Sunday, June 22, 2008

Fete de la Musique

France celebrates the Fete de la Musique every year on June 21st. The festival has been around since 1982, and the initiation can be attributed to the then Minister of Culture, Jack Lang and Director of Musique, Maurice Fleuret. Through a study, they discovered that among the 5 million French people, 1 out of every two children could play an instrument but did not have an opportunity to show off their skills. Also, 75% of the 4 million instruments owned by the French, were deteriorating away in cupboards and rubbish. So they came up with a plan to find a way to get people to pick up these instruments, restore them, and come out in the streets to 'enchant anyone who cared to listen.'

A request was sent out to "Faites de la musique"- Make Music, between 8.30 and 9 in the evening on the summer solstice. Needless to say, it was a dream come true and now not only in France but in countries all over the world the day is celebrated with people coming out and playing a variety of instruments on the street corners, the market squares, the gardens..

Yesterday, I got to witness my first Fete de la Musique. I went to the city along with a new friend, a French intern who started at XRCE on the same day as I did. At each corner, 'place', garden, and also, at the Bastille, the fort on the mountain overlooking the city, there were concerts. The atmosphere was awesome!

Here are some pics of a few bands, some seemed like professionals and some soon to be professionals and they played French music, Jazz, Rock, English (knocking on heavens door!, Wonderwall!), Rap.

We walked around in the city and kept meeting people we know cause the entire town was out on the streets. Then we took the cable car up the Bastille. The ride was free, this evening because of the Fete :) You can see the bubbles as they are called here, climbing over the river in the pic below.

The view from the Bastille is spectacular and one can also catch a glimpse of Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in western Europe, the only ghostly white peak on the horizon (BTW, don't want you straining your eyes to catch it, I have not put a pic of it here).

I love the color of the roof tops and even though it is so high, you can see different architectural elements of the buildings and I think I could spend hours looking at the city below.

I plan to explore the fort, with all its ramparts, steps, banquettes ... in the future

but for yesterday it was all about the sound of music... we went back into the city and caught many more mini concerts and ofcourse, some French food- crepes and apple cider. Love both! The cider is less strong as compared to beer and has a very refreshing taste.

One day is too less and I was left wanting more..... many more Fetes de la Musique.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

life in grenoble

Almost three weeks have gone by in Grenoble and I am beginning to feel settled and quite at home. For the first two weeks, it was rainy and overcast all the time and I was beginning to associate this place with rain. The weather is getting better by the day and I hope it will stay sunny. Last evening, I caught a glimpse of my favorite mountain range here, the Belledonnes, and the light from the setting sun made the snow and clouds look like light pink cotton candy. I have heard from a friend, that it looks even better in winter when the mountains are blanketed in snow.

Speaking about friends, I am beginning to form friendships here and also made acquaintances with some very interesting folks whom I met by chance. Among these are the guy who runs one of the tabacs stores (tobacco/newspaper etc.) with his brother, in the city. I had stopped by to pick up a calling card and troubled him a lot with all my questions, since he was the first person I met in the city who spoke English! He gave me directions on so many topics and was kidding that I was officially at the tourist office. Now, whenever I need a card I stop by the store - he remembers me and I flaunt some of my French, which is still really very little :P

Then there was this teacher I met at the burger place who just happened to share the table with me since all the others were taken and we had a very interesting discussion about languages and France. She told me that she never stops at the fast food joint but that she was very happy she did cause she got to meet me :D That reminds me- I should contact her and see if she wants to meet up sometime.

During the first few days here, I would visit the grocery store very often, I have been quite fascinated with the food (now, you can imagine me returning home very fat). I got to know this security guard at the store who is very funny. I was passing by when he was spraying himself with perfume outside a store (they have a perfume stand outside the store and anyone can go try some). He asked me to try it and I did. Then I had one of my first multilingual conversations here. He was talking in French and of course, I spoke in English, and somehow we managed to understand each other. He is from Algeria and from what I understood he really likes the color of my skin (now maybe I interpreted that incorrectly :P). So, whenever I visit the store just before it is closing I meet him and we exchange some funny conversation. BTW, the name of the store is Geants- its Giants, so I feel quite at

Then, the taxi driver who drove me from Geneva airport, happens to be a electrical engineer working on embedded systems and was working as a driver to save up for a bike. He was very nice to talk to during the drive to Grenoble and we also ended up meeting in the city once. Well, I guess I can say that its a small town.

At the apartment complex, I don't know many people yet. There is an Indian couple and they have a baby, but I can't speak much with the wife since they are from the south and she does not speak English or Hindi. They know a Bengali couple that come to visit them and so I run into them quite often. These are the only Indian contacts I have here. I will not make any comments on the number of Indians...cause I remember only too clearly what happened last time I did so at UMBC and I don't want any of you spinning this to your liking. Its funny but at xrce, currently there is no other Indian. I have meet French (obviously), Greek, Hungarian, Brazilian, Israeli, Spanish, and so many other nationalities at xrce but I am the lone Indian :)

Yeah and while we are at it -some ambassador I am for my country..I mean I have people thoroughly confused about my nationality-think abt it- they know I visiting from America and have a French first name and Portuguese last name and Indian face! Well I don't go into details about my middle name :P Anyway, I have to tell people- yes infact it is my real name! And they are very curious to know about India and many have visited India too. Sometimes, I meet people who love Indian classical music and dance and you can only imagine my plight and there confusion about my knowlegde about the Ustads. Anyway, I have had very interesting chats with people- one who has trekked in Ladakh and some who have eaten spicy food when they interned at MS (they love tandoori and palak paneer ofcourse) and one guy actually visited Lonavala to learn yoga and will be going back to Leh this summer. All have fond memories of India and some not so fond ones too...what with all the spicy food and stories of being cheated by taxiwallas :P Oh one guy, he loves Maggi noodles and said he tried looking for it everywhere but never found it. Can you imagine that, our love for Maggi is shared globally?? :D

I am having a good time at work, lots of new things to learn and so little time. The work environment is very nice and people really know how to enjoy life here. Sometimes there are going away get-togethers and they server wine, beer, cider etc. I can't imagine this at work anywhere else I have been. There is cafeteria where you can often find people in groups chatting away over tea and some people cook their lunch in there. There are pots and pans and the basic condiments for all to use. I love the idea! I have not tried cooking in there cause I have a different routing altogether. The girl who I share my office with introduced me to a bakery about 15 mins away from work and often we go together. We get something to eat and then take a walk around the lake there while we jabber about so many things. She is from Hungary and from our discussions, it seems like it is not very different from India. I really enjoy our talks and its somewhat uncanny how we share so many common experiences and thoughts. I got inspired to blog after seeing her blog.

There is so much more to tell you guys but its getting late and I'll post again soon!
Leave me comments so I'll know you are revoir!

Monday, June 16, 2008


Last weekend I bought a bike- check it out!

So my bike introduced me to the river. There are paths along on the river open to only bikers, skaters, and pedestrians. The view is simply spectacular.

Oh how I envied them....I so hope to get to kayak down the river!

Well after getting lost a couple of times trying to find the river, I discovered a way to get to the river from right behind my apartment complex.

The path took me closer to the mountains and along fields.

Was getting chilly ...brrrr.......I hope to venture further into the villages on a sunny day.

The city

I made a couple of new friends on my first two weekends here. The first is the La ville de Grenoble. I can ramble away about this city for hours already. Most of you may remember how much I spoke about NYC the first time I visited! Don't want to frighten you away :D so I'll try to keep it short.

Well, the city is surrounded by mountains on all sides and is located in the French Alps. Two rivers wind through the city. One is the Drac and the other is the Isere.

Tram lines run through the city and most of the roads around the city center are designed for pedestrians only.

Some of the buildings have very beautiful architecture and gargoyles.

The buildings are painted in bright colors and are very close to each other. The narrow lanes remind me of townside in Bombay. I love the flower boxes in the windows.

Almost around every corner there is some sort of square or clearing, which has a fountain or a statue and is lined with shops and restaurants, which put out their tables. People are always to be seen sipping wine and enjoying company. This is when I miss you guys the most!

The city's first bridge- been destroyed by floods many times.

The Fontaine au Lion symbolizes the battle between the town (lion) and the river (snake).

The Notre Dame de la Salette built in 1876 in oriental style with cast cement interlacing and overlapping arches.

The Eglise Saint-Louis (below)- the church I went to for mass, which was in French ofcourse. Was happy to find a St. Louis church (I went to St. Louis school :)). It was built in 1699.

Fort de la Bastille overlooks the city and was built to defend it from attacks from the north.

A spout at one of the fountains-

More of the city to come later!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Ever wondered what French fries are called in France?

Frites! And the French are curious about the name cause 'French fries' actually originated in Belgium :D

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

En route to Grenoble

The route from Geneva to Grenoble is very scenic- and since I did not have a Swiss visa, the taxi driver had to avoid the regular highway which passes through Switzerland.

Ofcourse, I had no complains as you will see from the pictures. The clouds were so low, at least thats the perception one gets because of the mountains. I could see clouds passing threw the valleys and some clouds coming down over the smaller hills. Also passed some vineyards and little villages on the way.

Below is a picture of le pont du Callielle- which the driver told me meant the bridge of the little I could have spelt that completely wrong :P

Monday, June 9, 2008


Finally in France! The place is crazy beautiful and it is everything that I could have possibly dreamed of in a European town. I thought I'd share some of my adventures here with you. I hope you enjoy them and maybe it will inspire you to come visit.

This is the view from my apartment. I absolutely love the snow caped mountains- they are part of the Belledonne range, which means beautiful women in Italian. It has been quite cloudy and rainy and so these peaks are not always visible. I am always on the lookout to catch a glimpse of these....hopefully we will have some clear skies soon.