We have arrived! So much to tell, that I need to focus on what I think will be interesting to you all.
I could talk about the major travel day and night (especially coming from San Francisco: after 4 hours,
we still hadn’t even gotten to near Chicago and we still had the rest of the way, including the ocean to cross!). Pretty exhausting, although I had a wonderful, interesting 32 year old Australian engineer as a seat mate and we talked most of the night away. He was adorable, and I learned a lot about the Australian culture (plus Swiss, the airline that we flew, served a really nice red wine from France – for free, even in coach! with plenty of refills, good meals, and a wonderful Swiss milk chocolate bar at the end of the flight: worth it!).
One of our goals was to try and live like a “local” to see if we liked living here in France. To that end,
we rented a small apartment (very easy to do now-a-days with websites like “Air b-n-b” and “Home Away”) so we could cook our own meals, do laundry, get around by ourselves, etc. This goal was twofold: first, we’re NOT on vacation, so can’t spend money like we are (like eating out), and secondly, to experience a foreign country not as a tourist, but as a local. It gives you a whole different perspective. We are here in Lyon, in the middle of the country, and the third largest city in France, for 10 days. We are then off to Montpellier, in the south of France, for Sept. and Oct. We have an apartment rented there, too.
So, think I’ll focus on “living” here, instead of the tourist stuff, which you can experience for yourself (and many of you might have already come here in that capacity, I’m sure).
One reason I picked Lyon to start is that we were here for a few days during our trip here last Sept., so at least a few things were familiar (how to get to the center of town from the airport, how to use the public transportation system, etc.). With so many new things to adjust to, when you are MAJORLY jet lagged, it’s nice not to have to adjust to EVERYTHING new and confusing, especially since we don’t speak the language.
On the topic of speaking the language: I had French A LONG time ago in high school and was not very good; however, every time I’m somewhere it is spoken, some of it comes back and I try. When you do that, and are “polite” (saying “Please” and “Thank you”, en francais, of course), etc., everyone seems to be very nice and accommodating. I speak a little, they speak a little English, we sign and point and everything seems to get done. It’s been fine for meeting our basic needs.
So, our apartment: we are smack dab in the middle of the historic district. The area /buildings (including the one in which our apartment is located) were built in the 15th and 16th centuries. The streets are made of stones and are uneven and a bit hard to walk on. There are winding streets which empty out into squares every few “blocks”. Especially since it is summer and many tourists about, there are many small restaurants which have numerous small tables and chairs spilling out from their establishment. Mostly people eat outside and Lyon is known to be the gastronomic capital of France.
Even in tiny places, the food is outstanding and these little places are not stuffy or snooty at all. The daily fare is displayed (many times handwritten) on boards outside the restaurant. So, behind a very
unobtrusive door, is our building, sandwiched in-between two little restaurants.
You enter into a courtyard which the floors surround on all four sides. We go up the stairs (we’re on the 5th floor…no elevator, of course). Now, 5 floors you think: OK, no big deal. Well, first of all, the first floor up is designated as “0”, so now, we’re really on the 6th floor. Each floor has two full flights of stairs to get to the next level. Old stone, of course. So, in reality, we are walking up 12 full flights of stairs. Ken and I are in pretty good shape, but we are huffing and puffing by the time we get upstairs. Guess we won’t need the treadmill while we are here!
The apartment itself has a lot of natural light and is decorated very modern, small of course (a big adjustment after living in my brother’s huge house for a month before this). The kitchen: very small frig (typical in France, as utilities are very costly), no stove, just two electric burners on the counter top, a sink and microwave in one of the few cabinets.In addition: a washing machine (the “dryer” is a rack that is folded in the “living room” – see picture).
Very few utensils (no cutting knife…had to use a butter knife to cut the veggies the first night), plates, pans, etc. Ken is the “dishwasher”. However, the view is SPECTACULAR, and very French. No A/C of course, and the windows swing inward with no screens (very few bugs). The one saving grace: great Wi-Fi so we can
be connected to everyone and the world. With not being able to watch TV at all (the one in the LR doesn’t work, and all the channels are in French anyway), not sure what we’d do without our lap tops.
After settling in the first afternoon, we take a stroll around the “neighborhood”. We run into a local wine shop, of course: Antic Wine. We meet Georges Dos Santos, the owner who calls himself the “Flying Sommelier”. He offers us some wonderful Pouilly Fuisse as a free tasting that is divine (big Pouilly Fuisse region is about an hour from Lyon). He tells us to take a look at his wine cellar downstairs which is a huge stone cellar. Many of the wines are rare and old (one from 1938) and covered with a thick layer of dust; however, he has some fabulous ones that are more in our price range.
One thing about France, ALL the wine around is good and many are not that expensive (they don’t import and don’t have the taxes). You can buy a Cote de Rhone, which is outstanding wine region, for 2.99 Euros (about $4) and believe me, it is not “Two Buck Chuck”!
Georges asks me if I have ever had “Vin Jaune”. (“Yellow” wine). I’ve heard of red, rose and white, but never “yellow”. He said everyone once in his life should try it. It is a very golden color, and is like a sherry with a nutty flavor. The grape is grown near Switzerland. See the picture of Georges (on the left)
holding a bottle of Vin Jaune. When I told him what the picture was for, his clerk jumped into the picture, too, very pleased to be a part of a blog.
Ken has voiced concern about what we’ll do all day while we’re here. The adjustment is that it is all about the food. Since you can only really buy food for one day at a time (since the appliances are so small) and there are no grocery stores, you just spend a lot of time going from small shop to small shop to buy your particulars for that day. (One shop for just bread, one for fruits and veggies, one for meat, etc.) Then it takes time to lug it up all the stairs, make it, eat and clean up. You have to bring your own bag (we got used to that in CA…they charge you for bags there). However, today, we discovered the best Farmers’ Market EVER (even beats Madison, which I am really surprised about).
It will be our new go-to place for food buying each day. It’s right by the river, and just a few blocks from us. It’s open from 9 to 1 daily except Mon. and Tues. Did not see any tourists there, just locals. Many fruit/veggie stands, as well as meat, fish, cheeses (to die for), eggs (which no one refrigerates here), bread, flowers, sweets, one or two cooking utensils booths (I bought a little paring knife to cook with), etc. I tried to take pictures, but for some reason you are not allowed to do that (I did sneak one in with the olives before I was told “Non! Non!”). All my Culinary Questers ladies (and Hot and Spicy Ladies in Madison) will be proud of me: I have been cooking (even in CA) entirely without recipes!! (Not my usual M.O.) For the few days here so far, just seeing what’s available and just throwing it in together with a lot of olive oil, sort of like a stir fry. Make a salad, have a baguette, some fruit and wine, of course, and voila! Bon appétit! We’ll see how long that lasts…..LOL
Lots more to tell, but this is a start. More in a few days. I miss you all, but we’re really enjoying this experience so far. It’s 11:30 at night and we’re still a little jet lagged (although slept for 12 hours last night! – unheard of for me!), and are trying to adjust to the time change. Bon Nuit…..