WHOA lansi

francophile, oenophile, logophile, turophile

Tag: France

Honeymoon 007 \ A bientot, Lyon

On our final day in Lyon, we majorly slept in. As a seasoned traveller, I likely should have realized we weren’t on European time yet, but I guess wine clouded my judgement & I didn’t set an alarm. I still had a few things I wanted to show N, so it was a bit disappointing to realize we’d missed so much of the day.

I’d promised my coworker I’d stop by Starbucks again so that was our first stop once we got moving. He was in a meeting, but snuck out for a quick chat. My old store manager was also there, so it was fun to say hi to her as well. Soufien & I made tentative plans for later on as the clock was ticking for N & I to get a real lunch.

Unfortunately, one of our maps placed the restaurant in the wrong location, so we wasted precious time on a wild goose chase. When we finally arrived at the correct location, they had stopped serving lunch. Instead, we made a dinner reservation & headed to a more touristy spot in Vieux Lyon for a traditional style bouchon lunch.

This is the type of meal you tend to waddle away from. Traditional Lyonnais food is heavy. It’s full of the type of things you’d find at Grandma’s, if your Grandma is a French woman who enjoys butter & offal. My starter salad was mostly bacon with a side of greens & a hard boiled egg. We managed to find back to Place des Terreaux for a tour of L’Atelier de la Soierie by one of the artists. She was taking a break from the free-hand floral designs she creates. The shop was also in the middle of filling a large order of beautiful silk scarves so we saw a bit of that process. I highly recommend a visit if you’re passing through Lyon. The shopkeepers are friendly, helpful, & always willing to explain a bit of the historic process they continue to use. They’re one of the last shops to still use this method, so it’s a pretty unique experience.

The square was getting busy so we decided to join some of the locals for a few beers at Café Leffe. Place des Terreaux was one of my favourite squares to grab a drink & people watch. There’s always so much going on as it’s a major thoroughfare for locals & the site of many events. It also gave us a chance to use free wifi to make plans with some of my friends for later that evening – the joys of being without cell reception.

Our dinner that evening was another very traditional Lyonnais meal. Café Comptoir Abel is said to be the oldest & most authentic bouchon in the city. We went for some very traditional dishes including veal, kidney, andouillette, & paté. If you want to be adventurous, this is the place to do it. & while many of those foods probably aren’t in your regular dinner rotation, I highly recommend giving them a try in Lyon. These dishes are typical of what was cooked regionally by the 19th century middle class, when many women began working as cooks. (You can read more about the Lyonnais “mothers” & this simple style of cooking here.)

It was a beautiful evening to sit outside on the patio. In typical A&N fashion, we ordered way more food than necessary, especially considering these dishes are on the heavier site & we’d had a big lunch. This is a definite theme when we travel.

If you ever ask N to take your photo, he’ll take about 15. By the end, I always look like this.

After dinner, we met two coworkers from my Starbucks days at a little pub on the Presqu’île. It was fun to catch up with them & properly introduce N. We reminisced over how much had changed in the last six years (& how much really hadn’t). I can’t imagine a better way to wrap up our time in Lyon then with great company, a few drinks, & a beautiful night on a patio.

The next morning we boarded an early train for Italy. It was bittersweet to be moving on from France, but exciting to prepare for new adventures in Italy. Genoa was next on the list & the beginning of our weeklong cruise.

Noel, Noel

Is it possible to be homesick for a place that isn’t really home? With Christmas around the corner, I certainly feel that way. While I love many of our traditions here at home, there are many things I miss about this time I year abroad too.

I find my feelings of nostalgia are especially strong in December as I reminisce about the Christmas Markets this time of year. While most people tend to plan their trips in the summer months, I find there’s something particularly special about Christmas in France (& England). The cities are so festive, filled with lights & decorations. It’s hard not to get caught up in it.

That’s not to say that we don’t get into the Christmas Spirit in Canada – we certainly do. & I love heading out to the mountains to celebrate this holiday with family & friends. I just can’t shake the feeling that we’re missing this wonderful part of Christmas in Europe: the Market.

We have Christmas Markets & I’ve been to a few that I’ve enjoyed, but a Christmas Market in Europe is a thing to experience. I loved wandering my neighbourhood one in the evenings. Amongst the typical homemade gifts you see in most markets, you’ll also find delicious food & wonderful drinks. My favourite market treat is raclette with a side of vin chaud (mulled wine), of course. The raclette tartine or tartiflette are also great choices. You really can’t go wrong with warm, melted cheese. A European Christmas Market is the perfect place to meet up with friends or wander yourself. & with most of these markets in the city center, they’re easily accessible.

Raclette Tartine: baguette, raclette cheese, & charcuterie. Perfect!

The daily morning market is still my very favourite, but the daily Christmas market is a close second. Europe is beautiful any time of year, of course, but I especially love the cooler months. Don’t let the fact that it’s a less popular time to travel deter you – it truly has its own merits. It’s less busy & if you go in November, you’ll get to experience the beginning of the Christmas season. You may not be sitting on a beach this time of year, but you can certainly brag about the warmer temperatures to your friends back home (if you’re Canadian at least)!

Most of my photos here are pre-DSLR days, so don’t let the grainy low light shots deter you. I hope the beauty of the French Christmas Market still shines through. I have such fond memories of them.

Honeymoon 006 \ Trabouling in Lyon

I’ve mentioned many times that I don’t usually enjoy tours. That hasn’t changed. I still prefer to explore on my own, but even I’m willing to make exceptions. Traboules require a bit of explanation & it can be nice to let someone else take the reigns (plus I’m a huge nerd for history). & there’s so much history in Lyon. This may actually explain why I first gravitated to it. I also fell in love with these weird little passageways on my first visit.

The latest version of this tour included fancy headphones. Not only did they make us look super cool, but they also made it easier to hear our soft-spoken French tour guide as we wandered the narrow streets & used the traboules to weave between streets & buildings. I especially liked the guide’s description of a traboule as “a public passage in a private space”.

Traboules are unique to Lyon so it can be tough to explain them to someone who’s never experienced them. I know N didn’t quite get it until we were actually trabouling.

The residents of these buildings have agreed to allow access to the public. They ask that we respect the tranquility of the spaces by passing in silence. The streets outside can be noisy, which makes the quiet traboules feel especially tranquil. If you decide to explore the area on your own, ask for a map at the Tourist Office: each traboule is marked on the map to make route-planning simple.

Rue St Jean, the main street of Vieux Lyon, can be crowded, but as you make your way through these passageways, you’ll often find yourself alone. You’ll also get to experience beautiful architecture that would otherwise remain hidden if the residents of this neighbourhood hadn’t agreed it was worth allowing tourists & locals alike to explore.

La Tour Rose is one of the most well-known traboules

After the tour, we had some time to kill before our late dinner reservation. On the hunt for wine & a good picnic spot, we headed over to Les Berges du Rhône. Les Berges is a park along the banks of the Rhône, & a premier spot for picnicking. There’s always something going on! This time we stumbled upon a board game event: hundreds of people playing all different kind of games & enjoying the beautiful day. Unfortunately, being Sunday, most stores were closed & we struck out in our wine search at every tabac on that side of town. Instead, we grabbed a drink on one of the patios along the river. It wasn’t exactly the picnic we had in mind, but no real complaints there.

Enjoying the sun on our way to Les Berges
A game of Carcassonne in the park

Our balade eventually led us to one of the newer Starbucks along Rue de la Ré. I wanted to see if one of my friends was working. Turns out he had transferred back to the store we’d worked together at in France, so we made our way up there. Of course, I had to take a photo outside. There she is, the first Starbucks of many! Although, Soufien wasn’t working when we visited, we did run into another of my coworkers & made plans to come back to following day to see S.

On our way back to our apartment, I remembered that épiceries often carry wine so we grabbed a bottle. Success! Who would have thought it could be so difficult to find wine in France?! Back at our place, we threw open the giant windows, laid our feast out on the kitchen counter, & relaxed for the rest of the afternoon.

It’s hard to deny that Lyon is gorgeous with it’s old buildings on the hill & Fourvière in the distance. I could have hung out in that apartment for another week enjoying that view & visiting the market in Croix Rousse daily. While there’s so much of the world I want to see, I think I’ll always want to go back to Lyon.

That night, we got a bit dressed up & headed out for a late dinner at Brasserie de L’Est – one of Paul Bocuse’s brasseries. Located in the old Brotteaux Train Station, the menu & decor are meant to take you on a Round The World trip. A miniature train circles the dining room above your head, paying homage to the buildings’ past.

I’d been to another of Bocuse’s Brasseries, Le Sud, when I lived in Lyon & it was a wonderful experience so I was really looking forward to this dinner. It certainly did not disappoint. Paul Bocuse is such an icon in this region, & in the culinary community. A visit to one of his restaurants should definitely be on your To Do list.

As for our meals, N & I shared Salmon Gravlax & Foie Gras Mousse to start. Then N went for the cod while I had beef. Both were delicious & cooked perfectly. My beef came with a side of  thick-cut fries, which were kept warm over a candle. I thought it was pretty cute. To cap things off, we shared an excessively large crème brulée – a desert I can never resist.

We wrapped up our meal just in time to catch the last metro home & tucked ourselves into bed satisfied with our wonderful day.

Honeymoon 004 \ Lyon

The first time I arrived at Lyon Part-Dieu was in February 2006. My train was two hours late, having hit a car enroute, & I was worried about my hostel reservation. Another girl on the train noticed & set my mind at ease, offering to let me stay with her if worse came to worse. As soon as the train stopped, she put me on the quickest bus towards the hostel, her contact info saved in my phone in case my reservation had been cancelled.

I didn’t wind up needing to take her up on her kind offer, but it was nice to have made a friend & experience such kindness from a total stranger. It was the beginning of my love affair with Lyon & when I decided to move to France in 2008, it was the first city that came to mind. It turned out to be the best choice. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend a visit. It’s big enough to keep you occupied, while still being walkable & friendly. Three days is plenty of time to see the city, eat at a few fabulous restaurants, & get a feel for daily life.

Day 1

During my seven months abroad, I had three visitors for whom I gladly played tour guide. It’s so satisfying to show people close to you your home. I’ve told N so many stories of this place & when we started planning our honeymoon, I hoped he’d be game for a visit. This place is such a huge part of my identity that I couldn’t wait to share it with my new husband.

I’ve taken to referring to Lyon as my French hometown & it felt like that from the moment we stepped off the train. I know the city & that was apparent as we navigated it with ease. I excitedly pointed out landmarks & shared memories from my séjour around every corner. There’s something so special to me about this level of ease in a place. It goes beyond comfort. I’m struggling to explain what I mean, so I can only suggest you live abroad yourself. I’ve talked about how life changing I think this experience is before & I’m sure I will continue to do so for a long time because I really & truly believe it. (You can read those posts here.)

We had rented an apartment on AirBnB again & (again) it did not disappoint. Around the corner from Place Sathonay (a square I passed daily when I lived here), our apartment featured two large windows that framed the beautiful Fourvière Hill. It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that. The living room was perfect for relaxing with a bottle of wine & some cheese & charcuterie from the market up the hill (which we did, of course) & we were just down the hill from my old apartment. Thank you, AirBnB!

Our temporary Lyonnaise home


It was a bit of an odd time of day by the time we got settled – too early for dinner & too late for lunch.  We’d eaten on the train but I knew we needed some fuel for our climb up to Fourvière. We settled on moules & frites to share at a Léon de B just off the pedestrian street, rue Mercière. It’s a bit of a touristy spot, but they serve great Belgian beer, unlimited fries, & large servings of moules. I can’t argue with that.


Rejuvenated, we headed out for our hike. We made a quick stop at Bellecour & the statue of le Petit Prince & Antoine de St Exupéry. If you attended our wedding, you know that I translated a passage from this famous book. My favourite quote is inscribed on the side of this statue. The fact that Exupéry is from Lyon had a lot to do with my choosing this particular passage. Ah the symbolism.

On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.

Fourvière – la colline qui prie

Fourvière is known as la colline qui prie (the hill that prays) because of the iconic white basilica atop this hill. It also features the remains of a roman amphitheater & smaller Odeon. You’re rewarded with these incredible, & slightly unexpected, roman ruins as you near the top. You can see the basilica up a little further, but I can rarely resist a visit of the ruins first. We explored the site a bit before continuing our climb.


The view of Lyon from the basilica is gorgeous. You can see the whole of Vieux Lyon & the Presqu’île as well as both rivers. I’ve always loved this basilica, perched up on the hill above the city. Walking down the street to my little apartment when I lived in Lyon, I would drink in the sight of it, all lit up on that hill, a beacon for the city below. I can’t imagine I’ll ever tire of it.

We wound our way back down through the gardens & stairways back to View Lyon to grab a beer on one of the cobblestoned terraces in the old town.

Impressive doors

We picked a cafe on the edge of the old town. In some cities, it’s only tourists all the time in this type of area. Here I found it to be a good mix of locals, exchange students, & tourists if you stick to the outer edges. It probably helps that people actually live in Vieux Lyon.

It was getting dark as we wandered home to change for dinner & I snapped some pretty photos in the fading light. We also caught some Russians jumping off bridge. My photos are quite blurry, but it’s a funny memory.

Jumper 1 in the water, Jumper 2 on the bridge
A pile of clothes on the bridge


We had planned to get dinner in Croix Rousse that night but we let time get away from us & by the time we arrived, they said they were full. We wandered around disappointed for a while (a few of the other places in the area were closed due to the August vacation thing) until finally settling on dinner on the main boulevard. It was nothing special sadly, aside from the location.

After dinner we wandered through Croix Rousse & stumbled upon a festival of some kind. It mostly consisted of salsa dancing so we sat & watched for a bit before continuing down the Montée de la Grande Côte. This pedestrian route is lined with shops, restaurants, & bars. It was Saturday night so we found ourselves a lively terrace across from a couple bars & ordered beers amongst the locals. It was busy, which made for some great people watching & eavesdropping.

We enjoyed a couple drinks there before I decided to show N the club we used to go to when I lived here: Ayers Rock. We only lasted about 30 seconds before we realized I was 6 years younger when I was last a frequent visitor of Ayers. It’s not quite our scene anymore. It was good for nostalgia though.

Outside Ayers

We finished off the night at a pub next to Place Sathonay before packing it in for the night. We had a big day planned for Sunday so we thought we should get a good nights sleep.

Living Abroad \ Travel Young, Travel Old, Travel Often

Raleigh Beach, Thailand

“We are what we repeatedly do,” Aristotle once said. While I don’t want to sound all gloom-and-doom, and I believe your life can turn around at any moment, there is an important lesson here: life is a result of intentional habits. So I decided to do the things that were most important to me first, not last. – Jeff Goins

This article was circulating around a while back and it really hit home for me. You hear comments about it so often and the hardest part of travelling or living abroad is letting go of all the reasons not to. The older I get, the harder it is to take that leap: quit my job, leave my friends, spend my savings globetrotting. That’s not to say it wasn’t hard to do when I was younger though either. It’s not easy to pick up your whole life and move to another country, especially one where you don’t know anyone. Hell, it’s not even easy to move across your own country. It is worth it though.

Fete de Lumieres, Lyon

Traveling will change you like little else can. (JG)

I wholeheartedly believe this. I’ve seen it in myself and I’ve seen it in others. Travel most definitely changes you. I believe it changes you in the best way possible. If you’re struggling to take the plunge, stop. Travel will never be the wrong answer, especially if you’re young.

There has never been an instance where I truly regretted having travelled. Sure, there have been times when I’ve thought, “It’d sure be nice to have a downpayment for a house” or “It’d sure be nice to be further along in my career”. Yes, those things would be nice at this point in my life, but would I even want them if I hadn’t had the experiences I did? I don’t think I would. I think I’d still be yearning to live abroad.


Go now. That’s the best advice I can give you. Go before you’re too entrenched in whatever life you’re comfortably creating for yourself at home. Go before you decide you’re too old. Go before you regret not having gone.

It’s never too late to go travelling, but it will eventually feel that way. & you will eventually put other priorities first too many times. I firmly believe that it will only get harder the more you establish yourself. Maybe not financially, but in every other way. The longer you stay in one place the harder it is to leave.

So get out of here already. The only thing standing in your way are your excuses.

You can thank me later.

Living Abroad

I started this blog while living abroad in 2008. I wanted a way to document that time in my life as well as write, be creative, and keep in touch with friends. My time in France was not only one of the inspirations for this blog but also one of the most rewarding and incredible experiences of my life.

I think about France often. Honestly, I think about travel in general a lot, but especially both of my experiences living in France. I’ve said countless times that I think travel (and especially solitary travel) is one of the best things you can do in your twenties. Those experiences have shaped me in so many ways and I know I’d be a very different person today without them.

I’m grateful I was given the opportunity to live abroad twice. I’ve been told that I’m brave for having the ability to take these opportunities and run with them. It’s hard to always see yourself in that way – a lot of the things I’ve done in my life were possible because of the support of my family and friends. For them, I am also very grateful. A lot I accomplished because of sheer determination. I’m a stubborn person and I knew I’d regret not taking the chances I did. It took a lot of research, planning, and many missteps along the way, but I made it.

I’ve told so many people to go travelling or go live abroad but I realized the other day that I’ve never really written about the how or the why. I think it’s time to change that. I look forward to looking back on my experiences and sharing them in this series and I hope it helps someone who needs that extra push.

a moveable feast

I follow a lot of blogs – fashion blogs, lifestyle blogs, design blogs, cooking blogs… I love them all for different reasons. I’ve been following Megan Gilger of The Frensh Exchange for a while now  and her post today got me thinking about a lot of things. One of those things is Paris.

It’s funny because Paris is both the reason I first found Megan’s blog and part of the reason I’m blogging today. Her post struck a chord with me for a few reasons. I love her and her husbands work and the way she talks about creating always inspires me to be better creatively. Following through on that is a work in progress, but it’s the kind of work in progress I’m happy to be doing. I’m learning it’s important to me to create things as well as tell my story and I think she hit the nail on the head today. It isn’t all business and we are definitely more than just our work. That’s what I want this blog to be about. My story. And my story should definitely include Paris.

So back to that. As Megan said in her post,

The biggest thing, if anything you should take from this whole chat, is that you never should say no to Paris….ever. Paris is always a yes no matter what. Never say no. (Megan Gilger)

I couldn’t agree more. We’re in the process of planning our wedding and, as a result, our honeymoon next year. While Paris was never my home, I adore it. J’adore Paris! I know there are many people who would disagree that this city is great, but I am not one of them. I don’t know what it is about Paris and I’m not sure I can properly put it into words. It’s just a feeling. And maybe you just have to feel it. Maybe you just have to find your Paris, your France, your place that will always feel special to you.

France in general makes me feel so many things. It’s such an inspriring place for me. I can wander around Paris or Lyon for hours, people watching and taking in every detail. I can’t imagine ever feeling differently about either one. Even after living in Lyon for 7 months, walking down the same streets everyday, catching a glimpse of the Basilica on Fourviere at the end of my street every night, I was still taken away by the humble beauty daily in that country.

I want to share this with N. I want to show him my Lyon, show him all of the amazing things I love about Paris, Lyon, France. Share this feeling I get while I’m there.

I hope he’s as excited as I am.

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast. (Ernest Hemingway)

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