Monthly Archives: November 2017

Azure Blue and Luscious Green

That is only one point of view …

One sunny morning, John and I would visit Cap Canaille near Cassis to talk about work, the exquisite natural setting would inspire for this. A nice drive from Marseille, the journey itself keeps surprising me, now in the autumn season with its changing colors and light.

A view of the Calanques from Cassis down to Marseille

Cap Canaille is about 394 m high and considered the highest sea cliff in France. The highest cliff or not, the views of the Mediterranean sea are spectacular and today they gave a cloudless picture of the mountain range of the Calanques between Cassis and Marseille.

Brave bikers – not afraid for Route des Crêtes, the winding summit road

The winding mountain road called the Route des Crêtes, gives a 360° point of view and shows how the landscape changes between towns. As it is steep here, I am surprised when people dare to take the challenge by bicycle. Once I noticed a couple of which the man rode a regular bike and the woman an electric bike. The woman was smiling. The man was not.

Luscious green and azure blue are inherent to the coastal limestone mountain range

With its unique location on the Mediterranean sea, between the Calanques and the mountain range of Cap Canaille, Cassis is blessed with a great climate for wine culture, producing its variety of rosé and white wines, while attracting visitors who come here to admire its scenic landscape. Just like us.  And needless to say, it never came to sitting down to talk work as we were both distracted by the delicate beauty that surrounds Cap Canaille.

Cassis is known for its fine wines and enticing natural environment

Visiting the Capital of the Alps – Grenoble

A view of Grenoble from the Vercors mountain range

The end of autumn approaching, Bernard Biais invited me to visit him in Grenoble. As he is a family friend of John Boonen, he has been several times my guest in Marseille. One day, my ignorance was fully exposed when I asked him if he did not feel very isolated to live in such a faraway village enclosed by mountains. His question to me was: what do you know about Grenoble? Indeed, what did I know? Thinking that I had prepared myself well enough before my visit, in googling information, I discovered that the reality of things was much better.

A favorite social gathering spot for the Grenoblois: Place Grenette

The journey to Grenoble takes only two hours from Marseille by train, and after my arrival Bernard took me to a unique restaurant where the waiters and waitresses are autistic. Having worked with Nathan Boonen for 2+ years, who suffers from severe autism, I was intrigued by this noble enterprise. At the restaurant there was Richard Ailloud, the boyfriend of Bernard, who would join us for the three days I would be in Grenoble. During our lunch, Colette, the manager of the restaurant sat at our table and answered all my questions of how she ran her business with autists, and we shared our experience and insights on autism. A fascinating story that Bernard patiently translated between French and English. 

In Grenoble, ‘a mountain at the end of every street ‘… said novelist Henri Beyle Stendhal

Yes, my French takes more than two years to develop. When I realised that Richard had similar problems with English we switched between the two languages often, which improved my listening skills and impromptu spoken French. A tour of historical Grenoble was given by knowledgeable guide Bernard himself, taking me to a most interesting outline of the old part of the city. All is so well preserved. One seemingly modest street, rue Chenoise, actually revealed unusual architecture that dates back to the 13th century. We could enter the courtyards of such mansions, which provide total privacy and isolation from the usual city buzz. 

The courtyard of a historical private mansion on rue Chenoise, Grenoble

A bridge over the river Isère, Grenoble

Bernard tested my memory by asking which river are we seeing now, the Isère (serpent) or the Drac (lion), and of course I only got it right by the second day. The Drac river flows into the Isère and the Isère merges with the river Rhône, one of the major rivers of Europe, for your information. Talking in two languages can be tiring, but I was looking forward to the next day when we would visit the Vercors mountain range on the westside of Grenoble.

Vercors mountain range in autumn

Hang gliding from luscious hills in the Vercors mountain range

In spite of it being late autumn, the following day was beautifully sunny, too beautiful to stay in the car for too long. We walked through small villages in an agricultural setting. Fresh air, deep fall colors, and people hang gliding from luscious green hills. One double coffee and two double teas for the road, and the waitress took the photo of us. 

Richard Ailloud, Bernard Biais, and me. L-R

In the middle, Bernard Biais, born in Paris, teaches project management at the Grenoble Alps University. He is inspired by Inayat Khan, who founded the Sufi Order in the West. On the left, Richard Ailloud, born in Grenoble, retired, is an astrologer and a practitioner of Reiki, and inspired by Buddhism. Myself being a practitioner of the integral yoga of Sri Aurobindo … apparently, our spiritual inclination made the communication flow easily.

Almost a fairytale, a village in the Prealps near Grenoble

And, no, Grenoble is not exactly an isolated village. It is located in the Prealps area of south-east France, famous for its winter sports and especially for being a most important center of research, technology, and innovation in Europe. The World Trade Center of Grenoble makes the city an international financial hub as well. Ask the Grenoblois themselves, as their city has the size for it they call Grenoble the capital of the Alps!