Saturday, June 29, 2013

Mouthwatering Wares of Halles Paul Bocuse

It's Sunday. I'm having a bit of a 'lie-in', but theres so much to do, and my two week stay in Lyon that seemed so ample when I arrived is shrinking fast. I'm happy to be finished with school for a couple of days. We only go for a couple of hours a day, but it's enough to get the brain swimming. Bon or bien, mieux or meilliere, pres or proche, rapide or vite, these are the current challenges. I understand the mechanics behind it, but getting it right while you're talking is like effectively adjusting your tire pressure while you're riding along on your bike.

The biggest part of the learning definitely comes between classes, talking with Dominique. And talk, we do!  About everything; kids, men, our childhoods, religion and spirituality, philosophy, France and her history, social issues in both countries, and the merits and shortfalls of Hugo Montenegro's translations of Bob Dylan songs.  Yesterday we went to the Marche Paul Bocuse (he's a very big deal here). I took about a million pictures of the food in the market stalls and we lunched on tiny quenelles floating in marinara and chocolate cakes baked in large dixie cups smothered in a raspberry rhubarb sauce. Afterwards we walked to the art supply store and... Dominique bought herself a paint kit and watercolor paper!  She's been working her way through my book. I felt like a proud parent. As did she when I told her the market was 'bien', but the quenelles were 'bon'.  It's all coming together.

Here are a few of the shots from the market yesterday. Make you hungry?

Afterwards we came home for some lunch, then drove up to Fourviere in the rain. Apparently you can see the alps from there, but not yesterday.  We could just barely see the rooftops of Lyon. It was beautiful though. The view is spectacular, as is the basilique. Standing inside, it was the first time in my life I've looked at something and thought it held the same kind if exquisite complex beauty as the mechanics of the human body.  Or maybe a dinosaur skeleton.  It looked like it could run or fly. Every centimeter is either delicately carved or part of a complicated mosaic. It is really unbelievable. And just enough sunlight came out as we left to make the golden virgin standing on her tower shine. Beautiful.

Another day of adventure awaits. Time to get to it.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Deux Lits Sur Rue Duguesclin

Woke up early this morning and decided to sketch the view from my bed (again). I've been finding it hard to sleep in the mornings because the light fills the room way before its time to get up. When Dominique saw how industrious I'd been in the morning, she realized I didn't know there were shutters outside the windows. She showed me how they work, and tonight I'll sleep like I'm in a tomb. Thank God. One more night on 4-5 hours and I won't be speaking ANY language. 

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Funny that in a city of half a million people both places I'm staying here in Lyon are on the same street. The first, chez Berenger, had this knock-out view! The second, chez Dominique, is absolutely magical. My bedroom looks onto a very typical Lyonnaise building with its tile roof, wood valances and little iron balconies. 

The two hills are called "la Colline qui Prie" and "la Colline qui Travaille"; the hill that prays and the hill that works. Fourviere, of course, has the basilica, and Croix Rousse is where all the silk workers lived and worked. 

I went on a guided walking tour of the presqu'isle with the school yesterday. The history of this place is so interesting, with hills that work and pray, male and female rivers that surge together, church and commerce that have a 'mine is bigger than yours' fight on a hilltop (The Tour Metalique was built to trump the Basilique, by a whopping 2 feet. Take that, church folk!)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Now I am a Blue Lion!

First day of school. I had to chuckle when I saw the actual name of the school. Lyon Bleu. When Austin was little, just turned three, he was very excited for Halloween.  For weeks he kept saying 'I want to be a LION!'. Then he'd make a grrr face and hold up his fiersome claws. Finally we went to the fabric store. I bought the softest tan fur, caramel coloured yarn for the mane, soft pink satin for inside his ears.  I got him settled back into his car seat, started the engine, when he turned to me, paws up, teeth bared, and said 'I want to be a BLUE lion'. Well little're going to be a tan lion, and you're going to like it. 

Now here I am at the Blue Lion. It's very International; mostly young 'uns, but a few people from my age group, from all corners of the world.  The program here is really good, with lots of extras like guided excursions and tutoring that I wasn't expecting to be included in the tuition.  They all speak super slow and clear so we can follow along.  My classes are in the afternoons, which means I have the mornings free for sketching and exploring. After the orientation I went for a big wander and found myself at the Fontaine de la Place Maréchal Lyautey. 
Dominique had brought me here the day before, but now the light was just right so I set myself down to sketch. When I got home and showed her my drawing she explained to me that each of the angels represents a discipline; navigation, commerce, geography, the arts.  She is a wealth of knowledge ( and I am a six year old, coming home from school to show off my colouring project).  We spent the evening talking, listening to cd's of her (now my) favorite French singers, me playing the guitar her ex left behind and both of us singing songs, French and English.  Ah, the international language of folk music. 

Now I'm in bed. There's a virus floating around and we both got up this morning with sore throats and stuffy noses (not just from the singing and the wine). I'm resting up and willing myself better.  There's so much to see and do here, and a couple of days sick in bed is definitely not on the program!

Will post sketches soon. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Une Guide Parfait

I'm starting to get my bearings here. Berenger had to go out to help a friend move this morning, so I had the apartment to myself. As much as I could have sat and stared at that amazing view for a month without getting bored, I decided to head out and find La Parc de le Tête d'Or. How ideal, arriving here on a Sunday. There were joggers and cyclists, lovers, tourists, and little families scattered all over the grass with picnic baskets. The way the park is laid out, you catch little glimpses through the trees of all the different attractions. There was an old-style carousel with music and painted ponies, botanical gardens, an idyllic lake with row boats. I came around one corner and looked up to see these giraffes almost camouflaged against a sun dappled wood building.  Surprises everywhere. 
I know I'll be back here, to sketch and to rent one of the little boats and have a paddle around the lake, but it was time to head back, get my stuff and head to Mme Guider's apartment where I'll stay for the next two weeks. 

I couldn't have landed with a better host.  Mme Guider, Dominique, is lovely, as is her home. She's an excellent guide (her last name even means guide!).  We had so much to talk about right away.   Her home is full of books and art, and little poems beautifully written on tiny cards tucked in all over the place. She took me on a walking tour of the city, explaining the geography, history and cultural significance of everything, loaded me up with good French books (like Le Petit Prince) and cooked me an incredible meal.  She speaks very clearly and is so interesting that I'm finding I'm able to understand her without too much difficulty.  By the time I tucked into my adorable little antique bed covered in toile de jouy fabric I was exhausted, stuffed, and 'tres content'. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Day One in Lyon

June 22. I am feasting my eyes on the golden glow of the Basilique  Notre Dame de la Fourviere  floating in the night sky.  It's perfectly framed, along with something that looks an awful lot like La Tour Eiffel, in my bedroom window as i tuck in after a long but perfect day.   I landed here in Lyon early this afternoon and caught  the Rhône Express tram from St Exupéry to Part-Dieu.   Berengere, who's fabulous view this is, was waiting to meet me. We walked back to her place up here on the 13th floor, swapped histories (in French!) and then went out and did a little explore together. This is SO much better than staying in a hotel. She got me oriented in the hood, walked me to the Centre Commercial La Part Dieu, helped me figure out how to buy a phone charger, food and vino, and gave me a great recommendation for dinner (not just where, but what as well).  I went to Le Bistrot du Palais and had a legume salad with poached egg, crispy bacon, asparagus and a dressing that could only have been made in France's food capital. So good.  The building across the street from my little sidewalk table just begged to be sketched.  There I was, absorbed in the details of the building, swapping the odd sentence with my French waiter, listening to the animated chatter of the locals at the next table, thinking 'this is exactly what I came here for'.   Now, after sketching Fourviere and the tour out my bedroom, window it's pushing on 2am here. Time for some shut-eye and on to new adventures tomorrow. 

A Very Long Day

June 21st. Longest day of the year. Nothing makes that feel more true than spending it in economy class on a transatlantic flight.   I'm tout seul, an hour and a half from Amsterdam. The in-flight entertainment system is reminiscent of the Pong machine my dad proudly brought home to us in the 70's.  Dear KLM, technology is advancing; you should look into it.  If you find yourself in this spot, wrestle with the outdated controller and navigate your way to the Anthony  Bourdain TV show on Amsterdam.  I always love Anthony, but the show is even better when you're on the cusp of arriving in the highlighted location.  It looks like they must send a scout crew or two into a city before he arrives. I imagine they make their recommendations and he goes from there. In this particular episode it's kind of apparent that he gets stuck with a couple of bad choices (he's hungover and eye-rolling for much of the episode) and so they insert footage of the places he wished he'd gone instead. Limited time with the talent on the ground I suppose. I decide to re-watch the episode so I can write down the good suggestions,  but now that I've insulted the in-flight technology the controller is completely not cooperating with me. Oh well. I do remember the show opens with the host talking about how the anticipation of a trip being just as wonderful at times as the journey.  Yep oui.  I've had so much fun surfing, booking, wandering around on google maps. Not that our journey's all planned out ( it's not) but I've kind of got about a two month head start on this adventure.   Here's hoping the real thing is even more wow-y than its virtual counterpart. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

'Bound' for France!

 Oh how I love my new sketchbook!  I made it (with the help of this youtube video) using an old French hardcover book I bought for 25 cents at the Centre Culturel Francaise here in Vancouver.  I recovered it with this gilt brocade paper I bought at Opus on Vancouver Island, and filled it with my favourite watercolour paper, some solid coloured paper for line drawings, and a fun collection of patterned papers that I have no idea yet what I'll do with.  That, I suppose, is part of the adventure. 

I've been planning this book, and this trip, for months now.  Some little bug climbed into my ear about a year ago and said "Hey, Canadian girl, it's time you really learned how to speak French".   I signed up for a French class at the Cultural Centre here in Vancouver, found a language buddy to practice with (bonjour Florence!) and started listening to 'Learn French by Podcast' everyday on my endless jaunts to and from our stores.   

 Voila, un an plus tard, here I am prepping and packing for my big French adventure!  It's the pay-off for a year of hard work.  I leave this Friday (only two more sleeps!) and arrive in Lyon the following day.  I'll spend two weeks there doing a language immersion course that I found at Cactus Language Training.  When that's done, I'll meet my husband Greg in Paris for another couple weeks of adventure.  It's been so fun to plan.  All of our accommodations are either through airbnb or  Not a single night in a hotel in over a month of travel!

I'm pretty much packed, thanks in part to the fab blog HiP Paris, and am so excited.   I'll try my best to sketch and post as I go.

A bien tot!