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Monday, February 28, 2011

Advice: Gym Solutions

In the States, I am a gym rat, 4-5 times a week I would pound the cardio machines and stress out my muscles with the weights.  About 2 months before I left, my neighborhood gym expanded and turned into a 'Super Fitness Center' for no extra cost to me.  This new gym had a multitude of cardio machines with iPod plug ins and televisions for each person.  All the weight machines were brand new, nothing smelt old and musty and the best part:  steam and dry sauna.  My mom, dad and I would spend at least 2 hours there in the evening... and it felt great.
Zoom 4 months later, July of 2010, and I am in France trying to find a gym in the area.  As I start calling around and getting rates I realize it wouldn't be possible to ever have the gym I had at home.  How much is shocking?  Try 60€ a month... compared to the measly 20$ I paid in the states I knew there was no way.

Now I recently began wondering... why are the prices in the States so cheap for gyms, but so expensive for groceries?  How is it I can go for 20 bucks a month but in France it is upwards of 60€?  What can I do to make up for this?

So I realized I would have to figure out an alternative... and here goes how I keep fit without losing money:

Kinect Fitness
Bri and I received a Kinect for our Xbox360 for Christmas; it's basically like a camera operated game system that detects your moves.  There are two games that I use for fitness:  Kinect Fitness and Dance Central.  The fitness I utilize for yoga, kick boxing and cardio exercises; it is great because it detects your weight/height and helps to provide goals... I burn an average of 200 doing their exercises and I am INCREDIBLY SORE after... meaning it worked.  Dance Central is more for my entertainement workout; the camera detects my moves according to a song... not only am I sweating at the end but I am also learning a new dance.

Home Workout Videos
If you don't own an Xbox nor a Kinect, the next best thing is home videos.  You can find them online or have them sent through a care package from home- I do yoga videos or belly dancing... they are great because you can put them on pause to understand a move... and if you want you can do it in your underwear- can't get that in a gym!  There are also many YouTube channels that are free with these types of exercises.

Inside Home Workouts:
Sometimes we don't need a gym at all to work out... a simple search on Google and here's what I found:  http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/at-home-workouts-0  Basically a listing of some workouts one can do at home... it still works out the body... but without the cost.

Outside Activities: Velo'v
I am personally not a fan of running, I have knee problems due to a fall in September so running is a little to shocking on my knees- however I do love the Velo'v.  I can hop on a bike and go about 5-7 miles a day and it feels like I am zipping along; it still works out your heart and gets your butt/legs in shape.

Avoid the Metro
When running errands try not to utilize the metro... especially if you have some time.  The walking helps to keep the heart rate up... and the faster you walk the better.

Cours de Fitness Collectif
Sometimes you can find special deals on collective fitness classes, like from this:  http://www.cours-fitness-lyon.com/activites.php  They offer September to June prices for only a few hundred euro... much more inexpensive than the gym prices.  Just do a little search for cours de fitness en Lyon and you'll get a listing.. it takes some picking through but there are good deals.

Just Eat Healthy
Staying in shape is difficult.. but it can be even worse when we give into our ultimate French cravings and scarf down the delicious cuisine.  More than 50% of being in shape comes from what we put into our mouths.. while that croissant is good on a Saturday, it's probably best to avoid having one every morning.  I gained the most weight when I ate croissants for breakfast and cheese with every meal... also... cut down the alcohol, this is a huge part... alcohol is heavy on calories and we often don't watch how much we are drinking.  One glass of wine a night is probably the most one should intake on a daily basis.

Good luck.. staying fit is important.. otherwise we return back home and all our families won't recognize us.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Culture Shock: Honestly French

I was at a party talking freely about some political subject when a French girlfriend pointed at my shirt and said, je n'aime pas trop cette style.  I gaped, I didn't know how to respond.  I sort of brushed it off and continued my conversation about some minister I saw on the Grand Journal.  A few days later, I made dinner for my French parents and I proudly put the finishing touches on my sauce.  After taking a bite of the meat, his mother stated, la sauce est super bon, par contre cette viande est un peu sèche.  I nodded, in agreement.

You see, the French are honest people, if they have an opinion about something it's openly stated without any hesitation.  This brutal honesty comes as a shock to those of us from the West Coast.  Those of us used to the gentil words, the false smiles and the fake positive responses.  You don't like someone's shirt you say, "I love that shirt!", someone gained some weight you smile and note, "Have you lost weight?".

It took me a long time to get used to this French quality, there aren't a lot of smiles passed between random people unless you know them.  It's considered just strange to say one thing and then go behind someone's back to say another.  This form of honesty has lead to personal issues between me and family, miscommunication between friends and sometimes just over-all miscomfort.  While there is a list of reasons I find this honesty negative, there is an equally long list of why I love it.

This honesty can be considered positive simply because you always know what page someone is on, you know their opinion and there are no surprises.  You shirt is ugly, well, better someone tell you.  Your laugh is weird, better you know then to have everyone think it an never say it.

It's important not to be too sensitive as an American in France, I take the quips and straight-forwardness as a way of knowing someone cares.  Lying is so common in our culture that I took for granted the fact that we can be simply honest and it's not a bad thing.

In September of 2010 I realized the quality of French friendships versus American friendships and a huge part of this; in my opinion, is attributed to the blunt honesty in the culture.  I say I will call, I call.  I say you're my friend, you're my friend.

Is it so bad to live in a culture where there are no secrets and hidden opinions?  I don't think so.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Story Time: The Metro

I hate the Metro; more than anything I hate the lack of space on the things.

I went on a journey today for work, one that required I simply take the Métro from Bellecour to Grange-Blanche, only about a 15 minute ride.  From the beginning, it was ridiculously un-fun.  The pushing to get through the ticket checking machine, the 2 minutes we all wait to get on the metro.  The shoving to get onto the actual car.

The worst, in my opinion, is knowing what you are supposed to do for 15 minutes while you are chugging along.  If you are unlucky, the car is packed to the hilt and you're forced to wave around for a pole to balance yourself.  The luckiest you can get is to find a seat, but I am never so lucky.

I stared at my shoes for about 5 minutes, the slowest 5 minutes of my life.  I glanced up, flicking my eyes around the crowd never make eye contact I repeat in my head.  I focus on the sign above the old woman's head to my left.  Suddenly I notice the smell emiting from her is not the cookies and ice cream type of Grandma, but the drunk in the middle of the day type.  After I read the sign for about 3 minutes, or about 4 times, I return to my shoes.  I now notice that there is a Romanian guy playing the accordian and sending his 3 year old to look pitiful and beg for money.  I can't look at my shoes any more, because the kid is down there.  I quickly change my glance to outside the window- this only works for about 30 seconds until I start getting motion sick from looking outside at things passing.

Saxe-Gambetta.  I am counting in my head the stops, 3 more left.  I sigh and suddenly a group of ados get on the car and start playing their music out loud.  I sigh and turn my attentions to the old man sitting on a chair... a guy that just got on is noisily chewing on his white bread sandwich.  The girl on the other side is smart, she has a phone to play with, ear phones tucked into her ears.

1 stop left, I start becoming aware of the time passing, not a good thing... because when we are aware it is like watching a pot of hot water trying to boil- it goes so slow.  I stare at my shoes again, since the kid and father team got off and I try to focus on why there is mud on my shoe.

15 minutes later I shove off the metro and shove through the crowds, like sheeple, to exit.

Yes, I'm American.  I need a 2 foot radius to feel comfortable.


Monday, February 21, 2011

What-What: La Poste

La Poste.  Living far away from home the difficulties are abundant, one such problem is the issue of receiving or sending packages all the way across the world.  Recently, I went into La Poste to pick up a package my mom lovingly bundled up and I noticed how truly different La Poste is compared to the United States Postal Services.  Not just the prices (which I will discuss later) but the concept that La Poste is not actually owned by the government.. and USPS is.

While France is highly socialistic in several of their tendencies (state health insurance, huge amounts of social aide to students/families, subsidies for farmers and subsidies to small businesses) the post office itself is actually a private business who works on profit/revenue.  In the States, our USPS is owned and ran by the US Government, which sets caps on the pricing for mail services and all employees are hired by the Govt.  While the US has a lack of public services... France has one big difference in this department.

La Poste was not always a private affair, it was just last year (March 2010) that they became private and a profit run business.  This is why, if you've lived in Lyon since 2010, you'll see the huge differences happening in the offices.  Everyone now holds a smiling face, uniforms are key, brightly colored signs portray which line to stand in.  The strangest is the specialty desk that sells just 'timbres collections' or stamp collections.. specialty stamps for those who collect.  The goal was to generate more profits for France and their government... Much more like a Home Depot than a public service, La Poste has even expanded into 'subsidary' realms:

-Post Immo
-La Banque Postale
-La Poste Mobile

All of which are services offered within the original post offices that were once owned by the state.  Why is this important?  The prices are reflected on this privatization.

For example, let's say I want to send a little bit of some French chocolate to my mom.. I buy about 1 kilo worth of candies and chocolates and bundle them nicely into a box.  The costs (according to the Colissimo website, their subsidiary) is about 16e.  16e for 2 pounds of stuff.. that is very expensive considering in the United States we have a service which enables us to send about 5 lbs for 10$ international.

Here's the average costs for sending to the United States:
500g  or  1lb  -  21.38 €
1 kilo or 2lbs -  25 €
2 kilos or 4lbs - 28€

etc, etc.

I still haven't sent any gifts back home because of the ridiculous prices.. and example of how privatization is really not a good idea, especially for public services.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Advice: For the Ladies

*Updated February 21st, thanks to my French friend Caro*

This is going to be a very female-oriented post as I have been having my own personal dilemmas in France regarding many personal things in this category.  I recently had a little worry.. and had to try to hash through my French to figure out where to go, how to ask.. and I realized there was not a lot of helpful information regarding this.. so here goes.

Some 'Female Product' Vocabulary/Explanation:
Tampax/tampons:  Tampons
Serviettes Hygènique:  Pads
Pads and tampons in France are more expensive depending on the brand; for example, Tampax brand is between 3-5e a box.  They offer the same sizings as in the us (from light to super), pads are a bit cheaper and they offers some that are scented- just like at home.  They can be purchased in grocery stores, pharmacies or little open corner stores.

les règles ou j'ai mes règles:  Period (monthly cycle), I have my period

Une crampe/j'ai des crampes:  cramps/I have cramps

Grossesse:  pregnancy
Un test de grosesse:  Pregnancy test
Pregnancy tests are only available upon request from a pharmacy.  It's a bit embarassing, but you basically have to go to the technician and ask for a test (je voudrais un test de grossesse) they cost around 5-6e and work the same way in the States.

Contraception: contraception
Un préservatif:  condoms
Can be found in machines outside of pharmacies, or available at the pharmacy.. not available in small grocery stores, can be available in some larger super stores or groceries.
La pillule contraceptive: birth control pills
Need to have an ordonance(prescription) and can be bought at the pharmacy.  Usually costs 5e for three months of pills.. but apparently, according to my sources, it's more like 30e for three months... reimbursed by the state.  You need to have an ordinance and have it prescrite from any type of doctor.
L'implant:  the implant
placed under the skin in the arm, lasts about 3 years, reimbursed by public health insurance.
Les dispositifs intra-utérins: intra-uterine device
reimbursed by public health insurance

CPEF: les centres de planification familiale:  Center funded by the state to offer contraception free of charge and advice/testing.  Website:  www.sante.gouv.fr

Gynecologue ou Gyneco: Gynecologist
Making an appointment with a gynecologue in France can be unnerving.. and the actual visit (from what I've read) is equally unpleasant.  Upon the visit, you will be completely naked (no nice little dress to cover up) and you yourself will send the results to the laboratory and receive the results at home.  Two names I heard were good in Lyon:  Mme Lavanga, 168 cours lafayette ( and Mme Levallois, 12 rue emile zola ( and Mme Dubost Hocquart close to Foch metro station.
Good gynos are booked quickly, so if it's an emergency try a Women's Hospital.

If you have made a mistake, condom broke, missed a pill.. France is very liberal with options:
Contraception d'urgence:  Emergency contraception

la pillule sur lendemain:  the day after pill
Available from the pharmacy, simply explain that you need emergency contraception in the form of this pill.  The brand is often EllaOne, it will work up to 3 days after the mistake. It's not considered a bad thing in France, but it can be dangerous... so it's not sold freely (meaning without a lot of explanation).

l'avortement: abortion
There are clinics around the city that can help you, I don't know if it is required to make an appointment or not- but I do know the abortion must be done within 12 weeks of initial implantation.  Website:  http://www.ra-sante.com/ivg-lyon.html

That's a lot of information to digest, but it's information I had to figure out myself.  I hope this helps ladies coming to France.  Bonne chance et courage!


Friday, February 18, 2011

Advice: How to Find Work

Alright, so I've decided to share a secret of mine that I've been holding in for awhile.  Now that I have a constant flow of customers and a paid internship on the side, I feel comfortable enough in sharing my little secret of how to find work in Lyon.

First off, understand that it will take work, patience and perseverence... it's not an easy job market in France or in Europe.  There is a crise d'économie everywhere you look and it can cause some potential problems for those of us who are needing to pay for ourselves while living abroad.  I'll break down the ideas according level of French and experience:

You Don't Speak Barely Any French
If you barely speak any French it might be beneficial for you to try working for companies that are in need of a Anglophone.  Baby Speaking is always hiring for baby sitters and teachers- but the problem remains that they are just expanding so you may not have a permanent pay check until after you leave.  On the side, you can post up some ads around your campus or around the internet (try LyonWeb or Vivastreet) explaining you are looking to baby sit.  Worse comes to worse, you could try to apply for cleaning positions that don't need you to speak.

You Can Get Through.. and you Know Some Future/Past Tenses
If you can hustle through French then you can try applying to some English speaking places... Vieux Lyon has some British Bars.  Drop by (before busy services) and drop off a resume with a letter of intent, prove you are an Anglophone and that you could be useful to the company.

You can speak, but Sometimes Get Confused
If you feel you are able to understand/speak at about a 75% fluency rate then you might be able to try applying to some bilingual companies (Wallstreet Institute, Berlitz) or even try your hand at applying for teaching english in a school.  The problem with teaching is that you need some level of experience (unless you tutor on the side), and patience.  Teaching is not for everyone, if you are bad at explaining or have difficulties understanding why our language is the way it is, try applying for something else.

You Are Fluent
Well, good for you, in that case you can pretty much apply to any position.  Know that there are many people fighting for the same position so outline your strengths due to living abroad.  If you are fluent in French you could try to work in a company that interests you- remember to understand that companys are rigid in hiring... they have taxes to pay for employees and contracts to obey.. this makes it difficult to get a contract, but worth it if you try.

Some Other Ideas
-American Places (My Best Bagels, Donut Times, Little Britain, Bars in Vieux Lyon)
-Restaurants with Tourists (Vieux Lyon)
-Hotels or Tourism Places
-Bilingual Assistant Positions
-Tutoring via Postings around Campus
-Baby Sitting
-MacDo (very common for Université students to work here)

Remember that it may take time to find a job but to research as much as possible to find something.. look on any website and think in French.  Often it's a simple word such as:  Baby Sitter to Garde d'Enfants that can give you a client or a person.. we forget that we are in France and many jobs are posted in French.  Some key words garde d'enfants, enseignement anglais, bilingue anglais, poste, traduction.

Good luck with the search.. something will pop out.  OH, and one last thing, don't be afraid to charge what you are worth for tutoring or baby-sitting.  I once turned down a job that offered 8 bucks an hour because it was for two children and it was a lot of hard work.  Simply say, merci, mais ce ne m'interesse pas.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Le Jour St. Valentin

I'm not the most romantic person, meaning I am not won over by flowers or chocolates, nor am I the type to cry over sappy movies.  I am a girl of logic and plans, if there is no logic it doesn't fit into my life.  The most romantic thing Bri ever did for me was to buy me a Le Creuset frying pan for Christmas.  This personality trait is constantly questioned with my life in France, as France is supposed to be one of the most romantic places in the world.  People always want me to recount the romantic outings with my French boyfriend; when closing our eyes and envisioning romance, we see a beautiful french couple canoodling on a park bench.  We don't see the wasps zipping around their head, or the pile of dog crap just 4 feet away nor the group of angry hoodlums throwing themselves around like they are kings.  We see only the kisses, the grand gestures, acclaimations of love and undying devotion.

While France is typically idealized and romanticized, le jour de St. Valentin falls right into my spectrum of thinking.  In America, Valentine's day is marked with piles of red and pink corporatism; bundling and stuffed with cheap manufactured chocolate and silly little cards with stupid phrases.  In France, St. Valentin is the day to remember the guy that was tortured to death... right along my stream of realism.

St. Valentine, or during his time just Valentine, was a priest who would marry Christian couples under the radar of Roman rule.  When Claudius caught on he had him captured, tried to convert him, when he refused he was killed and thus became a martyr.  Somehow this day became a day to celebrate love and amour that can triumph despite ordeals and, well, Roman rule.

A great tradition that used to exist in France, is something called a lotterie d'amour.  It was a strange custom that basically OK'd some swinging around with your neighbors and a chance to burn pictures of people that emotionally damaged you, while shouting offensive things.  Now outlawed, apparently because the concept of random-pairing and obscenity-shouting was not such a good idea, the custom resembles closer to the American customs.

Of course, as I may be a realist, I still love history- and as a young girl my mother loved to tell me all the stories of great love.  My favorite story is actually from a French couple in late 12th century.. Abelard and Heloise.  Brought together through education, they fell in love immediately and secretly had a child.  The uncle of Heloise was very unhappy with this situation and through a series of events it led to Abelard being castrated.  Even the inability to express physical love couldn't keep them apart, as they both took place in an Abbey and took vows to God; they remained great lovers.  The ultimate long distance relationship, they wrote extensive amounts of letters, proving that love can be beyond the physical.

So, on this day of love and capitalism, think of Abelard and Heloise; or the martyr Valentine.  It doesn't have to be one of those days we spend too much money on candy- it can simply be a day where we celebrate life.
 "I will still love you with all the tenderness of my soul till the last moment of my life." - Heloise to Abelard, 12th century, after the separation to their abbeys.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bothersome French: Vous versus Tu

I made a huge mistake when I started dating Brian and I met his parents.  I remember the day too, I had come to France, for the first time, and we were sitting around the table gorging on apero and chips while laughing and having what's France like compared to America conversations.  I was standing next to Bri's mom, and non chalantly whisked my drink around while exclaiming, "Mais, oui, c'est evident, mais tu sais..".  Joce looked at me with a strange eye, I didn't realize it then but I was starting on a journey of irreversible grammatical errors.  The rest of the summer I filled with tu's mirroring their language and following Brian.

It wouldn't be fore another year, when I finally moved to France that I would realize my mistake.  Bri's grandmother was over for dinner and we were snacking on some dinner when I notived Joce motioning to Madame Corrieri and saying, voulez-vous un autre tranche du boeuf? I stared for a moment and it sunk in.  Aghast I leaned over to Bri and said, omg. Am I supposed to be using VOUS with your parents??  Like since the beginning??  He looked at me and nodded, like, DUH.  I was aghast.  I didn't know how to discuss this with his parents and be like, so can we go back to the vous or is it too late?

Luckily, I have understanding French parents, and when I finally had enough French to be able to make conversation on my own I posed the question.  C'est ok si j'avais toujours appelé toi un TU, pourrais-je changer?  She laughed and said, c'est pas nécessaire. I nodded.

Thus I embarked on the horrible journey of deciding when to use the Tu and when to use the Vous.  I've sort of broken down some social rules:

When to use the TU

  • With other students that are in your class.
  • With close friends or people that are your age.
  • Anyone who is younger than you.
  • When someone has requested it, a true French social thing: Tu peux m'appelle TU.
When to use the VOUS
  • Professors or bosses
  • Collegues at work
  • Anyone who is older than you, like at least by a generation
  • Anyone you meet in a store, ANYONE
  • Parents/grandparents of your French boyfriend
  • Addressing a group of people
It can be incredibly annoying, as all those verb forms change and if you make the social mistake of calling someone a VOUS when they are clearly a TU (you risk looking too formal) and vice versa.  Just don't call your boyfriend's parents tu.  That is bad and it's an irreversable mistake.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Petit U-Express Next Door

I realized that I hadn't written about this little jewel of a grocery since I moved into the Marronniers apartment.  Living in the center of town poses some difficulties on where to do my weekly shopping (when I can't get to the marché).  When I first moved here in September I was a frequent client of the Marché-U down the street, which was convenient but a total scam.

It killed me every time I would buy my groceries, I realized very quickly that groceries were on average .30 centimes more in price.  My .77 centimes of yogurt was suddenly a whole EURO.  I was buying less and less stuff to avoid the extreme price change; it was really tough to bite the bullet, but biking all the way to Part-Dieu was ridiculous and I hate Lidl products.

One day, we were looking for a shop that was open late in order to buy a baguette.  As we wandered home we came across a little store called U-Express, we thought, eh, what the Hell.  probably gonna cost us an eye to buy anything there, but it's closeby.  As we passed through the sliding doors we were welcomed by the cassière with a smile.  We smiled back and started rummaging through the store buying what we needed.  Baguette, check. Eggs. check.  Meat. check.  With our modest pile of groceries we went to the smiling cassièere and she quickly passed and rung us up.
Ça fera 11.04€.
I stared, bouche bée.  She repeated, this time smile fading, a little annoyed.  I quickly paid for the items and looked over at Bri as we walked out, "Did you notice the groceries here are, like normal priced?".  Everything was normal priced, no sudden downtown price.

That's when our little love affair with the U-Express next door started.  It wasn't the best part thought; they constantly have discounted items (20 to 30% off) due to their misorderings.  I am often able to score a couple of steaks for 30% off and they taste great.  Yogurts, cheeses, butters, you name it and they have it discounted at least once in awhile.  Sadly, no one seems to know about the store.. but that's why I'm writing it down now.


If you live near the center, go to U-Express on 9 Rue de la Charité.  Guaranteed that you can eat cheap and that things are discounted.  We recently bought a load of chocolates for 50% off, great quality products.  If you do go, get a U-Card; you'll get some points and some free things once in awhile.

I'm tellin' ya.  Totally like American-ish discounts.

a+ and happy eating

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

You Know You're Becoming French When...

I was hanging up a load of lights in the kitchen when I came to the realisation that there are certain indications of the American shell shedding and me becoming truly and culturally French.  Don't get me wrong, I am by no means a Francophile (like most people) and it's not a process I am opening my arms and begging for, I just am slowly evolving into a culture and I realised there are ways to tell if you are truly becoming French:

  • The crunchy towels don't bother you any more.
  • Laundry is an automatic five step process that takes days, and you plan for this:
    • Wash the laundry (3 hours)
    • Hang the laundry (30 minutes)
    • Wait to dry (1 day in spring/summer, 3 days in winter)
    • Fold crunchy laundry
    • Repeat
  • If you see friends and you don't faire les bises you feel weird, like something is missing.
  • You decide on a place to eat over a 2 hour conversation
    • Once done eating you know it will take another hour of standing around to say good bye
  • You begin to know a good baguette just by looking at it in a Boulangerie
    • You eat bread with dinner with no butter spread on it
  • The thought of stinky cheese excites you
  • Prendre un café means sit in a café for 2 hours while sipping a miniscule espresso
  • Suddenly, you are NOT out of breath after climbing to your 5th story apartment, sans ascenseur!
  • A sunday family dinner to you is 6 hours, 4 courses and many many interuptions during conversations
  • When visiting family, you never go to bed before 1am and you most likely are drunk at the end of dinner
  • When you boire un coup with tes amis you are sipping a cocktail and not binging beer in cheap plastic cups
  • If invited to someone's house you begin worrying about what you can bring... fleurs?  Bouteille du vin?
  • Aperitif does nto include cheese and crackers.  (Hey in the States, we often serve cheese and crackers in the beginning of a meal!)
  • The thought of sweet and salty disgusts you.  *NOTE:  I have yet to get here.  I still love meatballs with berry sauce from Ikea*
  • On Sunday you don't go grocery shopping.  Don't go to the bank.  Don't go shopping for clothes.  Although; you frequent le marché.
  • When invited to dinner, you often look like you're going to a 4 star restaurant... even if it's just a close friend.
  • You have a giant stack of papers and prescriptions, receipts and proof, as well as many copies of signed original statements for even your BIKE PASS.  Hellooo accordian file.
  • You suddenly find yourself using words like:  jsché pas (je ne sais pas), connard (asshole), n'importe quoi (ridiculous), connerie (bullshit) and you are thinking it en français.
  • Frog legs, snails and foie gras are things you love, burgers and fast food are déguleusse!
It makes me so curious what it will be like to return home in July and have everything suddenly in English.  A dryer.  Fast service.  Grocery people bagging my groceries.  Smiling waiters/tips.  AAAHHH!!!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Advice: Search for the Perfect Wine Shop

Everyone in France has a wine person, either they know someone who is a personal distributor or they go to a local wine shop for advice and recommendations.  In December I wrote a little piece regarding the importance of pairing wine with food and how the French adore their wines.  It's even okay for a pregnant woman to have a glass a day during pregnancy, but they warn, no hard alcohol.

It's for this reason I began hunting around Lyon for a wine ship, while Nicholas is a great place to start I find it a bit corporate and McDonald's chain like for my tastes.  I needed to find a shop with the quintessential fabricator dancing around, red in the cheeks from drinking his own stock.  While I see many of these clochard type people laying around Perrache drinking straight from bottles of Vin Ordinaire- I couldn't find that type of a wine guy in a shop, until I discovered Bon Vins de France.

I had it on my marché map for a long time and was excited to finally make a stop to see what the hubbub was all about.  The instant I walked in I felt as though I was in some old man's cave du vin and then as I looked past the shelves I saw the little old man I had wanted to meet; he waddled over to me about half my size and smiled with a pupkin-mouthed toothless grin.

Je peux vous aider?

I smiled at him.  While most people would be afraid or worried, I could see he know the product and he knew wine.  The best thing was that they (him and his wife) worked side-by-side and sold not only specialty wines but their own brew for a little 1.20€ a litre.  Not great for eating, but great for cooking with or taking to a quick picnic.  He waited for me to respond and I looked around,

En fait, je cherche une bouteille du Champagne pour un fête.

He nodded and quickly ushered me to the back of the shop towards the array of champagnes and began explaining the difference bottles, some were more 'bubbly' than others and some were more fine in the taste than the rest.  I ended up taking a beautiful bottle for 17€ and thanked him graciously for his advice.  He grinned his toothless smile and his wife wrapped up my bottle to look beautiful for my little dinner.

I looked back and he waddled off to tend to his wine bottles, swinging serviette in tow.  His wife waved once more and I headed out.

Definitely the perfect little wine shop for me.

If you want to go:
Bon Vins de France
11 Rue Aimé Collomb
69003 Lyon

Friday, February 4, 2011

What-What: La Renaissance

No, this is not a break down on the historical aspects of the renaissance era.  It's not an explication of anything historical really, just a discovery I made in the last few days.

I haven't written in a few days because I have been completely swamped doing Baby Speaking development for Lyon.  I was lucky enough to meet Caroline, a completely charming gal that's about my age and French.  She's been handling their development in Paris and wanted to come to Lyon to meet with me and to work together to try and do some community outreach.  It was refreshing and the first experience I'd had working with a true French person side-by-side.  I find that my business background from the States contrasts and compliments her structured business Master from France.  Tomorrow I'll be discussing some more differences between the University Systems in America and France- but for now suffice to say we have our strengths in both structures.

As we traversé the city we discovered a mutli-cultural underlining to Lyon I never thought existed.  Schools with trilingal bases, international high schools, American clubs and a multitude of exchange programs.  I felt so natural explaining the company and giving presentations to potential students, I realized how I truly made the good decision to move to France and go into International Business.  From friends to school to work, the ethnocentrism I brought with my in July is slowly melting off to accept and love the French Culture.

La Renaissance.  To warm up from the -2°C weather, we stepped into a café called La Renaissance down the street from Lyon Lumière II.  From the minute I walked into the café I felt a sort of closeness, the kind you see in television series.. the happy guy behind the bar, smiling and joking.  Every person that walked in he seemed to know by name, and them equally felt natural smiling and asking comment çava?? I was attached when I went to order some tea:

Me: Bonjour, je voudrais bien du thé s'il vous plaît.
BarGuy:  D'accord; du théééé  (pronounced long and with a smile)
Me:  Vous avez quels types du thés?  (i didn't know how to say flavors)
BarGuy:  (laughing)  Aahhh, vous voulez dire 'des parfums' du thé.  Bien sûr, ici c'est la boîte du thé pleins des PARFUMS.  (big smile; not condescending)

I ordered an orange cinnamon tea and within minutes it arrived.  I felt comfortable in this little café near my University and realized, even if I miss many friends and places at my other home, this little café felt warm.  Owned by a couple and ran by their friends, it's a warm space with warm people.  I could speak my over exaggerated French and try to have a normal conversation with a French girl and it didn't feel weird.  I guess the French do smile and in this case made me smile.

In case you want to go to my little treasure:

La Renaissance (Café)
29 Rue Chevreul, 69007 Lyon

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