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Forks, Portland, Lyon - France, Paris - France, Portland and ending up in Bellingham.... the adventures of my life!

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Snow in Lyon

It's finally that magical time in Lyon- tomorrow is December 1st and we are going to welcome it with the first true snow.  It's absolutely freezing outside, creating a beautiful blanket of snow.  I wandered out today, with the intent to purchase a French news journal (for practice) and as I stepped out of my apartment I saw the most amazing coating of snow everywhere.

I decided to profit from my apartment's location and I journeyed over to Bellecour to see the glory of the flurries.  They danced in the sky as I crossed over the square.  People were around me, some with umbrellas (it was really flurryin'!) and some bundled up with the most amount of clothes possible.

The city is absolutely a beautiful place covered in this fluff... it makes everything brighter and almost lifts the spirit.. it brought me into the spirit of noel, that's for sure.  It's not enough to detail with my words... so.. without FURTHER adoooo!

Enjoy the photos!
Outside my door, Rue des Marronniers

la Rue des Marronniers
Velo'vs Covered in Snow
Ferris Wheel.. can you believe the snow just started 2 hours before?!
Louis XIV covered in snow
Brian in the snow!!
Me standing, sock uneven, hat in hand... ohh yaahh
It's freezing outside, and our heating is terrible.  Worse, our windows are 'single pane' so thin.. and our building is very old.. so cold.  To survive we bundle in layers and try to skip from room to room briefly.. living mostly in the living room.

So.  Enjoy the snow.  Stay warm.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Frustrations at the French System

I thought i was over the whole culture shock thing, i was feeling good with my frenchy french friends and my collection of european buddies. Everything felt right and in place- until i received the schedule for our exams. Right there in front of my face, on the friday I am leaving for a mini vacation to amsterdam: tests on Friday. See normally I'd plan ahead of all this, but, i don't have any classes on friday! No logic in this. Worse they didn't even tell me there would be these tests.

I immediately sent an email to the secretary and spoke with my professor. My professor informed me that, according to the 'method they follow' they can't give it earlier or later. Sorry. Has to be at that exact time. I asked then if "i missed the exams, what does that mean?" Considering that because of my above A grades, three missed tests would still equal passing.

Nope. More 'regulations and methods'. If i don't take the tests, my entire term will not be validated, meaning, all the tests, all the 1000 euro i spent will equal nothing.  All for regulations.

I looked at trying to change my flight, but it's a non changeable flight.  So my choice is:  miss a weekend to Amsterdam where I already paid for everything, and pass my class... or miss the class and potentially be forced to stay back once again in a below-my-level class.

And so, I've decided.. if they truly won't be lenient on me for this one time, I'm going to Amsterdam and I will have to take the DELF B2 in January separate from the CIEF, hopefully receiving 50/100 and receiving the diploma.  With this I can push up into a level C1; which is more difficult and a challenge.

My mother always said things happen for a reason, but for today I feel especially bitter towards the CIEF program and in general for the culture here.  Too many regulations, too many tests, too many papers.  It's a culture shock I may never get used to.

Now, I gotta go make a pizza.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

What-What: Marché de Noël

Since 1996, Lyon has opened Place Carnot (near Perrache) as the area for their yearly Christmas Market.  A Christmas Market in Europe is truly an experience for all ages.  In our home, Bri & I have what we call the Christmas Spirit.  We love Christmas, and the Marché is like walking into a small world of Christmas... the lights, the children laughing, the père noël... all amazing and brings out that bit of spirit.

Each shop offers specialities for the Christmas season, some are decorations for the Christmas tree.  Some are snacks or candies that only arrive for the winter holidays.  A personal favorite is the 'vin chaud' or hot spiced wine.  As America is so stingy on their 'alcohol laws' this is something that will never exist in the public- but here anyone from 16+ can drop 1€ and get a cup of the warm stuff.  It's also wonderful to find unique artisinal gifts... I once bought a package of 'spiced wine mix' and now I make my own vin chaud 'a la maison'.

November 26 marks the opening of this market in Lyon.  It's the final weekend in November and it represents the welcoming of the winter season.  This weekend the market will have specialities and deals on the seller's products, even a cheaper 'vin chaud'.

For anyone who is spending their first year here, I recommend bundling up in your warmest and making the trek to the marché, especially in the evening.  It's located right in front of Perrache in the 2ème, in 'Place Carnot'.  Little cafés are dotted around the area, in case of a need for cocoa or coffee, and it's just large enough to spend about 2€ on some Vin Chaud and wander through.  Many times there are also crêpe makers and marrons roasters for a warm snack.  It's open daily until 20h at night.

a+ and Happy Marché de Noël

Saturday, November 27, 2010

First Snow and the European Union

Bri is wandering around the apartment vacuuming everything in sight, singing Queen songs and taking breaks to vacuum is vacuum.. so I find myself with a moment to spare to detail yesterday's party.

It was one of those chilly days, I shoved myself into an oversized PSU sweatshirt, a jacket, a scarf and some gloves.  I didn't care if it made me put on about 15 lbs, it was 15 lbs of warmth!  I wandered outside and there it was- the first snow.  I remember in Portland seeing the first snow, it always made me feel like I could accept the cold- a weather-justification.  Lyon is incredible with the flurries; the city is gorgeous, the lights shimmering as the snow is falling.  The old stone streets (of my street) and the people all bundled up like me.  The first snow represents the real 'winter' and the fact that Christmas is just around the corner.

It also represented the day I decided to invite an array of Europeans into my apartment!

I dub it the 'European Union', but in reality we only had 4 of the 27 countries represented.  Sweden, Denmark, Finland and France.  I felt like a pseudo-American summit meeting except in this meeting our only goal was to get drunk, laugh and show off all the languages.

It began with wine, continued into cocktails and ended with some more wine.  The drunker we all got, the more we lost inhibitions but the more we lost our ability to communicate in a common language.  By 12am, the Swede and Finnish was speaking in phrased out English, the French abilities were shot from me and I resorted to making jokes about 'gros saucisses'.  It was really quite a wonderful experience, even though many of us didn't really understand each other but we were able to communicate and laugh.

It's really something sitting with 15 Europeans in one room, every one of them were so dynamic and interesting- a few of the Frenchies were talking at me as if I was fluent... so I nodded along and sipped more of my booze, assuming that the mix of the drinking would improve my speaking skills.

It did not.

It did, however, hit me with a killer hangover to which I was bedridden until 5pm today.  Goes to show, you cannot outdrink Europeans; they have about 5 more years practice on me..


Friday, November 26, 2010

Crusade to Ikea

Yesterday I had the chance to go on a great adventure to Ikea with my Swedish friend.  That should be on the list of 'things to do in one's life'; going to Ikea with a true Swede is absolutely an experience.  We bundled into our warmest winter clothes, since in Lyon this month the temperature has dropped, scarves over our mouths, gloves firmly on our hands- and headed to the tramway.

The tram from the center of Lyon to the Ikea near Bron is about a 30 minute ride.  Riding metros in France is not the most enjoyable experience, many butts in people's faces, sweaty armpits reaching overhead to grab on to create equilibrium.  We sat in a corner staring at eachother or at the floor in the attempts to not make eye contact with someone undesireable.  Discussing a variety of subjects, we finally arrived at the stop and wandered out into the cold.

At first we started wandering around aimlessly, a Swede and an American lost in the outer suburbs of Lyon.  She got gutsy and decided to ask some worker which way was our meatball mecca; he obviously didn't speak very good French but in three different broken French's we were able to determine it was around a parking lot.

Looking back, it reminded of a sort of crusade; battling the freezing wind, the nasty people and a good 1/2 mile hike to get to that bright blue building.  In my Swede I had found another soul who was just as obsessed with Ikea.  We wandered into the bright building, blinded by the greatness of it all and warmed by the heat.  As we passed through the aisles, I'd pronounce random Swedish names of furniture and she'd reply, "That doesn't mean anything.. really!".

The food court is really the reason we made the trek.  She wanted 'bronsauce' which is a brown gravy served on most Swedish food- and I wanted those little balls.  We ordered our balls and bronsauce and sat across from eachother.

We ate, talked, laughed, at some more.  People stared at us in disgust, we were just too damn happy!  I made quips about 'Daim' sounding like, 'Daaayammn,' as in, 'daymn this chocolate is good'.

It only got better as her French boyfriend joined us and we spent the next hour jumping on beds, testing kitchens and giving false presentations on the items; specifically learning the meanings of the words and making up 'non-sensical' Swedish gibberish... well I was gibberish, Swede was definitely speaking it correctly.

The French around us were disturbed.  At one point I was testing a bed, wiggling around and checked for comfort when an older French couple stopped in front of my bed and started saying how weird I was being.  I smiled up and said clearly, "Désolé, mais je ne viens pas avec ce lit!",  Sorry, I don't come with the bed!  That made them turn on their heels and jet out of my vincinity, making me feel as though I had lepresy... but nonetheless it got them out of my hair.

The final great thing was at the finale.  I was communicating in great French with her boyfriend and her, we were happy and full of laughter... and there, near the exit, a non-smiling (the French never smile in public) french woman with an array of samples.  Heck yes.  I gorged myself on 'stroogenfloos' and 'chocouten' (making up some names here) and waddled out of that Ikea stuffed with balls, laughter, cookies and a totally new experience.

My advice.  Find a Swedish person, and THEN go to Ikea.  It's really like the complete experience.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sleep Deprivation & Excitement for.. Yellow Pages?

From Monday to now I have collectively stayed awake for about 50 hours- which puts me at an average of merely 6.5 hours of sleep a night.  I am normally a morning person, but, when I arrived in France Bri's schedule threw mine off in some odd 'jetlag horror' and now I'm more of a night person and less of a morning person.

I am also in the attempts to go on a diet in France which I can say is on my 'Top 5 List of Miserable Things to do in Life'.  I'm not doing it because I feel like I need to, I'm doing in my preparation for Christmas.  How does one do it?  Well, breakfast is an Activia yogurt and some 'Krisprolls' with jam.  Snack is a jelly sammich (on small bread).  Lunch is a little tomato/young greens salad, with maybe a soup.  Snack is some popcorn.  Dinner is only one serving, no 'entrance', no 'cheese' and if I do have dessert it's a little square of Milka.  It's absolute Hell.  If I were in America right now I'd be in the works to get my stretchy pants and know, by this time tomorrow, I'd be waddling home with a Turkey Coma.

You see, last Christmas, I came weighing about 129 lbs and left weighed about 145 lbs.  No exaggeration.  I gained 16 lbs in one month... it's not just the dinners- no- it's the fois gras, the stream of Champagne, the fatty rôtis, the delectable 'papiotte'.  Oh yes, I am in efforts to lose weight so that at least by January I will be equal to myself now.

I also have found myself with a stomach that isn't agreeing with all this French food- it's too heavy, the microbes are different and the meat is different.  I think that I've gotten so used to 'highly processed' American eats that I've lost the ability to digest real food.  I've even gone to buying and eating Activia.  You know, the yogurt that's for old ladies that might have 'digestive issues'...

I was excited yesterday, despite my sleep deprivation, to get my very own copy of the 'Pages Jaunes' or the 'Yellow Pages'.  I can't really define why it's exciting- but leafing through a giant book of businesses (many of which are not listed in Google) and scanning for Boulangeries that I haven't found, or that store that has expatriate items, it's a personal joy.  I was even thinking about it as I crossed the bridge to Bellecour (against traffic, apparently everyone comes when I leave).  Is that sad, or just one of those little pleasures that define us as 'unique'.

Speaking of Expatriate items, I found a shop while parading about drunk on Beaujolais last Friday.  It's called 'Little Britain' and it's in the 6ème, 12 Blvd des Brotteaux.  Not much on their website, but I plan to make a stop in there some day.. just for the Hell of it.  Bet I can find cheddar...


Friday, November 19, 2010

Social Life and Pellegrino

The title may not make a ton of sense, but let me preface by saying:  Pellegrino only costs .80 centimes in France.  Yes, I know, it seems such a minscule thing to feel happy about, but when dealing with graph paper instead of lined paper, and bagging your own groceries- it's the little things that keep us sane in foreign countries.

Pellegrino is so fancy in the United States; we see in television shows the characters sipping out of glass bottles of the stuff- in America it's about 2 bucks a bottle; much more affordable for a little taste of minerals from Italy.

That being said.

Last night I tried Beajoulais Noveau for the first time;  our friend is a wine distributor for that region, and is also in the same relationship situation as us (American girlfriend, French boyfriend).  He invited us to a friend's apartment in the 6ème arrondissement in Lyon; AKA the LUXE area.  Rue de Sèze to be exact.  As I frantically biked down the Rue de Sèze, heart pounding and fear that a person would swerve in a drunken Beaujolais frenzy and kill me I begin realizing that I am really starting to get France.

She's a complicated country, there are things I will never understand... but now I'm getting to the point of responding automatically in French to locals talking to me...a very cool experience.

ONce we got there the spread was incredible;  I was too shy to start snapping pictures so I'll have to stick to details.  The apartment was about 130m2; which is about 1400ft.  Very big... twice the size of our place.  There were these artsy posters plastered on the wall, hardwood floors (another saving grace of France) and large windows overlooking the street.  The table was set up against the wall and covered with charcuteries, baguettes lined for the cutting, cheeses, more charcuterie... and lots of bottles of wine.

Aurelian, the wine distributor, started us off my detailing each of the wines, what region they come from how the stones used to filter change the flavor.  Uncorked, all at attention, we passed around a bottle and checked the clarity and flavor profile of each wine.  Starting from the 'youngest', fermented a mere 3 months to a couple of years. 3 bottles in total. By the end a few of the younger girls (19-21) were pretty fizzled and I was involved in a very deep conversation with a Brit expat and a French girl regarding our weird writing obsessions.  Brian was raiding the food table stuffing himself with ham products; and I somehow agreed to do English Yoga on Monday.

Today I wasn't hungover, which is a pretty amazing feat for how much I drank in alcohol... and I wandered around today with my Swedish friend, to the library to check out my monthly Anglophone book (which the library woman totally had a conversation with me and I was ABLE TO RESPOND!!) talking about girly things and eating chocolate éclairs.  I was craving a bagel or even a hot dog- but I found that while a hot dog costs 5€ in France, a chocolate filled éclair is only 2.50€; so I went for sweet.

So even though the graph paper is something that will never be normal for me- I find myself adjusting with a bottle of Perrier, a selection of very diverse friends, a bottle of wine and the company of chocolate éclairs.

P.S.  If you want to try a good snack:

Buy:  Pellegrino (.80 centimes) Krisprolls (1.50€) and some 'cream cheese' or fromage tartiner (1.20€)
WARNING:  This stuff is better than crack, or the equivalent which is 'Noah's Bagel Schmear' in the U.S.   

Trust me.  Smear it on crackers, bread.. whatever.  It's amazing.. and cheap.
Happy weekend.. and try to drink some Nouveau.. or some Pellegrino.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

What-What: Beaujolais Nouveau

On my street, the Rue des Marronniers, small posters and streamers line the restaurants annoncing, 'le Beaujolais est arrivé!', this part of the season is amazing.  Thanksgiving back home- and the Nouveau in France.  While we're stuffing ourselves sick in the States, here they are drinkin' themselves to a stupor.

Beaujolais is a region just outside of my city here in Lyon- the wine is special because it comes from this region and it is often hand picked at the vineyard.  It's also an event that everyone is excited for, and often, patrons or owners of bars/restaurants will wear a wicker hat.. a symbolic gesture.

Interestingly enough, the wine itself is often very young- fermented only a few months- before placed on the market to drink.  The wine only lasts about a year, and it's better to drink it while it's young and fresh.

Everywhere around Lyon from now (November 18) to the weekend will be celebrating this famous wine.  The packaging is special- comes in a bottle with a very colorful label... very recognizable.

Here's a paragraph from CityVox:
C'est en fait depuis 1985, que le 3e jeudi de novembre est la date officielle du lancement du Beaujolais nouveau. C'est la ville de Beaujeu, entre Lyon et Mâcon, qui a donné ce nom au vin. Quant à l’appellation elle-même, elle remonte au 13 novembre 1951. Pendant la IIème guerre mondiale, l’occupant tentait d'empêcher les producteurs de commercialiser leurs vins en leur imposant de nombreuses réglementations. Mais avec la libération, un arrêté autorisa la sortie des vins détenteurs d’une appellation d’origine contrôlée le 15 décembre, avec une dérogation en novembre pour les vins précoces."
Basically it says:
Since 1985 the 3rd Thursday of November is the official launch date for the Beaujolais Nouveau.  It's the city of Beajeu, between Lyon and Mâcon, that gave the name to the wine.  The production of this wine dates back to the 13th November, 1951.  During the second World War, the Axis tried to impose many restrictions to inhibit production of their wine.  Following Liberation, an order was put forth stopping these inhibitions and allowing the wines to be released.

It's a cultural part of Lyon and Rhone-Alpes... and integral into our heritage and daily life.

Speaking of which, there are a lot of festivals and parties to celebrate this release:

Once again from the CityVox page:

Lyon - 1e - Terreaux - Hôtel de Ville

Lyon - 2e - Presqu'Ile - Perrache

Soirée Beaujolais Nouveau à la Zone Verte  - Conférence rencontre atelier
Du 18/11/10 au 19/11/10

Zone Verte - 69002 - Lyon

Lyon - 5e - Vieux Lyon - Fourvière

Soirée Beaujolais Nouveau au Phosphore Bar  - Soirée
Le 19/11/10

Le Phosphore Bar - 69005 - Lyon

La Tour-De-Salvagny - Aux alentours de Lyon

Beaujolais nouveau au Casino Le Lyon Vert   - Soirée
Le 18/11/10

Casino Le Lyon Vert - 69890 - La Tour-De-Salvagny

Belleville - Ailleurs dans le Rhône

Nect'art Nouveau  - Musique Jazz
Le 18/11/10
Caribop, La Clique sur Mer
Théâtre Municipal de Belleville - 69220 - Belleville

Fleurie - Ailleurs dans le Rhône

Marathon du Beaujolais Nouveau  - Évènement sportif
Le 20/11/10

En ville à Fleurie - 69820 - Fleurie

There may even be more events... but you'll have to check out blogs, newspapers.. or even just walk into a bar and ask!

a+ and happy drinking!  (bon dégustation!)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Culture Shock: French Grading System

It's that dreaded week in Lyon where all the students are getting back tests that count for 50% of our grades.  These difficult tests that comprise of written and even oral examinations based on information that is supposed to be memorized and regurgitated exactly as said.

The teacher begins by describing how some of us really sucked at the test and failed with a really awful note.  He continues to rant on about the abilities we have to do better, some of us truly shined and many are in the middle.  He is disappointed and he is proud.

In America we sweat it out, and receive it.  The highest note a person can get is 100%; if a test, for example, is worth 20 points, a student could receive 20/20.  Sometimes even more.  This sets up American Expatriates- such as myself- to be shocked at the French system.  It even led a fellow American friend of mine to cry at her 'awful horrible grade'.

The Middle
The middle in the French Grading system is always based on 20- so the middle, AKA passing is 10/20.  There are no letter grade "A" or "B".  Simply a number out of 20.  10/20 means you are passing, but maybe just sliding by.  (C)

Failure comes in under 10... if you received 9/20 or below.. you have failed.  (F)

Good Grade
Good grade is 10/20 to 15/20.  15 is on the edge of a very good grade- an American equivalent to B to A-.

My poor friend cried when she saw 11/20; she didn't understand the culture and worse she couldn't.  We are so conditioned to our 20/20's that we can't get a 11/20 being a good thing.

An AWESOME grade would be anything 16/20 and above.  This is a solid A in American standards.

You Cannot Get 20
No matter how hard you try, you'll never be able to get 20.  It's the whole French paradoxical rating system... they set the bar so high so it will always be a little under.  If you tell a French person you want a 20/20, they will laugh, then say, 'bon chance' and laugh some more.

So.  To sum it up:

9/20 and below:  F
10/20 to 12/20: C
13/20 to 15/20: B
16/20 and up: A

Betcha you're wondering how I did?

I'm averaging 17/20 on my tests.. which is very very good.  Most of this is due to the fact that my level n the CIEF is a little below my tasting.  Either way that makes for lots of French practice and easy As!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Story Time: France Years Ago..

In class yesterday I learned a lot of very interesting facts about France.  My professor was detailing different family structures and then we got into a discussion about what types of technologies existed years ago and how quickly this has changed.

Thing is, it's been an even more exclusive change in France- in America while we were testing cars and turning on lights France was years behind.  I got to thinking, Europe will always be slightly behind.  I have often heard that America was known due to it's contributions during World War II, but I think it's bigger than that.  America is an innovator... we are inventors.

As early as the 1870's, lightbulbs were used to light homes in America.  Edison invented the incandescent light bulb, and soon it became as big as the iPhone or iPod today.  By the 1900's many homes had electricity in America.. and thanks to Roosevelt's "New Deal" it was everywhere in 1935.  but in France?  Electricity starting showing in densely populated areas in the 1920's... and up until the 1940's electricity still didn't exist in many rural villages.  Candle light and gas lighting... gas electricity and coal heating- that was often the used method of "electricity".  I knew an older woman in her 80's that still had a coal stove and no electric wires, she'd lived in the same apartment for 50 years.

Many apartments in France, up until even the 1960's, only had a sink in the kitchen to bathe with.  Much like the 'wash basins' in the 1800's Americas; often a bath or shower was reserved to those with weath... specifically nobility.  My professor even remembered not having a shower.. which to me is absolutely incredible!

Grocery Shopping
In France, up until even the 1970's, buying food was considered a true joy.  Following the love for life, the 35 hour work week, social care for society... France also took joy in eating.  A weekly trip would often include several different shops:  a fish shop, a butcher's shop, cheese shop, pastry shop (in the mornings), vegetables from the marché and of course a daily visit to a boulangerie for the bread.  Supermarkets began popping up in the late 60's, modeling after America's grandiose shops.  It takes the joy of eating away, but it took a much longer time to integrate into the culture than America's 1940's prim/clean super market worlds.

Talking with Bri made me realize that he was always a little behind me in the Internet world.  I had my first email address when I was 8 years old.  He had his when he was 15.  Internet became an integral part of my world in the United States as early as the late 80's; for France it took a little longer and didn't catch on until the late 90's.  Even though now Internet exists to connect us and thus helps to reduce that lag time between innovations- we still see a lag between America's inventions and programs and what exists in France.

Things that May Never Catch On
  • Microwave Popcorn:  Haven't seen it and I don't think I ever will.
  • Sizing Options:  The hips in jeans are cut thinner here, and MacDo will never have a 64oz soda.
  • Pop Tarts:  Why eat a pop tart when you can have a pain au chocolat?
  • Peanut Butter:  Most French people I talk to HATE HATE HATE peanut butter.
  • Sweet Potatoes/Marshmallows:  Don't ever make this for a French person.  They will turn their nose up.
  • Pumpkin Pie:  Also another anomaly to French people- salée/sucré do not mix in their minds.
  • Binge Drinking Cheap Beer:  In college, we all did it.  Beer pong.  Drinking games... I've never met a French person (that DIDN'T go on an exchange) yet that wants to binge drink cheap beer.
  • Cost of School: Nope.  It will always be that €400 inscription and not that $10,000 yearly cost.
  • Insurance Companies and Healthcare:  Healthcare will never resemble American culture.
  • CEO Pay Gap:  Here, rarely will a president of a company be paid 300x more than a base employee; everyone is more leveled here.
  • "Shut up and Take it" Mentality:  You know, the tendancy we Americas have to just let Government do whatever and complain we have no power... here it's all about the grèves and manifestations.  If you don't like something, say something.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Advice: American Eating in France

Cooking is something I do every day, rarely making the whole frozen meal/highly sugarized processed foods- I make everything from scratch and fresh ingredients.  In France however, there are some key things to know that could help a person moving here in the whole 'ingredient' and food world:

  • Steak.  When ordering or making steak remember this:
    • A point:  Medium, Bien Cuite:  well cooked, Bleue:  blue, or rare
  • At a restaurant, opt for the 'pot du vin', which is often 5x cheaper than bottled and just as good.
  • Garni is the sprinkling of parsley, garniture is the lay out of ingredients.
  • Producer's Market offers restaurant quality produce for cheap.
  • Pastry Flour is most commonly used for baking, and it is amazing for anyone who says they cannot bake.
  • There are several different variety of potatoes for different dishes, be aware the French know this difference.
  • Never act 'American' when invited; meaning don't consistently ask what the food is and turn your nose up at it.  Just shut up and eat... smile and graciously thank the hostess.
  • Rice, coconut milk is 5x cheaper in Guillotiere.
  • Pate and Foie Gras are never eaten spread on crackers.  We always eat these with bread or for Foie Gras with toasted brioche.
  • When making toast, always touch everyone's glass while making eye contact.
  • Spices are more widely available in Guillotiere, ranging from Indian to Asian.
  • Kebab is a great afternoon filler if hungry, and often cheaper than MacDo.
  • Sushi is notoriously expensive in France and normally is just several variations on salmon nigiris and rolls.  To save money try Groupon to get discounts on Sushi joints. Some sushi joints:
    • Ze Sushi - 7 Rue du Confort, Lyon;  14 euro for 11 pieces during 'midi'.
    • Sushi Wa - 31 Rue Thomassin;  4 plates for 16 euro
    • O'Sushi - 72 rue Mercière;  between 5-9 euro for a plate of sushi
Rumors of things that don't exist, but do, or replacements for things we love:
  • Baking Powder - exists, it's called 'Levure de Chimique' and it comes in 1 1/2 tsp packets in super markets.
  • Baking Soda - also exists, can be found in Guillitiere super markets.
  • Cornbread Mix - does not exist, but you can make it homemade, '2 cups flour, 1/2 tbsp salt, 1/4 cup baking powder, 1/2 cup french butter, 2 cups cornmeal, blend'.  Remember that cornmeal is available in Badouhrian or any Asian or Arabic grocery in Guillotiere.
  • Pancake Mix - does not exist, but again homemade is easy, '2 cups flour, some butter, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1/8 cup baking powder'  blend with milk/eggs.
  • Popcorn - Available at most super markets for 1.50 a package, (about 300g) or from Producer's Market for 1.30 a kilo!
  • Sour Cream - does not exist, but a great replacement is '1 pot yaourt, 1 tsp salt and some chives, mix well'.  Plus it's lower in fat.
  • Taco Seasoning - 1 tsp 'piment en poudre', 1/4 tsp 'ail en poudre', 1/4 tsp 'oignon en poudre', 1/4 tsp 'piment du pizza', 1/4 tsp 'origan', 1/2 tsp 'paprika douce', 1 1/2 tsp 'garam masala' or 'cumin', 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp black pepper.  Mix and seal in a jar.
  • Tortillas can be made super easy at the house, '2 cups flour, 125 g butter, 1/2 to 1 cup warm water, some baking powder' blend thoroughly and set aside for about 20 minutes.  Cook on a hot pan for a few seconds each side (roll into balls and press first)
For more extensive listings.. although slightly outdated- check Lyon Eats.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cocktails and November 11

Having cocktails in France tends to be a whole nother experience... sort of.  I was afraid to make my way over to the pub alone at night- I always have this never ending fear that I'll take a wrong turn on my Velo'v and end up in some completely unknown area.  Yes, the pub was straight down 'Rue de la Rupublic' and yes, that street is pretty much just a long street of lit up stores, fountains and restaurants.. but the incessant fear curls in my stomach every time I hop on a bike or head out.

I bisou'd Bri goodbye and set off with multiple layers (10 degrees C yesterday) in tow.  I popped in my Velo'v code, hopped on and whhoooozzzzeee...  riding at night through the 'rue de la Republic' takes some guts and can be stressful.  I whizzed through the crowds, left right, left right.  Sometimes I'd stop and use my feet to 'walk my bike' before an old lady got out of my way.  About 10 minutes later I reached the 'Opera de Lyon' which is really a hub for some nasty characters (ironic, one would think the Opera is.. like fancy and full of richness).

I parked in the one spot available and headed up.  Last time I went to this place it was dead, maybe a scattering of some French people.  This time it was PACKED... and I got to thinking, why?  I asked the girls and they motioned around and explained that "Tomorrow is a feriée" which means a one day off.  French people have so many holidays sometimes I think they invent a day for it.

November 11, 1918
Armstice between Germany and France ending World War I.

Apparently November 11 marks the end of the first World War that ended in 1918; specifically the fact that the Allies and Germany signed for peace and resolution in France.

What I get confused about is why they celebrate the end of World War I when after there was World War II; wouldn't one assume that the end of one WW would trump the end of another?

I think I'm just confusing myself because I watched Inception last night... Hmmm.

In all cases, for November 11 we get a day to relax and do nothing- most places are closed, most people are shuttled outside to the parks or the quai to enjoy the day.

Sometimes there are special events, such as free drinks at the mairie, or a commemoration event at the statues- you'll have to read your local events to know for sure.  I'll be enjoying my day doing laundry, taking out a giant box or two of glass recyclables and going for a nice long walk.

Tomorrow I'll be posting about how to recycle in France- because even though it would seem simple.. in the center of the city simple it is not!

Here's my walk plan...

View Visit Lyon in a larger map

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

As Life Comes Together

Had to get up at 6:30am this morning in order to ensure I had enough coffee in me to make it through my Wednesday classes that start at 8am.  I am lucky enough to still have quite a bit of coffee my mother lovingly sent me... so no instant French for me!

Life is certainly coming together for me, in less than a month my 17 year old bro will be making his way into our humble abode.  I'm hoping the issues or things going on in the States will be appropriated with his visit here... Bri and I are both so excited to have him in France.  He'll be the second person in my entire family to ever leave the States, and most definitely the second to come to Europe.

I plan to show him everything.

Speaking of siblings...

I was walking down a street and saw this little Art Supplies shop... I immediately went on (in my head) to think about my sister.  My sister and brother are both very different than me.  My brother is a talented musician, and LOVES to be in front of the world.  My sister is a more reserved introvert, specifically, an artist.  I am a business person, type A personality thru and thru.

It's really difficult to be away from your family, I hope anyone who is planning to live here is aware of that.. but I am finding myself beginning to adjust and truly feel at home in France.

Tonight is my weekly cocktail with a couple of lovely French girls I met, mostly we just drink cheap cocktails and discuss our lives, our plans.  It's a little 'Sex and the City' or even Julia Child and Simone Beck time.  I love it.  I feel spoiled today because Bri promised to make dinner (quiche lorraine) while I simply get toasted at a bar. .. of course I think it's just a little obligation and tradeoff for all the dinner I make.

People have asked me, what is it like to live in France?  Well.   That's a loaded question because everyone will have a different response, for me, it's pretty f-in amazing.  I live on a street filled with restaurants so every day I leave my apartment I am welcomed with the soothing sound of plates clinking and the smells of kitchens doing prepwork.  A personal fan of restaurant television, I sometimes sit myself on the ledge of my staircase and watch the workers in the kitchen moving around frantically calling the orders.  The building I live in was built in the late 1800's, so the stairs are worn in from a couple of hundred years of climbing/descending.  The view from my windows are of other buildings from the same time period, and sometimes on Sundays one can look out the window and imagine France in the 1950's.

That's a piece of my life here... there's so much more.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Advice: Sunday Flea Market!

Wondering what to do on a lazy Sunday morning... before the giant French meal, nearing the end of a long and lovely restful weekend?

Yesterday I learned about a market in Lyon that is amazing...

Les Puces du Canal is in Villerbanne but holds the 2nd largest flea market in France!  This place has over 400 commerçants that come in their little French camions bringing their house treasures or antiques to sell in a public place.

The market starts at 6am on Sunday, every sunday, rain or shine. It is also on Thursdays and Saturdays- but Sundays are truly the day to go. It goes until around 1pm.... the real treasure hunters arrive at exactly 6am to find the next 'treasure'.  Remember awhile back when I discussed decorating a home in France?  Well this is a great opportunity to 'barter' and mingle with locals and get some really nice antiques.

Plan a trip to Les Puces du Canal

1 rue du Canal, Villeurbanne

Arrive around 10am, right when the market is bustling and take a look around.  The market is full of a range of products and prices- sometimes one can get lucky on any day.  Hang out and debate with the commerçants.. remember to be polite!

This is also a great market for those who love vintage clothing- several stalls sell clothes from a variety of eras... and remember the best thing about vintage is it's unique and one of a kind!

Around 12:30pm or so, head over to a sausage stand, or even to their restaurant nearby and grab a snack or drink.  Watch as people walk away with loads of stuff and relflect on the classical furniture you just saw.

I know where I'll be on Sunday!


Monday, November 8, 2010

Story Time: Feeding the French Tacos

In the States, tacos are everywhere.  The run rampant in the street stuffing themselves with lettuce, tomato, cheese and beautiful sour cream.  The best taco I remember tasting was in University of Oregon while visiting one of my best friends... we were drunk, as all good taco stories go, and the taco was amazing.  In carts, in the grocery stores, in Mexican restaurants in Tex-Mex freezer aisle food.  It's one thing that is really great about our cultural mélange in the States.

In France?  Nada.  Taco packets cost upwards of 3 euro... the shells or tortillas are just... well beyond budget.  So I got the great idea to invite some very close friends in France to a 'Taco Night', just because I love a culinary challenge and I really wanted to see a bunch of French people try to eat tacos.

Everything was from scratch.  Last week when I went on and on about the Producer's Market in the 7ème, it was all the veggies I had actually bought for this event.  I wanted to do it right.  I had some problems with the tortillas- lard exists but I really didn't want to go to Guillotière to try and hunt for a tub of fat... so I created my own recipe using beautiful French butter... which was AMAZING.

I made 28 tortillas that night, perfect little round shapes.  It was an engine, I'd roll the dough into a ball, press, fry for 20 seconds each side, place in tin foil... repeat.

The veggies were stirfried.  The chicken was stirfried.  The meat got a seasoning packet my Momma sent me in September- except it was EXTRA HOT so everyone was burning.

Here's a photo of everything on the table.  I documented it, but mind the bad quality pictures... a mix of the tequila shots and overly-full stomach made me really take some awful photos.

No One Started... Yet
Bri gave the tutorial... bread (which they didn't know the name of, so it kept being called crêpe, very funny) meat, cheese..
Tiphaine was a Taco Eatin' Pro
We had Sangria... which is really Spanish but whatever, it worked.
But his pile resembled more of a 'Taco car crash'
And then the drinking started... and we did iPhone karaoke... but mostly we just did a bunch of shots... which is why we have these photos:

Yup.  That's how I fed tacos to the French.  Just to mention, they loved it... so not ALL cuisine in the States is crap... :)


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Culture Shock: Cheap Booze is GOOD?

I was so surprised last night when I went to a little bar called "Jazz du Bec" in the 1ere and I ordered a glass of wine for about €2.50 and it was really good!

See, in America when we get a cheap glass of wine it resembles something like water, horse piss or even a mix of those things.  Here in France it's a high quality wine!  Even the cheapest wine in France can taste amazing.

I remember in the summertime, Bri and I found a rosé for the measly price of €1.85 and it was good.  It had a crispy flavor to counter the summer months and it didn't break the bank.

The culture in France is wrapped around wine, every night at the dinner table it is common to have your wine just as much your bread.  Drinking is not about binging and getting drunk (although sometimes this happens from hours of drinking with the family), it's a cultural past time.

Beers are amazing just as much as the wines.  The French have invented this beer drink called 'monaco' which takes a pilsner and blends it with a syrup, usually cherry or strawberry.  This drink is very sweet and has a flavor reminiscent of cherry suckers.

In Vieux Lyon it's easy to hop into a bar and order a beer for only €3 a pint, a high quality delicious brew.  Ninkasi serves several types of beers and you can even buy a mini keg to bring to parties.

I don't condone excessive drinking, but I do appreciate having high quality for lower prices... another proof that France has their costs of living under control.

So get out there and get yourself a pint... but enjoy it...


Friday, November 5, 2010

Advice: The Producer's Market

I just was reminded today why I LOVE Bail's Distribution.

As I was leaving my apartment I looked down my street of restaurants to see the 'Bails Distribution' truck delivering their fresh produce. 

In my old place the distribution center was across the street and open to the public to purchase the veggies/fruits.  Now I live about 2 miles away from there so I rarely make a trip.

When I do am I always incredibly, and happily, surprised.

I sport a backpack and make the trek from school by bike.  2 miles away is a bit of a bike, but luckily it's not that 'long' because I really zip over there.  I tie down my bike, slip on my backpack and head in to do my purchases.

A huge reason I needed to go there was because all the marché people were gone for the day and I have plans to have Taco Night tonight... complete with the whole sautéed veggies for fajitas.  I prefer fresh quality over the grocery store.

I was excited to go back, every time I enter it is full of these beautiful products, from vegetables to fruits they are all laid out for the pickings... and better with reasonable prices!  I recommend to everyone to make at least a one time visit- because the prices blow me away every time.

Clementines were on sale €1.50 a kilo, which is only like $1.00 a pound!  Very good deal.  Their herbs are only .60 centimes.. so I can cook so delicious and fresh.  Green peppers, zuchinnis, onions... lettuce!

You see this??  I bought ALL OF THIS for only €16.00.  That's a good deal.  It's about 7 kilos- 14 lbs of veggies for only €16.00.  I would never find this in the United States, that's for sure.

And JUST to show another view of this massive pile of greenery:

Get out there and pile up, the exercise is good to get back home (for me it's a 2 mile bike ride and 5 flights of stairs) and the quality is incredible; Bail Distribution, what I like to call 'the Producers Market' is one of those things I LOVE about Lyon.  Also, they are open from 7 am to 7 pm, Monday through Sunday.  So most markets aren't open on Mondays, but this one is!


87, Bd Yves Farge
69007 Lyon


3 av Cdt Lherminier


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Over the Hump

I feel as though I am coming over the initial hump of the second stage... I am starting to acclimate into the French culture and even moreso am beginning to really fall in love.

The first four months were the hardest, I couldn't stop thinking about my family in Oregon, stressing about trying to find a job in a country with a foreign language... but now things seem to be smoothing out.

Yesterday I had the chance to meet two young women in France that wanted to meet me due to my opinions on this very blog.  I was nervous, at first, since meeting strangers can be unnerving.  As I used my bike pass and hopped on, I had a sense of calm over me and I felt.. well.. it felt just plain right!

I met them at a bar called 'Flanigans' up near Place Therreaux- and really a great bar.  Wednesdays provide cheap cocktails and the entire menu is written in English.  I had Bri in tow as a sort of 'fly on the wall' and protector- because one should never meet strangers without a friend.

They were at the entrance and was we started talking.. a mélange between French & English, it felt really good to get out and talk with people that are around my age... and they too were discovering Lyon as a city, despite the fact they were from France.  I felt as though I was in a Sex & the City episode, as we slurped our cocktails and mocked certain cultural differences.  We laughed about our boyfriends downfalls as well as where we want to go in the future, our 'dream jobs', what we 'want to be when we grow up.'  It was so comfortable... and if you two are reading:  THANK YOU.

One cocktail turned into two... then a burger and another cocktail- 4 hours later we all decided it was time to go home and we 'bisou'd' goodbye and headed our separate directions with plans to meet the following week.

I found places and companies that would like specialized Business graduates to teach Business English... not recruiting until January... but just in time.

Biking through this city during the crisp night made me realized how lucky I was and how content I was becoming.  Lyon is becoming a part of me- just like Portland or Forks.  The places we live in define who we are and Lyon has defined me as a person able to move thousands of miles away and survive.

So, I continue to provide you all with advice... but keep in mind that although a move is hard- France can sometimes ease the pain.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Advice: Laundry in France

I realized that I really should write a post about doing laundry in France because it's a bit more complicated than in the United States!

There are TWO steps to doing laundry.  The first part is washing it, the second part is drying it.  I am fortunate enough to own a washer, so my explanation will be done under that assumption- for others you'll just go to an 'auto laundry' and do the same as home.

Let's begin.

First off here's the 'weapons' against the dirt, we have some laundry soap and detergent.  Make sure to get color safe, around 60 degree c max.

And here we have the basket of laundry and the washer...
Separate the darks from the lights.  I wash yellows or light greens with the lights, dark greens and colors in the darks.  NEVER MIX A BLUE or JEANS with a WHITE OR LIGHT shirt.  I ruined some clothes that way.
Stuff the laundry into the washer..

Pour the laundry into the containers...

Pour in the softener...
Choose the corresponding heat... for lights/cottons it's okay for higher heats, colors I use lower heat to save the color.

Turn the knob...
Start the laundry...


Part II is a bit more time consuming..  you'll need one of these:

And some clothes hangers.  You hang you allow to dry for about a day for socks and light clothes, and 2 days for heavier clothes.

Jeans will be crispy and loose...

Still!!  Better for the electricity bill.  Good luck!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Little About Me..

I realize that I typically write about advice in Lyon.. living here, what to do, how to survive.  I've been writing consistently for about 2 months now, so I'd like to explain who exactly I am.

My name is Sasha, 23 years young.  I lived in Portland for most of my life but before that I was raised in Forks, Washington- yes that small town that is written in the book Twilight.  Portland is my favorite city.. it's calm and large, spacious and has cheap rents.  When I left in summer 2010, the culture was changing a bit and certain areas were becoming gentrified- as well as a new phenomenon of 'food carts' were exploding around my city.

I'm a self-proclaimed traveler, which means I really don't like staying in the same place for more than a few years.  I've lived in several apartments in Portland... and I decided to embark to Lyon after my degree was finished.  Most students come to Lyon and pay $20,000 or so a year to study here.. I don't have that kind of money and so I did it on my own.  I have been all over Europe, and yes, I am in debt because of it.

I'm not an exchange student because I will be living here for a long time.  My best friend/partner is French and we live together in a 600 sq ft apartment in the center of Lyon.  His family is my family, so, often every other weekend I am surrounded by 100% French people who love me, and I them.  It's always an adventure in the language, especially with Bri as he speaks English- but often will make grammatical mistakes.

I have taken French for over 6 years, but still ended up in a lower level due to my grammatical faults.  Fortunately the classes I am taking are quite easy and often I just sit there and understand it all, because, in order to do my 'career' plans I only need the equivalent to a B2.

My Career Plans
I never thought I'd end up in France, to study or to live.  I already have my Bachelor's in Business Management; and so I will continue here in Lyon into an International Business Management MASTER... as well as get certifications in Int'l Business Consulting.  My goal with all of this?  To counsel businesses on how to survive in the French market.  So much relies on International Business, I want to help those businesses succeed in this country.

Basically in about 2 years I will have a Master from Lyon, a Bachelor from Portland... and a 'head on my shoulders'.

For now I will continue to write about what I learn in the culture and advise you on how to survive.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Culture Shock: Where'd Halloween GO!?

Yesterday was Halloween... my first in France and the first time I didn't have a fun costume to celebrate.  It was strange.

France is a culture rich in diverse events- she has lots of celebrations for different kinds of saints.  She is full of openness for all different religions and many different shops that celebrate that.  Halal butcheries line the streets with the typical French 'charcuteries' packed with pork-specialized products... but France does not take Halloween very seriously.

This was proven as I piled into the car with my French family to go to the wine expo (fourre des vins, a big event in Lyon that has free wine tasting and cheap rates from local wine producers).  As we drove down the street in the evening I looked out the window, searching for the familiar costumed children parading down the street with their candy buckets.  Not one child was outside.

I looked for the shops with their doors open and the synthetic spider webs clinging to the windows.  Not one shop was decorated.

It was such a weird phenomenon.

When I explained to my family that my mom dressed up as a pregnant zebra before I was born, they laughed, but asked why she wasn't dressed as a ghost or a mummy?  Apparently in France if you do dress up, it's only the typical costumes (witches, vampires, devils and ghosts) and none of the little princesses or fairies, no giant toilet bowls.

I did a little research...

Halloween in France only goes back about 10 years.  The people knew about the holiday but never celebrated it in our way... children just started 'trick or treating' around the city... and it still hasn't caught on 100%.  Bri has never even been trick or treating as he was too old when the tradition was introduced!!

The stores don't have the sacks of mini candies, so I couldn't gain my obligatory 2 lbs of Halloween candy (because I always bought too much to hand out).  No pumpkins for my apartment.  No decorations, as I usually did at my parents every year.  No cute children knocking on my door begging for candy.

So, I spent my Halloween at the expo, drinking my worries away with free samples of some of the best wine in France.  I felt bitter as I saw babies and families around buying a 6 month supply of wine and not one of them disguised.  I swigged a taste of a cognac and decided that I would be French for this time... no Halloween costumes and I would accept it.

Instead I gorged myself on Raclette with Bri and then we watched the original 'Halloween.'.  Sometimes you have to accept a culture to live in it.

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