Travel advice from a fellow Canadian

Just a quick note to share a blog post I am rather fond of. I first got the travel bug when I came to Paris in grade ten for the 90th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge, and I have been dreaming of travelling the globe ever since. Not only did this post resonate with my love for travelling and those who share that love, but the author also happens to be a good friend of my sister’s from undergrad – small world! I hope everyone is having a fabulous day, happy reading! xox, B. http://wherearemyheels.com/2012/05/12/date-a-boy-whos-travelled/

Giving Thanks

For those of you who may not know, I have a pretty big family. We are a quirky bunch with big hearts, stubborn minds, opinionated thoughts and always the best of intentions. Family means the world to me, which has become ten times more apparent while living almost half a world away from them, and this past weekend was hard to not be with the entire gang as per usual.

Thanksgiving has always been about family and friends in the Doody household. Sunday night would come along and the six of us Doody’s would gather around our dining room table with whatever stragglers  [read: extra friends my parents welcomed into the Doody household with open arms] we had brought along, and we’d stuff our faces til our pants no longer fit. I love Thanksgiving for the fall air, the delicious aroma of the cooking turkey and freshly baked pies, and the sound of friends and family gathered to give thanks for everything we are grateful to have in our lives.

Thanksgiving has also become a time for reunion among friends and family, which makes me grateful for the people I have in my life. As I got older and my friends started leaving Ottawa for various schools, I could rely on one weekend in October where everyone would be reunited – friends and family. It was difficult to be away from the familiarity of my favourite fall weekend, but not only did I find solace in a visit to Paris to meet my parents and sister, but it also made me grateful for the people I love in a country I am grateful to call home. France has most certainly proven to be a frustrating country to live in. Despite its natural beauty, extraordinary architecture and delicious food, the french culture leaves a lot to be desired. From the slow and bureaucratic administrative system at Uni, the lack of legitimate customer service, a sea of unsmiling faces in public, and the sassy unwelcoming personalities of some of our French acquaintances, it can be tough to see the beauty of the French lifestyle from the perspective of an unwelcome “foreigner”. Don’t get me wrong, I am undoubtedly loving my time living in France, and I understand that every culture has its own unique ups and downs, but it has been a long time coming for the need to write about the less attractive side of experiencing and living in a new culture. All that to say, I am now, more than ever, grateful to be a Canadian. I have taken for granted many things about living in Canada; the larger things in life (land, houses, bathrooms, coffees, roads, restaurants… the list could go on forever), friendly faces, online Uni administration/school courses, proper customer service, etc. I am proud to introduce myself as a Canadian to everyone I meet abroad, and I stereotypically wear my Canadian flag on my backpack when I travel as a constant reminder of where I come from. Canada will always be home for me, and being away from it has reminded me how lucky I am to have a safe place to live freely, comfortably and equally among others.

I am also grateful to have this opportunity be on exchange, and to experience the ups and downs of travelling. I have come to the realization that not everything will go as planned, and that sometimes you inevitably have to take the good with the bad. If the worst it gets is adjusting to a frustrating culture, well then so be it, I think I’ll manage just fine. I’ve got myself a group of friends who are all as frustrated as  me or more, and we are all still smiling and soldering on to experience whatever adventures await us. We continue to meet new people, all of whom are eager to meet and get to know us. Before leaving Canada my (almost) sister-in-law told me that meeting people would be like making camp friends – the kinds of friendships that form instantly on the sole basis that everyone needs a friend away from home, and the more is always the merrier. The friends I have made far exceed any expectation I could have had, and they make the difficult aspects of being on exchange ten times more bearable, and the good times ten times more enjoyable. So I am also very grateful for not only my amazing friends back home whom I miss every day, but the new ones I have made who make home seem much less far away.

Home has thankfully seemed much less far away in the past few weeks because I have had the fortune of having home brought to me. Ian was here for two amazing weeks, but flew home on Friday with the ungodly start of 4 am. We were sad to say yet another round of “see-you-soons,” but I only had one day to wallow in my post-departure-depression before my parents and sister arrived in Paris. They are continuing to frolic around the city of fashion, food and love until Thursday, upon which they arrive in Lyon for a few more days of family bonding time and eating our way through the gastronomic capital of France. Between visits from home, I am keeping myself busy with dinner parties, coffee breaks and a bit of studying on the side.

Thank you to everyone back home (and anywhere else in the world) who has been taking the time to travel along with me on my adventures by reading the blog. I am grateful to have your support and encouragement! Love you all so much,

xox, B.

End of holiday blues

The last day of traveling can tend to be a bummer. Even when you don’t have to leave first thing in the morning, you can never quite ignore that sense that you have somewhere to be. One of my favourite things about traveling is the lack of obligations and deadlines – I never feel quite as free as when I’m in a new town. Traveling on my own (without family, school, etc.) has opened me to a whole new way of seeing the world; sleep wherever you can find a bed and warm shower; enjoy the cheap eats as well as the splurges (both are often worth trying); don’t forget to see the world through your own eyes and not just your camera lens; and most importantly, plan on the go, not beforehand, you’ll never know what you can find when you wander!
All that to say, today is the last day of my weekend in Paris with Ian. We are sitting at the train station with an hour to go before our train leaves. We’ve had our fill of French pastries and coffee for the morning and are taking turns playing scrabble on his iPhone. I’m feeling the pangs of the realization that a) its no longer my birthday, b) I have a French test tomorrow, c) I have to leave Paris and d) Ian leaves on Friday. I’m undoubtedly excited to be heading back to my cozy apartment in Lyon, to not have to pay a fortune for every meal, and to sleep in my own bed, but the end of a holiday is always hard. Maybe this is just the 21-year-old me talking, and I’ve lost my youthful outlook on life- but I’m thinking its more likely just the overtired traveller in me talking.
We had an amazing time in Paris, and I can’t wait to come back to this beautiful city to see what else it offers. Friday we saw the Eiffel Tower in all its glory – both during the day and at night. We strolled along the Seine under its light show, and drained the battery on my camera with all the pictures we took.
Saturday we trekked across the city to go to the Paris World Car Show, which met all of Ian’s hopes and then some. I apologize if I get any of the terms wrong, but this whole car thing is new to me. But I can tell you that Ian was undoubtedly in car heaven. We saw at least half a dozen of his “favourite” cars, and were among the few thousand to be the first to see the “world premieres” of some newly released cars. We also saw concept cars, and I got to sit in my dream car- a Mini Cooper (don’t ask me which one, I have no clue)!!
The rest of the day was spent touring around Paris on a hop-on-hop-off tour bus and shopping along Les Champs d’Elysees. We split a bottle of wine at a classy bar behind the Louvre, and had a delicious dinner at a tiny Greek joint among Parisian night owls.
We started my birthday with brunch at a restaurant overlooking the square outside Le Centre Pompidou, which was delicious! A four course breakfast with a steaming cup of coffee, bread, fruit, eggs, etc.
With the goal of showing Ian Moulin Rouge (one of the last sights he had yet to see), we hopped back on the tour bus and rode around a new area of Paris for the rest of the day. We got to Moulin Rouge just in time to grab a coffee and enjoy the view of Paris’s party district before heading to Brasserie Flo for my 21st birthday dinner. By the end of our three course meal we were both ready to burst, and contentedly made our way home to our cozy apartment in the 17th arrondissement. It was a perfect birthday weekend in the city of love.
Now our weekend is officially over as we head to the time board to check where our train leaves from. I
Lots of love from Paris,
Xox,
B

One month in.

I have officially been in Lyon for one month now. It has been a month of firsts for me, all of which I will cherish and remember, even if they weren’t all positive. Amongst many other things I; flew solo for the first time; got my first apartment; bought my first non-smart-phone in four years and didn’t even care; saw Lyon; enjoyed wine; missed Canadian-sized coffee; swam in the Mediterranean Sea; shrunk a brand-new shirt in the dryer; ate foie-gras; went to Switzerland; attended French class in France..and the list could go on. It has already been quite the amazing experience, and I can’t wait to see what is in store for me in the next 85 days.

I can’t believe that there are only 85 days left to this adventure. Before leaving Canada, I made my mom and Ian a “Countdown Jar,” which contained 117 jelly beans, one for every day that I would be gone.

Countdown Jar

The idea is that they eat one candy a day so that they can watch the pile shrink until I get home. As long as they haven’t eaten too many or too few jelly beans, the jar should already be looking marginally emptier, and before any of us know it, it will be empty and I will be home! Which is why I must keep reminding myself to enjoy every second of my time here in France, even when I miss my parent’s cooking or my dog’s furry hugs. But with Ian here it feels like I am home again, so that has been a nice change of pace for my French lifestyle.

Ian arrived on Saturday, and I waited anxiously for him at the arrival gate from a very long day of travelling! We had a relaxing evening on Saturday and ventured around the city on Sunday, eating a picnic of fresh-from-the-market food at the Parc de la Tete D’or and touring around on the Velo-V bicycles that all around Lyon. He has been fighting off a bad cold for the past few days, so we have both been enjoying each other’s company from the comfort of my apartment, trying to get as much of our homework done before our big trip to Paris this weekend. I have been to Paris once before with my highschool, but Ian has never been. We are both very excited to see and taste all that Paris has to offer!

I will write all about it when we get back. I hope all is well with everyone wherever they may be,

Lots of love,
B, xox.

Goodbye money, hello adventures!

I’ve heard that money spent on travelling is money well spent because it’s the only thing that you can buy that will make you richer. I have to keep reminding myself this as I watch my bank account balance quickly deteriorate while my weekends become more and more packed with trips to new destinations. Within the next three months, I will be visiting; Paris, Dublin, Lisbon, Barcelona and Berlin. Those are the trips that I have booked so far, and my wallet is most certainly feeling the affects of it, but I am beyond ready and willing to throw my money into flights and hostels if it means I get the chance to see what the world has to offer. I am also hoping to visit London after my exams are over in December, and I’d love to see a bit more of France while I am here. We’ll see how far I can stretch my money – good thing baguettes are cheap here, I think I’ll just live off of bread for the semester. They say carbs are good for runners, right?

With only two free weekends left in November, and none in October, I’m beginning to realize how quickly my semester abroad is going to fly by. It feels like just yesterday I arrived in my hotel in a strange new city, overwhelmed by the prospect of a starting a new life in a foreign country. But here I am today,  eating Nutella and baguette as a late-night snack like any other Frenchy (or so I’d like to think). I’m really feeling settled and comfortable in my new environment, and I am happy to be back into a regular school routine, finding time to run, meet up with friends for dinner and fitting in some time to tackle my pile of french homework. I have already found a favourite spot in the library on campus, which Ian jokes will always be my home away from home, no matter what country or city I am in. I find comfort in being surrounded by books and the silence of concentrating students.

But most of the desire of being an exchange student is escaping the academic life in order to see the world around us, which I will always manage to find time for. This past weekend I went to Geneva for four other girls. Two of the girls stayed overnight, but unwilling to pay the costly Genevan hotel prices, I opted to train in just for the day on Saturday, which only cost me 26 euros roundtrip thanks to student pricing. It was a beautiful city, but I’m not sure I would’ve wanted to stay any longer than a day.

We started our day at the UN, which had a line that looked like it would’ve been over a two hour wait to stand in, so we took pictures of the “broken chair” and the line up of flags, then went to hunt down a fondue restaurant.

Broken Chair

The fondue was quite tasty and cost us each 10 euro, which seemed affordable considering what we had heard about prices in Geneva.

Empty fondue pot after a satisfying meal

On our way back to the city from the restaurant we noticed the line had only about a ten minute wait, so we got in it. Unbeknownst to us, the one day we decided to visit Geneva happened to be the one day in two years that the UN is opened to the public for free. After going through security, we got a short tour and then were given free range to roam around the property and through the buildings.

Proud to be Canadian.

I still can’t believe our luck, and 3/4 of the girls I was with are studying International Relations, so they were in “academic heaven”. The rest of the day we spent along Lake Geneva, which was beautiful. We made friends with some very tame swans and got drinks along the water. It was the perfect ending to a Swiss day.

I should probably be heading to bed sometime soon but I am far too excited to be sleeping. Ian leaves for Lyon on Friday, which means we will be reunited in 3 sleeps! I am so excited for him to see Europe and for him to get a glimpse of the life I have made for myself here in Lyon. We will be sight seeing in Lyon for the weekend, and then next weekend we are going to Paris for my birthday!

I had my frist two non-french classes today, which went well. It’s different than the Canadian learning environment because we don’t have to buy our own books and our mark is based only off 2-3 assignments/tests, but that is perfectly ok with me. I have two more classes tomorrow and then it is my weekend! I plan on spending Friday studying in a coffee shop, and getting my place ready for Ian’s visit. I’ll keep everyone posted on my life in France as best I can.

Love and miss everyone back home,

xox, B.

Beautiful Lake Geneva

Inherently the Same

While I have undoubtedly noticed some cultural differences among the people I have met during the past few weeks, it has struck me how inherently similar people are across the world. We all face similar problems, share the same daily stresses, feel love and loss, and seek the comfort of friendship and laughter to get us through the day. More than once I have heard “you remind me of “s0-and-s0″ back home,” or “___ is just like ___ at home”. It’s nice to know that no matter where I go, I will likely find someone to temporarily fill the void of the people that I have left behind. While I could never replace my friends and family, it is comforting having a solid group of friends who provide stability and sometimes make me forget that I’m not merely socializing with some friends in the comfort of my own town.

Yesterday in French class my Mme. Meunier split us into groups and asked us to discuss “clichés” and preconceptions of other nationalities before discussing them out loud in class. We listed off stereotypes of: Canadians, Americans, English, Japanese, Spanish and Germans. It was an interesting experience because none of us really wanted to insult each other, and many stereotypes could either be said about most nationalities or were no longer very applicable. But it showed me that despite the small differences among us, we are all similar enough to have had the ability and desire to travel to a new country, learn a new language, and immerse ourselves into a new culture in hopes of learning and growing from it. So we really are inherently the same – just young students embarking on a new adventure together.

Unfortunately, as always, the good comes with the bad – and while I have met some amazing people who summon memories of loved ones back home, there are also a few I have met who bring back traumatic memories of people I would rather have forgotten. My French teacher, for example, Mme. Meunier reminds me all too much of my least favourite high-school teacher, Mme. Major. After taking a placement test last Thursday, the few hundred of us in the SELF program were divided into french levels, which we will remain in for the rest of the semester. I was placed in the highest level (without being placed in the DEUF program, for entirely french students), which I am already dreading. She is piling on the homework, her teaching methods are skewed to say the least, and classes seem to lack any sort of organization/order. I know I have to become accustomed to a new learning environment, and that I should stay positive because everything here is a new experience and I will take lots away from the class, but it has been an overwhelming week of grammar and pronouns.  I am very happy that today is the last day of our week of “Intensive French Class.”

On Tuesday the regular SELF schedule begins, and we will all start taking our other courses which will be taught in English. I am looking forward meeting the other professors and students in the classes. I don’t really know what to expect, so it will be yet a new experience for me here in France. I am going to Geneva for the day tomorrow, which I am pretty excited about! It will my first time in Switzerland, and my first trip outside of France since I arrived.

Ian arrives in a week from tomorrow, which I am beyond excited for! It seems like just yesterday we were saying our “see-you-soons,” and now here I am a week away from having him in my life again (for a short two-weeks). My parents and sister are also coming to visit for Canadian Thanksgiving which I am also obviously excited about. Michelle has never been to Europe, so I am so excited for her to experience it. My semester in France is going to fly by with everything I have planned so far, so I have to keep reminding myself to enjoy every minute while I can!

Ta-ta for now,

Much love,
xox, B.

Home away from home

Last night I got home from my first weekend getaway. It’s strange to think that Lyon is my home now, but it really feels like it. After an amazing, but exhausting, weekend I was looking forward to the familiarity of my cozy apartment and my comfy bed. It’s nice to know that I feel at home here in Lyon with my own little family of friends, when my hometown awaits me so many miles away.

It was an amazing first trip, and I am already looking forward to more weekend adventures! Our getaway started on Friday, when I got on my first European train with 11 other girls from my program at UJM. It started out well when one of my friends couldn’t remember her booking code, which resulted in us getting her tickets printed with only 5 minutes to catch the train. I’m sure it was quite the scene to see a swarm of backpack-laden girls running across the train station in a panic to get our weekend away started. Since we were so late catching our train, we couldn’t find any seats to accomodate our large group, so we resorted to sitting on a large floor space behind the conductor’s door. We were all very satisfied to have our own space, and were getting settled into the 3.5 hour trip with some wine and snacks. Unfortunately no backpacking trip is complete without a few bumps along the way, which we encountered within the first few hours of our weekend. About 4 stops into the ride, two very dirty and drunk hobos came onto the train and decided to sit down with on the floor and spent the majority of the trip swearing and yelling at us in French. It was unnerving to say the least, but we soldiered on and pushed our way past them once the train pulled into the next stop.

Once we arrived in Marseille, we tried to get a few cabs to our hostel, but were told it would cost us 5 Euro each person, which was clearly an attempt to take advantage of a group of young female travellers. We tried convincing them to use their metre, but to no avail. One of the cabbies was nice of us to point us in the direction of our hostel, and we made it there alive and well in about half an hour by foot. I had heard that Marseille is a fairly dangerous town because of gangs and pickpockets, but luckily none of us experienced this first hand – other than feeling a bit unnerved during our midnight stroll to the hostel. A few of us went for a drink along the Old Port on Friday, but called it a night around 2:00.

Our hostel was amazing – free breakfast, free wifi, great location, very clearn, and our own shower and toilet in our 4-person rooms. One of my friends had ran into a local while waiting for us at the train station, and he told her that we should visit “Les Calanques” in a town called Cassis if we had the time. So Saturday morning we asked how to get there at our front desk, and were told that the next bus left in 30 minutes. Once we realized the bus stop was at least a 20 minute walk from our hostel, we scurried as fast as we could and made it, once again, just in the knick of time. There was a very long line ahead of us, but were fortunate enough to convince the bus driver to let us squeeze 12 girls into the 6 empty seats that were remaining. 5 euros and a return ticket later, we were cozy in our crowded seats. 

After picking up a few groceries for a picnic lunch, we were pointed in a direction towards Les Calanques. We asked several locals along the way how to get there, but everyone told us it was either impossible to walk there, or that they were closed after 11 am. Fortunately we were sceptical about the local’s advice, and continued in the direction we were first pointed. After about 40 minutes of walking, we ran into two French women who were properly equipped for a day’s worth of hiking. When we asked them how to get to the Calanques, they said they were also heading there and that they would show us the way. They told us that to get to the 2nd Calanque (a nice small beach area along the Mediterranean Sea) would take us another half an hour of hiking and that the 3rd Calanque was another hour past that. We were unfortunately all equipped for a day at the beach in our bikinis and flip flops, but we decided we’d attempt the hike nonetheless. Once we reached the 2nd Calanque we were blown away by it’s beauty and remoteness. We took a break for lunch and a swim, and rested our sore feat. I had worn flip flops, and by this point I already had a blister between my big and 2nd toe on each feet.

The 1st Calanques – For boats only, not swimmers.

11/12 of us at the 2nd Calanques.

 

We decided to finish our hike to the 3rd Calanque, which included some detours and many naysayers that we met along the way who told us we wouldn’t be able to reach the 3rd in our footwear. Once we reached the lat stretch of our hike and realized how much mountain climbing it would require from us, only 6 of us actually decided to finish the trek.

The top of the “Calanque” that we had to climb down

Ready to conquer the climb! (No matter how ill-equipped I was)

The top of the “Calanque” that we had to climb down

 

 

 

It was quite the adventure to walk down to the 3rd Calanque but it was most certainly worth the pain it required. I felt small and insignificant in such an impressive, beautiful and natural setting. There were plenty of other hikers and boaters who were enjoying the sun and welcoming water that pooled into a bay among the rocks. After basking in the beauty of the 3rd Calanque, we missioned to get back to the town of Cassis where the rest of our friends were waiting for us. We started our walk back to the town at about 4:40, and made it back just in time to catch the last bus of the day at 7:00 pm. It was a long day to say the least, but one of the most unexpected and amazing places I’ve ever experienced. This weekend it really hit home how lucky I am to be able to experience the world from such an amazing perspective – through the eyes of a young, inquisitive, uninhibited student, willing to take the good with the bad in order to experience the world as it comes.

 

After an amazing dinner of fish and delicious wine Saturday night, Sunday rolled around with the promise of exploring more of the beautiful French coast. We left the old port of Marseille in a boat which brought us to the “Chateau d’If” – a fortress on an island just on the outskirts of Marseille which was built in the 16th century under Francois 1er’s orders. It was used originally to defend the port from attacks at sea, but was eventually used to hold political and religious prisoners and was also where the hero of Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo is kept prisoner. After touring around the castle and its island, the boat brought us to a second island where we lay on the beach and enjoyed the Sea one last time before catching the boat back to the mainland. The 12 of us girls dragged our tired legs and feet into cabs and made it to the train with 20 minutes to spare.

It was a full and busy weekend, which I’m sorry to say has resulted in a very long blog post. I’m still recovering from the effects of the weekend away, battling a cold and exhaustion, but I managed to drag myself to my first French class of the semester. My teacher is very intimidating and has already dumped a large pile of homework on us, which is daunting, but I am trying to stay positive about the experience. I will undoubtedly learn from Mme. Meunier, and it will help me work towards my goal of improving my French while living in France. I have another 14 hours of class this week, so maybe I will even see an improvement by Friday. My real school schedule starts next Tuesday, which I am looking forward to. I am eager to have some regularity in my new French lifestyle, and anyone who knows me knows that I’m a nerd at heart – I’m looking forward to being back in the classroom surrounded by words and history.

I will try to post more regularly so I don’t have to dump such a big post on everyone, but I have been keeping very busy here. Love and miss everyone back home,

xox, B.

French Civilisation and Culture

“French Civilisation and Culture” is the name of the classes I have been going through at school since last Wednesday. It has been interesting, and has explained a lot about France and their customs. Some of which I love, and others which I am learning to appreciate/tolerate. For instance, because France is a secular country, elementary school kids don’t have class on Wednesdays in case their parents want them to get religious education. Drinking in public is OK, which makes for a fun Tuesday evening of enjoying wine with friends along the Saone.

I’ve noticed a few other things about France in my short time here: road signs are very small and sometimes hard to find/read (which makes it easy to get lost in a new city); there are bakeries on every other street corner (dangerous for my “girlish” figure, haha); the transit system here is amazing; and long lunch hours (generally from 12-1:30/2:00) make it difficult to get anything done during class breaks. I had heard before coming to France that the French work to live, as opposed to the North American system of living to work. It’s a refreshing atmosphere to be living in, where nothing seems quite as urgent or stressful as it would back home. I had been pretty concerned about having the proper paperwork and being enrolled in the right programs/classes before getting to Université Jean Moulin, but from my first week’s experience, i now realize that the laid back French system makes for a much less stress-inducing experience (even if it’s not always the most effective or speedy process).

With only one day left of French Civilisation and Culture classes, my weekend getaway to Marseilles seems within reach! We are taking to the TGV to Marseilles Friday night, and we get back into Lyon on Sunday around 9 pm, so we have most of Saturday and Sunday to enjoy the Mediterranean Sea and the beaches. Tomorrow I have to write a French placement test in order to determine which French class I will be taking for the rest of the semester. I’m not worried about the test, but I am anxious to find out when I will have French class because that will determine what other courses I can take, and I will hopefully finally know what my schedule will look like for the fall. I’d love to be booking more trips throughout Europe, but have been hesitant because I want to know if I will have Mondays or Fridays off, etc.

Not much else to report on from here in Lyon, but I’m sure I will have more exciting stories when I get back from my weekend away!

xox, B.

One week in

It’s hard to believe that a week has already past since I first landed in Lyon last Sunday morning. It has been a hectic week, what with all the documents to provide and people to meet and places to see. And I think it is finally playing a toll on my body/mind. I had a fabulous weekend with some amazing girls that I met in class, but today we all recognized how tired we all felt, and how much we all needed a day to ourselves to veg out and get a hold on our lives again.

As of the end of class on Friday, I have been going non stop trying to see and do as much as possible in as little time possible- or so it feels. Friday I finally picked up my student ID from the SELF office after class, and then the girls and I waited out the freak torrential rain while eating a baguette sandwich in a stairwell of the school (to stay warm/dry). Eventually we braved the rain to trek to IKEA to get a few essentials for our apartments. After a Tram ride and a confusing bus ride, we made it to a home away from home! It was strangely comforting to be back in the confines of the iconic blue and yellow walls of IKEA, just as if I was back in Canada on one of my many “necessary” trips. It was much smaller than the one at home (Biggest in North America, represent!), and much more crowded, but still boasted the cookie-cutter furniture and necessities that I know and love! I got myself a purple fleece blanket to make my bed more homey, as well as some kitchen supplies and a kid’s laundry hamper (cheaper than the adult ones, and just as good!). After our IKEA trip, we piled back onto the tram to drop off our stuff at our apartments, and then met up an hour later to wander through Presqu’ile in search of dinner.

We settled on having dinner at a traditional Bouchon (http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuisine_lyonnaise#Les_bouchons), which turned out to be an excellent decision! For dinner I had Penne with truffles and foie gras for 12 Euro – and it was worth every penny! A lot of the girls I was with hadn’t heard of truffles before, and I insisted they try them. I myself had never tried foie gras before, not being a big meat eater and all, but I have decided to be open to trying new things on this trip – and so far it is working out! After dinner we were planning on walking around the city, but the rain drove us into a cafe instead. The cafe was very quaint, and we all warmed ourselves with creamy lattes for dessert. 🙂

Dinner at the Bouchon – These toppings came to put on the bread.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday was a very full day! After spending almost a week in Lyon without really appreciating what the city had to offer, I felt the need to explore as much of it as I could. We started our day by wandering up Fourviere, the hill at the top of Vieux Lyon, where the Romans first settled when they came to Lyon. We were very excited when we found a “traboules” (http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traboule) in Vieux Lyon, which led us through dark alley ways alongside people’s private homes.

Door leading to a Traboule

We eventually made it to the top of Fourviere, and were met with an amazing view of the city. We walked around the basilica that sits on top of the hill, and saw the Roman ruins a little ways down the hill. We had a quick lunch back in Vieux Lyon and then hopped on another Metro to head to watch Lyon’s soccer team, “Olympique Lyonnais” play against “Valenciennes,” which Lyon won 3-2! Supposedly they are 2nd in the league, and the match we watched was the last game for the goalie (and captain of the team).

After the game, we all went back to Alex and Carly’s apartment in an attempt to look into planning more trips, but to no avail. Trip planning can be very overwhelming when met with tons of varying prices and a million places to visit! I’m excited to travel as much as possible while I’m here, but the process seems stressful – nonetheless most certainly worth it.

I had ambitions to see much more of Lyon when I woke up this morning, but after a morning spent at outdoor market on La Saône, we all realized how much we needed an afternoon and night spent doing our own thing. I unloaded some delicious smelling and looking food from my grocery bag, and set to having a relaxing but productive evening in my apartment.  Exhaustion in the form of homesickness hit me hard when I was Skyping Michelle, my sister, but it was nothing a run couldn’t fix. I ran to school and back, and by the time I was home I was feeling ten times better. I don’t know where my Sunday has gone, but it is already much later than I was planning on staying awake, and I really should be trying to sleep off this weekend’s effect.

I do apologize in advance for a lack of oomph in today’s blog post, as well for any gramatical/spelling errors. I am long overdue for sleep!

Lots of love from Lyon,
xox, B.

Don’t Forget to Breathe

As the youngest child of four, I was put through many extracurricular activities growing up in order to fill my free time and give my parents a break from our hectic and noisy life. I tried them all – gymnastics (not exciting enough for me), dance (embarrassing memories of being a chubby kid in too-small leotards), art (not very talented in that department), Beavers (…realized there was a girl equivalent and tried out >), Brownies/Girl Guides/Pathfinders (ya, I was the super cool kid who went all the way through Pathfinders – even got my Canada Cord to prove it!). But my true loves were horseback riding and drama, and since horse back riding was a little bit less practical and a lot more expensive, drama became what I liked being good at. Drama and horseback riding had something in common though – they required some concentration and a bit of courage, and the combination of those two things often led to me unknowingly holding my breath. I lost track of the amount of times directors and instructors would remind to me to breathe – such a simple request, seeing as it’s a natural part of our everyday lives. But when you’re trying something new and scary, breathing gets put to the back burner, and all you can think of is the task at hand. I’ll never forget that advice though – to breathe even when life gets tricky. It obviously keeps us alive, but it also reminds us that we are alive, it can keep us calm in a nerve-wracking situation, and it reminds me that no matter how much courage or concentration life requires from us, we can’t forget to breathe and to live, our seemingly scary lives.

All that to say, moving to a faraway country in an entirely new continent was a pretty overwhelming experience for me. Lyon is a beautiful city, and I am so excited to experience it, and the rest of Europe, but that was hard to remember when all I could think of was how far away from Ottawa I was, and how I wouldn’t be seeing it or many of my friends and family for another four months. But today was a wake-up call. I realized that it was my choice to come and have this new experience, and that I should enjoy it while it lasts, instead of holding my breath and hoping it would be over quickly. I am all settled in my apartment now (pictures to follow), I have set up my French bank account, and I have dropped off all my necessary forms at school and with my landlord, so things are starting to fall into place. I should have my student card by Friday, and then I get my Metro card for September, which will let me use the Metros, Trams, and Buses all for 27 Euros/month! Seems affordable to me- cheaper than Ottawa, and a better Transit system from what I can tell 🙂 .

Orientation started today, so I finally got to meet some of the other S.E.L.F. (Studying in English, Living in France) students. I don’t really remember what we talked about during the morning half of the presentation, but the good news is that I have met lots of cool people, and we enjoyed our nice French-length lunch break from 11:30-2:00 at a cafe patio with beer and delicious bagel sandwiches with fries! Yum 🙂 We had another presentation this afternoon, which talked a lot about the history of Lyon, and of Jean Moulin (our Uni’s namesake) – a leader of the French resistance during WWII, who was tortured by the Nazis and eventually imprisoned in France, and then died while being moved to Germany. We also learned a bit more about how the S.E.L.F. program works, and the requirements of the program. We also found out that we would have to make appointments with S.E.L.F. staff in order to register for our classes, which result in a mad-dash to the sign-up sheet after the presentation. Unfortunately, by the time I got there, the earliest appointment was for Friday Sept. 7 at 4 pm, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the classes don’t all fill up by then since appointments start tomorrow.

Tomorrow we have more orientation from 2:00-5:00, so I plan on exploring a bit in the morning on a run, and then walking down to campus to find where we need to meet. Tomorrow night there is a party put on for exchange students at a club, so I’ll either be doing that with the girls I met today, or just going to a bar with the girls, depending on whether we want to dance or just enjoy some wine and patios :).

That’s all for now, chat soon.

xox, B.

P.S. Here are my apartment pictures!