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Monday, January 31, 2011

Story Time: Luck of Les Soldes

I really have to get it out of me karmic system;  I went shopping today briefly after seeing a friend I hadn't seen in a long time and it was exciting.  Because it's the third week, all the brands are cheaper but yet everything has been ravaged and picked over- my size was missing from many things I liked and I was just having fun catching and releasing.

We decided to wander into Printemps, the glorified over priced store that I knew in my heart I couldn't afford.  I glamoured over the make up, smiled at the Dolce & Golbana personnel.  I fingered 400 € dresses and eyeballed 200 € sunglasses.  Rich old ladies were shuffling around in tight pants and giant coats made of fur.

I came to the Manoukian section of the store, which always has an array of beautiful dresses.  I decided to go ahead and try on 3 dresses... none of them I would buy.  The second one was beautiful and I realized I was stuck- but I also realized it was a 50% off sale and I just needed to buy this new dress (I have 3 different events to wear it to in the next 3 weeks).

Here's where the karma part comes in;  Do not hate me and the choices I make.

I brought it to the woman to pay and she smiled and asked; est-ce que c'est une robe d'marqué, parce que je n'ai pas trouvé le ticket..  I stared at the dress and she was right, there was no 50% off ticket.  I nodded quickly and said, J'ai vu le ticket toute à l'heure, peut-être il est tombé par terre?  She nodded and we went back to look and try to find the same dress.  As we wandered back that's when I saw it; the little plastic sign above where I found my dress:  NOUVELLE SAISON.  My heart sank as she threw back racks trying to find the same to compare, somehow she didn't see the sign or the same dress so she asked a co-worker:  Est-ce que tous les robes sont démarqués?  Coworker nodded, of course they were all discounted.

I smiled politely as we wandered back to the cash register and she proceeded to knock of 50% and then another 20% off of my NEW SEASON dress.  (Just fyi, New Season clothes are never on sale, they put them out to lure in the bargain hunters to spend more).  The 150€ dress was knocked to a 50€ dress and I didn't even open my mouth to say otherwise.  She held the bag in her fingers as another co-worker passed by, once again she demanded if it was the good sale price.  At this point I was thinking just give me the damn bag lady!!! and again her co-worker agreed.

As I clutched my prize and streamlined for the door the beep went off.  I thought CRAP, they tagged the item!  They are gonna make me pay the real price!  Wrong again.  The woman who had rung me up was just very tired and forgot to remove a plastic device, the door guy removed it and made some jokes about touching les seins on my dress when he was looking for the plastic thing.

And there.  I got a brand new season dress from Manoukian for only 50€ in lieu of the real price of 150€ because of a French person wanting to get off work.  God.  Love les soldes.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Advice: Emergency Medical Services

It's been about a week since I had a health emergency with Bri, and before I go into detail I will say he's all right now and I waited to write because it was a really difficult experience for me.

Friday night last week, Bri started to come down with a very intensive fever.  When I say intensive, I mean about 104°F or 39°C.  He was burning up, coming in and out of waves of fatigue and in extreme discomfort.  I finally got him to bed around 11pm that night and at 4am that morning he was laying on his back, sleeping... the problem was his breathing and heart rate.  Once again he was burning up, his breathing was raspy and his heart was beating about a mile a minute.. very hard in his chest.

I roused him and he grumpily stated, Mais alors, je vais bien, pourqoui tu m'est reveillé?? (Hey, I'm fine, why did you get me up??)

I explained his fever and my worries and he waved them away and got up to use the bathroom.  I prepared some Doliprane to cut the fever and was prepared to take his temperature when I heard the following noise:


At first I thought, okay what did he do? and then I realized.

I jumped out of bed and ran into the living room, there he was face down on the floor.


I fell to my knees and lifted his head, slowly he roused and looked at me.. BLOOD WAS EVERYWHERE!  I was in hysterics, but, unfortunately, had NO idea the emergency number was.  I was able to get it out of Brian and immediately called the number.

SO YOU KNOW, the emergency number in Lyon is #15.

We explained to the dispatch what happened, gave our address, codes to the apartment.  She saw it wasn't an emergency and transferred us to an on-call doctor.  We re-explained what happened and it turned out it was simply an issue with a drop in blood pressure causing the spins and it made him pass out.

From this horrible experience I learned that emergency services are actually quite logical in France..

You call #15.
You explain to dispatch what's going on.  If it's an emergency they send les urgences if it seems under control;
You explain to the doctor on-call, he explains what to do.

The hardest thing is being able to explain in French what has happened without making it sound as if it were some horrible emergency.. but I now know by heart the number and an idea of what could happen.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Story Time: Why Lyon?

I was out surfing, desperately looking for compatriots who also update their blogs; I'd love to see some funny stories or real life examples of what I experience here in Lyon.  In Lyon.  Ironically most Americans don't even know where Lyon is; there's no eiffel tower and no fashion capital.  Why did I even choose to live in Lyon?  Why not Paris.. the dream of every American girl?

In the hearts of every Francophile lies the need to explore this country.. sadly when talking about France the first thing that pops into mind is Paris.  La jolie ville de Paris (the beautiful city of Paris).  I personally don't really like Paris.. I went in the summer of 2009 with Bri.  It was a beautiful time, sunny and warm.. I loved the museums, I loved the gastronomy.. but I truly was not a fan of the hundreds of thousands of tourists swarming around.  Every place I went there were groups of tourists.. along with those tourists were groups of people selling 'des souvenirs'.  Mini glowing eiffel towers (tacky!), necklaces, fake purses, more mini glowing eiffel towers.  Crêpes were costly, food was expensive.. It was just too much.

Then there was Lyon..

Bri is from Lyon, his family raised him in a little area just East of Lyon and he did his Masters in the city.  Lyon , to me, is like what Paris was like in the 1950's.. non pretentious, no swarms of photo clicking foreigners and the gastronomy is to cry over.  The best part for me is when I take a stroll down streets and not one menu is translated into English.. here the whole 'translating everything' fad has not caught on.  Better yet, the laziness of the city.  No rush to work or get through the day in a Westernized way.. in Lyon we have 'la vie tranquille' and we enjoy every minute of it.

I sort of am hesitant to glorify the city so much, the last thing I want is tourists catching the train and high tailing to me city.. but for living in France Lyon is so much better..

Sigh.  I am going to stroll to a bouchon, hike to Fourvière and enjoy.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

What-What: les Producteurs Fermiers

In America we have this big outcry for biological and organic products and yet here, just in the outlines of the city, lie hundreds of farms that sell locally created products.  If you are an American living in France or even just an American in general... watch the documentary:  Food, Inc.  I recently watched it on my French television and was absolutely disgusted by the amount of artificial perservatives Americans eat.  Worse, we have a major 'corn addiction' and genetically modified foods are a typical part of our diet.

It's for this reason I was ecstatic to discover a marché in Lyon called the "Producteurs Marché".  This marché is a direct from farm marché- this means there is no middleman.  Farmers from around the Rhone-Alpes comes to the center of Lyon to sell their own products.  Because of the cost incurred from the travel to Lyon, prices tend to be a bit more expensive in comparison to the normal market; but the quality is perfect.  Another huge difference is the respect one must have towards the market-people... because they are farmers it's important to understand that they know the product better than you.  Here's some information about etiquette at the marché:  Etiquette at the Marché.

Now these farmers head to Place Carnot every Wednesday between 4:00pm and 7:30pm.  I like the farmer's market but I can't afford to go every week.. however to purchase some of my basics (butter, eggs) it's definitely do-able and I am rewarded with a wonderful tasting product.. and a pretty damn good omelette!

If you feel the need to go on a little adventure one day.. I'd recommend heading out to a co-op marché outside of the city, it's a landing base for all the local farmers that can't make it to Place Carnot.  A bus goes directly to the area and surrounding the marché are plenty of parks and forests.  Take a little basket, shop for your lunch at the co-op and then find a nice spot in the woods to have a post-marché picnic lunch.  

A crusty baguette, bottle of wine, fresh charcuteries, some fruit and a nice fresh pressed cheese and butter will make it unforgettable; plus it will be more like ancient France and less 'prepackaged super markets'.

La Ferme Lyonnaise (big co-op outside of Lyon)
26 b avenue Edouard Millaud

Weekly Farmer's Market in Lyon:  Wednesdays between 4:00pm to 7:30pm on Place Carnot near Perrache.

Link to Farmers of Lyon

Friday, January 21, 2011

Found: Rue Vaubecour

I take many adventures in Lyon, some make me end up in a very bad area of town.. some help me to discover treasures in my city.  This adventure brought me discovery and it was a welcome one.  Part of my new job is spreading the word, I go forth in the city, explain BabySpeaking to people and drop off flyers to different businesses that families and students frequent.  In order to do this the best I do a lot of wandering around and sort of feeling my way around the city.

As readers know, I keep a map of my favorite places to food shop around the city.  Some people hold a passion in clothes shopping, I have a passion towards food, high quality ingredients and local distributors.  I already have my local boulangerie, the woman is patient with me and understands my issues in French.  I also found my favorite super marché for all those items unavailable in the marchés.. now I am still hunting for other local products that I can purchase to live life the French way.

Now onto my next discover, Rue Vaubecour.  Rue Vaubecour is located right at the southern end of rue du plat, I was lost when I found it but realized later it was because of a Google spelling error; they titled it 'rue vaubecourt' adding a lovely extra T.  Totally threw me off, I'm lost most of the time any way, but it didn't help.  So why is this little street a gastronomic find?

From 6 rue Vaubecour to 25 rue vaubecour (like a 1/2 mile) there are many little food establishments that are not listed on Googlemaps.

6 rue Vaubecour - Poissonnerie
7 rue Vaubecour - Boucherie
9 rue Vaubecour - Traiteur, Chacutier, Rotisserie (sells roasted chickens)
13ish rue Vaubcour - Fromagerie

Speckled around these shops are grocery marts and 3 boulangeries/patisseries.  The best part?  This street is also well equipped with antiques- if you are into that sort of thing.  Looking into the windows of the antique stores transports you back into an era of traditional French life.. plus sometimes you can get lucky and find beautiful decor for your apartment for not too expensive.

I definitely plan to do a round of shopping on this street next week, even though shopping tends to be an effort in this fashion, it's all part of the preparation in cooking.  Now, I need to find out where I can buy some frog legs...


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Found: Cap Epices

I was out spreading the word about BabySpeaking when I wandered across this little gem of a marché.  Everywhere I have been looking for a specialist in spices; not the glass jar type you see in the grocery store- or even the kind I had to trapse over to Guillotière for.  Something nearby that carried all the spices that my heart desired.  I wanted equally the ability to purchase in bulk grams, but to know it comes from a local provider who hand selects the product.

I stared into the window of Cap Epices and saw multitudes of glass and metal containers holding beautiful spices.  The front window is whimsical, showing sacs of herbs and typical spices we use on a daily basis.  50g of peppercorns were 1.50€; and for those who don't know much about food or spices.. that's cheap.  At Carrefour a 48g glass container of peppercorns is 3.20€; that means you get 50% off of store prices from a specialist in spices!  The sacs remind me of an open marché, but the prices resemble those of a discount store.

It's a little shop that opened up in 1997 on Rue de la Charité; ensuring their quality is high they pay attention to distributors and special attention to clients.  They offer basics (from ground ginger to piment) to mixtures that they create (for pot-au-feu, or special dishes).  What's even better is they offer teas and infusions as well!  Plus, just walking into the shop is like walking into spice heaven.. additionally if you live far away you can purchase and have it shipped (although pricy).

I plan to go there.. definitely.. mostly because I love spices (which is very opposite from French cooking) and I love different regional cuisines.  Trying new recipes with all these beautiful spices will be an experience; plus I have a ball every time a French person comes into my kitchen and exclaims, "Mais, t'as beaucoup des epices!" (but, you have so many spices!).

Information:  CAP EPICES 39, rue de la Charité 69002 LYON


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Advice: Dating the French

While living in France, either on exchange or temporary stay, one might come across the possibility of dating a French person.  I recently came across this issue from a good friend of mine, exasperated about a few dates she went on and confused about the body language.  She didn't understand why one guy was very standoffish and another was incessently texting, and when they were together, non hesitant to show affection.  After consulting with many French friends I finally found out some major cultural differences between American dating and French dating.  *note:  This only applies to the 'true French'; meaning those who were raised in France.  Also, it does not mean 100% of what I say is correct.. but about 95%... *

In America
Dating is considered a sort of test, a prerelationship try period in which you go out, get to know the person.  It's not a 'tie down' or a concept that you are automatically exclusive with a person.  In the States we discuss serious relationships after quite a few dates; kissing, affection or hugging are normal in dating.. and it is also normal for us to date more than one person during a period of time.  Often it's just not a big deal and the good night kiss is sort of an expected thing... that's the point of dating.  It's totally normal to go on a few dates, then just decide it's not for you.  Would you buy a pair of pants without trying them on?  Why agree to a relationship when you don't even know the person?  My mom used to have the 'key analogy'... would you give your keys of your car to someone you just met? no.  So why would you give the exclusivity of yourself after two dates?

The French do not agree with my viewpoint on the subject.

In France
According to my various sources, the general rule for the French is simple:  Three kisses makes it a relationship.  Hold on there... I stared, open mouthed (in French:  bouche bée) and repeated.. You mean like, three deep passionate kisses?  They stared back, shaking their heads, Non, like any three kisses.  In the French culture kissing/affection is considered something big- often shared between boyfriends/girlfriends that are exclusive.  First, it's often rare for two people to go out alone... often this form of dating is done in groups.  Second, affection is saved for a 'sure thing'; if kissing is started it's considered as if there's something between the two people and beyond three it's considered like an exclusive thing... then you can present the person as your boyfriend/girlfriend.

Finding the Inbetween
Finding a balance between these two cultures tends to be a challenge; my recommendation when dating French people is to explain up front what the deal is with Americans.  Explain that while we enjoy affection, if this affection will lead to an automatic relationship it's better to keep it slow. 

If someone you are dating in France is being very reserved with touching, understand that it's a respect.  They are getting to know you as a person, not you as an object.  It's also the easiest way to keep from getting into a 'relationship'.

If someone is starting to touch, kiss and text a lot it's a sign that the French person sees you as more than just a 'date' and considers it a 'for sure thing'; as in they really want to be your boyfriend/girlfriend.  A french person will not spend an enormous amount of money, shower you with attention and think it will go no where; also; while they are doing this- be aware they are not doing it to someone else.

What to Do?!
If you find yourself in the position where it's too serious from their end and you're not in the same place:  stop giving affection.  Stop texting back every day.  Don't go out with them alone more than once a week.  If it continues you'll have to have the talk.. express that it's a cultural difference and you enjoy being around them but you are not ready for a relationship.  Especially; don't have sex.  It's rare to have sex and not have it be something.

As a Warning
The French can be sensitive on this subject, if they are dating you and believe that it is something special then it could be disastrous.  If the person you are seeing finds out you are seeing someone else on the side they will not stick around; it's considered 'piggish' or 'slutty' to behave in that manner and thus it's not even worth the effort to continue.  It will only lead to broken hearts and misunderstandings... that way it's better to detail from the start the intentions.

Enjoy dating the French; for me they tend to be the most receptive and comfortable in a relationship.  For those of us who enjoy the comforts of a relationship, they tend to develop quickly.  In France we get to know someone while we are their girlfriend (versus the opposite in America).  However, if you are someone looking for multiple dates and don't want to be tied down, it could prove to be frustrating; you have to handle it from the beginning and be honest... the French are notorious for blunt honesty.

Bonne chance et courage!


Monday, January 17, 2011

Advice: The Pharmacy

In America we go to the drugstore, pick up a box of aspirin and call it a day.  In France, the pharmacy is more than just a place for over the counter drugs... I found this out just yesterday. 

For two days I was suffering with a migraine of epic proportions, throbbing in the temples, light would burn my eyes... if I looked left/right it would feel as though the muscles behind my eyes were strained.  It didn't help that everyone is in the center of the city (where I live) nor that it was the day that Tunisian immigrants were shouting and grèving in the street; I escaped into a pharmacy.

Pharmacies in France are a place you go before you see a doctor- in America we often remedy a problem by seeing our HMO; here if you have something small (bad bug bite, hurting knee, sore throat, terrible migraine) you waltz into a pharmacy (which are rampant) and you walk straight up to the pharmacy technician and tell them your problem.

Here, pharmacies are ran by pharmacists who went to special schools and are just as educated as a doctor- a specialist in medicine.  Often privately owned, the medicine ranges in price according to each proprietor's decision, one could have the same medicine as another next door- but 30% cheaper.  The largest difference between home and here is that the pharmacist is perfectly capable of giving you a medicine to help your ailment without going to a doctor. 

I always take a trip to a pharmacist first; they often give me something that can help while I'm uncomfortable.  I also find them to be much more gentle with my awkward French and understanding of my suffering.

Yesterday I got a medicine called 'Migralin' for only 4.50€ that had a mixture of codeine/caffeine/acetemetophin that knocked me out for about an hour but solved my problem of a terrible headache.  Another day I was totally stressed and having anxiety attacks, once I described my issue, I was sold a little solution of drops that immediately cuts my stress... helped me get through my oral examinations and a month with my bro.  Pharmacies are also the only place available to purchase the basics (aspirin, doliprane, special toothpaste, special shampoos and hypo allergic makeup) as there is a specific French law countering the ability to sell these products in grocery store chains.

Here are some great phrases that are helpful for a visit to a Pharmacist:
  • J'ai mal à la tête  I have a head ache
    • Depuis... (number of days)  Since.. (number of days)
    • Ça me fait mal (point or gesture to the area)  I feel bad (point to area)
  • Je me sens pas bien  I don't feel well
  • J'ai mal au ventre (point or gesture to the area)  I have a stomach ache
    • J'ai vomi (how many times) depuis (how long)  I threw up.. (how many times) since (how long)
  • J'étais piqué par une abeille/guêpe  I was stung by a bee/wasp
  • J'ai mal au dent   I have a toothache
  • Je suis très deprimé et plein d'anxieté  I am very depressed and anxious
  • J'ai mal à la gorge  I have a sore throat
  • Je tousse beaucoup  I am coughing alot
  • J'ai le nez qui coule  I have a runny nose
  • J'ai mal aux oreilles  I have sore ears
What is absolutely fascinating to me is the lack of information regarding French pharmacies- most websites describe how to go to a doctor, but not how to deal with the pharmacist- often the first person to go to.  Now, if you have a bad stomach ache or head ache, take a little trip to the pharmacy and hash your way through it- if they speak too fast just apologize, "je suis très désolé", and say, "Je suis américain(e) et le français est nouveau pour moi; parlez lentement s'il vous plaît"


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Current Event: Tunisia is Free!

If you were in the center of Lyon yesterday you would have seen two things: A huge amount of people raiding 'les soldes' and a large amount of Tunisian immigrants marching through the street.  The soldes is normal, considering the drop of prices in products, but the Tunisians is a celebration of the end of a regime in Tunisia.

Since the 1980's, Tunisia has been known for their strict rules/dictatorship government.  People in Tunisia didn't have many rights allowed to them and outsiders were often harassed or harmed when trying to photograph/film these issues.  Things only got worse when their 'dictator' decided that he would not relenquish his power over the state until 2014, meaning, he would stay in power with his strict rules, for another 3 years.  Outcries began when Ben Ali instated a strict curfew of 6pm to 6am (no one in the street).

Following this event, two days ago, the country rose up against the ruler and threw him out of power... more like he decided to concede his ruling and run away.  Right now, Tunisia is finally free; which is why yesterday thousands of immigrants from Tunisia were in the streets of France celebrating the freedom of the country.  If you see 'Tunisian' flags or pride around- now you know why... and it's a big issue in France because this country used to be ran by France (much like much of Northern Africa and Algeria) so the politics are tied into the country.

Now you know, so if anyone asks you if you heard what happened in Tunisia you can nod and say, 'Mais OUI!'


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Advice: Learn French Everyday

Learning French is more than taking classes, more than learning all the little grammatical rules that apply on a daily basis... it's complete and total immersion that's the key.  Living in France alone doesn't always resolve this problem, as social creatures, we tend to group around those we can communicate with... within our expatriate community, our American social group, French people that can speak in English.  Unfortunately in this search for social comforts we tend to lose many great moments when we could learn French!

To fix this problem that I've had in my own discovery of French life (Bri speaks English, and establishing a relationship in one language is difficult to change) I've found some ways to continue my education in my daily life.

Watch French television:  While in the States I was rarely the TV type, here in France I make an effort to turn it on in the morning when drinking coffee.  The commercials are simple, many of the shows were originally American... so it's easier to follow.  Often I'll pop on the subtitles and follow along with the French.  Hearing it first thing in the morning helps to wake up my French thoughts.

Avoid "VO" Movies:  There are Original Versions of films around Lyon, but for me I try to watch the French version; even if these versions resemble a badly dubbed "Kung Fu" movie, I find that I can relate to the movies and understand them- plus it's interesting!

Read French News:  Everywhere on the internet are free news sites in French.  Beyond this, Metros tend to give away free news- read this on the Metro.  Listen to French radio; learn about the things that are going on in France and learn some new phrases!

Practice at the Shops:  Instead of buying bread or veggies or even meat at the Super Marché, go to the Boucheries, the boulanger... all the places where you must practice French phrases and don't be afraid.  The marché is a great place to practice; just be aware that they have clients and not a lot of time to shuffle through bad French; be prepared!

Find a French Social Group:  One of the best ways to practice is to man-up and find some French people to go out with.  You'll be guaranteed to be lost about 50% of the time, and the jokes they might make between each other will make no sense at all and be completely illogical.  Worse, you'll feel like a 5 year old at times.. but in a good group they will be patient.  The best feeling is when you are talking to someone in French and they understand all, even better is when they compliment your french... and you will get there.

Read French Books:  For only 5€ a year you can get a library card that will work around Lyon.  Pick up books that are interesting to hobbies, for me, food.  I read books about gastronomy in France... the French is sometimes complicated, but with a trusty dictionnaire everything is understandable.

Use a French-French Dictionary:  I find a huge Anglophone mistake is to use French-English dictionaries, while these are convenient, they do nothing for learning more French.  It's better to gt a French-French dictionary which will enable you to understand meanings of French words in French; much more effective and will help to stick to the memory and get your brain thinking in French.

Above All... Enjoy it:  French is a challenge, but eventually your brain will click and it will seem to flow naturally.  For me I am able to understand about 90% of what people are saying in daily conversation and speak at about an 80% understandable level.. in the beginning I was weak.  I moved my hands around, I tried to talk... mostly I was afraid to talk.  The best feeling is being able to speak a second language...

After?  Start thinking about learning a third language..


Monday, January 10, 2011

Advice: Beware of the Bonjour

I was walking with Bri today in Genas and I started my daily routine of 'bonjours'.  Bonjour to the woman with the stroller.  Bonjour to the group of old ladies.. I was going at it when he mentioned something I never thought about- how intricate a bonjour can be in France.

There is a certain set of social rules that come along with the simple word.  When walking through the streets you don't say it to everyone, but there are certain people you must say it to.  It's like, if you don't say it you come off as an elitist prick- but if you say it to everyone you are slightly special.  Remember, when saying the 'Bonjour', it's pronounced:  Bawnnn-jooowwwrr  not  baahnn jeeer... like I hear many Americans saying.

We got to discussing some run-downs of who exactly to say the bonjour to..

  • When entering into any store, magasin, boulanger, fromagerie, charcutier.. including all the shops where you buy clothes and accessories.  Usually you make an effort to smile, say, "Bonjour" and then continue with your shopping.  *note:  It is not an invite to divulge your private life*
  • When passing any one in your apartment building; if you live in the same area you must say 'bonjour'.  Even if you have your earbuds in and you think it's non-important- it tells a lot about your character.
  • If you recognize the person.  If it's a friend, you have to stop, give the bise, exchange some words, move on.  If it's someone you know owns a store you frequent, you just say, 'bonjour' and move on with your life.
  • When entering into a classroom.
  • At the marché (the one in public).
It sounds simple, but sometimes I am completely lost in the complexity of social rules in France.  I find it ironic that we shove each other into the Metro, but yet we only say bonjour in certain cases.  I don't even know the name of my neighbor, but every day I'm basically waving and saying hey over there, good day!

It's even more strange for an American like myself because back home the word, "hello" welcomes a conversation.  I never said hello to my neighbor, the woman down the street.  If I said anything when going into a shop it was simply to ask a question.  Ironically, once again, we say bonjour to our shop owners, but we never make small talk.  Hello, for myself, is something reserved for a conversation; not a gentle passerby way of saying, 'Have a Nice Day'... the only time we hear that is when passing through the Drive-Thru.

So.  Long story short, say your bonjours to the appropriate people and you can pass as a local- that is until one day someone asks you a questions and you give the deer-in-the-headlights look...

Today, I'm off to my favorite vegetable market in Lyon, the producer's market, where I know I'll be hauling back about 15 kilos of veggies for a mere 15€.  In case you were oh-so-curious about my weekly meal plan for Bri+Me:

TODAY:  Mon Jan 10
Couscous leftovers (amazing, Bri's mom made it)

Tue Jan 11
Oeufs Cocotte w/ Courgette gratin
Wed Jan 12

Salade Extreme aux Foies  (chicken liver salad)
Thu Jan 13
Aubergine Mozzarella w/Pasta
Fri Jan 14
Chili w/ Cornbread


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Advice: Les Soldes

50% off!  Discount Discount!

In the States we are constantly bombarded with discounts and reductions; even moreso we have speciality stores that are ONLY for discounts.  Not in France.  Not in Lyon.  In exactly 4 days 'Les soldes' are going to start in Lyon.  In stark contrast to the capitalist tendancy for the sales in the States, France has stricter regulations according to when sales can happen; there is always a sale (or 'solde' in French) following Christmas.  Much like a celebratory event, all the Lyonnais trapse into the streets of Bellecour hunting for a bargain.

Bri is excited as if it is Christmas, he keeps saying, "The soldes are next week!" as if he's shouting an oncoming Santa visit.  I have a difficult time getting excited for the soldes because I personally will be doing no shopping this year.  Think of it like a French version of Black Friday.

So.  Briefly telling you:

Les Soldes will be starting on January 12th, Wednesday.  If you have the guts you can get your gear out and elbow through the crowds.  A simple word of advice from an American living in France:  never open the door for someone else.  As rude as it sounds, if you do this you will be stampeded.  The French tend to push and shove, not wait and allow you to pass.  It's a cultural thing.

Enjoy shopping!


Friday, January 7, 2011

What-What: Le Petit Paumé

Michelin guide.  Anthony Bourdain boasts about it, chefs proudly carry their stars with beaming pride.. it's been around for a little over a century.  For myself I find it an aged and antiquated way to determine quality in restaurants and while the ancient ways of French cuisine lay interwoven into our French society, I find for my generation Le Petit Paumé represents more of what I find important and interesting.  Since internet has been around, reviews have been careening out and it's difficult to determine which to read.  Yelp France?  Google Reviews?  Good ol' Michelin?  Personal reviews?

Le Petit Paumé is a specialized guide for the city of Lyon.  Living in Lyon but being American makes it difficult for me to make discoveries.  Often I sit and leaf through my Lyon Yellow Pages, trying to determine a place that is not listed on Google (and there are many).  It was in November that I came across my little golden Lyon city bible; the Paumé.  Created in 1968 by a true Lyonnais, the book circulates a new edition every year and makes an effort to bring about the best quality meals, clubs, loisirs and museums in Lyon.  IN LYON.  It's a bible for me because often I am left racking my brain trying to determine which club or bar is the cheapest, what restaurant can I go to for the best sushi?

It works simply... a group of writers edit/create the book yearly.  All a multitude of different French personalities, their goal is to simply bring out the honest truth about each establishment.  In using humorous quips and anecdotes on their personal experiences at the places, it brings in a personal feel to the review.  Icons in the book (and the website) determine the quality, some places get the "RPPP" symbol, which means cream of the crop in the given category.  Some even tell a bad experience, such as the quality of service.

Best part of the Lyon Bible is the fact that several places listed will offer a little 'somethin'-somethin' for readers.  A free cocktail here, a digestif there, a snack tray... all for simply showing the Bible to the places.  I like free.

So what are some places I've discovered in my Guidebook?

Auberge de Jeunesse du Vieux Lyon:  Youth Hostel of Lyon, 18€ a night with breakfast included in the heart of Vieux Lyon.

Special Section on "Students in Lyon":  Lots of information of schools for students, services, places to go for 'apprenticeships'.

Information on Tabacs:  Specifically, which ones are open the latest in each arrondissement.

Free Time:  Listing of gyms, dance halls, places to go shopping (although what's missing here is all the 'occasion shops' that I still am looking for.) places to get vacations, skiing equipment, places to get your hair cut and.. Speed Dating...

Museums, Sightseeing...

The FOOD:  In typical Gastronome fashion my absolute favorite part of my Petit Paumé are the endless listings of bars, restaurants and cafés in Lyon.  There are 100 pages of reviewed restaurants alone, that's not including all the regional specialties. 

In the regional section I was able to find a Sushi restaurant (Yzumi OR Sushi King) that had a 15€ lunch buffet (read:  all you can eat!!) as well as an 'RPPP' rated Indian restaurant (Le Village Indien) with a 12€ lunch buffet... oooohhh yeeaahhh.  I love this whole 'menu à volonté' thing; it's like stuffing yourself with favorites- in my case Indian and Sushi.

Now, I won't say that le Petit Paumé is the only reviewing source of Lyon- but I certainly find it to be the best for living in Lyon.  As the editor says proudly in the intro of the book:   "One time that one is the east (in Lyon), we are the east forever."  Lyon is one of those places you fall in love with and the Paumé successfully details life here.

Other Review Sites in France:

Lyon Resto
Yelp France

Good luck in discoveries..


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Advice: Getting to the Airport

To save a dime, we booked my Bro on a 6:55am flight back home.  I don't own a car in Lyon, since I live in the center and a taxi could easily cost us 50€ one way.  I routed and defined a way to get to the airport using public transports, so here's how it goes.  It is still slightly pricy and can take about 45 minutes to get to the airport; but it's worth it if you're carless like myself.

First:  What time is your flight?
Make sure you know what time the flight is, once you get that information work about 1.5 hours before that, meaning, plan to arrive by an hour and half prior to take off.  Lyon St. Exupery is a really easy airport, the security lines are minimal and it's never taken me more than 20 minutes to get through baggage drop and security to the gate.

Second:  Go to TCL, plan the trip...
I used the TCL's website trip planner to get me to 'Vaulx-en-Velin-la-soie'.  This is an above ground and below ground metro stop; they have tramways in this stop.  You can also plan to go to Lyon Part-Dieu train station.  With any of these, budget in about 20 minutes, as it usually takes me that long to get from city center to Vaulx-en-Velin.

Third:  RhoneExpress
Lyon recently opened up a new tramway called "RhoneExpress" that will take you directly from Part-Dieu or Vaulx-en-Valin to the airport.  Unfortunately the cost is a bit high, 19€ for a round trip, 11€ for a one way (12-25 years old).  The tram runs at 5:10, 5:40 am and after 6:00am every 15 minutes.  It's a fast way to get to the airport, and will take around 30 minutes from Part-Dieu and 20 minutes from Vaulx-en-Valin.

That's how I ended up getting up at 3:30 am this morning to drop my baby brother at the airport.  He's not quite old enough to figure out the metro stuff himself so I had to accompany him to the airport.. a chunk of change later, lack of sleep and feeling like a zombie; he's on his way back to the states.

Good luck on transport to the airport!


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What-What: Musée des Miniatures

Since I was young I have had an obsession with minature things; I used to go to the library in Forks (the little town I grew up) and check out multitudes of magazines on Miniatures and leaf through them.  I once even begged for Filo dough so I could make intricate little foods for my dollhouse- it was so fascinating to me.

This is why the day I ran across the Musée of Miniatures I was ecstatic to visit.  The location is right in the center of Vieux Lyon, near the St. Jean church.  The building is one of those classic Vieux Lyon types, from the 16th century, old stone staircases, dilapidated ceilings, odd smell to the foyer and the serene feeling that thousands of people have passed through the corridor.  The dank smell mixed with the new renovations provides a sense of a hold in time; that weird in-between the past in the future.

Bro is in town for 2 mores days, so we took advantage of yesterday to get our booties into the musée; for only 5.50€ each we started on our adventure.

The first story provides a movie set, meaning, all these special pieces that were used during the filming of a movie.  The one they have on show at the moment is from the movie "Perfume" in which I could write a whole separate blog post about.  Needless to say, a wander through this exhibit made me both curious to watch and curious as to what the movie is even about.  Here's some photos from the premiere etage:

Bro & Bri posing in front of "M. Grenouille" and his Perfume Laboratory
Dead Body.  So, Perfume is a murder story..
The Perfumerie; it actually smelled like roses...
Very authentic-looking 18th century Parisian office
As we continued through the exhibits we felt as if we were looking into the past.  Some of these pieces for the movies are so intricate it was hard to believe it was mostly made of plastic and fake wood.  Incredible.  The next story was specialized in movie props; aliens, Ah-nold, etc.  It was fun to see all the pieces used in the movies, but kind of disheartening because we realized that movies, in reality, are magic.

Planet of the APES!
Ignore the Flash... it's Ah-Nold
Got this for my dad... Star Wars creature!
Moving onto the third story, we ended up in the land of Miniature paradise.  Everything was miniscule and could easily fit in the palm of your hand.  By leaning into the exhibits you felt lost in a tiny world and sometimes it felt as if you were looking at a vivid 3D imagine.

Mini Marché
Reconstruction from Picture, the artist took a photo and created a miniature real version.
Miniature Hallway... it really feels like you're there..
Tiny Nobles Salon.. or.. is it REALLLY tinny..??
Mini Barbershop
Buddhist temple... it was mini.. but so in depth.
We spent about 2 hours in the museum, jumping from exhibit to exhibit.  One of the best exhibits is the specialties of Lyon, mini version of beautiful places around our city.  The artist who created most of these minatures actually works in Lyon; and we got lucky enough to see him in his office behind glass.. it felt surreal.. but we realized it's a man who spends his life in a tiny world.

Needless to say, tourist trap or not, the Musée des Miniatures is a nice thing to do when it's too chilly for a walk.  It's not excessively priced and it's full of interesting information.  They rotate exhibits annually and the movie props alone are worth the excursion.

Practical Information
Musée des Miniatures is located on 60 rue St. Jean in the Maison des Avocats.  They are open daily from 8am to 6:30pm.. and on weekends until 7:00pm.  5.50€ for students!  FYI:  There is a really good boulangerie just catty corner from the Musée, one of the best baguettes in Lyon.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

First Post in 2011

Last night I was feeling sentimental about all the things that have happened to me in the last 6 months; how time goes quickly, how happy I am, obviously I'm over the culture shock.  2011 is going to be a good year because finally, my degree is completed, I'll be continuing into a Master's program, getting my Visa renewed (hope) and I have a huge list of things to accomplish.

Bro goes home in about 5 days; less than a week.  His stay was mostly good, sometimes not so good- he got into an interesting habit of staying up all night and sleeping all day; presumably in preparation for the States... it'll reduce jetlag, I guess.

This year of posts I'd like to try and offer all of you the opportunity to learn more about being an expatriate in France.  Review and post more marche information, test new foods and describe their tastes, share more on my own personal daily life.

For those of you who have a dream to come to France, it's possible.  School in France is much cheaper than in America and it's just a matter of doing the hard work of getting the paperwork in.  You don't have to spend 20,000 dollars a year getting here on an exchange... I finished my degree and came here on a student visa through the CIEF, but will stay through a Master's degree visa.

Today is a day like any other, except now every time I write the date I'll have to remember the '2011'.  It's a year that I expect will be full of challenges, let downs, surprises and happy memories.

Happy 2011, and here's to lookin' at the rest of the year.  *chine*

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