in a 3-inch bruise on my butt, I would say it was a pretty satisfactory day of skiing.
What the trip ended up really being, though, was more of a trip down memory lane than a ski weekend. It was the first time that Igor and I really had the time to go visit all our old haunts and meet up with old contacts since we studied in Grenoble back in Spring 2009. And voilà, the reason for the title of this post, ‘la nostalgie.’
Grenoble is not the first place that I have lived and left and then gone back to. I left home for college in Boston, I left Boston for Grenoble, then back to Boston, and now back to France. What makes it so different from other places I have lived, though, is the timing – I lived in Grenoble for only four months, but it was a significant four months. And now it has been almost three years since I was there. Igor and I both realized that while the city itself has changed a bit, it is really us who have changed.
It was so fun to walk through the streets and see restaurants, bars, shops, parks, even just street corners, some that we had forgotten about, that brought back memories of our old habits, old friends, and past experiences. I was sad to learn that the restaurant I frequented at least once a week for the whole semester is no longer there (R.I.P. Tonneau de Diogène, I hope you only relocated), but ecstatic to learn that the café I used to go to equally as often, and where I learned to appreciate coffee for the first time, also has an awesome breakfast that I never tried when I lived there. Igor was surprised that Couche Tard, his favorite bar while we lived in Grenoble, no longer seems as cool. I thought that it was just because it was a week night, but Igor’s feelings towards it seem to have more to do with how he and his lifestyle have changed in the last 3 years and the memories he associates with the place. Maybe a divey college bar isn’t as appealing when you’re no longer a student? But I liked it better this time around, so I guess it’s different for everyone.
It was weird to see the city again, at times kind of sad because there are things we miss, and also kind of surprising because of things that were new (Sushi Shop, Wok Bar… why did the asian food arrive after we left?!). Not all my memories from Grenoble are good, but I think this trip really highlighted how good we had it when we lived there. Igor and I agreed that Grenoble feels kind of like our home in France. It’s the first place we lived in France, Igor still knows the streets and town squares like the back of his hand (and I can still only get around by referring to landmarks), and it feels strangely familiar despite the fact that we are foreign, or maybe because we are foreign, considering what an international student town it is.
It was also awesome to realize that after what I thought of as a pretty American-centric semester in France (thanks for striking, university of grenoble. not.) we still have some French contacts there. It was great to see Marie-Eve, the program director for BU’s study abroad program in Grenoble, and interesting to hear how things are changing for the program. We were happy to hear that she has good memories from our semester, too. We also hung out a lot with Vince, Igor’s friend who is studying in Grenoble and had amazing stories from his travels in South America. Igor reconnected with his host mom, and when we chatted with her it felt as if we had just been living in Grenoble yesterday. It’s like no time at all has passed, and yet so much has changed. We are different, Grenoble is different, life is different… I wonder how different Boston will feel when we get back?