Friday, November 26, 2010

Lyon en noir et blanc

One of my favorite things about Lyon is its color, such a contrast to the Parisian monotone of white/gray limestone. Vieux Lyon is a delicious sorbet-colored palette of rose, orange, peach...even the more Parisian Presqu'ile has shades of pink, blue and yellow, not to mention the many trompe l'oeil frescoes, incredible works of art that often cause viewers to double-take when they catch one decorating the wall of a building. Still, there is something so romantically timeless, so effortlessly vintage and magical about black and white photos, creating a completely different image of the exact same city. Alors, enjoy!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Beaujolais Nouveau and Amélie Poulain

Yes yes, these topics seem completely unrelated (except the French connection), but the magic of Lyon has brought them together.

First, the Beaujolais Nouveau. I know that for many of you, these words might just be total gibberish, so I shall explain. "Beaujolais" is a wine region just north of Lyon, full of cute, little villages and rolling hills covered with vineyards. I almost got to go on a tour of this region, but because of the strikes in October, it was, of course, cancelled. Dommage. Beaujolais is also a type of wine, that is really more famous because of the festival around it, than because of its taste. It is a very young wine which is released on the third Thursday of November every year (sort of the kickoff for the holiday season like Thanksgiving is for us). The release of the Beaujolais Nouveau (nouveau=new) is a big celebration all over France and in fact, around the world, as the wine is shipped all over, including to the US. You too can hop over to your local wine store and sample this year's vintage yourself! Around this time, signs start appearing in wine stores and restaurants announcing the arrival of the Beaujolais Nouveau, and free samples can often be found when you're not even looking...

The big festivities take place in Lyon, the big city in the region, the night before its official release. There is a saying that Lyon actually has three rivers: the Rhône, the Saône and the Beaujolais. Fireworks, free tasting and barrels rolling across the city see the new vintage off in style. Unfortunately, since all of this starts at about 11:45pm, the night before I have to wake up at 6am for work, in a city where buses stop running at midnight, and add to that rain and cold, I was unable to join in this experience.
However, the next evening (enter the Amelie Poulain part), Lindsay and I had bought tickets to see a sneak peek, or avant première of Audrey Tautou's newest film, De vrais mensonges (English title, Full Treatment, which I definitely recommend whenever it comes out in the US or on netflix!), which would be followed by a q & a with the director (Pierre Salvadori) and three stars, including, evidemment, Audrey Tautou! Anywho, we decided to grab dinner before the movie, but of course we were a little too early for French dinner time (restaurants generally open for/start serving dinner at 7), so we wandered into a grocery store across the street. Not the best idea to distract our starving stomachs. BUT, while sampling some fromage, a man standing next to me asked if we would like to sample his Beaujolais. Baah oui! Bien sûr! And voilà! Beaujolais Nouveau 2010. Check. How was it? you may ask...well, as one lady said during the post-film q & a in response to the same question, "C'est une tradition!" It's a tradition! I think I'll stick with the other local wine--Côtes du Rhône.

De vrais mensonges - Bande annonce VF
envoyé par _Caprice_. - Regardez des web séries et des films.

For the French speakers out there, here is a preview of the movie and then (also if you just like Audrey's voice) here she is talking about her new movie!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Home Sweet Home

It's been a few weeks since my last post--apologies to what are surely thousands of avid readers, waiting with baited breath for new entries (je suis modeste moi!). My excuse is also the subject of this post--I recently got back to Lyon after 10 days of traveling around Germany and France with my dad during my fall break (also known as the vacances de la Toussaint--Nov 1, All Saints' Day, is a national holiday in France and some other European countries).

I met him in Cologne, Germany where he had gone on a business trip. If any of you are thinking of going to Cologne, don't, unless it's just for 15 minutes to check out the amazing and giant cathedral, which seems to be pretty much the only thing that was left standing after WWII. Otherwise, there are many more exciting places to explore in Europe, and in Germany. After that, we spent two days visiting different small towns along the Rhine River, first by train, then on our second day, on a 3 hour boat tour (luckily we didn't meet the same fate as Gilligan and co), on which we saw many a medieval castle and oogled the gorgeous fall colors painting the hills of the valley. With the tourist season there pretty much over, we often had places practically to ourselves, which definitely spoiled us right before Paris, which was still overrun. From there, we went to Paris, did a D-day beaches tour and ended in Lyon, where my dad got to talk politics with my French family, while Oscar (the son) and I did our best to translate words, concepts and cultures. We had a great time, and I even had a few revelations along the way.

First of all, while in Germany, I suddenly became very aware of being an American tourist. It might seem odd that I remarked on such a feeling, when it's not like this was my first, second or even third time traveling to a foreign country, nor even to a country outside of France. Nonetheless, I began to feel like an "ugly American," something I have always done my best to avoid, and criticize whenever I see it (something I mostly do while in France). It made me realize that perhaps I have been a little unfair to the vast majority of Americans who are not in my special position of speaking the language as well as the culture. Normally, when I travel, I try to "do as the Romans do," and at least say hello and thank you in the native language, but I found it difficult to remember to do so, as I fumbled for the right words, and found myself assuming (whether right or wrong), that everyone spoke English. Spending so much time in France, somethings I forget how overwhelming and even scary it can be to not understand one word that is spoken or written, and hoping that that announcement they just made wasn't important. While it's nice to get out of France for a few days--I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Amsterdam this summer, and the Rhine Valley was lovely--I can only last for so many days before I start grumbling about getting back to France ASAP. Hey, I need my buttery croissants!

More than ever before, this country is feeling like my home away from home. With the states currently out of the question, France is definitely the next best thing. Though while I'm there, I usually feel a bit out of place and I'm always certain I'm missing something, I'm missing a whole lot more when I'm elsewhere and I realized just how comfortable--and at home--I do feel in France. On the train from Cologne to Paris, I sighed with relief when we crossed the border, and smiled to myself when we reached Gard du Nord, where I could once again read the signs--and, more importantly, the people.

An even more shocking realization came over me on returning from Paris to Lyon, a realization which really materialized as my dad and I ate dinner with my host family, taking a break from politics to compare France's top two cities. I will always have Paris. It was my first love. Before New York, and before Lyon, there was la ville lumiere. I have far too many memories there--good, bad and all life-changing--and am far too fond of the Eiffel Tower, the Orsay, my Bastille neighborhood and my favorite boulangerie, for anything to change that. Cependent (however), after only a month in Lyon, I found things that bothered me about la capitale, that never had before, and kept hearing myself remark: "Well, in Lyon..." First of all, despite the fact that it was the beginning of November--theoretically the off season--I wanted to murder all of the tourists that were still flooding the city. Granted, I was technically one of these tourists, but after living here twice, I hardly feel that that applies to me anymore, but nonetheless, I had already gotten used to a city ten times (or more) less touristy than Paris. Second, the metro I had always loved so much began to lose some of its hold over me, and I started resenting how much time we spent underground--and how dingy, dirty and crowded it was compared to the metro lyonnais. In Lyon, I normally use a combination of walking, buses and trams--all of which are obviously above ground, and much more scenic than the subterranean metro. Even when I use the metro, rides are generally shorter than in Paris because Lyon is so much more compact--there are only 4 lines, and far few stops on each than in the big city. As my host mom remarked after returning from a weekend in Paris: "The problem with Paris is that you spend so much time underground that it makes you feel like a rat."

Lastly, the contrast between the calmer, less touristy, less metro-dependent smaller city and the comparitively crowded and harried capital really struck me. I'm a big city girl through and through, and NYC is still my life-plan, but returning to Lyon, I breathed a second sigh of relief to be back in the provinces (ie the rest of France outside of Paris). Still a big city (second after Paris), life moves a little more slowly down here (I know, it's France, isn't everything slow around here?). Just because the Eiffel Tower is practically the universal symbol for France, doesn't mean that this extraordinarily diverse country can--or should--be reduced to five letters (no I don't mean merde). It's really only outside this city that one can really taste and appreciate the delicious Frenchness of France.