My friend Ben asked me my impressions of France, my response, "meh." He laughed and said those were his exact thoughts. That's maybe not the response you want to read about France, but don't take my statement at face value. I didn't have a bad time in France, I wasn't disappointed by France, I've just learned a few things about myself and travel.
The plan was to meet Alison in Grenoble, spend three days there with her to acclimatize, then move South to the Ardeche region of South France. Thank heavens my wife knows me and decided to surprise me at the airport, I would have been helpless in the airport trying to find the shuttle that would take me to Grenoble. I learned very quickly that I'm quite shy when attempting to use my meager Francais vocabulaire. Alison on the other hand has had a lot more experience navigating the EU and is not afraid to ask people where to go.
From the airport we took a shuttle to Grenoble, where we were to stay with friends of my dad. Many years before I was born my dad lived as a missionary in Grenoble, he spent two years in the city, adopted a second language and many life long friends. One of those life long friends was Donna, who graciously offered us her time and home to stay in. Plans changed a little and we ended up staying in an apartment on the West side of Grenoble, very close to La Bastille. I'd like to say I settled in quickly, but Alison wouldn't let me settle, she insisted I stay up as long as possible to combat jet lag. Stupid time zones.
To make a long story short, Alison and I stayed in Grenoble for three days, we explored the city, we explored La Bastille, I went for a very scary mountain bike ride with my new french friend, Lukas, we swam in a delightful river, we ate French food at a French cafe and I drank Belgium beer because I didn't trust the French stuff (I couldn't understand the label). We also both lost about 5lbs in water weight due to the intense heat. Grenoble is a beautiful city and there is a lot to explore. Do yourself a favor, rent a bike, it's the fastest type of travel in the city.
All in all, Grenoble was a really cool place, plenty of culture, plenty of history. We stayed there just long enough get a taste of the city but not too long for the experience to be soured by city life. From Grenoble it was off to the Ardeche region for Alison's stage race. Hello highways with a speed limit of 130km/h!!!