• Photo: Mihai-Bogdan Lazar / Shutterstock

Grenoble

Capital of the Dauphiné region, Grenoble sits at the confluence of the Isère and Drac rivers and lies within three massifs (mountain ranges): La Chartreuse, Le Vercors, and Belledonne. This cosmopolitan city's skyscrapers bear witness to the fierce local desire to move ahead with the times, and it's not surprising to find one of France's most noted universities here. Grenoble's main claim to fame is as the birthplace of the great French novelist Henri Beyle (1783–1842), better known as Stendhal, author of The Red and the Black and The Charterhouse of Parma. The native Grenoblois, known for their down-home friendliness, are delighted—and generally surprised—if you know of him.

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