Saturday, June 17, 2006

The girls before everyone left. Mandee, me, Maria, Kelsey, Niki and Taza. This is actually Niki's going-away party, hence all the food and stuff on the table. You would think that our faces are red because of the camera, but the honest truth is that we had made and consumed a lot of fake sangria. What? Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Just so you all know, in case you've been watching the news, I'm ok here. Nothing big has gone down in Lyon proper, but there have been some instances in the suburbs- burnt out cars and the like. Not as bad as around Paris, but still something. Last night someone threw something at a metro and set a bus on fire (way out near the ends, though, nowhere near where I'd be), so they've just cut our public transportation at night. It now stops at 6pm, at least for a while. All of us here are wondering when this is going to end, or how. But really, I'm ok.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

J’aime manger les tartines. In fact, if it were acceptable, I would probably eat them morning, noon and night (possibly alternating with macaroons and cheese and heart-attack pizza). But because I can’t really do this (health reasons?), I save them for when I can make it to L’épicerie, a bar à tartines.

So what exactly is this fabled tartine of which I speak? It’s basically an open-faced sandwich, hot or cold, with really anything on it. So maybe the word tartine isn’t best used to describe one dish, but more of a construction of a dish. In any case, you could also spell tartine d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s.

Anyway, back to L’épicerie. I passed it once late at night, noticing it only when Marc said “Look, you can go eat tartines there.” Since he followed it up by pointing out another place and saying “I think you’d like it there because it’s pink inside” I may not have paid it tons of attention. But then when Sandra and John and I needed a place to eat during their visit, I found it again in the Petit Paumé guide (the older one, as I’ve just come into possession of the newer version) and we headed on over. I’ve probably raved about it before, but it’s worth doing again. It’s decorated to look like an old-school grocery store (that is, after all, what épicerie means) and plays French and English music from the 40s and 50s. The dishes don’t all match, the napkins are checkered, and there’s an older man wearing a white hat who brings freshly made soup and cakes from the basement. The menu has a big selection of aperitifs and wine (it is open until 1am), coffee, desserts and the tartines. There is a tartine with chèvre and thyme, with brie de meaux, walnuts and honey, with rilletes, with tomato, mozzarella and pesto, with sweet cheese, apricots, honey and almonds, with four cheeses, etc. You get the picture. There are special tartines every week, as well as special desserts. I can’t really get out of there without some sort of gateau. Hey, they come with jelly beans!

I am in love with L’épicerie. But don’t go there- it’s tiny and I want to get a table! It just got a RPPP, meaning that the Petit Paumé recommends it and everyone will now go there. It’s good and cheap and adorable, why wouldn’t it be recommended? But really, leave me my épicerie. Please.
(I am weak. I wrote this on Monday night, and Tuesday at 5:30 I was back at L’épicerie. It was Ryan’s idea, I swear. Did I have cake? Of course. Who do you think I am, people?)

Monday, October 24, 2005

Tartine a rilletes with cornichons, at my favorite bar a tartines. Posted by Picasa

Final Petit Paume loot- EIGHT Posted by Picasa

Macaronerie et chocolaterie. Heaven for Gina, who you can see in the reflection, holding her camera. Posted by Picasa

Dahlias from the market Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Today I woke up in France. I now do this every day, but today was special because it marked two months of waking up in France. And that little two month tick makes this officially my longest stay in France. While I’ve done several study abroad programs, none were longer than two months- until now. I don’t know if life changes at all after eight weeks, but I’m about to find out. If today was any indication than it looks like I’m on the road to some changes and lots of new things. And god am I excited. Is this the start of everything else? Could be.

We’ve had quite a busy time lately here at 42 avenue Berthelot. My schedule has picked up at the Ecole Chevreul, where I’m the English assistant (known as the Assistante US) and I’m spending a fair amount of time prepping classes and creating activities for the ten million students I see every week. I’ve had to learn to be more of a disciplinarian, as sometimes the students seem to want to talk more than work. And there are no games of Quel est ton problème here, sadly. With last weekend also came the visit of my friend Sandra (we’ve known each other since high school!) who is spending a year and a half studying engineering in Metz. That’s right everyone, she’s good at math. Her friend John came along for the ride, and for the information for their presentation on the Rhône-Alps region. We spent a very busy weekend running around the city and trying to fit in as much lyonnais culture as possible. I don’t remember the last time I ate that much. We visited three separate markets, two restaurants (including a wonderful bar à tartines that I’ve fallen for and visited again today), many patisseries, a chocolaterie, a crêpe stand, an ice cream parlor and Monoprix for more pasta and jam and olive oil. Friday night we were invited to the apartment of the Bonnamours, host family of my friend Taza, who had asked me to help organize her surprise birthday dinner. Having dinner (especially dinner for 12 or 13) with a French family was wonderful. I had a prime seat between Monsieur and Madame Bonnamour (who is a French teacher at Chevreul and the reason I have my position there) and learned all sorts of things from places to visit to how to become a French citizen. Taza decided that she wanted to have dinner with the “posse” again on Saturday and asked to have it at my apartment. With everyone’s friends visiting the posse evolved into 13 people taking over my tiny space for several hours on Saturday evening. I found out what it’s like to make 2 kilos of pasta salad and how much lettuce 13 people will really eat. Luckily, I wasn’t in charge of wine.

But don’t worry- we did more than eat! After weeks of anticipation and mockery from friends, I finally made it to Fourvière. The basilica itself is beautiful and we were lucky enough to be there on a clear, sunny, day when we could see all of Lyon from the observation areas. Not content to take just one of the funiculars (I know! How fun!), the next day we went to see the Roman amphitheatre on another part of the hill. I wasn’t feeling very well by this point and managed to take zero pictures. Way to go me. Sandra and John also went to the Musée des Tissus et de l’Art Décoratif while I was at work on Friday, which is another place I still haven’t made it to yet. I consoled myself with the fact that I can give directions to the Department de Lettres like nobody’s business, but then realized that it didn’t really help.

I don’t think things are going to slow down for a while- this weekend looks like another busy one and the next week is the beginning of Toussaint. This Toussaint break is important because my MOM (did you know that’s WOW upside down?) is coming to visit and we are going to PARIS. So there. I will eat my weight in macaroons and overdose on café and quiche. But really, when don’t I?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

When life gives you a free Saturday- go to Switzerland!

What began as a plan to hang out with a few friends over the weekend turned into a day trip to Geneva- only 2 hours and 21 euros away. It was also the perfect way to celebrate the arrival of our Titre de Séjours, which allow us to leave and enter the country at will throughout the year. Lots of pictures and some general thoughts-

*It was great to be able to go to another country and then re-enter France. We were still Americans in Switzerland, but we were going back to France.
*I did exactly what I thought people were supposed to do in Switzerland- bought a Swiss Army Knife (it’s pink!), ate fondue and bought tons of chocolate. I did not, however, spend 80 dollars on chocolate like someone I know (cough Jean cough).
*Geneva is beautiful, but it’s definitely something I’m glad I did as a day trip. The only way I would have wanted to stretch it out would have been by visiting every museum.
*General confusion with the money at first- it took us a trip to the Office du Tourisme (they thought we were German!) to figure out the exchange rate between the Euro and the Swiss Franc. The francs, though, are much prettier.
*We learned that next time we go on a day trip we need to at least do some research and not just jump off the train and have no idea where we are. I did get to see the Palais du Justice three times though.
*Playgrounds are fun, even when you’re older.
*Did I mention that you should plan ahead?
*My phone switched from saying F SFR (France and SFR, the company I’m with) to Swisscom. I tried to take a picture of the screen all day, to no avail. But I know what my phone said, and shouldn’t that be enough?

Take the night bus

Where Gina makes it to the suburbs, learns the value of getting off at the right stop and sees an incredible concert

Sometimes when you make a decision to do something, you don’t really think about all of the little things that will have to happen for this big thing to take place. That’s what happened when I bought a ticket to see Paris Combo. I was so excited to go, and so proud for not talking myself out of going, that I failed to realize that the concert was, in fact, in the suburbs of Lyon. Read- very very south and far from where I live. Whoops.

Never fear! thought I, you can figure this out. You are smart and capable and can figure out how 8 people (yes 8, word got out about the concert and many people wanted to go) can get to and from Feyzin, taking into account that public transportation closes a little after midnight. You can also cook dinner for 6 of these people beforehand- all while blindfolded! Well, maybe not with a blindfold. But I digress… Anyway, closer examination revealed that to get to the concert venue, we would have to take Metro D all the way to Gare de Venissieux, the terminus, and then get bus 60 to arret La Bégude. I know that they always say that getting there is half the fun, but this time it appeared that getting back would take that cake. In order to avoid the ridiculous cost of taxis, we decided to try and get back on public transportation as well. Since the 60 is a Ligne de Nuit (a night bus- only certain of the buses run after 9pm) I figured that we were ok. I even sent two friends (who are also work-study at the Centre Oregon) out on the route to check it out. They came back with a description that included the words “sketchy” and “really far,” as well as a bus schedule. Then came the real excitement- Bus 60 only runs at night if someone calls to reserve it. Yes, reserves it. I somehow was delegated the responsibility of calling the public transportation service to reserve a bus and was told that we now had to take the bus. Great. I didn’t care if we had to leave the concert early- we were going to be on that bus!

Saturday came and I got up early to go to the market and clean and make dinner for a big group (assisted by the best sous-chefs ever). We ate and ran out of the apartment to catch the metro, dubbed the Willy Wonka metro because of its similarity to the boat without a driver and its twisty-turny nature, and find the correct bus stop. Everything would have been fine except for the difficulty we had in getting off at the right stop. We buzzed at the right time, but the driver stopped at the wrong stop (which we thought was the right stop). This caused a lot of wandering around residential neighborhoods in the dark looking for any sign that said “L’Epicerie Moderne” and getting directions from the third car we asked. But we made it. And it was worth it- the concert was phenomenal. Paris Combo is definitely a live band. The atmosphere was great- people of all ages showed up and everyone was enthusiastic. I was very happy.

We had to leave a bit early to catch this supposed reserved bus, and I was apprehensive that the bus wouldn’t show and that everyone else would feed me to lions. I don’t know where they’d find lions, but it would totally happen. At exactly the time indicated by the TCL people, the craziest bus ever pulled up. Not as big as a normal bus, and a bit more cushy, it was driven by a hilarious guy blasting techno music. Aaaaand we were the only people on board. This night bus reminded some of the group of the famous Knight Bus in Harry Potter. Ha. We made it to Gare de Venissieux in record time (probably due to the lack of other stops and the insane speed at which we were going) and caught the metro, again.

So, the moral of this story is- fear not the night bus. The night bus is your friend and has fun music.

Monday, October 03, 2005

De soirée en soirée

Being an American involved in an established exchange program in Lyon has its upsides and downsides. Even though I’m not really one of the students, I often get lumped with them and treated like someone who’s never really been abroad before. There’s a ton of English spoken in our office, and our hall is constantly full of Americans (due to our proximity to the Centre Californie and the Centre Pennsylanie). But then again, because people know the Centre is there, you get invited to soirées.

Last week was a charged week of soirées. How glamorous does that sound? I feel like I should be wearing an evening gown and boa and gliding around gilded rooms drinking champagne. I should just leave it at that, so you think that I’ve been going to that type of soirée. But I was raised to tell the truth so I must admit- I didn’t wear an evening gown.

First there was the France/USA reception at the Hôtel de Ville. Even after this reception, I still can’t really tell you exactly what France/USA does. I know it’s a group of French people who like to meet Americans. And that they sometimes have meetings and activities. Oh, and that they’re sponsored by the Beaujolais (yes, the wine), Coca Cola, and Ricard. What? Could I really make something like that up? But I digress. A large portion of Centre Oregon students and myself, Rémé and Laurie all trekked over to the Hôtel de Ville (translated as the “Mayor House” on the publicity- I’m still laughing at that) to schmooze. Everyone dressed up (it was very sweet seeing all of the students dressed up- I think I hugged the majority of them) and was ready for whatever they threw at us. Oh French bourgeoisie, how we love thee. It was half a room of Americans (from various programs) versus half a room of older French couples, with a few younger people thrown in for contrast. There were speeches, there was wine, there was caviar, and through it all I felt like I was on parade. Too many people to be able to really talk to anyone. The room was very pretty though- nice high painted ceilings, huge windows with ornate curtains- everything you’d expect from the Mayor House of Lyon. At one point I was cornered by Rémé and an older French gentleman and interrogated as to my plans for Thursday evening. Unable to come up with an answer quickly enough, I was told that I was now attending a Lyon International soirée that evening, and that I was bringing two students with me. Greeeeeat, thought I. I, the habitual schmoozer, was schmoozed out. Where was the schmooze for Thursday going to come from?

Meeting up with Laurie (who was the only one who knew where we were going), I put on my best parading/schmoozing face and stepped into the Chambre de Commerce. Another beautiful room, another daunting array of French citizens, a different outfit and pair of shoes for me and the addition of nametags. But wait, what was different? The Lyon International crowd was much more down-to-earth and welcoming. I know exactly what they do- work to welcome people from all over the world into Lyon through planned activities and by opening their houses to invite people to dinner. This was no schmoozing. This was lovely people, some of whom reminded me of my grandparents, some of whom were just fun, and some of whom were new to the program, like the wonderful young couple about to have a baby who said they’d introduce me to a friend who successfully moved from the US to France. It wasn’t Americans on parade, either. I met people working for the CIRC (associated with the World Health Organization, doing cancer research) from Pakistan and China and had drinks after with a Welsh doctoral student living in London who’s doing research here until January. I drank champagne and ate and didn’t really want to leave at all. Soirée that, everyone!

Soirées accomplished, I could turn my attention to other things, like cooking dinner for myself and 6 friends, and, oh yes, PARIS COMBO. Tune in soon for Take the night bus, where I learn how to get to the suburbs and the value of getting off at the right stop. And see possibly one of the best concerts ever.