Day 1 of Marseille!

On Friday, I survived my five hours of class!  Phew.  That was tough.

Saturday, I went to the Lyon public library with Colton, enjoyed a fancy lunch of pasta and turkey cordon bleu at his place, and then met up with Cynthia to play some Scrabble.  (Guess who won.)  After that game, Cynthia and I enjoyed some very filling (and quite cheap) crepes at a nearby restaurant.  Delicious!

This morning (Sunday), Colton and I boarded a 9am train headed to Marseille, a port city in the south of France.  After just under 2 hours, we arrived!

The train station in Marseille.

We then caught the metro (which was conveniently attached the train station) and headed to our hotel.

The lobby of our hotel - very chic!

After dropping our bags off, we went out to explore the city, find some lunch and eventually make our way to the opera house.

A church on a street in Marseille.

Unfortunately for us, almost everything was closed today (France pretty much shuts down on Sundays).  So, we settled for just walking and taking pictures of pretty buildings.

Streets of Marseille.

The buildings in Marseille are gorgeous, though a bit grungy.  Marseille is the second largest city in France and the largest port city, but it has a fairly bad reputation.  I think it’s pretty charming, though.

The view along the waterfront.

Close up for the Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde. We're going to try to hike up to this tomorrow before our evening concert.

And it has a beautiful waterfront, which makes me feel at home.

The Waterfront.

After we walked along the waterfront (and admired the fresh fish for sale from local vendors), we headed off in search of some lunch.  There is a traditional Marseille dish called Bouillabaisse, which is a soup made up of five fish, tomatoes, white whine, fennel, saffron, and served with croutons and garlic mayonnaise.  I obviously didn’t want any garlic mayonnaise, but I wanted to try the dish.  So, we found a very cute restaurant (with a super nice waiter – kind of a rarity around here!) and ordered some Bouillabaisse.

Traditional Marseille Bouillabaisse.

As you might expect, it was very . . . fishy.  It was alright.  I’m glad I tried it, but it’s not something I’m likely to ever order again.

Then, we were off to the opera!

Colton at the Opera House.

Actually, we were off to TWO operas.  We saw Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci.  Each was only about an hour and fifteen minutes, so it felt kind of like watching only one opera (thankfully – sorry Colton, I love operas, but two full-length ones in one day might have been a bit too much!).  The first one was alright, but the second one was fantastic.  I’m really glad we went (SO much better than Werther)!

The ornate interior of the opera house.

The interior of the opera house was quite ornate – and, unlike the Lyon opera house, none of it has been modernized (which makes me happy).

The view from our back-row seats.

After the opera, we wandered back to our beautiful hotel since absolutely nothing (aside from restaurants) was open.

This evening, while Colton did some reading for class this week (what a good little student!), I took advantage of the large bath in the hotel room and enjoyed my first bath since arriving in France.  Oh, how I’ve missed having a bathtub!  (No jokes necessary – yes, I have been showering.  :-P)

Tomorrow, we’re going to wander around and try to enjoy as much of Marseille as possible before going to a concert (of an opera singer, of course!) tomorrow evening.  We’ll be headed back to Lyon just in time for classes on Tuesday morning.

Oh!  And, I might be crazy.  I’ve (foolishly?) signed up for the Portland half-marathon in October.  That gives me 9 months to get in shape and actually become a runner.  Yikes!

Wasting Time

C² abandoned me this week to head to Grenoble, so I was left to entertain myself on my two days off.  In Seattle, I’m so used to having so many wonderful people to surround myself with (and to fill up all of my time with), that it’s been quite an adjustment to have to spend so much time by myself.  But, I’m getting through.  And Isaac will be here in less than a month, which will be wonderful.  He’s currently scheduled to be here for 2 weeks (arriving on Friday, February 25th, and leaving on Wednesday, March 9th).  But, there’s so much I want to do and see with him that I’m trying to convince him to change his return ticket so that he stays for an additional weekend.  We’ll see if that works out.

Anyway, to entertain myself on Thursday, I ventured out to an outdoor shopping district around the Place Bellecour.  I’ve been out there a few times (it is right next to where Cynthia lives) and it is a wonderful place for people watching.

Rue de la République

So, I spent some time wandering through stores and checking out all of the people who were busily getting the most out of les soldes.

The carousel on Rue de la République.

I then wandered down some side streets near the Rue de la République, and found a restaurant that mom and I had eaten at when she was here.  It looked super fancy (but the people who were eating there had jeans on, so we didn’t feel like they would frown on us (too much)), so we went in and had some delicious appetizers and salads.  Mom had the famous salade lyonnaise, which is a salad with fried bacon bits on it and egg.  It’s quite tasty.  I had smoked salmon with toast.  Yum!  I forgot to take pictures of the food when we had it, but at least I now have a picture of the restaurant:

The Restaurant.

After wandering around and people watching, I decided to seek out the statue of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.  He was the author of Le Petit Prince and he came from Lyon.  I had been told that there was a statue of him with the Little Prince, but I hadn’t seen it yet.  I wandered around Place Bellecour twice before finding it, but I finally saw it!  No wonder it took me so long – it’s quite small and actually is across the street from the Place.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry avec le Petit Prince

See?  It’s less than impressive.

Close-up of the statue

But finding it gave me something to do.

Last night, I had a camera fiasco and thought that I lost all of the photos that I had taken yesterday.  It did not make me happy.  So, this morning (Friday), I wandered around trying to retake a number of the photos.  However, I just realized that the pictures did get saved last night, so my trip this morning was unnecessary.  Oh well – it gave me some exercise and got me out of the house before noon.  That’s a plus.

Also, I took these photos of the University I am attending and the bridge which goes over the Rhône River (between Place Bellecour and the university).

L'Université Jean Moulin III Lyon.

The Rhône - taken from the Pont de l'Université

I have five hours of class today, then will be off until Tuesday.  I actually am supposed to have class on Monday, but Colton and I have pre-existing plans to spend a couple of days in Marseilles (Sunday through Tuesday morning) to attend an opera and concert and to see the city.  I’m looking forward to the trip!

Operas Should Not Involve Clowns

On Monday, I didn’t have classes (are you jealous of my schedule yet?), so I spent most of the day puttering about my apartment and watching season 1 of Grey’s Anatomy.  It turns out, that’s a pretty great show.  And the best part of it is that it’s supposed to be set in Seattle, so I got to see tons of shots of the Seattle city sky line.  (I miss my city.)

In the evening, I headed over to Cynthia’s apartment to have dinner with C².  We had some croque monsieur and some galette des rois (kings’ cake – not to be confused with king’s cake in Louisiana, which is quite different).  The galette des rois is a very light pastry filled with almond paste.  It’s quite delicious.  I forgot to take a picture, but here’s one I found on the internet:

From Wikipedia.

This is going on my list of things to learn how to make when I get home.

After dinner, Colton and I rushed off to my first opera of the year.  We had tickets to see Werther at the Lyon Opera House.

 

The un-renovated portion of the opera house - my favorite part.

I had high hopes because I like the story.  However, I was incredibly disappointed.  It was TERRIBLE.  Seriously awful.  Don’t get me wrong – the singers were fantastic.  I especially enjoyed the guy who portrayed Werther.  He was great.  The director reset the opera into some bizarre time period where there were clowns everywhere.  CLOWNS!  Why the heck he thought clowns would facilitate the story, I have no idea.  It was bizarre.  I was willing to get past that, though, until the death scene.  In Werther, Werther falls in love with a woman who is engaged to be married to someone else.  At the end of the show, he’s supposed to kill himself; the woman he loves comes to his side while he’s dying and admits to herself and to him that she is in love with him, too.  Then he is able to die in peace because he knows that he is loved.

 

At the opera.

Well, in this production, the director, for some bizarre reason, decided to have him die alone, only imagining that his love has come to see him.  So, she actually never admits to him or herself that she is in love.  It totally changed the meaning of the entire show.  And it was just dumb.  It made no sense at all.  I don’t understand why anyone thought that was a good idea.

It was so bad, in fact that Colton actually booed the director.  He says that booing is acceptable in the opera community, but this is the first time he has ever booed at an opera (even though he’s seen 55 different operas!).  I don’t know if the French don’t boo or if they actually enjoyed the production, but Colton appeared to be the only person booing at the end.

Anyway, now you know, you probably don’t want to ask me what I thought of the opera.  🙂

 

The very modern interior of the opera house.

On Tuesday, I was stuck in class or 7 hours.  SEVEN HOURS!  It was awful.  I guess that’s how they make up for giving us all those days off.  I had five hours straight of European Union Law and Policy and then two hours of International Copyright Law with the professor who has such a strong accent I can barely understand him.  He seems very sweet, though.  And he tries.  He kept referring to the “numerical age,” or what we could call the “digital age.”  He’s clearly translating from the French to the English in his head when he speaks, and since “digital age” translates to “ère du numérique,” his terminology makes sense.  But it’s certainly confusing!

I had no classes today (and don’t have any tomorrow, either…  I know, it’s rough).  I’m all alone, though, because C² took off for a mid-week trip to Grenoble to stay with some friends.  So, I’m left to entertain myself.  Today, I went to the mall to get a few things* and then came home and cooked up some dinner in my tiny apartment.

 

Spaghetti and fresh veggies. The joys of small-kitchen cooking.

I thought my kitchen in Seattle was small, but now it seems luxurious!  But, while the kitchen is small, it definitely functions.  I’ll have to head over to Cynthia’s to bake anything, but I can get by without my own oven for the next two months (I hope!).

In other news, I have a very cute neighbor:

 

I think he's thrilled that I used a bright flash to capture this photo.

He’s no replacement for Bailey, of course, but he’ll do for now.

_______

* While France is freaking freezing, there is one really big plus to being in France in January – les soldes (the sales)!  According to one of my guidebooks, the French government mandates huge sales in January and July, so every store has a TON of stuff on sale.  It’s awesome.  Like after-Christmas sales in the U.S., but much better.  Today, I got a neck-warmer for less than 7€, some great earrings for less than 3€, and some sunglasses for less than 9€!  It was awesome!

 

Check out my new hat and neck-warmer!

 

An Old Lady’s Sunday

On Sunday, upon Colton’s suggestion, we headed to Mass at the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière on the hill overlooking Lyon.  The sermon, having been conducted entirely in French (which is only slightly more useful for me than if it had been conducted in Latin), was pretty much lost on me.  But, I did enjoy looking at the ornate decorations within the Church (and doing a little bit of people watching as well).  Note – people in Lyon dress up even less than people in Seattle when attending church!

The front of the church.

Just one of the many sets of stained glass windows within the church.

After Mass, we admired the views of Lyon from the Church, which sits high up on a hill overlooking the city.

Don’t let the blue skies fool you – while it was certainly beautiful, it was (and still is!) absolutely freezing!

After we decided not to hike down to the city center because of the freezing weather, we took the Funiculer down to Bellecour.  We then spent about 20 freezing minutes wandering around the Sunday produce market getting food for lunch (fresh “5 cereal” bread, fresh cheeses, a delicious chicken freshly roasted on an outdoor spit and some roasted potatoes) and getting a few items for the week.

I ended up getting just mushrooms, clementines and tomatoes this week.  I wanted to get more, but it was so cold that I caved quickly.  Then, we went to Cynthia’s place, cranked p the heat, and enjoyed a delicious lunch.

Yesterday, I went to the worst opera, but I’ll write about that later.  For now, I should get back to paying attention in class!

Il a neigé!

I had a new experience in Lyon this week – it snowed!  I’ve been doing a terrible job of predicting what the weather will be like, and I keep ending up wearing the wrong jacket.  The day it snowed was no exception.  I did not think it would be super cold on Thursday, so I wore my lightest jacket.  Then, of course, it snowed!  I am not a fan of that white stuff falling from the sky unless I can go skiing.  Since that was not an option this week, the snow was really wasted and I did not enjoy walking to and from the metro in it.  Gross.  And cold.  Yuck.

It hasn’t snowed since, but it has been so darn cold!  I swear I have never been so cold in my life!  Today, it got down to -7° C.  I may have to go buy some new clothes just to stay warm!  I do have my eye on a very French hat, which I think I will go buy this week to keep my head warm!  (Totally necessary, right?)

On my day off on Thursday, I had lunch with Colton and Cynthia (henceforth referred to as C²).  We cooked a frozen pizza – very exciting, I know – in Cynthia’s oven.  Then, we went to a concert held at the university.  The musicians were a trio, with a violin, cello and piano, and they played some wonderful classical music.

After the concert, I slipped and slid my way home in the freezing wind and snow and bundled myself up in blankets at home for the rest of the afternoon.

That evening, I attempted to cook dinner in my minuscule apartment for the first time.  It worked just fine, but I’m going to have to get imaginative because my one dinner idea is going to get old very fast.  I sauteed veggies and shrimp.  It was good, but could definitely have benefited from some soy sauce or seasoning.

On Friday, I skyped with Isaac in the morning, then was stuck in class from noon until 5pm.  The class was European Law and Policy.  I could understand this professor much better than the first (she’s British), but she requires a lot of group projects, and we all know how I feel about that.  So, it’ll be interesting.  Also, 50% of the grade is participation.  Gross.

After class, Cynthia and I met up to wander around town and grab dinner.

Today (Saturday), I went to the Marché Plus for some groceries, then met up with C² for some dinner.  We went to a small Lyonnaise restaurant where I had a shrimp muffin for an appetizer (trés bizarre), a duck tarte for dinner, and a fondant chocolat (chocolate molten lava cake) for dessert.  It was delicious!  Food may be very pricey here, but at least it’s good!  C² were heading off to a play (the title of which roughly translated to “My wife is making me into a sextoy” – seriously), but I skipped that and headed home.

Well, wasn’t this an exciting blog entry? (Perhaps this is what Isaac meant when he said I wasn’t clever/witty enough to have a blog…)  I have a full day planned for tomorrow, so hopefully after that I’ll have more exciting things to discuss.  Also, Colton and I are headed to the opera on Monday night, which I’m sure will be awesome.

Miss you all!

Life in Lyon

After spending four days in a tiny apartment in Paris, my mom and I boarded a ridiculously early train bound for Lyon last Monday.  We almost missed our train because I had to go to four different counters to try to figure out who could print my tickets, but I finally got our tickets, we raced to the train, and boarded just in time.  It’s a good thing we weren’t late – when mom left last weekend, a woman arrived just after they had closed the doors (but before the train had started moving) and the guards at the station kept yelling at her, “Vous êtes trop tard!  Vous êtes trop tard!” You are too late!  You are too late! So, we made it on time, struggled to carry all of our my massive luggage onto the train, and then waited the two hours until we arrived at my new home.

Fortunately for us, Colton was waiting for us when we arrived in Lyon and helped us carry our my luggage into the taxi and instructed the taxi where to take us.  I am now staying in a little studio with a loft.  It’s very cute, and very small.  Essentially, very European.  It has a tiny kitchen (if you can call it that, which consists of a sink, a microwave, and a burner), a bathroom with very hot water and a towel warmer (I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to go back to living without that), a small living area with a futon-type couch and a tv, and then a bedroom upstairs in the loft.  It works perfectly for me.  It’s a little pricey, but it’s fully furnished, so it saved me from having to buy necessities like dishes and pans and such.

Since I’ve arrived in Lyon, I’ve done little sightseeing.  I have seen the town square (Bellecour), with a giant statute of Louis XIV, the two main shopping streets, and a couple of markets with independent vendors.  There is actually a fair amount to do in Lyon because it’s the home of the author of Le Petit Prince and the creator of Punch and Judy.  So, there are a number of museums I will have to check out.  I just haven’t done that yet.

On my first day in Lyon, I attended two hours of orientation, which consisted of a description of some of the history of Lyon.  I was supposed to attend orientation the rest of the week, but I decided to skip it in favor of sleeping and spending more time with mom while she was here.  I really enjoyed her visit and was very sad to see her leave here last Saturday.

On Sunday, Cynthia and I went to a produce market, which is apparently the best place to buy fresh food items.  While food is generally much more expensive here (a dinner for two is typically between 40€ and 60€!), I was able to buy 20 clementine oranges, 20 large organic carrots and 3 large zucchini for just 4€10!  Then we went to a crèperie and I had a complèt crèpe, which had ham and cheese, and was topped by an egg.  It was delicious!

I attended my first two hours of class yesterday, which was interesting.  The subject is international copyright law, which could be a good topic, but the professor who teaches it has such a strong accent that it took me at least ten minutes to figure out that he was saying “author’s right” and not “also right.”  I don’t think that bodes well for that class.  The scheduling here is kind of strange, so now I’m off until Friday.

Today, I went to an indoor market with Colton and Cynthia and had a nice lunch.  Then, Cynthia offended the waiter by asking to take her leftovers with her.  The French find that very tacky.  He was clearly offended, but he did it for her anyway.  Then, I got a nice looking dessert on my way out of the market, which I will enjoy later.  Here are some pictures of Lyon for you to enjoy.  Maybe this will spark in interest in some of you and you’ll want to come visit… 🙂  I have that couch/futon to sleep on!

Also, the picture at the top of the page is a panoramic shot of Lyon.  I didn’t take it, but it gives you an idea of what the city is like.

Here goes…

Per your requests, I’ve started my very own blog!  It’s okay – calm down.  I know how exciting this is for all of you, especially Isaac.

Alright, here goes my self-indulgent attempt at describing my life in France.

I’ve now been in France for almost 2 weeks.  It’s been… interesting.

My mom and I arrived in Paris last Thursday at about 7am.  I had big plans to venture out into the city and see all that Paris had to offer.  Instead, I ventured into a bakery, realized how poor my French was when the lady impatiently demanded my order, thrust the baked goods at me, then demanded my money.  I had only been in France for a couple of hours and already I had a language-induced headache.  I went back to the Paris apartment and promptly fell asleep.  For like 8 hours.  Finally, my mom and I ventured back out into the city to get some dinner, which took 3 hours, then went to the Arc de Triomphe and wandered down the Champs Elysées.  We lucked into arriving on a Thursday, when all of the stores stay open really late.  So, we got to shop until about midnight!  At first, I thought that this meant that stores generally stay open really late, but no.  Just on Thursdays.

For the remainder of our time in Paris, I continued to sleep a lot (I’ve been fighting a horrible cold for a couple of weeks now) and tried to do as much sight-seeing as I could.  We visited the Moulin Rouge, which was very cool, even though we didn’t get to see a show there because they were much too expensive.  We also went to the Eiffel Tower, though we were only go up to the second level because the top was closed.  And, of course, we spent an entire day in the Louvre.  I planned on only staying there for a couple of hours, but the time flew by and a whole day had passed.  And yet we still missed an entire level!

For now, I’m heading to dinner with Colton and Cynthia.  We’re going to cook in her apartment.  I’ll write about Lyon tomorrow or later this evening.

Miss you all!