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29 January 2009

La Manifestation Francaise- a protest or a parade?


I woke up on Thursday morning, the 29th of January, to megaphones and music as Lyonnais workers led the national protest down my street.

When I hear the word protest, as American I picture a potentially violent event involving the SWAT team. It is something I would not want to be involved with in the States. In France, though, I found it to be something completely different.

As I made my way down the street that morning, I found friendly protesters and families with their babies and children. These public sector workers represented many grievances from politics and education to public transportation. They were holding signs or balloons and singing, chanting, or at the most yelling. Venders were set up on the sidewalk serving sausages and baguettes. It had the energy and excitement of a Mizzou homecoming parade.

Thousands of people in Lyon refused to work on this national day of protest. The city and its people suffered, but the next day life continued whether their needs were met or not. I do not think the strike resolved any grievances but it is apparent that demonstrating gave them a sense of satisfaction and unification as French workers during the unfortunate economic condition of the world.

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26 January 2009

Kebab Me


A foreigner could easily be convinced that the Kebab is a French tradition. In Lyon there are probably as many Kebab shops as there are patisseries. The Middle Eastern influence in France is definitely transparent in the Kebab fan base and popularity of couscous.

I finally gave in to the greasy rotating hunk of lamb. 

To to tune of the children's song "On top of spaghetti":
On top of some lamb meat, all covered in grease
I poured sauce blanche and some spilled on my feet.
Beautiful. One more time.

Le Marché Français



French people love food. I think that is why they insist on buying the freshest ingredients from their local source at the market. On any given day there is at least one outdoor market bustling in large urban city of Lyon. Endless rows of colorful vegetables and fragrant cheeses can be truly mesmerizing, not to mention mouth-watering. If the market is especially popular, there might be surprises around each corner. At the Place Carnot market on Saturdays, there's a sidewalk where breeders sell puppies. The Square Lumière and Croix-Rousse markets include everything from clothes and shoes, to art and pottery. At one market someone was selling mattresses and showerheads, which I thought was particularly odd.

Buying locally at the market isn't only fresher and environmentally more efficient, but it is generally less expensive than grocery stores. The interactions and discourse at the market is a cultural experience that is equally as important to the French as the food being sold. I think the proximity and abundance of fresh regional produce contributes largely to Lyon's pride in being the Gastronomy Capital of the World.

24 January 2009

SOLDES SOLDES SOLDES



January is an especially exciting month in France. January and June are the only months when you can find sales "soldes" in French retail stores. Any other time of the year everything is full price. The soldes season in France is something to definitely take advantage of. With the cost of living so high here, paying full price for clothes can be teeth-grinding. I was able to experience the excitement first hand when I went to Part-Dieu, the local mall in Lyon. People were shopping shoulder-to-shoulder, or baguette-to-baguette, and lines wrapped around the stores. It was especially crowded that day as it was the last Saturday of the sale. The experience was comparable to Boxing Day in the states. I managed to buy a rain jacket, jacket, and nice jeans for under 60 euros total. I was dead tired after navigating through the crowds for a few hours, but it was fun to be part of the semi-annual event.

22 January 2009

Pérouges living the Medieval life


Pérouges, France is a tiny and well preserved medieval village about 35 minutes from Lyon by train. It is a very quant place, completely empty on the cold rainy day I visited. Clara and I were literally the only living souls outside that day. In the summer, I hear it is quite the tourist attraction. I was glad to go on a quite day to enjoy the cobblestone streets freshly polished by rain and hear the pitter-patter of raindrops on clay ancient roofs. Inside the 15th century village church, the cold cement walls kept all natural light. The dark medieval feel inside the church was enough to give me the chills. We only stayed half the day, but it was fun to be surrounded by everything medieval- very different from Lyon.

20 January 2009

Forgiven for "Freedom" Fries- Proud to be an American in France



On January 20, 2009 I walked around with my head high. With President Obama's face plastered all over the city of Lyon, anyone could guess why I was proud to be an American. The inauguration of the 44th President of the United States of America was an international event. French people seemed especially content on this particular Tuesday. Farmers at the local market embraced me when they heard my American accent. One man handed me a basket of free fruit while proclaiming "Yes we can!" I felt like a celebrity that day, and rightfully so. America has impressed the world. If there was ever a stereotype of French people not liking Americans, it is surely gone now. 

That evening, I tuned in to a live stream of the inauguration speech with a group of American students from my apartment building. All huddled around my tiny laptop screen, we clapped and cheered as we watched our new president take office. I must admit that before leaving for France I was disappointed about missing the inauguration from the states, but in reality I didn't miss anything. Instead, I was able to feed off the positive energy from the rest of the world and experience something exciting and new. I am looking forward to observing the reactions of the French people as new policies and changes occur in the United States.

17 January 2009

TCL- Transportation en Commun de Lyon

The Métro is one of my favorite things about Lyon. In this huge city of 450,000 people, the métro makes it easy to navigate and understand. It is clean, efficient, and so much faster and safer than driving on the streets in France. I fear for the lives of bicyclists who share the road with the crazy automobile drivers. Instead of driving or biking, for 30 euros per month I have unlimited access to any bus, tramway, or métro line within the 9 arrondissements of Lyon. Of course there are a few downsides: The TCL public transportation closes from midnight to 5 am when all the nightlife is happening downtown. The "drunkbus" runs every hour between 12-5 am but luckily I have not been that desperate.. yet. Just kidding, mom. Also, travelling underground on the métro eliminates the possibility of scenery or knowing the way around. It's important to walk sometimes, especially for the sake of discovering the treasure of an alley-way patisserie or boulangerie. 
Soon I will explore the high-speed trains that connect all over Europe.  I bought a youth discount pass to travel within France and I intend to get my money's worth. Stay tuned...

15 January 2009

Bienvenue en France!


My first night in France was a whirlwind of culture and jet-lag. Although I felt prepared having been in France a few months before, many things still caught me off-guard. The instance that replays in my head over and over was when I met a french girl named Clémence only 20 minutes after arriving in Lyon. It was New Years Eve and I hadn't slept in 25 hours. When Anaïs and I arrived at her apartment, Clémence, Anaïs' roommate, greeted us at the door. I was really excited to make a new friend so I mindlessly stuck out my hand to introduce myself. At this point, she was already leaning in to give me 'bisous' (kisses on both cheeks). In all the awkwardness, I ended up poking her in the stomach with my hand and when I tried to explain myself, my english words only confused her. After that embarrassing American moment, I realized I must leave all my normal actions and responses behind. It was time to watch and learn. That same night I saved myself the embarrassment by taking the lead of others. I met about 15 people my age at a party that night. I did not stick out my hand to introduce myself, I gave bisous and spoke French!