From California to Lyon, France: living & studying abroad…and coming back!
There are marks of beauty everywhere around the city. There are beautiful fountains and sculptures around Lyon that date back to the 19th century. For an American, it sure is strange that it’s so normal to the French to live and walk around such old works of art every single day. For us, the foreigners, we stop and stare; for them, the locals, they walk on by.
Two rivers traverse Lyon: the Saône and the Rhône. L’Université de Lyon 2 is right next to the Rhone; it is picturesque everyday!
Once you cross the bridge over the Rhône, you’re in downtown Lyon at “Presqu’île” (“almost island”, named for its geographical location between the two rivers). It is really quite modern, and it has lots of shops, restaurants, cafés, and the like, along with often-hidden museums. L’Office du tourisme is located in Place Bellecour, which is a large plaza that has an open-air café, beautiful (new) fountains, and a giant statue of Louis XIV.
The café in the plaza has absolutely delicious crêpes au Nutella. Soooo good P: I’ve gone there probably four times already (if not more), and the crêpe maker recognizes me and my friends as “les jeunes filles de Californie” (the young girls from California). They are so incredibly nice there! He even let us try “crème de marron” after we asked what it was. He went to the back and opened up a new jar of it, and then he scooped a spoon into it and let us taste it. It turns out it tastes a lot like bean paste that’s in lots of Chinese desserts! It has a really strong, sweet flavor. I think I’ll stick to Nutella. I loooove that stuff. I’m glad the French like chocolate (even in breakfast) :)
The flavor of the food here is stronger than the flavors in the United States. My stomach and mouth have been adjusting, especially since I’m a picky eater by nature. I try to eat & finish everything my host family gives me, including all their raw fruits & veggies. They sure do finish everything on their plate — often by cleaning off sauce with bread (which is put on the table instead of on the plate — something very strange to get used to).
But the simplest things here can be so absolutely delicious, just like this simple meal of a simple-but-really-delicious baguette sandwich (“Rustique mixte”: ham, cheese, and butter) and cola slurpee (which in the blue flavor–tropical?–has been the perfect thirst-quenching solution to my longing for ice + cold drinks).
There are familiar foods here, too! McDonalds and Subway are popular here although more expensive (definitely no “dollar menu” here!). The McD’s in Bellecour has been arguably the chicest McDonald’s I’ve ever been to, and I’ve seen others like it in Lyon. It’s cleaner and more “mod” than I’ve ever seen McD’s in the US, and they all have these super sleek “easy order” electronic booths…except I have no idea how to use them, so it’s much easier to go and talk to a real person (plus you get the perk of practicing French :)). I’ve gone to get cookies, which is a word that they use here in France, too! Always delicious.
There are also lots of stores that remind me of the US, such as FNAC, which is a huge electronic + book store that’s akin to Best Buy or Fry’s; Carrefour and Monoprix, akin to Walmart (food, books, music, DVDs, games, clothes, and more; often super crowded, especially for la rentrée/back-to-school); Go Sport, akin to IREI without the reusable water bottles; Printemps, akin to Saks Fifth; and Loisirs & Creations, akin to a smaller, homier version of Michaels. And then there are the stores like H & M and Sephora that exist here in the US, expect here, no one asks you if you need help or if you’re looking for anything in particular (which, to me, is much better because it’s just stressful when employees hover around me!).
It’s always surprising for me to see a large store here. In Europe in general, there is a lack of space, so most stores and other places are built up instead of across. Meaning: lots of stairs! Lots and lots and lots of stairs. I don’t think I’ve ever climbed so many stairs in my whole life as I have here, and I’ve only been here for about three weeks! We are just sooo used to easy access to things in America with escalators and elevators all over the place.