Category Archives: grenoble

Lyon and Catching Up

Where does the time go? I think I’m going to still be catching up on blogging about France when I am back in the States. I returned from a wonderful weekend in Paris with my friend Helen last night and am leaving for six days in Rome tomorrow. Things that probably won’t get their own blog posts include my visit to Grenoble with Kat and Liza to see the crazy David Altmejd exhibit at Le Magasin. It was an amazing room full of what I can best describe as giant mirror transformer werewolves. There was also the Fête du Printemps in Valence, that featured an odd Texas/Oklahoma area complete with “authentic” outlaws and Indians as well as horse tricks and awful lassoing. Pictures here, here, and here. The festival also had one of the creepiest things I’ve ever seen in France: a performance of vegetable people, like Giuseppe Arcimboldo paintings come to life. I also went to Voiron with Kat and Leslie to visit Jaime to mark her last day in French with a climb up the hill behind her home. We didn’t factor in the fact that it had been raining, so not only was it an incredibly steep hike over slick leaves, there were also huge disgusting slugs EVERYWHERE. But the trek up slug mountain was worth it for the gorgeous view of the Alps and Rhone-Alpes.

As you can tell, it’s been a busy time and I feel like everyday I have to say goodbye to someone. I know that we’ll stay in touch, but I honestly don’t know when I’ll get a chance to see my friends again. I guess I feel lucky to have met so many wonderful people in such a short period of time. It’s only been since September that I stepped off the plane, a stranger to everyone in a city I had never seen.

Lyon in the fog.

Lyon in the fog.

On my parents’ last day in France, we took the train to Lyon, the second-largest city in France. The weather was a little foggy, but we had a nice walk around the city and a delicious lunch on one of the boulevards. I believe I had a can of my favorite soft drink in France: Schweppes Agrumes.

Someone had painted landscapes on the steps leading up to the Basilica.

Someone had painted landscapes on the steps leading up to the Basilica.

I had no idea that the day after Easter was a holiday in France, so unfortunately a lot of things were closed. We took the stairs (I’m always going up steps in France) up to the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière and passed a lot of miniature landscapes that someone had painted on the walls.

Flowers at the statues feet.

Flowers at the statue's feet.

After admiring the view and seeing the inside of the Basilica, we saw the nearby Roman theatre and then took the path down the hill to the old town. Flowers had been placed at the feet of this statue of Mary, probably on Easter.

Weird rabbit swastika-thing.

Weird rabbit swastika-thing on the Cathédrale Saint-Jean.

Unlike the rest of the city, the old town was bustling. I guess because it’s one of the most popular parts of town, and also because it was the only area open. We went into the Cathédrale Saint-Jean where we saw my new favorite thing in Lyon: the Horloge Astronomique. At certain hours of the day, it has 19 different automatons that move. Although one woman hilariously freaked out when it didn’t work right at 3 pm (according to her watch), it was not at all disappointing and bordered on spectacular. This video is the best I can find, but doesn’t really do it justice. It’s one of the oldest astronomical clocks in the world and was created in 1383. And the music it plays might end up in your nightmares.

Coffee in Lyon.

Coffee in Lyon.

Afterward we had coffee and strolled around the streets and passages of the old town before sitting for a while by the river and then catching a train back to Valence. The next day I saw my parents off on the train to Paris and it felt a little odd to still be in Valence.

Grenoble

I went to Grenoble with some other assistants this past weekend. It’s ridiculous how beautiful it is there with the Alps in the background and the river winding past. We rode the téléphérique (the ski lift type thing you can see in this picture) up to the old Bastille fortress and the view was spectacular. And I’ll admit it, in addition to Grenoble being lovely, it was nice to have a couple of days of English. Or at least French with other foreigners. I’m glad I’m getting so much language experience, but it’s really been showing the limits of my expression.

We mainly wandered around the city. I’d been to Grenoble a couple of years ago, and it seemed like a different city for some reason. I don’t know if it’s just the time that has passed or the people I was with or what. It was just a strange feeling. Neither good nor bad, just strange. I did realize I really need to buy a warm coat. I think this move to France was one of my worst packing jobs and I really should not have taken my warm sweaters out of my suitcase to make it less heavy. Oh well, they have stores here I guess.

Today I had my first experience leading classes. The first two were pointing at posters of colored shapes and asking “What colour is it?” (that u is important) and “What shape is it?” To which they would respond, “it’s green” or “it’s a triangle.” Or more frequently, “is it triangle.” The third class was more difficult, as it was their first day of English. Ever. After awkwardly starting with the classroom directions, the teacher pointed out I was using American phrases. (“Raise your hand” instead of “put up your hand.”)

I’m going to try to get more involved in what’s going around in Valence. I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad, I really haven’t been here that long and I’m still struggling to adjust to everything.

In France

I made it to France! Unfortunately, like most of my international travel, it wasn’t easy. My flight to Dallas was on time, early even. However, the flight from Dallas to London Heathrow had a hydraulics issue that caused it to be delayed 2 1/2 hours. This meant that I missed my flight from London to Paris and had to wait for the next one. I don’t know why, but it seemed like every single food establishment in the Dallas airport that had vegetarian food was closed and I ended up with an over-baked pretzel. The food on the British Airways flight was actually okay, but as usual with airplane food I felt kind of ill when I got to my destination. So the food voucher I got from British Airways to use while I waited for my flight was not well used. Also, Heathrow’s Terminal Five is not a fun place to stay. It’s an overload of music and shops and tons of people. And I was so very tired, but couldn’t fall asleep and risk waking up to missing luggage. My fatigue was also probably not helped due to the fact that I did not sleep at all the night before my flight. I went to an art show and had drinks as a last hurrah in Oklahoma City, then of course frantically packed until it was time to leave for my flight. I’m still rather tired.

Getting back to the trip. When I finally made it to Paris, I took the bus to Gare de Lyon to store my giant suitcase in a luggage locker. Then I took the metro to the hostel where I had reserved a room. Of course, when I get to the hostel after walking quite a ways from the metro stop, they had given away my place because I hadn’t called and said that I was going to be late. Because I didn’t have any pounds to make a call in London and there were no phones on the plane. The person working at that hostel booked me a room at the Blue Planet Hostel, all the way back by Garde de Lyon. So I buy another metro ticket and drag my tired body over there again. This hostel is significantly seedier and a little more expensive than my original hostel, but I am so tired that I am not willing to look for another. Besides, it was only for one night. I shared the room of creaking, somewhat clean bunk-beds with three other girls, one from Israel, one from Switzerland, and one from Italy. The sheets were not very clean and the hostel charged for every little thing. I had originally planned to meet some other language assistants at 5 pm, but I was very late by the time I got there so of course there was no one there. I did make myself walk around a bit, because I’m not often in Paris. I also ended up meeting some nice people at the hostel while waiting to get into my room afterwards (there was only one key, and one of the roommates walked away with it). Today, I didn’t feel very well, but did make myself walk around some of Paris near the Louvre. By some miracle nothing went wrong with the train to Grenoble and I met two other assistants right away at the hostel (one of whom actually has rented a car). I’ve since met several others and we have orientation tomorrow. No pictures yet as I was forgetful and didn’t charge my camera. I can’t wait to leave my 50 pounds of luggage somewhere, but for now I am dragging it on buses and trains. Despite all that, I am in France! And I’ve already had a delicious sandwich, several Oranginas, and a slice of quiche. So that really makes all the travel pains worth it. More soon!