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Only Lyon

Bonjour, tout le monde!

I’m back in Cannes after a long weekend in Lyon – the last group trip! We left on Thursday morning and stayed until Sunday morning. Lyon is the 3rd biggest city in France, but it’s not so touristy – it’s the place to go and eat! It’s the gastronomic capital of France – chefs are more famous than athletes. Needless to say, I had a great weekend full of eating.

Thursday morning, we left pretty early to catch our 8am train. The ride lasted 4 hours – which was pretty uneventful. It’s kind of annoying that we had to go through Marseille and Avignon first, because that’s heading in the opposite direction! The longest part of the ride (3 hours of it) is just getting to Avignon since it’s slower and we stop more – and only an hour from Avignon to Lyon. Silly. We went straight to our hostel – up a giant hill! I didn’t realize Lyon was so hilly.  This was my first time in a hostel, and it was pretty nice – we had our own rooms that locked, so it was a bit more secure. I don’t know how I’d feel about sharing a room with strangers. After settling in, we had a walking tour through Vieux Lyon (old Lyon). The tour was okay – our guide showed us a ton of old buildings from the 15th and 16th century…most of the buildings in Vieux Lyon are from that time period. Amazing that people still live in them today! Vieux Lyon also has something called traboules – passageways through the buildings from one street to the other – that are only in Lyon! If you were to go to Paris or anywhere else and say you went through the traboules, they wouldn’t know what your were talking about. Our guide also showed us an astronomical clock inside the church there – it’s a very precise clock that tells you the day and month as well as the time. When it chimes, the mechanical beings come to life – a rooster on top crows and flaps its wings, the angel Gabriel appears to Mary for the annunciation, God begins to wave his arms, angels ring bells, and a smaller angel conducts all of it – all in a span of about 30 seconds! I like the tour, but I was feeling really tired, like I could just collapse asleep right then. Luckily, it wasn’t too long and I got a nap in before we went to dinner.

Dinner was great! We ate at one of the traditional Lyon bouchons – kind of between a cafe and a restaurant, more family run, limited seating, and a really nice atmosphere. We went to one that was supposed to have really traditional Lyonnaise food – and there was tons on the menu that we wouldn’t necessarily eat. There were some more “normal” plates like beef bourginion, soupe a l’oignion…and there there was tripe and liver cake. I had a salade lyonnaise (poached egg on top, and tons of bacon on it, a meal in itself!) and a kind of pork stew for dinner – it was pretty good, and so nice that the food was really hearty and filling. And I had moelleux au chocolate (warm chocolate cake) for dessert – mmmmmm :)

On Friday morning, we went as a group to the Centre d’Histoire de la Resistance et de la Deportation – Historical Center of the Resistance and the Deportation. Lyon was a huge center of the Resistance in WWII – it was an okay museum, but not the best well laid out, in my opinion. There were lots of documents and some videos, and it was very sobering. There were a lot of pictures and videos of prisoners in the concentration/death camps – so sad! The visit definitely left me in a somber mood – how do things like this happen? How does anyone allow them to happen? How did no one step in and say – this cannot happen? I don’t know. It’s just disgusting.

Afterward, we went and had a really great lunch at a restaurant in Vieux Lyon. It was another great meal – and red wine was included! Sweet. I got the pâté for my entrée – which wasn’t the best idea, but I wanted to try it. Pâté is ground and pressed meat and fat served in slices, cold. Often, it’s liver…and I am not a fan of liver, even though I’ve tried it several times. So that was a bit disappointing, since the other option was these fritter fish things that were really good. But my plat was delicious – some of the best steak I have ever had, and I had île flottant for dessert – floating islands of meringue in a cream sauce – yum!
Afterward, we had some free time, and I really wanted to see the miniatures and cinema museum. The cinema part was first, and  it was really cool! There were some sets from the movie The Perfume, which I haven’t seen, so it was cool but would have been cooler if I had seen the movie. There was a bunch of other stuff – all originals, not copies! – including the mask from V for Vendetta, Indiana Jones’ hat and whip (!), a couple things from Star Wars, some of the masks used in The Mummy – it was cool! And they had a good video of how miniatures are used in movies, like a miniature of the white house used in Independence Day for the explosion, miniatures of the Titanic for various parts of the filming – it was neat, and I guess I never realized how often they are used in movies.
The miniatures part of the museum was also really cool to see – all the work is so detailed, it’s amazing! Tiny cafes, sitting rooms, theaters, a paleontology museum, a jail – so cool! And at the end, you could see the artist’s workshop (look through the window at it) and the artist, Dan Ohlmann, was there! Cool that he was actually there – he’s one of the best miniature artists in the world. I thought it was a great museum, and it was nice to mix it up a little bit – not another history museum, ya know?
Afterward, we just went back to the hotel to rest for a while, and I spent about 2 hours updating my journal. You never think that journaling will take that long, but it totally does! And I was just a week behind – lesson learned:  if you’re going to journal while you’re abroad, make sure you keep up on it. Or be prepared to spend a lot of time catching it up! Dinner was on our own that night – I went with Leah and Laura, just walked down Vieux Lyon and found a place that wasn’t all liver and intestines and pigs feet. I had another salade lyonnaise (tons of bacon and a poached egg on top), some chicken, and mousse au chocolat – all good! This was the first time though that a waiter brought our check to us without having us ask first – and I was mildly offended. We were ready to go by then, and were going to ask for the check anyway, but still! Leah and Laura decided to go out after, but I really wasn’t in the mood for going out, and I kind of needed to save my money anyway, since I have 2 more trips coming up.
Saturday was pretty good – we got up to go see some Roman ruins and the basilica at the top of the hill. Andrew was feeling sick, so he stayed in bed, and Alejandra, Liz and Shawn had gone out the night before and were sleeping in. So, it was a slightly smaller group – but we had a lot of fun taking pictures at the ruins! Jumping pictures, prom pictures, and other weird ones. It was a good time :) and the basilica was really pretty! It was super ornate and

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decorated (as always) with statues and gold and paintings – very pretty! We spent very little time there though because a Mass was just about to start. After that, we just walked back to the hotel to see how the others were doing. Leah wasn’t feeling all that well because she had some horrid cramps –  like migraines, vomiting, can’t move they hurt so bad. Geez – mine are a breeze in comparison! At the hostel, Beth was showing me how to get to a museum on the map when we hear Evans yelling for Beth – Leah had fainted in the hallway! Poor thing – fainted from a combination of pain, being tired, not having enough water, etc. She had to lie on the floor a while before she would let us move her. Beth went out and got her a hot water bottle and some one had some more intense pain meds, and that helped her. I hung out with Leah until she was feeling relatively okay before we headed out to find some lunch. I ended up going to lunch with Beth – she was going to this market thing where they have restaurants right there. I thought it sounded pretty cool – and it was! It wasn’t an outdoor market, but a permanent market with

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restaurants right alongside the market stalls. I like Beth, and it was nice to spend a little time with her and get a break from everyone else in the group. Besides, I’m sure she likes to have some company since she spends a lot of time on her own on our group trips. We found a place that was soup and quenelles (fried little deliciousness – usually have meat in them, but taste more like potatoes or dough), and we sat and talked about France and India. And it was really nice! We split up then, and I headed to the Lumière museum since I was already halfway there – it’s a museum about the 2 brothers who invented Cinema. It was in the house they used to live in – gorgeous Victorian mansion – and it was a pretty good exhibit. All the explanations were in French, which isn’t a problem, but it takes more effort then. I just passed through and spent a little time in the park/garden there (and some lady asked me for directions – I love when people do that! Means they think I’m not a clueless tourist and that I actually speak good enough French!) and then metro-ed it back to the hostel to rest before dinner. Leah was feeling a bit better then, which was encouraging, and found the movie He’s Just Not That Into You online so we watched that and I got to doze a little.

The whole group!

We actually got to dress up for dinner – Beth was taking us out to a nice dinner! We each get 35 euros from our student activity fee to spend, but we all have to do the same thing, so we voted to have a nice dinner out. We went to L’Ouest, one of 4 brasseries of Paul Bocuse, one of the most famous chefs in France. It was all really good food – I had cesar salade, (which was like a meal in itself – but i had worked up my appetite so i wouldn’t waste any food!), salmon, and fruit salad for dinner – all sooo good! We spent 3.5 hours at dinner and didn’t feel rushed or that it was going to slowly – one of the many things I love about France! We took the bus back, but the bus we wanted didn’t come…we thought it might be late but it didn’t come at all! We had to wait for 40 minutes for the next one, and didn’t get back until after midnight.
Sunday was basically just traveling – our train left at 11:07 so we had to be there around 10. I had a little panic attack when I couldn’t find my tickets, so I was really relieved when I found them! The train ride back was uneventful – I always hate traveling back, I just want to skip over the traveling and be back already. We got back around 3:30, and I had a lot to do. I sat down and wrote my next LG story right away (about dining out in France) and then started some other hw before dinner. After dinner, I got to talk to Karl for 2 hours!! It was fabulous.

And now, back to the grind – lots of class and theater. I was glad that Lyon didn’t have as much to see there – I really needed to relax a bit. I’ve been on the go nonstop for the past 5-6 weeks; busy traveling and covering as much ground as possible on the weekends and lots of class and theater during the days I’m back at the Collège. The last few trips I only had 3 days to prepare – basicaly just enough time to do laundry and repack! So, I was okay with taking some down time in Lyon. I’ll be back in Paris this weekend and I’m super excited! I LOVE PARIS. It’s sad that this will be my last time there for a really long time – who knows when I’ll be back…but I’ll be meeting Kate Lutz there! It will be great to catch up with her, and show her a little part of France!

 

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When in Rome…

Paris one weekend, Rome the next! I’ve just arrived back in Cannes after a really fun and busy weekend in Rome! I apologize if this blog ends up being short – really tired and still have things to do!

After three very short busy days at the College, I headed off to Rome with Megan, Leah, and Regina. We were going to meet up with Andrew, Evans and Ryan who had left the night before. We left pretty soon after morning class on Friday, and we left early since the Chinese president was visiting in Nice and Sarkozy was going to be there, so we were expecting a lot of traffic from blocked roads and a lot of security. We had no problems and we were at the airport super early! Always better to be early with these sorts of things, I suppose. This was my first flight with EasyJet – a very popular cheap airline here, similar to Ryan Air. We didn’t realize that when they said one bag, they meant ONE bag. Purses count as one bag – ugh! Luckily, we had enough room inside our real bags to fit our purses.

We arrived in Rome just fine (less than an hour flight to get to Rome – how cool is that?) and had to take an express train to get into the city center – the airport is actually really far away from all the tourist sights. We made it onto the train just a few minutes before it left – and we arrived about 45 minutes later. We stepped out of the station and realized it was kind of a sketchy area – not the best well lit and tons of graffiti. Welcome to Rome. I wasn’t worried  – there were 4 of us, and if you walk confidently and are aware of your surroundings, you’ll be fine. We had to find our new hotel – our reservation had changed. It was in a new location, but same owners. There was no reception area at the new hotel, so we had to call the owner to let us in. We found the hotel fairly quickly, but had to try several times before we reached the owner, Barbara, who only really spoke Italian. Luckily, she arrived within 15 minutes and the room was great – kind of apartment style without a kitchen. There was a big open entry room with a computer (free access!) and some things for breakfast. There were 2 huge bathrooms (both with a shower and bidet!) and we had a nice room with a double bed and 2 twin beds. Barbara was very helpful in telling us where we should go – she drew all over the map she gave me. We met up with the guys for dinner, and spent a calm evening enjoying bruschetta and pizza before deciding to call it an early night so we could get up early for a long day of sight seeing.

The next day, Saturday, Leah and I split off since we were going to see the Vatican in the afternoon, and the others weren’t too interested in that. All of the tourist sights in Rome are actually really close together and it doesn’t take more than 15 minutes of walking between the sights. It was funny to us that Rome only has 2 metro lines, after we had just been in Paris which has the best metro in the world! We each bought a day pass for the metro, which gave us unlimited rides on the metro until midnight. We actually didn’t use the metro too much since the stops are not always convenient. Anyway – we set off toward the Colosseum in the morning – it was great! So hard to believe that something that old is still standing today. It’s impressively huge, and surrounded by tourists and a bizillion street vendors selling things like scarves, bouncy putty, and other trinkets. Again, we had the impulse to respond in French and one vendor brusquely corrected our Merci with Grazie. The lines were really long, and we didn’t think we would have time to see all of the Colosseum and the Roman ruins before we had to go to the Vatican. We had bought our Vatican tickets online the day before, for 1pm and we weren’t sure how strict the Vatican was about showing up on time for your ticket.

We still had quite a bit of time before the Vatican, so we decided to go to the Trevi fountain. It was a bit of a walk, and we got turned around a few times (Roman streets are hard to follow! The name changes about every block, even though you’re on the same road). The fountain was beautiful, and mobbed by tourists. I can’t imagine how this place would be during high tourist season! We saw Regina, Andrew and Megan there and hung out with them a little bit. We each threw in a coin – if you throw a coin into the fountain, you’re destined to come back!

Leah and I continued to the Vatican, and had no problem getting our ticket. I didn’t see a long line to get in, but I was still happy that we had bought our ticket ahead of time. Everything in the Vatican was very decorated – kind of reminded me of Versailles. Every surface was covered in something – nearly always artwork – especially the ceilings! There are tons of museums there – we wandered through a couple before admitting to ourselves we weren’t interested and really just wanted to see the Sistine Chapel. We still had to walk through 10-15 more rooms of art before we made it there, and it was AMAZING. It’s overwhelming when you walk inside. Literally every surface is painted – and it’s all incredible. It was so much to take in all at once, and there are tons of tourists in there. The poor guys who have to work in there just wander around saying “No Photo” and “Silencio” (Leah and I did sneak a couple pictures…shhhh). We stayed in there for a while, reveling in the fact that we were in THE SISTINE CHAPEL…before hunger drove us onward. We grabbed a quick bite of pizza at the Vatican pizzeria, since it wasn’t outrageously priced and we still wanted to see St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Basilica was just as amazing as the Sistine Chapel – jaw dropping as you walk in just because everything is so decorated and ornate and it’s just SO BIG. Also got to see Michelangelo’s La Pieta there, and St. Peter’s tomb. We couldn’t actually see the tomb, just the area where it was, but it was surrounded by people and it’s difficult to see anyway. We didn’t really want to leave the Vatican, but we were so tired at that point that we had to keep moving to not fall asleep everytime we sat down!

We headed to the Spanish Steps to spend a little time there and ran into Regina, Andrew and Megan again! Kind of amazing we found each other since there were so many people there! There was a military brass band playing, so it was nice to have some music to accompany the gorgeous sunset. We all headed to the Trevi fountain to see it again at night (gorgeous!) and Leah and I went on a hunt for canolis. I had my first canoli (when better than in Italy?) and I liked it – though I think it’s too much filling for me. We headed back to the hotel to relax a little bit before dinner – which was amazing!! We went to a little place near the Colosseum called L’Archetto – a restaurant recommended to us by Megan’s friend. I had the lasagna – and it was so delicious!! and tiramisu for dessert – I figured I should have it now before I left Italy, since I don’t know when I’ll be back. It was so delicious – and so nice to have such a great meal!

Today, we woke up early because we were all going to go to the Colosseum before we had to leave to get on the train back to the airport. Only Megan and I ended up going, since the others thought it was too expensive. It was a bit more expensive than any other museums I’ve seen (it was 12 euro) but what’s 12 euro in the long run? How many times in my life will I have the chance to go into the Colosseum?? We did argue with the teller for a little while – he wouldn’t accept that we were E.U. students and therefore wouldn’t give us the student discount. Apparently a student visa and proof that we live here is not enough – to him, it had to be a European passport, not American. It’s things like this about Italy that make me prefer France. The Colosseum was great – so cool to see. We walked around the Colosseum for a while and then wandered around the Roman ruins nearby. Spending our Sunday morning wandering through thousands of years old Roman ruins, no big deal. I love study abroad.

We made it back to Cannes safely and without problems (no getting stranded this time!). It’s too bad I won’t be going back to Italy again, though I’ve decided I prefer France. Time is definitely flying by now (very bittersweet!!). Now, only 3 days until Lyon!

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