10 March 2008



On Tuesday Connor, Amanda, and Julia went to Annecy and Mark and I walked around Lyon. We didn’t really start out the day with a plan or anything, and we ended up seeing a lot of stuff on accident. I couldn’t tell you now everything that we ran into and said, “Oh, hey, that’s cool,” but it happened, I promise.

We almost went into the Musée des Beaux Arts de Lyon but we looked at the prices and I saw “4 EUROS” and made the executive decision to be satisfied with the statues in the garden. Then it was around 5 and we tried some shopping, since that’s what you do in France, but it didn’t really work very well. After a while we gave up and headed back to the hostel. This was a good idea because it was getting cold. It was a bad idea because even though we had made plans to meet and eat with the other people when they got back from their day trip, we ended up waiting, oh, about 3 hours. Give or take.

It’s amazing how much time you can spend alternately looking out a window and reading.

Around 8 we decided that they had to be close to being back and we left the hostel again. Mark tried to call and text Amanda but she wasn’t responding. I texted Julia and got the same sort of response (later we figured out that Julia’s phone had committed suicide). We kept walking anyway, figuring that the general direction of the gare would be a good idea, since they would be coming from there. Finally we got a call from Amanda. They were about to walk into a kebab place, cause they were tired and had decided that we must have already eaten.

We created a rendez-vous first at Hotel de Ville, and then at Place de la Republique. Once at Republique we stood around for a while trying to see them and then Mark got a call from Amanda. “We’re lost.” Uh….ok? Turns out they were just a couple blocks down, not lost at all. In the end we did have kebabs again, but I had falafel instead of meatiness, and we went to a different restaurant. The falafel was lovely. Four euros for a galette containing four monster balls of falafel, French fries, moutarde (made my eyes water, no joke, loved every minute of it) and lettuce and tomato. Of course, I try to refrain from translating that sum from euros into dollars…it’s ok. For lunch, we had “petite casino-ed” it. This means that we went to a mini marché and bought bread and cheese and saucisson and that was lunch.


Wednesday was the day that Mark and I went to Annecy. Amanda left in the morning to go off on her own. Well, technically she wasn’t on her own, because she was staying with a Lyonaise family that she knew from highschool. But she wasn’t with us anymore, so that’s how I count it. Connor and Julia went to Genève on Wednesday.

On Tuesday Mark and I had gone to the gare and purchased our tickets to get to and from Annecy. That had been another one of my moments to shine. I talked to the woman at the desk in French, and she continued the conversation and all the explanations in French. It costs the same to take a train or the bus to Annecy, and what was super nice about our tickets is that we could go either way with them. She printed them off and then wrote down all of our options. We ended up taking the bus there, the ride was about two hours. Give or take. I got really excited the closer we got to the mountains, because (surprise) I miss the mountains, and the Alps are gorgeous, even when you can’t see them very well because of clouds.

The weather was super, if a little cold, when we first arrived. We spent the first hour or so wandering first randomly and then with more purpose as we tried to find a Petite Casino to buy lunch from. Well, really we wanted to find the Monoprix (a bigger marché) that the other peeps had talked about, and buy from there, but we found the PCasino first. Of course, we walked out of the minimarché, headed to the lake, and there it was: a monster Monoprix just grinning at us from its rather obvious place near the water. I laughed.

We ate by the lake. While we were eating, a seagull menaced us. I have no other way to put it. He cawed and cackled and every once in a while I was afraid for my cheese, cause he was definitely eyeing it. And then a family came and sat to my left, and what else did they do but start to feed the birds? I almost wished I had seen some more Alfred Hitchcock so that I could have some freaky flashbacks. Suddenly there were sparrows and seagulls and crows and whatever else had been in the vicinity vying for my food. Even the swans, which were down in the water, came closer to the platform and looked up at us.

After lunch we started to walk around the lake; fifteen minutes into the walk we stopped under a tree that looked like it was covered with dead Christmas decorations and rested. Five minutes after we sat down it started to sprinkle. Five minutes after that, it was lightly raining. I like rain. I thought it was cool. Mark doesn’t like rain, and so we set off back around the lake, walking quickly with the goal of finding a café.

The funny thing about trying to find things is that you can never find something when you really want to be able to find it. At least when we’re in Rennes we know where all of the cafés and bars are, and the difference between the two. In Annecy, not only did we have no idea where anything was, we had no idea where we were. And of course, the longer we walked around, the harder it rained and the colder it became. I’m not really sure how long it was before we actually decided/found a place to go to, but I know that once I sat down and tried to take my scarf off, I discovered that my hair was absolutely sopping. I was tempted to wring it out, but since the bartender guy didn’t seem to be in that fantastic of a mood I didn’t.

After we were in the café/bar for about twenty minutes, the rain stopped. When we left we headed up to the castle, which cost 2Euro to get into, but I wanted to go in because it was supposed to be really cool, and because Julia had said that it had an exhibit of monsters that she hadn’t been able to see because the castle and museum are closed on tuesdays. So we went into the castle and saw the creepiest exhibit of fake monsters that I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Well, not that I go to a lot of those things, but I’m sure if I did this one would have beat them all. There’s a lot to say for people who put very very very fake monster animals on display next to pictures of said “monsters” and themselves out in the “wild.” Haha…oh man, oh the freakiness. Mark couldn’t handle it; it was like watching those really angsty teenage awkwardness movies, but only watching the parts where the main characters are being super dumb and only making their lives more difficult for themselves. Embarrassing and painful but also so incredibly hilarious.

When we couldn’t handle any more of the craziness we walked up the stairs to the rest of the castle, which contained more artsy-sort things. It was like it was trying way too hard to be a fantastic museum, and could do nothing but fail miserably. There was even an attempt at a modern art museum, and that was just terrible. I mean, modern art in itself can kinda be iffy, but when you’re getting a piece of metal in the shape of a G and putting it on the floor and calling it art…come on, guys. Come on.

There was even a movie room of “art” movies. One was about…uh…bugs? Actually, that one was really cool, despite the fact that I don’t like beetles. It was just a very rapid slide show of all these bugs. Kinda looked like they all turned into one another, beetles into butterflies and things like that.

After the castle museum we walked to a PCasino and grabbed some juice and snickers bars and walked back to the gare. We had the choice between a bus which would leave in ten minutes, or a train which would leave about an hour after. After a couple seconds of just looking at one another, trying to gauge which of us was going to take the lead and actually make a decision for once (that’s one of the biggest reasons Mark and I do a lot of wandering…neither of us are man enough to be decisive. Haha…gotta love people like us). Finally we agreed that it would be silly to just wait around for a train just after we had purchased all that healthy good-for-your-body snackage.

Oh, and the reason we were so hesitant in the first place, was that it’s easy to find where trains are. They have the platform and track number and everything displayed on this huge electronic table. But when it comes to buses, the French are more like, “Well, there’s this parking lot, quoi? And there are buses there. One of them happens to be the one you want. But we’re not going to tell you which one it is or on which end of the parking lot you will find it. Bon voyage!”

I’m pretty sure we ended up traversing the parking lot sidewalk about five times. I know it was an odd number because we stopped walking on the opposite side of the stairs that we had come up from, not that it matters. We did another bout of just standing there, silently daring the other person to jump up and say, “Ok, I’ll go ask that bus driver over there which bus we’re supposed to be looking for.” In the end it was Mark who said, “Isn’t it your turn to be assertive?”

It was. So I went up and asked the nearest conductrice if she was going to Gare Lyon Part Dieu. Oh glory, she was. We hopped on the bus and four minutes later it pulled out of the lot. The sad part was that two seconds after we sat down I saw the sign that said you weren’t allowed to eat on the bus. Um…I’m sorry for all you people who think I follow all of the rules. We totally gave in after about an hour of driving and ate a snickers bar. It was 18h30. That still kinda means dinner for me (even though tonight my parents and I didn’t eat until 20h30. and then they were surprised when it was 22h45 when we were finally done with all the courses. Crazy French. I love them.). So we broke that rule….bummer.

Once back in Lyon we met Connor and Julia and went to a pizzeria for dinner. Pizza here isn’t actually pizza. There are tons of pizzerias, just as there are tons of kebab spots. That doesn’t mean, though, that they make pizza. French people don’t believe in thick crust. They believe in one thin pizza per person. It’s about the size of a medium pizza in the states, and sometimes has stuff on it. The one I had was actually super good, it was the Mexicain, and apparently that means that they take refried beans, red and green peppers, onion, beef, and cheese, and pile it on. It was so good….and they had this olive oil on the table that was so magnificent, I could hardly contain myself.

I should explain why this oil was such a blessing: the French don’t believe in spices. I believe I’ve said this before. It’s true. I found spices in my cuisine, but I’m pretty sure they are only very rarely used. But this olive oil had something in it that added this spicey bite to the aftereffects; kinda like I was eating curry on accident but would only realize the fact after I swallowed.

You may have guessed by now that two of the foods I miss the most are curry and Mexican food. Oh, for enchiladas. Jalapeños. That spicy pain that climbs up your nose and yanks tears out of your eyes, oh yeah.


Thursday was deemed “Lyon day” and it started with us walking with Julia (after sleeping in, yay!) down past Hotel de Ville to hit up the Petite Casino. The only problem we ran into then was that they were out of baguettes. Incroyable, I know. So we bought the rest of our food and then set out to find a boulangerie. You’d think that this would be easy, since it seems that the only things you see in France are boulangeries and cafes. Haha, not so much. We walked up the mini hill (not Fourvière), across the mini hill, and halfway back down the mini hill before ending up, not even joking, buying bread from a boulangère just on the other side of the Hotel building.

What was funnier is that I didn’t realize where we were until Mark and Julia had already commented on it and I was sitting down on my step. Suddenly I looked up, recognized the building, and started to laugh. Sadly, the two others had already enjoyed their “Oh my gosh look where we are” so all I got was a “dur” sort of look. And then there was this amazing kid who was chasing the pigeons away for us. It was kinda like a reverse of Annecy, where the bird was screaming at us to give him food. This time, some elementary age boy was running up and down the stairs in front of the fountain, yelling at the pigeons in French. It was pretty sweet, especially when all he did was scare the birds into flying over the heads of the women sitting at the café at the top of the stairs.

After lunch Julia headed to an internet café to do some parling (no, that’s not French. It’s totally franglais, how do you like that? Parler {to talk} + talking= parling!) via email. Mark and I said psh that and walked back through the plaza Hotel de Ville to the Musée des Beaux Arts, where Mark took initiative and asked the lady for tickets, which we then got for free…so much for 4 euros, even for students. We found it incredibly awkward after we asked for two student fares, showed her our cards, and I gave her my St.G zip code; and she just handed the tickets to Mark and walked away.

He looked at me, his wallet was still in his hand; my hand was in my purse, my fingers were playing with the snap on my own wallet. I looked back at him and shrugged. Whatevs, if she didn’t want our money…it wasn’t until a few steps later, when I looked down at the ticket, that I saw that it said GRAT. STUDENT (grat=gratuite=free) on the top. So we headed upstairs. It was pretty sweet. By that I mean, what a fantastic museum.

Like all French museums, it had an exhibit of Egyptian artifacts. I can understand how fascinating the Egyptians are/were, but really. That’s a lot of mummies. Lots of people died thousands of years ago so that I could pay the French to let me look at what was in their tombs. And I am eternally grateful for those deaths, lemme tell ya. When we left the museum we went and sat by the fountain in the plaza for a little bit, trying to let our legs revive themselves a little bit before moving again.

At this point Mark looked at the store façades behind us and poked me in the arm. “Hey, you want some ice cream?” I followed his gaze. Hagen Daaz. Uh oh. No, I said. I’m not allowed to have ice cream. Besides, it’s expensive. “But it’s ice cream. You know you want some. Let’s go buy ice cream.” Um…but….I…fine. Let’s go look.

Yeah, it was 4E for a single scoop cone thing. I can pay that for a monster kebab sandwich, but when it comes to a dessert barely the length of my palm, there’s no way. The only problem was that after he mentioned it I really wanted ice cream. I’ve been wanting it for a while, really. I’ve been trying half-heartedly to find a glacerie in Rennes, but I haven’t had any luck. Of course, that isn’t any wonder, since I definitely haven’t been looking that hard. I’ve just been looking at façades and keeping a log of where I see them in the back of my mind. But just thinking about having hagen daaz was driving me crazy, so I said ok, let’s go find some cheap ice cream.

Here’s the sad part. We ended up at MacDo’s. I know. I know! So lame. But we also learned our lesson. A sundae was 1E70: really really cheap. We didn’t want to do it, but the desire for ice cream was so strong, and we were right there, and it was the cheapest we could find…but of course we still couldn’t help but keep talking about how lame we felt walking in there. “Oh look at those Americans, they really don’t eat anything but Macdo’s!” Ohbrother.

Mark stepped up to the counter, asked for two sundaes, and the chick looks at him and asks, “What do you want?” Uh…Two. Sundaes. “No. *switches to English*What do you want?” The sundaes, please. “No. *sigh/roll of eyes* Chocolate, caramel, strawberry?” Oh…chocolate, please. Thanks, mean little poo brain.

You can’t imagine the humiliation. Freaking Americans can’t even get respect from a French chick whose life sucks. Somehow they always find a way to roll their eyes at you and to make you feel like the dumbest person in the world, even though you could have had the same misunderstanding in English, in any other fast crap place in the world. We ate the sundaes in the building, I don’t really remember why, but we did. Kind of a “yeah, so? Here I am, still in your space!” sort of a thing, I suppose.

Just when I was finishing my last bite of icecream (a good seven minutes after Mark finished his) Julia texted and said that she was back at Hotel de Ville and where in the world were we? We dumped our trash and walked over and told her about our little escapade. And what did she say? “Oh…I was actually going to suggest that we go to the petite C and buy some ice cream to share…” Of course. Of course she would say that and not have texted us earlier to tell us her idea. Of course.

After meeting Julia no one wanted to make any decisions so we just walked around. I mean this quite literally. Mark just kept on saying that he was easy, I said that I didn’t care, I was content walking, and Julia threw her hands up in the air in exasperation. I don’t think she was very happy with us. After walking around for about twenty minutes we stopped at a café and got drinks. From there we hopped across the street so that Julia could buy dinner. Mark and I were planning on going to a bouchon (say “boo-shah”), and since Julia didn’t want to come along, she bought quiche and a baguette.

A bouchon has a couple different meanings in France. The two main ones which I know of are “wine cork” and “small Lyonais specialty restaurant.” In Lyon, it’s a very small restaurant, usually with space for around 50 people, which isn’t very many, once you think about it. The great thing about all the bouchons is that they’re all in a row on the road, so you can tromp down the street, look at the menu prices and in all the windows, and then make your decision. The street near the auberge with the largest number of bouchons was Rue St. Jean, also the road containing our two favorite pubs.

The first bouchon we came to was packed. As we walked up to it, people were turned away and told to go further down the street. So even though the menu looked fantastic (it was drawn in white chalk on a monster black board nailed right next to the front door) we headed down the street and looked at all the other spots. They were all pretty good, most every resto had a menu formule for about 15E. This is kinda expensive, I know, but you have to consider a few things.

First, it’s France. Second, it’s Lyon. If France is supposed to be one of the gastronomic capitals of the world, Lyon is the capital of the capital. Gastronomy is their thing, one might say. Third, you get courses with the formule. Entrée, plat principal, et dessert for me, meaning salade lyonaise, cochonaille pot au feu, et crème caramel to finish. The salad was an interesting experience, mostly because I was trying to be French and eat it with a fork and knife. Yeah, that was hard. I can do it now with almost every food except for lettuce. There’s just something about leaves that makes them want to run away from my fork and not go down into my belly…

The “cochonaille pot au feu” is something I recommend to ANYONE WHO LIKES TO EAT. Unless you’re like Julia and are vegetarian, or you don’t ever like pork. Otherwise, you’ve got to go to Lyon and taste this pot au feu. What they do is take a pot the size of a saucepan, fill it with water and animal goo and salt, and then drop in meat and potatoes. Then they cook it (feu =fire). The waiter brough it out to me and I could see steam coming out of the pot (they don’t put it on a plate or anything, they just give you the pot and let you go at it. The meat fell apart, like a beautiful gorgeous perfect pot roast. I swear that little piggy was melting on my tongue.

The fun part (besides, you know, the eating part) was at the very beginning of the meal, when we were ordering. I answered the waitress when she asked what we wanted for dinner. I said we wanted some water. This is just fine, except for the accidental way I said it. The French don’t have diphthongs in their language, and that’s what I did. A diphthong is when you say a vowel sound, but you turn it into two vowel sounds.

For example, if an Anglophone was reading the word “too,” they would probably pronounce it as “too-wuh.” Try it. Say the word “too” a couple of times, and see if you end up with a little “wuh” vowel extension at the end. If a Frenchie were to read that same word, they would pronounce it crisply: “too.” I would go into more, but I seem to be the only one interested in this sort of thing…

The mistake I made was to say “De l’eau (“oh-wuh”), s’il vous plait”

Instead of saying, rightfully, “De l’eau (“oh”), svp”

The waitress was wearing chic square black glasses and she looked at me over them and repeated what I had said. She even raised an eyebrow. I grinned and I’m pretty sure I also turned a little pink. It was such an amateur mistake to make…I said it again and this time she nodded and smiled back and left to take our order to the kitchen.

In the end I ate way too much and we didn’t get out of the restaurant until after ten. I think we were there for about two hours. It was a great two hours, though; I think I’ll be dreaming about that food for the rest of my life. Then again, there was the part when we were afraid that we weren’t going to be able to leave, because we weren’t sure about the etiquette for asking for the check. It’s easy in the States, there’s always a little waiter buzzing around, waiting for you to finish and leave. In France, you see the waiter three times. Once when you get your menus, once when you order, and one time when you finally flag them down and ask for the check.

Oh, one interesting story. When we were in the bouchon, a couple came in the door behind Mark. I was facing the entrance, so I got a good look at them before the waitress intercepted them. The man looked normal, I have no residual memory of him. The women was wearing black shiny pleather. Pleather jacket, pleather knee-high boots. Blond hair, red lipstick. She was a, uh, “wow” sort of woman. But not the good wow.

The waitress met them just as they gained our table (we were three tables from the entrance) and asked them what they wanted. “Is there place for two?” the woman asked. The waitress gave her a quick up-down and then shook her head. “Sorry, you’ll have to go further down the road, we don’t have any more places…” The couple left.

There was an entire table for six open in the corner of the room.

Such is the privilege of being able to serve whom you want, when you want.

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