For less than a euro, I can experience one of the best things about living in France: baguette. It is a well known fact that I love food. I spend hours perusing the Food Network website, I plan most of my travel with the regional specialities in mind & I make a conscious effort to make good meals- all because I love food.
Before I left for France, I was probably in the best shape I’d been in since I swam. Or at least, I was on my way… Working at the Y & having lots of free time seems to bring that out in me. I mean, free gym membership to a good, well equipped gym? Why not use it. So I was working out at least 4 days on, one day off. Running, biking, swimming, weights, core…you name it..& then I came to France….
I just got home from my second dinner out in a row this week with Steph. Both meals have been so lovely…both for the company (Steph is swedish & the biggest sweetheart!) & the (cheap) delicious food! I shouldn’t be going out for dinner, but both nights together cost me a grand total of 20 euros…not bad, especially when it means getting to know new people.
I’m almost half way through the month of February & I haven’t yet had to stop buying meat because I’m running low on money! That’ll probably all change next week, but it’s fairly exciting for me for the moment. I guess going a little further out of my way to the discount grocery store is paying off! haha.
Anyways, enough about me being broke. I think it’s fairly common knowledge by now that I make no money here, but hey, I’m in France & my spoken French is better than it’s been in years, so I’m pretty sure it’s worth it. I’m officially a certified Barista! This kind of seems like old news now seeing as most of you know via Facebook, but it’s exciting none-the-less. I got to take off my En Formation badge 2 sundays ago. I still am working on getting faster since I still don’t get to be on the bar a whole lot, but at least I’m not worrying about the test any longer. The only drink I really had to show them I could make was a cappuccino (which they weighed to make sure it wasn’t too heavy). I also had to prepare a French press & then present a coffee, talk about it’s origins, treatment method, the story behind the stamp (yes, there’s a story behind each stamp), talk about how we do a coffee tasting & talk about the coffee itself. & then they went through a series of questions about all things Starbucks. It was like an interview…which is unfortunate for me. As anyone who’s ever interviewed me knows, I’m awful at them & get so nervous I forget very basic things- like taking off my coat inside). All in all, it went pretty well & I passed so it’s done. Yes!!
That weekend, my friend from Republique Starbucks, Tonia, invited me to a surprise party at her house. It was for one of her roommates & a bunch of ppl from Rep came that I haven’t seen in a while so that was nice. I also met this girl from Toronto that I almost punched after she said (for about the 5th time): “I can’t believe you live in Calgary. I mean, Calgary. I could never live there”. Of course, she’d never been to Calgary before…or anywhere west of Ontario, actually & referred to Ontario (namely, Toronto) as the center of Canada. (Oh, I’ve never been past central Canada). I’m sorry…but last time I looked at a map of Canada, Toronto wasn’t in the centre, but I do love how ppl sometimes refer to it as such. Oh, & thank you for judging my hometown when you’ve never even been there before. Personally, I would never live in Toronto, but I can understand why people would & would never insult YOUR home…but that’s cool. Please don’t tell others you’re Canadian…you’re giving us a bad reputation. Yes, I’m a little bit bitter. Honestly, WHO SAYS THAT?
Anyways, I got paid that weekend which meant I bought a ticket to Geneva for the Tuesday.It was an INCREDIBLE city! I absolutely loved it! It’s so beautiful-alps, lake, lovely streets…& it’s very French, which I appreciated. I take for granted being fluent in French until I head somewhere like Italy, where I can’t speak the language. I guess it gives me a look at what most people experience when they backpack around the world. I’ve never before noticed so many languages all in one place. At one moment, I could hear people speaking French, English, Italian, German…at the very least those 4. Les Genevois didn’t JUST speak English, it was ONE of the languages they spoke. I bought swiss chocolate (of course) & the vendor spoke PERFECT unaccented English…& French also, of course.
After almost missing my train in the first place (I actually had to run to Part Dieu to make it & jumped on the train 30s before the doors closed) & getting on the wrong part of the train & having to switch at the first stop, I made it to Geneva. I spent the morning/early afternoon wandering in the old own, up & down the hilly pedestrian streets, admiring the imposing Cathedrale St Pierre & then wandering down to the waterfront to get a closer look at the famous Jet D’eau. It’s pretty cool, I have to say. There were so many sailboats & it had that waterfront smell I love, even though it’s just a lake (albeit a fairly large one). Then I headed up towards the botanic gardens & the Palais des Nations. I decided to walk instead of take the bus. For one, it’s cheaper, but I also feel like I get to know a city better if I walk. It was quite far & took me about an hour, but I wasn’t really rushed since I knew the Palais des Nations wouldn’t be open until 2pm. I also wanted to see the International Red Cross Museum, but sadly it’s closed on Tuesdays. I did a tour of the United Nations though, which was pretty cool. You have to show your passport to be allowed in & then they make you a visitor badge that you have to wear as you’re walking around. The tour guide was very informative…He knew so much about the buildings, to how the UN operates, to its history, etc etc. It was really interesting. The building itself is beautiful, as are the grounds. I got a few pictures that are pretty good, but I think it’s somewhere you have to visit. I mean, even just the hallways are pretty exquisite. After the tour, I wandered back into the old town & had a hot chocolate outside in this pretty little square. (mmm swiss hot chocolate).
The day had started out a bit cloudy, but as it progressed I was able to see more & more of the mountains. They’re still hard to see in the photos, but in person I did get a little bit of a glimpse! An hour or so before my train, I headed back towards the station, grabbed the best chicken schwarma I’ve had in a while from a little hole in the wall recommended by Lonely Planet, bought some Swiss chocolate & caught my train home to Lyon. Great way to spend a day off, if you ask me!!
Thursday night, Kate & I were supposed to go out with her friends, Fatah & Steph. We went to hers & predrank a bit (well, we TRIED, but just couldn’t force down the awful rum she’d bought). We were all dressed up & trying to take a velo’v, but after 3 attempts to buy a card on 3 different machines, we gave up. We were both in heels & didn’t want to walk so we decided to have a drink in a little bar. Fatah & Steph texted us that they were going to the boats so we went & met them, but it was pretty lame so we didn’t stay long. I walked up to Cordeliers with Steph & we took the metro together. She’s from Sweden & is the sweetest girl! It’s her birthday this friday, so that should be fun!
Saturday night, I went out with a bunch of Starbucks people. We met in town & walked over to les Berges to go to Q boat. Being the jerks they are sometimes at the boats, they wouldn’t let us in. So then we walked all the way back to l’hotel de ville to go to Ayers. We waited in line to get in & it was so packed you couldn’t move. So we waiting in line to get out & headed up the street to Barberousse. I’d never been before but I’ll definitely be going back. It’s this pirate shooter bar. So we all shared lots of rum based drinks & did a cucaracha, which they light on fire & you drink through a straw. Needless to say, it was not an early night & me & my shift supervisor (who also came out) were more than a little bit tired when we opened the next morning.
Monday night, I met Kate, Rachel, Jamie & a few new people at Place des Terreaux & we headed to the Wallace Pub. It’s an English pub that apparently specializes in different kinds of Whiskey. I decided I’d stick with my demi pèche, but the had Québecois beer AND live music…I dunno how Québecois beer ends up in a Pub, but I’m not gonna argue with it. haha.
I’d read in a blog about this great patisserie in Bellecour called Pignol, so I met Kate & we decided to check it out before doing some shopping. It was AMAZING. Not only were the pastries delicious, but they were also pretty much art. It took us a good 20 minutes to decide because everything looked so amazing. In the end, I chose a Caramel Meringue & Kate chose some kind of delicious tart. We already have plans to go back with our friend, Rachel.
Next week is les vacances scolaires so everyone is taking off to different cities. Kate is off to Copenhagen to visit Steph & Rachel is off to Northern France (Including Rennes-so jealous). So I’m pretty sure it’ll pretty low key in Lyon & I’ll be jealously wishing I was going somewhere exciting. I guess I can’t go somewhere new EVERY week, but perhaps I’ll try to take off somewhere despite my lack of money. There is still so much to see in this beautiful region!!
Anyways, you’re probably sick of me yammering on about my life so I’ll let you go & get on with yours! Enjoy reading week for those of you in school! Keep the emails & messages coming. & for those of you who normally talk to me on Facebook chat, it hasn’t been working very well lately, so you should definitely look into skype! I swear you’ll never go back to msn or any crap programs again!
Strikes are pretty common in France. They say getting through a semester abroad in France without experiencing the effects of a strike is rare. I lucked out when I did my exchange, but the country made up for it tenfold in the second semester (when I was travelling around Europe) with students going on strike for months. All of my friends still studying in Rennes were SOL when it came to getting any credit in that second semester.
Today was named Black Thursday (or Jeudi Noir) and is supposed to kick off one of the worst years of striking since 1995. Lucky me, right? I also learned that 70% of the population supports the strike. Even people severely inconvenienced by it admitted to supporting it & were even talking about joining the protest on their lunch breaks. I know that strikes happen often in France, but this still fascinates me…To have so many people support this is something that I can’t imagine ever happening in Canada. I mean, this strike was predicted to paralyse the country (it didn’t, btw) & still the majority supported it.
I was going through my inbox the other day, replying to some emails, when I realized that it was almost the end of January. The end of January? How? Where did this month go? It seems to have flown by…
January in France means Les Soldes. For those of you who don’t speak French, this means Sales. Generally, things don’t go on sale all the time in France like they do at home (from my understanding, at least). There are 2 months of sales in the year & one of them is January. The stores are crazy! They’re packed & messy & you can find things for ridiculously cheap. They have listings for 20, 30, 40, 50…70% off. I’m not even kidding. & it’s not just a few stores. It’s every single store out there has at least some of their stuff on sale. My grandparents had sent me some money for Christmas so I did a little bit of shopping: boots, heels, a couple shirts…Usually I would have paid 150 euros just for the 2 pairs of shoes, but they only cost me 65 euros. Not bad. I was pretty excited about these sales, I’m not going to lie. Anyways, they’re coming to an end, which is good news for me seeing as I am totally broke & it’s way too tempting to go shopping when things are so cheap!
I am now working at the Starbucks in Villeurbanne, a suburb of Lyon. It’s WONDERFUL! I love it! It reminds me of the Starbucks by my house in Calgary…We actually have time to think & chat with customers & joke around. Plus we get to take home “les pertes” (the loses at the end of the night….muffins, cakes, sandwhiches mostly) which means I’ve gotten to try a lot of the Starbucks food, so I can actually give people my opinion on it. Another great thing- we almost always close on time! So I actually get off work when I’m supposed to now usually, as opposed to at least 30 min late. The partners are all really nice too (not that they weren’t at République!). I have my Barista certification test on Friday, so i’ve been spending tons of time reviewing for that. There’s lots to know & it’s all oral & in French…talking about coffee & hygiene & policies in French…It should be interesting! Fingers crossed that I pass!!
The first week in January, I decided to do a day trip to Grenoble despite the freezing cold. It was fun despite having lingering flu symptoms, my feet going a bit numb & a lot of stuff being closed. There is an old cable car that takes you up to the top of the Bastille that overlooks all of Grenoble. Sadly, it was closed for yearly maintenance/upkeep for all of January. I arrived 2 days too late. It was also really foggy so I couldn’t see the alps, but the city was still beautiful. I went to a museum that was all about the region & the history of ski, wandered around the pretty streets enjoying the architecture & had a few cafés to warm up. It was nice to get away from Lyon for the day & see somewhere new. I’ll for sure be going back in the spring (hopefully with Alyssa) so I can ride the cable car & hopefully get a view of the alps!
Kate got back halfway through January. We’d had plans to hang out, watch movies, eat popcorn & exchange stories, but I was sick (again). I’ve had no luck when it comes to being sick in January. I got the flu right at the beginning of the month (Happy New Year!) & then had a few days of being well before I came down with a fever which turned into an awful cold. I’m just getting over it now! How annoying. I absolutely hate being sick, especially when I’ve been taking good care of myself! Anyways, I’ve now seen a lot of Kate since she got back. She helped me dye my hair darker, we watched tons of movie (we found a great site that we can watch them on!), made sushi & miso soup (twice), hung out at my favourite café in Lyon, went dancing at Ayer’s Rock (the Aussie bar where all the international kids go) & had a few velo’v adventures. It’s been nice having her back & having someone to hang out with again. I haven’t done anything with Karine in ages. I mean, we have dinner together sometimes (with her family too) & we’re always at the apartment together, but we haven’t gone out in ages.
I am hoping on getting more hours at Starbucks seeing as I have once again arrived at the end of the month & have enough money for my metro tickets for the week & possibly a few emergency items. Luckily I have tons of pasta to keep me going this week or I dunno what I’d be doing for food. I’m also thinking of applying to this restaurant that’s looking for a server at lunch time during the week. I’d just do it for a month or so to make some extra cash & then quit…or I’m thinking of tutoring or baby-sitting. We’ll see. Taking on another job means working 7 days a week & not getting to do much travelling so I’m trying to avoid it at all costs.
I’ve arrived at the halfway point of my séjour, which is kind of scary for me. When I first arrived, 7 months seemed like an eternity. I felt like I had tons of time to do all the things I wanted to do, but now that I’m halfway, I’m realizing how little time I really do have here. & time seems to be flying by. There are so many day trips, weekend trips, visits coming up in the next few months that it’s going to be super busy! I know I’ll be home in no time so I’ve got to get some travelling in soon, see a lot more of the region as well as some other parts of Europe. So long as I get off work, Kate & I will be making a trip to Strasbourg, Munich & Prague at the beginning of April. I’m incredibly excited about the prospect of this but am trying not to get my hopes up too much in case I don’t get the time off work. My list of day trips is also pretty sufficient. I’m pretty sure I’ll be buying a train ticket to Geneva the moment I get paid this weekend.
Anyways, that’s really about all from me for now. I’ve rambled on long enough now & should probably get back to learning all my coffees backwards & forwards. I’ll definitely be celebrating the end of this exam come the weekend (so long as I pass!! eek!).
Bonne Année, Happy New Year to everyone!! Hope you all had very happy holidays.
As for me, Christmas in Lyon was a little bit lonely to be honest. Karine ended up at her mom’s & told me in the morning that I would probably be able to join her after work. She just had to call her mom to let her know. She warned me that seeing as things were complicated with her family it may not be the best Christmas Eve, but I was pretty excited about spending it with a french family, none-the-less. Unfortunately, I got a message from her after work saying that, in fact, it wouldn’t be possible for me to come. So, instead, I made the trek back up to Croix Rousse on my own.
My parents were driving up to the lake that day & now have internet there, so I stayed up until midnight to talk to them for an hour or so that night. It was nice, seeing as my grandparents were there & everything too. Christmas Day was pretty uneventful. I wandered into the city center (which was deserted…I’ve never seen so few people at Place des Terreaux. I’m so used to there being hoards of people surrounding the statue, having their pictures taken, that it was almost eerie). I wandered around for a little while before having a kebab & then later catching up on my journaling in a little café before heading back to Croix Rousse to chat with my parents.
Once again, it was nice to see them all (oh the wonders of ichat & being able to actually SEE my family & not just talk to them on the phone). We “exchanged presents” & they passed me around so I talked to my whole family. It was nice, but quite different. There was no brunch with the family, or excitedly opening presents around the tree or even anything that came anywhere close to resembling a turkey, but it’s supposed to be about family right? & I did see my family quite a lot over the holdays…
The next morning was my first opening shift at Starbucks so it was early to bed for me. Aside from that, there was nothing too exciting going on here for the next few days. Karine stayed at her mom’s until Sunday night when her & Mamadou finally came home. That night her mom, brother & sister also came for dinner & we made a nice evening of it. Her sister spent a year abroad in Quebec…All she really had to say about it though was that it’s cold & the people are nice.
This week was my last week at Starbucks République. I’m being transferred to Starbucks Villeurbanne in the suburbs. It means going 3 stops on the metro from République & a much calmer store where I’ll hopefully learn a lot more…Maybe even have a few conversations with people instead of just trying to make drinks as fast as humanly possible.
If Christmas here was lonely, then New Years was the complete opposite. I got all dressed up & met Anne to take the métro to her friends, Cédric & Ronan’s apt. I’d met most of her friends before at the Soirée 70s & Florent was down again from the North so it was nice to see them all again and ring in the New Year. I also met an American girl who had just arrived that day (poor thing, I dunno how she was still awake), so that was nice. All in all, it was everything New Years should be. Fun & slightly messy. We celebrated midnight with champagne, bisous all around & many “bonne années”. I’m quite grateful that I didn’t have to work the following day seeing as we didn’t really sleep until 5 or 6am so New Years Day was pretty much a write-off. I hung out with Florent for a bit, talked to my parents on ichat (wow, lots of talking to them over the holidays!) & had a “Quik” dinner. Yup, I know how to start the New Year off right.
I’ve had a few nice surprises from friends…cards & the like, but I think the most exciting news is that Alyssa is coming to visit me in Lyon in March!!! Quite an amazing “Christmas present” if I do say so myself.
Hope you all had a great Christmas & very Happy New Year. I wish you all the best for 2009 as well happiness, health, love…Mes meilleurs voeux pour 2009. Bonne Année, les amis!
I’ve had the same blog for 7 years & I’m somewhat attached to it. I’m having a hard time converting over to this blog. I dunno what it is…it’s just…not the same. Although, I don’t write in the old one often, it feels comfortable & broken in. & there are so many memories on it. I’m not sure if I’m ready to give it up yet…So until I decide, I’m not sure how often I’ll be updating this one…perhaps every so often, but don’t hold you breath.