T-0 and 1 days.

I’m now back at home and trying to adapt to being a world away from the place I called home for the past three months.  It’s been strange but wonderful to come home.  Of course I miss certain things (and people), but I’m enjoying seeing all of the people I have missed since January.  For the first few days here, it seemed more like I was just home for a weekend and would be headed back to France soon.  Now, as I sit in class, it’s starting to set in that I’m here to stay.

For this post, I’ll recap my last day in France and the (long and painful) journey home.

On my last day in Lyon, I spent the morning in class listening to the caricature of an Italian guy who was my professor (seriously, it was more like sitting through an SNL skit than a class).  For lunch, Cynthia and I headed back to a restaurant we had visited a couple of weeks ago so that I could enjoy another taste of the best burger I have ever had.

Cafe 2300.

In addition to having my final burger in France (and I may never eat a burger again – I ate way too many of them while in France!), I also had my final coca light.

My final coca light. Why, yes, I did take a picture to commemorate this experience.

Oh coca light.  How I already miss you.

After lunch, we rushed back to class for the afternoon (with me only occasionally stopping to take pictures of the streets).

Pretty streets and buildings in Lyon.

I crossed over a bridge in Lyon for my final time (notice my countdown theme?  I’m so original).

View from the Pont de Guillotiere.

After sitting through class for another couple of hours (my final class in France!), I walked to a nearby cafe with some of my classmates for a toast to my leaving.

Bar/Cafe near the Bridge.

I seriously lucked out and got some nice weather on my last day in France, so we were able to sit outside and enjoy a little bit of Vitamin D.  (Of course, apparently, the weather got even better right after I left – 70s and sunny (really??) – but this was considered nice at the time.)

Classmates, wine and sun.

Even the Italian professor decided to join us for drinks!

After hanging out for a bit, I hurried home to get some packing in before meeting up with Colton for dinner.  I know this will come as a complete surprise, but we decided to go to L’Entrecote for dinner to have one last serving of Steak frites.

Our final steak frites experience!

I had a wonderful time hanging out with Colton for the final time in France!  After a nice dinner (and a wonderful Vacherin dessert), I headed home to finish up my packing.

Clearly I travel light...

Then I headed up to my loft to sleep for the final time (a healthy 2 hours of sleep, of course).

In the morning, I caught a taxi at 5:30am to the train station.  I then struggled to get my luggage to the train platform and onto the train (but thankfully some nice guy helped me a little bit).  Finally, I was on the train and heading to Paris.  After a two-hour train ride, I arrived at the airport, where I was told that my luggage was too heavy – while there is a 25 kilo weight limit, my red bag was 38 kilos and my purple bag was 28 kilos.  Whoops!  After a 10 minute discussion with the guy at the ticket counter (which involved a lot of “yes, I get that it’s too heavy… what do you want me to do?”  “It’s too heavy.”  “Yes, so…?” and then three calls to supervisors and finally approval by the third supervisor), I was directed to another counter to pay for the hefty (ha!) baggage fees.  Finally, an hour after I arrived at the airport, I was able to head to the customs agent to start getting to the terminal.  Boy was I in pain at this point – not only were my suitcases over weight, but my two carryons were at least 60 pounds each!  Not really the easiest luggage to maneuver at the best of times, but with a broken toe and a sprained ankle…  phew…   Let’s just say I was extremely happy to get on that plane and relax for 9 hours.

I finally arrived in Seattle about 27 hours after I left Lyon.  Boy was I happy to see mom and hop into that car, knowing no more travel was needed for a long time!

I had a wonderful weekend (despite having to do my final final for the French program), but I’ll discuss that in a subsequent post.  For now, I’m just happy to be home!

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T-2 and 3 days

On my third to last day in France, I spent most of the day in class (more intellectual property lessons).  After class, I wandered around and found a suitcase (it’s purple) and then met up with Cynthia for our last baking experience in France!

Since we had enjoyed making the mixed berry clafouti a few weeks ago, we thought we would make another clafouti.  This time, we opted for a cherry one.  The only cherries available in the frozen food store (Picard) were Les Griottes (Morello cherries), so we went with that.

Sour cherry clafouti! Would be delicious served with vanilla yogurt.

After our baking, we headed out for a traditional Lyonnaise dinner (we didn’t leave for dinner until almost 10pm, so we really went full-fledged French).

Our pick for dinner.

We decided to visit a bouchon Lyon, which is a traditional Lyonnaise eatery serving lots of sausages, duck paté and other Lyon specialties.  Since I hadn’t been to one yet (and really wanted a salade lyonnaise), we picked this one.

The interior was very homey and welcoming.

The restaurant was quite charming and the owners were super friendly.  It seemed to be quite popular, too, so were felt like we must have made a good choice.

La carte.

Cynthia was my willing companion on my quest for French food and offered a number of good suggestions on what I should try.

She's so accomodating!

Since I had been craving the salade lyonnaise, I opted for that for my first course (got to love the menu options, which include an appetizer and main dish for a set price).

Salade lyonnaise.

For my main dish, I decided to try something new that is a Lyon specialty – the quennelle lyonnaise de brochet.  I don’t really know how to describe it, but it’s made with some sort of meal mixed with fish, baked and covered with shrimp sauce.  It was very interesting and actually pretty tasty.

The quennelle lyonnaise de brochet.

And the potatoes served on the side were probably the best tasting potatoes I have ever had.  Delicious!

After dinner, we walked back to Cynthia’s apartment so we could end our meal with our homemade clafouti.

Very cute alley near the restaurant.

It was a wonderful third to last day in France.

On my second to last day in France, I did some packing (it’s about time I started that!), went to class, and then celebrated Cynthia’s birthday eve!  (Her actual birthday is today, March 31, but she has opera tickets for tonight, so we had to celebrate a day early.)

Between class and dinner, I decided to whip up a birthday gift for Cynthia, so I made her a wine cozy (without a pattern, of course).

Cynthia's birthday wine cozy/carrier.

Then, I met up with Colton at place bellecour so we could walk to the restaurant that Cynthia’s parents (who are in town visiting) had picked out.

Beautiful evening to celebrate a birthday.

Cynthia’s mom had chosen Brasserie Francote, which was quite lovely!  I enjoyed a wonderful dinner with Colton, Cynthia and Cynthia’s parents, who are adorable!

 

The Brasserie Francotte.

Colton and I started the evening by giving Cynthia our gifts:

A wine cozy and two bottles of wine. Do we sense a theme here?

Colton decided that the wine cozy made a better puppet, much like lamb chop.

Colton... Shari Lewis... pretty much the same thing.

For dinner, I had a fantastic piece of duck, served along side two fried quennelle natur (vegetarian quennelle).  Yum!

Duck with red berry sauce and quenneles.

For dessert, I decided I had to try a professionally made clafouti to compare it to my homemade creations.

Clafouti with caramelized pear, grated walnuts and powdered sugar.

It was quite tasty, but I prefer the homemade cherry one.

In addition to delicious food and yummy wine, I also thoroughly enjoyed the company!  Cynthia’s parents are wonderful and I’m so glad I got to meet them.

Happy birthday, Cynthia! And thanks for dinner, Cynthia's parents!

The waitress took Cynthia's dad by surprise by pouring a large amount of brandy over his chestnut ice cream. (I just love this photo.)

Sadly, this was my final meal in France with C²!!  😦  I’ve had such a wonderful time hanging out with them for the past three months that I will be quite sad to leave them tomorrow.

I'll miss you guys! *tear*

 

My favorite France buddies.

 

 

Baking, a birthday and a broken toe

(Warning — Lots of food pictures to come in this post!  You might not want to read this if you’re hungry.)

After Isaac left, I still had five days with nothing to do since I had dropped the international business law class.  I spent a day recovering from all the running around Isaac and I did, then struggled with entertaining myself.  As I noted in an earlier post, I went for my first run in France – a run to the river, along the river, and back.  Running in France was a very interesting experience, with much winking, comments and cat-calling from the boys in Lyon.  Very odd.  I ignored it, but I still have no idea what the big deal about me running was.  I suppose you don’t often see people running along the street here, but, to get to the river, I had no choice but to run in the city, too!  Anyway, I planned on doing additional runs in the city, but the weather has not been cooperating.  And, because of my adventure today, no running will be possible for a while.  I’ll get to that shortly…

Anyway, after my run, I sat in the sun and read the Nook, which is my new favorite gadget.  My mom, being the wonderful person that she is, sent her Nook with Isaac so that I could use it for the remainder of my time in France.  I never had much interest in having an eBook reader, but, holy cow, this thing is amazing!  I’ve already read 12 books on it.  It’s so convenient!  I will definitely have to get one of these for myself when I get home.

Last weekend, I also made rice krispie treats with C² for a dinner party they were attending.  They provided all of the ingredients

Just like at home... but with pink and white marshmallows!

and I got to mixing!

Finished product! Or not...

Since we had to estimate amounts (measuring cups are a little different over here, and the marshmallows were a little small), the rice krispie treats ended up being a little dry.  So, we decided to jazz them up a bit with some chocolate.  We heated up some dark chocolate and dipped them in it.

Colton prepares the work surface.

Chocolate covered rice krispie treats!

We also decided we would drizzle them with white chocolate to make them even more exciting, so Colton prepared the white chocolate.

Colton takes his baking seriously.

Unfortunately, we had some difficulties with the white chocolate, so had to settle for just the dark chocolate.  The white chocolate refused to melt enough for us to drizzle.  But they were still pretty good, even with just the dark chocolate.

This week, I had about 20 hours of class (this week – international labor law!) and went to 2 operas.  I battled the flu this week, which wasn’t enjoyable.  But, I rested a lot and was able to make it to the operas – the last of my French opera series!  On Tuesday, Colton and I went to Figarro, which was pretty good, and on Wednesday, we went to Don Giovanni, which was very intense and was the best opera I have seen in Europe.

On Thursday, St. Patrick’s Day, C² took me out to celebrate my birthday (Cynthia had a friend in town on Friday and didn’t think her friend would want to celebrate my birthday; I think that friend sounds questionable.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to celebrate MY birthday??).  We went to my favorite restaurant in Lyon, L’Entrecôte.

Steak frites!

They only serve one meal at this restaurant, steak frites, and they serve it very well!  You get unlimited fries plus two servings of some of the best tasting steak I’ve ever had.

The additional servings of steak.

I definitely need to figure out how they cook those fries and that steak.  Because they don’t serve Coca Light at this restaurant (according to the waitress, this is because the meal is fattening, so why would you order a diet drink… don’t you love that logic), we are always forced to enjoy a bottle of wine when we dine here.  Darn.

The local wine, the Côte du Rhône.

Since we were celebrating a birthday, we had to get dessert, which they nicely brought out with a sparkler in it!

We didn't capture a photo with the sparkler going (I was too slow), but I love this photo of me and Cynthia.

Celebrating Birthday Eve with my favorite people in France.

In France, they like to feel close to what they are eating.  It cracks me up.  So, in this steak restaurant, they have paintings of cows everywhere!

Happy cows make for good steak?

On my actual birthday (hello 28!), Colton and I went to dinner at another of our favorite restaurants (which we seem to eat at every week or so), BIEH, Best I Ever Had.  It’s an American diner which serves wonderful hamburgers.  Yum!

Then, we headed to Colton’s favorite cocktail bar, Soda ‘n Soul.  He kept saying they had the best cocktails.  I didn’t really believe him until I tried them.  They really were delicious.  First, I started off with a pear, vodka and fresh blackberry drink.

Yum!

Then, after watching the bartender light a number of drinks on fire, I decided I had to try the firey cocktail.  So, for our second round, Colton and I ordered Zombies, which were made of various rums with a sugar cube on top doused in absinthe and lit on fire.

Our Zombies.

After I got over how strong they were, they tasted great.  While we were there, a couple of friends from our program joined us (and one brought her French boyfriend).

Caitlin (from BU), me, Colton, Fred (the French boyfriend), and Lauren (from LSU).

This was the first time that I had hung out with fellow LLM students other than C² and I really enjoyed it!  I’m going to have to try to make time to hang out with them more in my last couple of weeks here.  Overall, I had a wonderful birthday!  I’m still looking forward to all of the belated birthday celebrations when I get home, of course, but this was definitely not a bad way to spend a birthday in France!

Today, I planned to complete my labor law examination so I could relax on Sunday.  However, my plans went a bit awry.  I woke up about 10am and headed downstairs to make myself some breakfast.  On my way down the stairs, I slipped, fell down the stairs and slammed my foot into the bottom stair.  I am not sure that I have ever experienced that much pain.  After spending a good hour sobbing, I pulled myself back upstairs, messaged Colton and Cynthia and waited for someone to get back to me.  Finally, Colton saw my message and came up with a plan.  He called his “French mom” and asked for advice.  She said that we needed to go to the pharmacist (pharmacists here do a lot more than just dispense drugs).  So, we found one that was open (harder than it sounds) and planned to meet one metro stop away from me.  I dragged myself over there very slowly (and managed not to cry on the way – also harder than it sounds), but, upon getting there, the pharmacist told us we needed to go to the hospital instead.  So, we caught a tram and went to the nearest hospital…. where we waited… and waited… and waited…  It took us about 4 hours before we were seen.  *sigh*  Finally, they called me back, took an x-ray and confirmed what I had thought – I broke the middle toe on my right foot.  They taped it up and regretfully told me that I am just going to be in pain for a while, but it should heal on its own in about three weeks.  Good times.

I managed to get through my first 28 years on earth without a single broken bone.  I guess the streak had to end sometime!  I just wish it didn’t have to end while in France where I have to walk a lot and have some big plans coming up.  Oh well – I guess that’s what I get for making plans!  On the plus side, my bill without insurance for the entire visit, including the x-rays, was under 80 euros!  My copay alone at home would have been at least that much.

[I apologize for the incoherence of this post – I blame it on the pain.]

 

Isaac’s last day…

Phew.  This is the last post in the series on Isaac’s European adventure.  I’d say you’re probably all sick of hearing about him, but you’re probably just as sick of hearing about C² so at least this has been a break of me talking ad nauseum about them!  🙂

Okay, after our day of skiing, Isaac had one last day to spend in Lyon before heading back to Geneva and then flying home.  We lucked out and had awesome weather so we decided to spend the day outside.  I had been meaning to go to the Parc Tête d’Or, a large park in Lyon (in fact the largest park in all of France), but I hadn’t yet gotten there.  So, Isaac and I decided to find it and have a picnic.  We headed out, walked to the river and then walked north along the river.

Restaurants along the river bank.

I just discovered (after almost three months in France) that there are a ton of restaurants along the river in Lyon – I’m going to have to visit at least one of these before I head home.  Hopefully, the weather will stay nice.

After a very long walk, we finally found the park.

Inside the grand gates of the park.

We enjoyed a nice picnic of mediocre sandwiches in the cool yet sunny weather and then ventured around the park in search of the zoo.  I had heard that there was a zoo inside the park, so I was determined to find it.

Exploring the small island in the middle of the lake inside the park.

First, we wandered down some stairs into a tunnel and emerged on an island in the middle of the lake in the middle of the park.  The island contains a couple of monuments dedicated to the French who lost their lives fighting for France in various wars.

One of the monuments.

Monument dedicated to the French who lost their lives in wars between the 50s and 60s.

After exploring the island, we wandered back to the main part of the park and took in the beautiful sights.

A river in the park.

Along the lake.

Finally, we found the zoo, which it turns out is free!  I was quite surprised that we could go enjoy the animals without having to pay anything.

Mr. Giraffe.

There was a nice “African plains” exhibit with giraffe, watusis (my favorite name of an animal), antelope and various other animals wandering freely amongst themselves.

Flamingoe!

The flamingos appeared to be quite upset about something, as they were squawking and flapping their wings.  They were pretty to look at, though.  Reminds me of the zoo in Alexandria, Louisiana right down the street from where my mom and I used to live.

Turtles from Florida... in France.

They had a ton of turtles that they said were from Florida.  I didn’t read the sign, but I wonder if they are there because of the oil spill?  I just thought it was interesting to have all of these turtles from the U.S. in the middle of a French zoo.

Reindeer.

Lastly, we saw the reindeer before heading home.  They had quite a few, so I can only assume this is where Santa’s helpers go in the off season.  🙂

After visiting the zoo, we wandered home, ate some left overs for dinner and called it a night.  Isaac had to catch a 6:30am train in order to get to Geneva to catch his flight home.  Fortunately, his flight home went much better than his flight to Europe, though he did cause quite the stir at the airport when they thought his iPod in his carry on was some sort of detonator.  Ha!  He says he was stuck at security for half an hour trying to get that sorted out.  Good thing he had tons of time when he arrived at the airport.  Poor guy.

Anyway, I had a wonderful time exploring Switzerland and France with Isaac.  I wish he had been able to stay longer, but we crammed as much in as we possibly could!

I am flying to Edinburgh, Scotland a week from yesterday for a brief visit and then will be flying home two weeks from yesterday.  My time here is really coming to a close!  I’ll be home and seeing all of your smiling faces before you know it.  Can’t wait!

Almost the end…

After we got back to Lyon on Saturday, March 5th, we rested and then met up with Cynthia to get some crêpes!  I didn’t want Isaac to leave without having a traditional crêpe dinner.  So, we wandered into Vieux Lyon and enjoyed a leisurely dinner of savory crêpes with sweet crêpes for dessert.  Yum!

Then, on Sunday morning, I decided we all had to go the market.  So, Isaac and I met up with Cynthia again and wandered around the market for at least an hour, getting all sorts of wonderful fresh fruits and produce, a freshly roasted chicken, and some fabulous bread and cheese.  We lucked out and had fantastic weather.  I think Isaac really enjoyed market.

Me and Cynthia at the market.

After the market, we went back to Cynthia’s house to enjoy the fresh chicken, roasted potatoes, bread and cheese.  Also, Cynthia had recently told me about this amazing French dessert called a clafouti.  After looking up a couple of recipes online, I’d been eager to bake one.  So, we selected this recipe and baked one up that Sunday afternoon.

The clafouti!

It was delicious!  It’s sort of like a flan with fruit in it.  I can’t wait to get home and try different variations of this recipe.  It made for a perfect dessert for our Sunday meal.

On Monday, Isaac and I went on our European skiing adventure.  I had been hesitant to go skiing because it seemed like it would be a hassle.  But, Isaac bullied me into it.  And, to be honest, even though we all know how I hate to admit this, I’m glad he did.

We had rented our ski gear on Sunday evening at a place a few blocks from my apartment.  We then caught a bus near Bellecour on Monday morning at 6:30am (eeks!).  We rode on the bus for three hours (where I enjoyed a nice nap) and then arrived at L’Alpe d’Huez Ski Resort at about 9:30am.  It was absolutely beautiful!

Snow, mountains and sunny weather!

We met a nice French guy on the bus who spoke perfect English and he accompanied us on our first run, showing us the ropes.  I rode in my first gondola!  We also went on a run which supposedly has the highest vertical assent in all of Europe.

Isaac seems to spend a lot of time sitting when we go skiing...

Bundled up and ready for some skiing!

I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be dressed warmly enough, but I actually found that I was overdressed for the unseasonably warm weather we found on the mountain.  Actually, this ski resort claims that it has 300 days of sun each year – I’m so glad we didn’t end up there on one of the non-sunny days!

I went overboard with the photos (as usual) because it was so darn pretty.

After skiing for a few hours, we took a lunch break.  And, of course, because we’re in France, the lunch break took a good two hours, minimum.

Perfect lunch setting!

We chose an outdoor restaurant so we could continue soaking up the sun!  Instead of in the US, where you would go up to a counter and order your food, this was a full-service restaurant.

Enjoying some Vitamin D!

Isaac got his beer, I got my coca light, and we both got some sun!  It was absolutely fantastic.  I even got a delicious gourmet dessert!

I have to learn how to make these molton lava soufle things...

Finally, after our long leisurely lunch, we headed back up to the slopes.

The weather kept getting better and better.

After a couple more hours of skiing, we had to head back to the bus to head home.

Our bus.

We met back up at 4pm, and were on the road by 4:30ish.

Parting shot of the resort.

We arrived back in Lyon just after 7pm.  It was truly a perfect day.  I wish Isaac had had a longer stay so we could have squeezed some more skiing in.  (I know, I know, I tried to talk him out of this at first…)

In my next post, I’ll cover the last day of his trip.  Stay tuned!

 

La Vie en France

Today, I woke up and suddenly desperately needed to go for a run.  So, I donned my running gear and headed outside.  I ran from my apartment to the Rhône, ran along the river, then ran home.  It was pretty wonderful.  I’m going to work on running longer and longer distances for my remaining three weeks in France.

After finishing my run, I decided to head back outside and spent a couple of hours reading in the sun on the banks of the river.  Perfect.

Reading on the River bank.

Okay, back to Isaac’s trip.  We spent last Tuesday and Wednesday in Lyon.  On Tuesday, I woke up to go to my first day of International Business Law class.  I spent two hours in that class while Isaac wandered around the city.  After spending two hours in that class, I decided that was two hours too many.  So, I dropped that class and decided to spend the whole week and a half of Isaac’s visit with him instead.  It was a much better decision.

Anyway, after I decided not to return to the class, Isaac and I rearranged our plans for the trip.  We went to The King’s Speech on Tuesday night with Colton, which was my first movie-going experience in France.  The movie was brilliant!  I can’t decide if I think Black Swan or the King’s Speech deserved the Oscar more – they were both amazing films.  After the movie, Isaac, Colton and I wandered around Vieux Lyon and got drinks at a little bar.

A fountain in Lyon. Supposedly, the horses snort water if you wait long enough.

Vieux Lyon.

On Wednesday, Isaac and I relaxed a bit, did some grocery shopping, and went to dinner at L’Entrecôte with Colton for my favorite French dinner – steak frites!  🙂  For some reason, Isaac was not nearly as excited about this dining experience as I was…

On Thursday, Isaac and I caught a 9am train bound for Paris.  After checking into our hotel, we began a walking tour of Paris, heading in the general direction of the Notre Dame Cathedral.  Our first stop was the Montparnesse Cemetery.

I know it's weird, but I love old cemeteries. So peaceful.

Then, we went to the Hôtel National des Invalides to see Napoleon’s Tomb and check out the Museum of Arms.

Les Invalides.

Napoleon's Tomb inside Les Invalides.

Isaac in front of Les Invalides.

The Museum of Arms inside Les Invalides was very cool – they have swords, guns and uniforms from the 12th to the 20th Century.

Next, we wandered around checking out the streets of Paris on our way to the Eiffel Tower.

Wandering around Paris.

Isaac decided he wanted to walk up the stairs on the Eiffel tower instead of taking the elevator (good thing, too, because the elevators were shutting down right when we got there).  So, we climbed the 700+ steps to the second level (the last level accessible by stairs).

Me and Isaac on the Eiffel Tower.

I thought it would be harder to climb up all of those stairs, but it was actually not too bad (after I had a moment or two to recover and catch my breath… 🙂 ).

 

Posing in front of the Eiffel Tower. Isaac feels like it is more important to get a person's feet than to get the top of the monument. I feel differently. We're having a debate over which view is better.

Isaac, posing in front of the Eiffel Tower - how European.

At the base of the Tower.

After admiring the Eiffel Tower from all angles, we headed over to the Arc de Triomphe and, because we hadn’t climbed enough stairs that day already, we climbed the 380+ stairs to the top of that monument.

The Arc de Triomphe.

We ended our first day in Paris by doing my favorite Thursday night activity in Paris – wandering around the Champs Elysées, where, as I mentioned last time I was in Paris, the stores are open until midnight!

 

Hot wine at a restaurant on the Champs Elysées.

On our second day in Paris, we decided to head to the Notre Dame first, since we never made it there on Thursday.

The Notre Dame.

 

Inside the Notre Dame.

The other side of the Notre Dame.

We also wandered around the islands in the middle of the Seine River and found the best ice cream in Paris, Berthillon.

Isaac eating his apricot and green apple ice cream.

I had a scoop of dark chocolate and a scoop of mandarin.  They were both delicious!

Along the Seine.

The Seine.

Isaac’s mom suggested that we go to the Musée d’Orangerie, so we decided to spend some time there that afternoon.  It’s full of impressionist art, and it was fabulous.

My favorite painting at the Orangerie Museum.

We wandered more…  We must have walked at least 5-10 miles each day we were in Paris.

Hard to believe this is self-photography, right?

The streets of Paris.

We then visited the Pantheon and the Jardin du Luxembourg.

The Pantheon.

Jardin du Luxembourg.

Finally (relax, relax, the post is almost over, I swear!), we paid a brief visit to the Hard Rock Cafe in Paris so I could get a pin for Nancy.

Hard Rock Cafe.

After a very busy two days in Paris, we headed back to Lyon early on Saturday morning.

Okay, I’ll save the rest of Isaac’s visit for another post.  Hope this wasn’t too boring…

I hope y’all are ready for me – I’ll be home in just three weeks!

 

France is frustrating.

I had my first “I hate France” moments this weekend.*

Don’t get me wrong, overall, I’m very happy with my decision to come to France.  I’m generally enjoying my time here and I appreciate that I have had this opportunity to spend three months in Europe.  I love the sights, I like the challenge of trying to learn a language, I like how different everything is, etc.  However, there are times when it just gets to be too much.  So, I hope you don’t mind if I take the time to briefly vent.  Here are my most recent frustrations:

Frustration #1: Credit Card Limits

On Friday, I needed to pay rent for my apartment.  Since I don’t have a French bank account, I can’t pay with a check; so, I went to the ATM to get cash.  My rent is 800€, but the ATMs will only allow me to take 300€ out at a time.  So, I took out 300€ twice.  I tried to use the ATM to take out the remaining money, but I couldn’t.  Apparently, after two times, my credit card was used up.  That’s essentially what the ATM told me – your card is used up for today.  Frustrating!  I gave the 600€ to my landlady and told her that I would give her the rest the following day, which she was completely fine with, but still…

Similarly, I had to buy train tickets for Isaac’s trip.  So, I went to the train website (sncf.com) and purchased my ticket to the Geneva airport** to meet up with him.  Then, I bought our tickets from the Geneva airport to where we are staying in Lausanne.  Next, I tried to buy our tickets from Lausanne back to Lyon.  Can you guess what happened?  After two transactions, my card was used up!  Apparently, like the ATM, the train website will only allow you to use your credit card twice in one day.  After that, you’re done!  *sigh*

Frustration #2: Grocery Stores

Here, grocery stores are not like at home.  There is no store like my QFC on Broadway.  Instead, they have many specialized stores.  In general, I like the idea of this (you get very good quality products at all of the specialized stores), but it becomes kind of a pain when you need to stock your fridge.  Anyway, I’ve been able to adapt (though it has definitely affected how I eat each day – man, I have a simple diet over here!).  On Saturday, I walked over to the biggest grocery store near my apartment, a Monoprix.  This is a pretty big chain and they have foods that I have been unable to find elsewhere (like Philadelphia Cream Cheese – I was inordinately excited about that discovery!!).  I stocked up on some groceries and went to the counter to pay.  I handed the woman behind the counter my credit card.  The French have credit cards with special chips in them, which are used differently than American credit cards – but I’ve been able to use my American credit card everywhere I’ve tried.  Apparently, the Monoprix I visited only accepts American Express.  My American MasterCard would not work.  And, of course, I didn’t have the cash for it (see ATM story above).  So, I had to leave my groceries there, walk three blocks to find an ATM so that I could get the necessary cash, and then return to pay for my groceries.  *sigh*

Frustration #3: Stupid Policies

Today, Cynthia and I visited the Ikea.  I’m not going to lie, I was pretty excited about this adventure.  We took the tram out there, wandered around the store, and ate quite the fancy dinner.

Croque Monsieurs and Red Wine... at the Ikea for under 8€ for the both of us!

It was fantastic.  Until I realized, as we were leaving, that I had left my jacket somewhere in the store.  We were leaving just as the store was closing, but we went to the employee and asked to return to the restaurant or the section near the suitcases to see if my jacket was there.  They wouldn’t let me look!  And they wouldn’t even go look for me!  Too late.  Already closed.  Return tomorrow.  UGH.  They refused to help me.  Now, it may not have been those particular employees fault – I really do believe they have strict policies about that sort of thing.  BUT I think it is RIDICULOUS.  I was so annoyed.  Cynthia kept being nice but I was ticked.  I had to walk to the tram, walk from the tram to the metro and then walk home in the cold weather with no jacket.  *sigh*  And, Cynthia and I will be returning to Ikea for lunch tomorrow to see if they found my jacket.  I love Ikea, but I don’t love it so much that I need to take two trips there in two days!  Sheesh.  I just don’t think that would have happened in the U.S.

Okay, my venting is done.

In other news, I had another picnic last week with C² and their peeps, which was fun, as always.

Picnic at the skate park on the Rhône.

Picnics like that (and trips to Ikea without lost jackets) make me happy to be in France.  I just have to get past the frustrations and focus on the fun.

 

 

* To be fair, having to work on my fourth final in three weeks may also be partially to blame for my frustrations this weekend.

** ISAAC WILL BE HERE IN JUST 3 DAYS!!!  WAHOO!!!