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My Secret Place

The first part of this blog was written in September, in my first few weeks in France…

Première Visite – I think I have found it; my cafe. That place that I shall frequent regularly and where I shall become one of those know faces who receives the nod of recognition when they enter. An old piano with the strings attached acts as both très cool decoration and counter. The barista is amiable and as far as I can tell the place is frequented by young French professionals. It’s also one of those places where it is socially acceptable to go alone without looking totally friendless. Moreover, it is in the ideal location to sit outside and watch the Grenoblois go about their daily business.

Perhaps I should place greater emphasis on the quality of the beverages, but that’s the not really the max's cafereason why I wanted to find such a place. I’m looking for an anchor; somewhere around which I can create a sense of habituality, somewhere where I am more than just another forgettable customer, somewhere where I can develop a sense of belonging. This is what it takes to transform a place from simply where you live to ‘home’. This is not exactly the aim of an exchange as we are merely passengers passing through whatever station we choose to visit. A sense of belonging can take a lifetime to develop.

Anyway, back to ‘Max’s Cafe’. There’s just one little problem that I have; it smells terrible. I really must return to find out if this odor persists, I really do hope not. I think the woman opposite it me could smell it too, thankfully the odors were temporarily dispersed by the sweet petrol fumes of a passing moped. Sitting there, I thought I could see more than a few lost student souls wondering around in search of life’s meaning, and probably a french sim card. Update to follow.

The following part is currently being written in January… don’t judge me.

Every year we make New Year’s resolution, every year, at least for me, they tend to last a few weeks before I lose motivation and forget why I ever decided to go running every day or whatever. I would not say that I gave up on finding my perfect café, I would simply say that the day to day pattern of my life, namely studying at university, meant that I wasn’t able to spare the time to get a coffee every other day. However, I did nevertheless endeavor to find a place where I could sit comfortable and sip hot chocolates on rainy afternoons. I gave up on Max’s café; my second and third attempts to go there were saddening, perhaps it’s a French thing but it strikes me as odd that a café would close for the afternoon.

In the end I went for thipaincie2s place…

Pain et Cie (Compagnie) quickly turned into my new favourite place. It was open and inviting whenever you needed it to be and the chocolat chaud is served in bowls. The only problem was that it was everyone’s favourite place, especially the international crew. Trust me, there are dozens of similarly praise themed blog posts about it. This made me realise that it would be difficult to get on ‘first name know your order already pal’ terms with anyone working there. And yet every time I went, I dutifully ordered a red berry smoothie in the hope I would be remembered. This venture carried on until one day there was no smoothie left, by now the harsh alpine winter was approaching, and so I abandoned the smoothie and opted for the aforementioned hot choc in bowl situation. Despite not having reached the dizzy heights of regular customer status, I could not resist the scrubbed wooden tables strewn with jars of speculoos and extremely ambient lighting. I think I might put this on TripAdvisor… If you are ever in Grenoble, for the atmosphere alone it is definitely worth a stop.

Bethan Evans

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