Well I woke up in mid afternoon cause that’s when it all hurts the most I dream I never know anyone at the party and I’m always the host If dreams are like movies then memories are films about ghosts You can never escape, you can only move south down the coast
– “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby” by Counting Crows
Counting Crows is one of my favorite bands from the ’90s, which is also to say one of my favorite bands ever. I thought of this song because tomorrow, we’re moving south down to the coast of the Mediterranean. Tomorrow, we’re picking up our friend Lele from Chicago at the train station in a nifty little Renault Clio or whatever the Europcar office sees fit to bestow upon us, and Steve will get to try out his manual transmission driving skills which have been rusting for about a decade. And we will be on our way to the Pont du Gard and eventually to Rivesaltes, a little town right outside of Perpignan, the biggest city in the very southwestern corner of France, within sight of the Pyrenees and Spain. Continue reading you can never escape/ you can only move south down the coast→
Last week, we welcomed our first visitors to Lyon. My friend Kat, who graduated a few years after me from our alma mater, has been doing her masters in journalism in Paris. Out of the (somewhat) blue, she messaged me to say that her mother was visiting her, and wanted to see another city in France. Was that couch of ours still available? Of course it was! We had a great two days hanging out with Kat and her mother Michelle and took the chance to see one of the parts of Lyon that we hadn’t yet visited.
Here’s Lyonnais Geography and History 101: the city of Lyon is divided by two rivers, which flow from the north and merge together in the south. On the east is the Rhône River, and we live on its east bank, right next to Parc de la Tête d’Or. In the middle of the two rivers is the hill of Croix-Rousse and Presqu’île. To the west runs the Saône, and on its west bank that (in other words, clear on the other side of the city from us) is Vieux-Lyon and the hill of Fourvière. (If you are super confused about this geography, check out this map of Lyon.) The two hills of Fourvière and Croix-Rousse are historically (and respectively) contrasted as the hill that prays and the hill that works, because Fourvière is home to the Basilica of Fourvière, and Croix-Rousse was home to the silk workers who made this city an industrial center of their trade in the 19th century. Fourvière is coincidentally also where the oldest part of Lyon can be found, the remains of the town of Lugdunum, capital of the Roman province of Gaul (modern-day France). And if you ever took more than three years of Latin, you will know that Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres.
Every morning in Lyon, we wake up later and later. In Croatia, I was merrily out of bed before 8 am pretty much every day; one morning I even trod down to the market a mile away at 6:30 am. All of that has slowly crumbled with the advent of late evenings in Lyon with wine and TV. Usually around 10 am or so, I stumble out of our bedroom alcove to find Steve already cheerfully programming away. For my part, I put on the kettle and make myself a cup of thé agrume (citrus tea), which helps me wake up a little. Sometime after communing with the Internet for an hour or two, I shower and make brunch.
For our first week or two, we were regularly downstairs in the morning, going for a ramble in the Parc de la Tête d’Or or down to Gare Part-Dieu to buy a newspaper. We perused the local shops and patisseries for a pain chocolat (my usual) or a croissant aux amandes (croissant with almonds), which is (and goes well with) Steve’s cup of tea. Now, that’s proven a little harder, but we still make our routine trips to the patisserie while shopping for dinner. Mealtimes are pretty simple. I usually whip up something like grilled zucchini sandwiches, or a thick soup with lentil and sausages, or a pasta dish, and we watch the Colbert Report before Steve does the washing up. The afternoons drift by while I practice watercolors, read and take notes on microeconomics, and write blog posts. Steve programs, always. And yes, we buy fresh baguettes every day.Continue reading La vie quotidienne à Lyon.→
It has been five days since we got into Lyon, and we are slowly beginning to learn this French city, walking the hills, crossing the rivers, accustoming our ears to the language, and memorizing the street names.
Our apartment is located in the 6th arrondisement, on the very edge of the upper northeastern corner of Lyon. Our street is bare meters from the dividing line that marks the beginning of Villeurbanne, a neighboring city to our north and east. Some parts of Villeurbanne are distinctly different — three blocks to our north begins the quartier Tonkin, which is some sort of suburban housing development from the ’60s and ’70s. The large apartment buildings resemble ones I’ve seen in China, but with much more geometric, artistic, and interesting architecture.
The Tonkin complex has within a hospital, an elementary school, and some large playgrounds. It really has a flavor of its own, and we really enjoy wandering around this part of town. There is also a large Muslim population in nearby Villeurbanne, which comes out not only in the populace, quite a few of whom wear headscarves, but also in the streetfront kebab restaurants which hang “Hallal” signs above their shop. Due to the May 1 (Labor Day) holiday, many normal restaurants were closed, and as a matter of last recourse, we visited twice a place with I got pretty decent kebab sandwiches (for 4.5 euro, the normal price). Steve ordered a “taco au choix” with steak, which turned out to be a thick burrito with steak, vegetables, and fries inside. Continue reading Promenades en Lyon.→
Written on the road Terminal 2, Charles-de-Gaulle Airport
Thursday, May 1, 2014
We have hours and hours to kill on our first day in France. We left Croatia before the dawn had roused anyone into the streets, but still there was an incredibly taxing line at the airport. However, a mere hour and a half later, we landed in Paris at Charles de Gaulle Airport, Terminal 1. Though old, it is very picturesque, a circular concrete structure four stories tall, hollow in its very center and transfixed through by two or three elevators which are encased in large plastic tubes.
Our train on the TGV to Lyon is at the deplorably late hour of 5:58 pm or 17h58, as I may well get into the habit of thinking. We arrived in Paris at 10:30 am. Even after going through immigration (which took a blessedly brief 15 seconds) and getting our luggage, it was barely 11 am, and we lounged around in comfortable white armchairs for an hour or so before exiting to take a shuttle to Terminal 2, where the TGV station is also located. We also paused to exchange the bulk of the rest of our kuna. The currency exchange was buying our kuna at the soul-crushing price of 8.68 kuna to the euro, which meant that our formidable looking 880 kuna came back to us just short of 100 euro, given the 6.5% commission rate they charged. Rats. Looking at the change in our hand and well aware of how much things were going to start costing us in France, we trudged onward. Continue reading Enfin, la France!→
Welcome back, folks, to another edition of Terrible Apartment Photos. For those who are short on memory, our first installment back in October featured terrible apartment photos in Taiwan. Last time we saw them, our heroes Steve and Connie had left East Asia, and have been making their way through Southeast Asia and the subcontinent with varying degrees of success. Tired of trekking from place to place, they started seriously thinking about plunking down money to make a more long-term stay happen, independent of Workaway and WWOOFing situations. Where can they find a nice little slice of the world to call their own for a few months? The answer is France.
[cue montage of mounds of baguettes, panning over le Tour Eiffel, flowers and produce markets in cobblestone streets, and idyllic afternoons at roadside cafés, awash in accordion music]
We’ve been combing over AirBnB for hours, contemplating small condos in large cities like Lyon and Marseille as well as more spacious houses or cottages in the occasional obscure countryside village. One was so tiny it had no train station, which really left us scratching our head as to how we were going to get there. Many of the pictures were beautiful, and seemed to correlate directly with how expensive the apartment was, so take that for what you will. As beautiful and stereotyped as this country is, it is not immune from overzealous or simply dim-witted photographers who could not show their apartment in a positive light if their life depended on it. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of turning on the lights, or backing up a few inches so I can figure out whether this is a bathroom or bedroom, waiting until daylight for the best views, or using your common sense. Whatever it is, these people didn’t have it. You know you missed the snark. Here’s another helping.
The High Maintenance Owner Photo
I generally take it for granted that bathrooms contain something like a sink, so maybe you could tell me whether this bathroom has a shower or a bathtub? The only thing I can really glean from this picture is that its owner cares more about their hair than I do.
The No-Electricity Photo
Maybe the French are used to cooking in the semi-darkness, but I think that half-lit ambiance for your kitchen is so 1600s.