Final Days in France

We are scheduled to leave France on Saturday. It’s hard to believe that our time is coming to a close, but we are also surprised by how much we did in a relatively short time. We were sitting in our apartment the other evening and were talking about things we would miss about France (and Italy) and things we are looking forward to in the United States. Below is our list, with a few photos.

Things we will miss about France:

IMG_2884.jpg

French flags fly after the World Cup victory

  1. We will miss the late evenings here–the people eating dinner at 9pm at little sidewalk cafes, families enjoying the shade in one of the many city parks, and friends getting together all over the city, every night. We live in a city in the United States (about the same size as Grenoble), but our city is not walkable in most areas. Here, you can walk everywhere…
  2. We love to walk and prefer it to public transportation most days (except when it is brutally hot, which it is right now). We walk every evening and throughout most days. We walk to the markets, to friends’ houses, and to the parks. Many people walk or ride bikes, scooters, unicycles…
  3. Which is why the general population is so fit. True, the French have very rich foods. But they are also moving all of the time and have very set mealtimes with little to no snacking between meals. It’s refreshing to see. It makes me think twice about “needing” snacks–not necessarily a bad thing!
  4. That being said, we do love the markets! The fresh fruits, vegetables, bread, and cheese are amazing here. We did most of our cooking at the apartment and it was so nice to go to a daily market and pick up the freshest produce. It’s all reasonably priced, incredible quality, and everyone loves the markets…

    IMG_2630.jpg

    The market near our apartment

  5. …especially on dimanche (Sunday). Dimanche markets are very busy, and all of the producteurs are ready to sell olives, ravioles (small cheese ravioli native to this region of France), walnuts, specialty breads, fish, and so much more. Everyone races around to finish errands before all the stores close around noon. The city is very quiet from about 1-7pm, when the restaurants open for dinner service. A dimanche afternoon walk to a park is wonderful.
  6. Another wonderful part of life here has been the people we have met. It can be very difficult to meet like-minded people in any city, but we were especially lucky to meet some fantastic new friends here. Some are American (we can commiserate about the lack of AC and black beans), some are French (including two Grenoblois who took an entire day to show us an area that is only accessible by car), and people from all over the world. Their hospitality and kindness took our trip to an entirely new level and for that, we are very grateful.

Things we are looking forward to in the United States:

  1. Seeing family and friends. This needs no explanation! We have missed everyone!
  2. Mexican food (including but not limited to: black bean burritos, refried beans, tacos, guacamole, salsa…)
  3. “American coffee” aka “filter coffee.” Espresso is fine, but there’s nothing like a cup of coffee (or two) in the morning! Tim is especially looking forward to coffee.
  4. Effortless communication. It will be really nice to understand when people speak to us, and be able to ask questions/tell stories without hesitation. We definitely have improved in both receptive and productive language, but learning a new language (especially as an adult) is very difficult. This experience has given us both new respect for people who learn a new language and live in a foreign country.
  5. Our house. I am really excited to see it again and get ready for fall in Florida (although the summer temperatures will persist until mid-October).
  6. Our routines. We are both fortunate to have jobs that we enjoy and we are looking forward to resuming our exercise and work routines.

A few favorite Memories:

  1. Time spent in Paris–a late evening walk to the Louvre, watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle from our hotel room
  2. High-speed train rides, especially in Italy (they provide snacks!)
  3. Eating in Italy–the pasta, the gelato!

    IMG_2930.jpg

    Lake Como lends itself to photos

  4. Italy in general–the history, the language, and the kind people
  5. Taking the boat in Lake Como
  6. Reading in Grenoble’s parks
  7. Watching France win the World Cup at a French café
  8. Bastille Day fireworks
  9. The Tour de France rode through Grenoble!
  10. Game nights with new friends
  11. …and many more!

 

We are so grateful for this wonderful opportunity to travel abroad for a substantial amount of time. The next couple of days will be very busy. Homeward bound!

Advertisements

Como, Italy

Bon dimanche! (Happy Sunday!)

Sundays are especially enjoyable in France, since most businesses are closed. The few places that are open, such as supermarkets, close around noon. After a quiet buzz of activity in the morning, there is a striking quiet that sets in from 1-5pm. There are few cars or pedestrians. I imagine that most people are at home with their families. Ali and I have come to really look forward to the quiet of Sunday afternoons in Grenoble. Since today is our last dimanche, we have tried our best to soak in the sights and sounds (or lack thereof!). Next Sunday, we will be relaxing back in the US celebrating our first American dimanche since early-June.

 

————-

A couple of weeks ago, Ali and I visited Lake Como in northern Italy. Nestled along the southern border of Switzerland, Lake Como is shaped like an upside-down Y, with mountains on all sides. Along the shores of the lake are little Italian towns, each with its own character and waterfront. The main attraction in the area is to buy a day-pass for the ferry and to hop from town to town.

como1.JPG

Evening on Lake Como

como2.JPG

Ali on the Lake Como Ferry

IMG_1441.JPG

Lake Como facing north

IMG_1444.JPG

Town of Bellano

IMG_1454.JPG

Bruschetta Lunch

IMG_1466.JPG

One of the many boats in the ferry fleet

IMG_1467.JPG

The ferry rides between towns is one of the best parts of the day. 

IMG_1468.JPG

For one (!?)

IMG_1477.JPG

Hotel San Giorgio in the town of Lenno

IMG_1484.JPG

Torno

IMG_1515.JPG

We had a great day on the lake! It was unlike anywhere that we have ever been. The combination of towns climbing the sides of mountains, the deep blue of the lake, and the amazing people and food are hard to beat. And, since I mentioned food, I have to mention that we visited our favorite restaurant in Turin on our way back to Grenoble. The 10 Euro lunch special consisted of all of the following courses. So good.

IMG_1507.JPG

Does not look so appealing in the photo, but this was super tasty. Ricotta flan was cheesy, savory, and crispy on the edges. 

IMG_1508.JPG

Pasta, octopus, amazing sauce (the official description was in Italian, so this is my best translation)

 

IMG_1509.JPG

Yes to this chocolate cake

Overall, Italy was a true revelation from our trip. Ali and I will definitely need to return in the future.

 

Annecy, Bastille Day, and WORLD CUP!

Hello everyone,

A lot has happened in the last couple of weeks! Let’s start with our trip to Annecy.

Annecy is a popular city in southeastern France, about 22 miles south of Geneva. Everyone raves about Annecy for good reason. The lake is beautiful and the city is very picturesque, as you can see below:

IMG_2807.jpg

Lake Annecy from the walking path

IMG_2810.jpg

Ferries and tour boats are available, as are paddle boats and motor boats (no license necessary!)

IMG_2809.jpg

Just one of the beautiful properties in Annecy

IMG_2808.jpg

The city from the overpass

We spent the day roaming the city, until we both started to feel sick after lunch. It must have been something we ate, because we were both (Ali especially) pretty sick for a few days after our little trip. The perils of travel!

We started feeling better later in the week, just in time for Bastille Day and the World Cup final. Bastille Day (known to the French as La fête nationale or simply 14 juillet) was pretty low-key during the day. The stores close a little early, but it is not like a 4th of July, in terms of flag-waving and parades. Not here, at least. We were happy to go to a picnic and fireworks show at a park here in Grenoble. We had fun with our friends and were treated to a stunning fireworks show that lasted a half hour!

IMG_2833.jpg

Tim took this great shot of the fireworks from our picnic blanket.

On Sunday, it was the final of the World Cup (Coupe du Monde). All of France seemed to be watching as the French team (called Equipe de France or Les Bleus for short) took on Croatia at 5pm. We watched the match at a local bar with friends, and the atmosphere was intense but enthusiastic, especially as the Bleus started to pull away with the win.

IMG_1397.JPG

Waiting for the match to start, wearing our French face paint 

After France won (4-2), the streets erupted in flags, cheering, and, of course, lots of car honking:

IMG_2847.jpg

IMG_2877.jpg IMG_2880.jpg

We walked around the city a bit, mostly to see the large crowds singing and shouting. It was a lot of fun. This was France’s second World Cup win (the first was in 1998). It was amazing and special to be in the country when they clinched the Cup. We headed back to our apartment because things were getting a little too rowdy–firecrackers, trash cans on fire, tear gas (!) and watched the coverage on television. All of France was celebrating!

The following day, we made the trip to Lake Como, in Italy. That will be in a separate post. Until then, we will whet your appetite (or maybe just Moz’s appetite) with a photo of one of Lake Como’s most famous residents (courtesy of esquire.com):

FullSizeRender.jpg

You’re welcome. 

Later, ‘gators!

Torino

To start, Ali and I both want to acknowledge all of the kind comments we have received on the blog. When we are far from home, it is very nice to receive your words of support from across the ocean. Please know that we read all of your comments and are always excited to see what you have written. It truly means a lot to us. 

———————

As much as we are enjoying France, it is exciting to take advantage of how close we are to its neighbors. With our location in the southeastern part of the country, we are especially close to Italy. Last week, we ventured across, or more accurately, through the Alps, to the city of Turin (Torino).

Italy1.jpg

IMG_1256.JPG

Above: View from our bus as we approached the Italian border

Although Turin is less than four hours away by bus from our apartment, I was surprised by the dramatic differences in food, language, and culture from what we have become accustomed to in France. In Turin, we did not hear any French spoken whatsoever, despite its proximity to the border. The small gains we have made in everyday communication were completely erased. At least in French, I know how to say that I don’t know what to say! I quickly realized that perhaps I should have looked up a few Italian phrases before crossing the border…

But, a friendly smile and hand gestures can go a long way. Soon enough, we learned that Bonjour becomes Buon GiornoBonsoir becomes Buona sera, Merci becomes Grazie, etcAlso, because Turin attracts many foreign tourists, there are more English speakers than in Grenoble. We are grateful for the many kind people who directed us and answered our questions! Grazie!

The city of Turin is very beautiful. We spent most of our time simply wandering the streets enjoying the sights.

Below: Piazza San Carlo Torino, Piazza CastelloVia Giuseppe Garibaldi

IMG_1260.JPG

IMG_1264.JPGIMG_1266.JPG

As lovely as the city is, the food is even better. Everyday, Ali and I mention to each other how much we loved the food, and how we cannot wait to return for more (next week).

My very first meal in Italy was a margherita pizza that I attempted to eat with fork and knife (as the Italians do). Pizzas are not served pre-sliced and are not to be shared. Instead, each person must order a pizza for herself. “Doggie bags,” or in this case, pizza boxes to take home your leftovers, are so severely frowned upon that they are not even offered. Your best bet is simply to bring a large appetite and to take your time. It was amazing to see people eating entire pizzas the size of a large plate (14′?) entirely on their own. Yet, many people are very thin. Perhaps, it is because the Italians seem to share the French disdain for breakfast, and thus are ready to consume an inordinate amount of carbohydrates plus dairy for lunch. It remains a mystery to me. I will say, too, that the Italian restaurants close around 2pm, just like the French, and do not re-open until 7:30pm for the start (!) of dinner service.

Speaking of dinner, we had the best dinner of our entire time in Europe thus far. Ali, who is not nearly as prone to hyperbole as I am, admitted that it may have been one of the best meals of her life. At Restaurant e Cucina, there are no menus. Instead, you choose to have fish, meat, or vegetarian. Each day, new courses are prepared for each of the three options depending on what is fresh at the moment. It was a bit intimidating at first, since you do not know what will be arriving at your table. Seeing that we were Americans, the waiter looked worried when I ordered the fish sequence. This, in turn, made me worried. Struggling to find the English, he eventually asked me, “Will raw fish be ok for you?” The sea bass ceviche that followed was incredibly delicious – clean, citrusy, and very fresh. The entire meal followed the same pattern. Concerned waiter, concerned self, delicious food, complete satisfaction, repeat. With all due respect and love for one of my favorite restaurants from home , this was completely different than the stereotypical vision of Italian cuisine. Where was the fettuccine alfredo? The tin plates of Chicken Parmesan baked with mountains of mozzarella? Piles of spaghetti with baseball-sized meatballs?

We loved our meal so much we returned for lunch the next day. The line of locals waiting for lunch service to begin at 12:30pm (remember, it’s Italy and things run even later than in France) was a great sign. For 10 euros per person, we got all of the following:

IMG_1277.JPG

Starter: Asiago cheese, sea kelp, blueberry jam

 

IMG_1278.JPG

BeverageHomemade juice (very light, very refreshing, not too sweet)

IMG_1279.JPG

Salt and carb sticks (also known as bread)

IMG_1280.JPG

Main: House-made pasta with fish (more al-dente than usually served in the US)

IMG_1281.JPG

Dessert: Custard with Fig Jam

IMG_1282.JPG

Espresso

Reminder all of that was for 10 euros (about $12) and there is no need to add a tip or tax. Mind blown. We highly recommend Turin!

Bonus pictures!

Gelato from the old city, Ali on the bus home

IMG_1284 (1).JPG

IMG_1286.JPG

 

 

 

The French Way

I have really enjoyed these first three weeks in France. Each day contains many lessons in language and culture. Our French continues to improve, my proof of which is the fact that I finally had my first experience of a native speaker praising me, “Vous parlez Français très bien.” (“You speak French very well.”) Of course, I quickly disabused her of this notion by exhausting my three functional sentences worth of vocabulary and grammar. Nevertheless, that conversation was a resounding success, since it involved a somewhat complicated explanation that we had been given the wrong bus ticket earlier that afternoon, and that we needed to exchange it for the correct pass. Through a mix of broken French, hand gestures/pointing, and the help of a second cashier who spoke un peu d’Anglais (a little English), we figured it out and got the right ticket! Fortunately, I had Ali with me, whose French is praised on a regular basis, and who can fill in some of the gaps. Also, how can anyone be mad or annoyed with Ali? She is so sweet and kind.

Culturally, we are becoming more accustomed to French norms. There is a strong emphasis on politeness, particularly on greeting people with a “Bonjour” (hello, good day) and departing with an “Au revoir” (goodbye), “Bonne journée” (Have a good day!), or “Bonsoir” (Have a good evening!). This extends to situations that I did not expect. For example, I was with one of our new friends here and we went to pick up a pizza. It is a small take-out only joint with a counter and two chairs. There was a couple waiting in those chairs for their pizza.. Our pizza was ready when we arrived, so we paid the cashier, said merciau revoir to the cashier, and headed to the door. As we walked out of the door, the couple in those chairs both said a loud au revoir to us. My friend (who is from the US, but has lived in France for three years) explained that we had committed the social error of not properly saying a general au revoir to everyone at the pizza place. He interpreted their loud au revoir as a correction to our rudeness. (“Hello!? Aren’t you going to say goodbye to us?!”)

Although they do want to be acknowledged, this is not to say that the French necessarily want to have a conversation with you. There is less small talk than in the US, as people are generally not interested in hearing your personal story, or of discussing the weather, etc. It is not that people are unfriendly, as we have had many experiences of French people going out of their way to be very nice to us, but it is more that there is a kind of formality that discourages making offhand comments to strangers. In other words, you would generally not turn to the stranger next to you and say, “Hot enough for you?”, or the like. My sense is that this strikes the French as a breach of formality. It’s the kind of thing that you do with friends, not strangers. Likewise, it is a good idea to address someone formally, until you are told otherwise. Just last month, the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, scolded a teenage boy who addressed him as “Manu,” instead of “Mr. President.” It’s very very French, and nicely captures what I am trying to say. Watch the 30-second video here. (Don’t worry. There are English subtitles.)

Overall, this fits into a broader French sense that things have their proper place and time. Meals have clear structure (multiple courses arranged a certain way) and clear times. Breakfast is an afterthought, or a pastry. Lunch is from 12-2. Dinner is from 8-11. You do not see French people eating outside of these times. You will not see people walking with food (the only exception is a lunchtime baguette sandwich) or drinks (there are virtually no water bottles or water fountains here), eating or drinking in their cars, or even snacking between meals. We were at a bar watching the French World Cup game yesterday at 4pm, and there was no food. People drank beers, but you did not see ANY snacks whatsoever. Pourquoi pas? (Why not?) Because it’s not a meal time! A bowl of nachos is unthinkable in France anyways, but at 4pm it would be a national tragedy.

See below for some pictures that visually represent la vie Française (the French life):

FW2.JPGFW1.JPG

So many coins…It is still mostly a cash economy here. The French own very few credit cards, and many places do not accept cards. I continue to push the limits on this front, as I enjoy earning travel points, and I detest collecting piles of these copper and silver.

FW3.JPG

There are very few clothes dryers here, so all clothes must be hung up!

FW4.JPG

Baguette sandwiches are the ONLY food that is acceptable to walk and eat. And, never with a drink in the other hand.

FW5.JPG

Bar for the World Cup soccer game. Notice the lack of food.

Ali and I went to Turin, Italy earlier this week. We will share some photos very soon!

Bon-weekend!

 

 

2 Weeks in France

Today marks two weeks since we arrived in France. In certain ways, it feels like we have been here for a long time. At other moments, it feels like the summer is flying by and we want everything to slow down.

This week was especially enjoyable. We did some research online for expat/French language groups, and found Open House Grenoble (OHG) which is a group of both English and French speakers living in Grenoble. They had a coffee chat at a nearby cafe and we decided to go. We are really glad that we did. We met people from all over–including the United States, England, Germany, and France. We met one couple with whom we have a lot in common–she (T.) is from the U.S., and he (M.) is a college professor. We went to their apartment and watched a World Cup game, and we also went to the market today. T. and I went shopping in Grenoble the other day–France has major sales twice a year, and the stores are very busy. T. was able to show me some good places to shop and I made a stop in the pharmacy for some famous, highly-lauded skincare products that are not available in the United States. We may or may not have stopped by the bio (organic) ice cream stand for a couple scoops of amazing ice cream.

Our French is slowly but surely improving. In certain ways, our experience reminds me of a book I read earlier this year called The Newcomers. Part of learning a new language is the reception phase, in which a person must “absorb” the language before being able to produce it. We have been trying to actively listen to when people speak to us in French (instead of not listening and trying to think of what to say). Overall, though, people have been exceedingly kind and patient with our efforts to speak French. OHG has a “Café Français” every Friday, where people can work on their French with native speakers. We went on Friday and it was a good experience–I had the ability to listen and make minor contributions to discussions on French schools, cannabis (most people are not in favor, FYI), and politics. The French are not into small talk and do not shy away from talk of politics, religion, or revolution (!).

Some highlights over the past few weeks:

  1. The cheese (bleu de Vercors is our favorite). Our “cheese man” is so nice and gives us some great recommendations.
  2. Fromage blanc, which is kind of like Greek yogurt–thicker than regular yogurt with a slight tang. So, so good. And it’s fat-free, so it takes some of the guilt away from the rest of our list. Best with a Bonne Maman jam (Framboise Intense is especially nice).
  3. Beurre demi-sel (Bretagne) is a full-fat, salted butter and it is divine. Think Kerrygold, but better. From the north of France. Best spread liberally on freshly baked baguettes (see below).
  4. Baguettes from neighborhood boulangeries. Our new favorite is Du Pain Sur La Planche, which translates to “bread on the board,” the French version of “I’ve got a lot on my plate.” We have had a few different things from this boulangerie, including pain au chocolate (YES), baguettes (plain, 5 grain and olive), and sandwiches. They are beautiful to look at and even better to eat.
  5. Walking everywhere: To burn off the aforementioned treats, we have been walking everywhere. On average, we walk about 5 miles a day around town. On busier days, we can walk anywhere from 7-11 miles per day. We also have a new workout–the Bastille. When we walk up the Bastille, I register about 95 flights of stairs on my FitBit.

Part of the reason everyone here is relatively thin is due to all of the walking and biking. There are a fair amount of cars, but there is a very high percentage of people walking, scootering, rollerblading, skateboarding, and cycling around town. That, combined with set meal times (you don’t see people eating outside of meals), and high quality foods that are more satisfying, seem to do the trick for maintaining a healthy weight.

IMG_0399.pngYesterday, we watched the Argentina vs. France game at a local bar with a few of our new friends. We were able to snag a back room with air conditioning (very rare) and watched a very exciting game. France, of course, was victorious! Merci, Messi!

It was funny, because I had told Tim that I hadn’t seen the French get really excited or surprised by much since we’ve been here. However, the whole city (and seemingly, country) erupted in happiness after the win. Horns were honking and flags were flying for hours after the match. Below is a photo (our blog doesn’t support video files) from outside of our apartment.

IMG_0404.png

Tomorrow, we are heading to Torino, Italy for a couple of days. We are looking to escape the European heat wave (it is 100F in Grenoble today!) and enjoy some pizza, pasta, and coffee!

Hope you all are having a good weekend! Happy July!

P.S. If you were unable to see the photos from Tim’s post on Les Deux Alpes, the entry has been fixed and you can see the photos here. They are worth a look!

 

Les Deux Alpes

The 19th-century French novelist, Stendhal, wrote of Grenoble that “there is a mountain at the end of every street.” This is very true. I have really enjoyed the fact that we are surrounded by mountains on all sides, with beautiful views throughout the city. Yet, for all of our looking at mountains, we have yet to spend any time in the mountains. Fortunately, this changed yesterday!

We took an early bus up to Les Deux Alpes, a ski resort in the Oisans region. It took a little over 90 minutes to climb from Grenoble (elevation 712ft) to Les Deux Alpes (elevation 4,265ft). The ride itself was part of the adventure. Along the way, we saw Le Bourg D’Osians, one of the most iconic towns in the world of professional cycling. The Bourg is a frequent stopover on the Tour de France, as it is situated at the base of multiple major Alpine passes. The town not only has a large bicycle sculpture in the traffic circle as you enter town, but cycling jerseys hanging from banners all along the main boulevard.  Large signs are already posted announcing the arrival of Le Tour in a few weeks. I could almost hear the voices of commentators Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin describing the “most famous turn in cycling” from Le Bourg d’Oisans onto the slopes of L’Alpe d’Huez. As is already clear, I completely geeked over seeing the town. Meanwhile, Ali slept peacefully as the bus rolled on.

After Bourg d’Oisans, the road twists its way up towards Les Deux Alpes. As you ascend, the views of the Oisans valley only get better and better. Once we arrived at the resort, Ali and I stopped at the Maison du Tourisme for a carte de randonnée (hiking map) and some general guidance. Nonetheless, we still got a bit lost before we ultimately found a pleasant hike at the foot of one of the ski lifts. (Aside: French hiking trails are very well marked once you are on the trail. However, finding the start of the trail is another story. The concept of a clear trailhead with a sign, directions, explanation of the route, etc. has not caught on here.) The trail had stunning views and it was a gorgeous morning.

 

L2A4.JPG

L2A3.JPG

L2A5.JPG

L2A6.JPG

After our walk, we figured we had earned a treat for déjeuner (lunch). The French Alps are known for their artistry with cheese, especially their creative approaches to joining melted cheese with carbohydrates. The particular specialty we enjoyed yesterday is called raclette. The premise is very simple. Large wedge of cheese, heating device, and wooden spatula work in unison to produce a beautiful symphony of molten goodness.

L2A7.JPG

L2A(.JPGL2A8.JPG

L2A9.JPG

Following our light lunch, we rode the Vallée Blanche summer lift to some spectacular views of the valley. From the top of the lift, we enjoyed a hike down the mountain (going up after raclette would have been a serious mistake).

L2A10.JPG

L2A11.JPG

L2A12.JPG

L2A13.JPG

L2A14.JPG

L2A15.JPG

We had some time before our bus back to Grenoble, so we sat outside at an Australian cafe for about an hour enjoying some “filter coffee” (the European name for an American-style coffee). On our bus ride home, we met a very nice woman from New Zealand, who was diagnosed with cancer last year. She worked at Les Deux Alpes thirty years ago, and had it on her bucket list to return. It was fun to get to know her, and to translate between French and English between her and the driver. (It was the first time we ever translated for someone! Our baby French is coming along.)

All in all, it was a truly spectacular day.

————–

However, for the sake of authenticity, it is worth noting that no day in France is without its challenges. The bus ride home from Les Deux Alpes was in a 85-90 degree bus (it may or may not have A/C, but it certainly wasn’t turned on), with a seemingly endless litany of switchbacks, and starts and stops. Separately, both Ali and I looked up the French for, “I need to vomit right now!” in case we needed to tell someone. (In case you are wondering, it’s “Je vais vomir maintenant!”.) Even after we descended past Bourg d’Oisans and the road straightened out, the rush hour traffic into Grenoble worsened our nausea/despair. Yet, we persevered! Nous sommes costauds! (We are tough!) Amazingly, we kept our raclette down all the way to the bus station, from which we trudged the 10-15 minutes back to our apartment. Our little apartment had never looked so good!

 

 

 

 

 

Oui, chef!

Yesterday, we took a bus to Lyon, which is the third-largest city (second-largest urban center) in France. It is located about an hour from Grenoble, where the Saône and Rhône rivers meet.

IMG_1139.jpg

Lyon has many little passageways throughout the city. Parts of the city are designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Lyon is beautiful and is known for its gastronomy. It is one of the top food destinations in the world, both for aspiring chefs and for restauranters. It was the home to Paul Bocuse, who was the le chef de tous les chefs. He was taught by Mme. Eugenie Brazier, who was a force in her own right–she was the first, and to this date, the only person to be awarded three Michelin stars twice. Bocuse held three Michelin stars since 1965. He died earlier this year. We went to a food hall that was built in his honor. It did not disappoint! It was full of florists, fishmongers, cheese shops, bakeries and more. The attention to detail and displays were spectacular!

IMG_2658.jpg IMG_2661.jpg

IMG_2662.jpg

Above: M. Paul immortalized in a mural and in his food hall in Lyon.

Left: A little description of Bocuse and his accomplishments. (If you have not seen the Parts Unknown Lyon episode, you can view Anthony Bourdain’s experience with Bocuse and Daniel Boulud here.

 

 

 

IMG_2666.jpgIMG_2667.jpg

Above: Mme. Eugenie Brazier, who struck fear into the heart of Bocuse. What a boss!

FullSizeRender 2.jpg IMG_2671.jpg FullSizeRender.jpg IMG_2665.jpg

Above: A few of the delights at La Halle

We had some nice treats throughout the day. We had the best pain au chocolate (chocolate croissant) of our trip thus far at Boulangerie de Saint Marc, a crêpe lunch, and some really good, American-style coffee at Mokxa (see below).

IMG_2672 2.jpg IMG_2674 2.jpg

Our language learning is starting to progress. We have been in France for less than a week, but we are starting to pick up on conversational French. It is challenging to have someone say something very quickly, understand what is being said, and respond appropriately. However, part of it is just listening carefully and not getting too flustered. We have had small (but meaningful) conversations with our “cheese man” at the market and some other people. Everyone has been very kind to us.

We are going to join a couple of English-French speaking groups here in Grenoble to help us learn French and to make some friends. They meet in cafes throughout the city. We are also planning some trips within France and neighboring countries. We were able to go to Lyon on a bus and return safely (all in French) so far, so that’s a good start!

Have a good weekend, everyone!

En français:

Nous allons rejoindre quelques groupes francophones-anglophones ici à Grenoble pour nous aider à apprendre le français et se faire des amis. Ils se rencontrent dans les cafés de la ville. Nous prévoyons également des voyages en France et dans les pays voisins. Nous avons pu aller à Lyon en bus et revenir en toute sécurité jusqu’a présent (en français), donc c’est un bon début!

Bon week-end!

 

 

 

Paris and Grenoble

Hi everyone, it’s Ali! I’ll pick up where Tim left off.

On Monday, we decided to tour the Left Bank in Paris. We went to Shakespeare and Company, which is arguably one of the most famous English language bookstores in the world. It has two floors–the first is fairly straightforward, and the second floor has a little reading room and a poetry section. Tim took an illegal photo of me at the typewriter (photos are prohibited in the store).

464E5A60-AAE2-42CF-95B2-078E12218483.jpg

Me, typing away at Shakespeare and Company

 

5B7686B2-BFB3-46D4-9789-C12D6D97E64A.JPG

 

We walked around a bit and had Niçoise salads for lunch. We have realized pretty quickly that everything is shifted later in France–breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Everyone was still drinking coffee at 11am and lunch was nowhere in sight. At the Sorbonne, there was a philosophy bookstore. Tim was in heaven. All continental philosophy, all the time!

We went back to the hotel and grabbed our bags. We had a train to catch at the Gare de Lyon at 2:40. About three hours later, we arrived at our home for the next seven weeks–Grenoble!

Screen Shot 2018-06-19 at 2.37.17 PM.png

Grenoble is a city in southeastern France, at the foot of the French Alps. Officially, it is in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of France. We decided to stay here because it is a beautiful city and has easy access to hiking and the rest of Europe (especially Italy and Switzerland). We do not have a car, so access to public transportation is really important.

We met our landlord, Michael, at the apartment. It is a walk-up on a major street. It’s a beautiful little apartment–just the right size for the two of us. It has large windows that let in a beautiful breeze. We will do a more detailed post on the apartment later, but here are a few photos:

IMG_2619.jpg

View from one of our windows

IMG_2621.jpg

Tim relaxes on the couch

IMG_2624

Staircase leading downstairs

Around 7pm, we decided to cook dinner at home and set off for the grocery store. It is about twenty feet away from our apartment. It is a smaller version of a larger supermarket (it is a Carrefour City). It has everything we need. The BEST thing is that all of the wonderful French and European brands (such as Maille, Bonne Maman, and so on) are much more reasonable than in the United States. In fact, we bought a fair amount of groceries for €20, which is about $23 with the current exchange rate. We came home and made a very simple dinner and then went to bed. I slept for nine hours!

When we woke up this morning, we decided to go to the farmer’s market near our apartment. We weren’t really sure what to expect. Imagine our surprise when we saw dozens of stands with fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, and cheese. It was hard to choose.

IMG_2630.jpg

One stand at Le Marché de l’Estacade

IMG_2631.jpg

Today’s haul: fresh apricots, cherries, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, carrots, potatoes, peppers, and blue cheese (total: €12)

One of the best parts of the market is that it is open Tuesday through Sunday from 6am to 1pm, and that we absolutely must speak French to communicate. One of the major reasons we chose France is to work on our language skills. In Paris, most people would hear our accent and begin speaking in English. Not here. So far, everyone has spoken to us in French. We stumble, but we will learn!

 

We ate a quick lunch and walked around Grenoble. It is a really beautiful city. The Alps surround it on all sides. It has been said that Grenoble has “a mountain on every street.”

IMG_2640.jpg

A classic shot of Grenoble. Imagine how beautiful it is in the winter! Grenoble is a skiing destination. You can fly directly in the winter, but not in the summer.

 

IMG_2632.jpg

Place Victor Hugo, a large green space and park in the center of the city

 

 

We walked to the city center and over the Isère.

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_2650.jpg

The French and département flags fly proudly.

Then we went back to the apartment to rest. Tim is taking a nap (he did not sleep for nine hours) before we enjoy the evening. France is playing tonight and we are going to go out and cheer on les Bleus! (Update: They aren’t playing tonight–they are playing on Thursday. I was looking at the wrong calendar! Whoops!)

FullSizeRender.jpg

Our grocery bag celebrates the French team (FFF).

I really want to improve my French, so I will be writing at least part of each blog entry in French. I hope that it will help with my tenses and vocabulary. Today, I will write about our experience at the market.

Thank you all for your support, and à bientôt!


En français:

Quand nous nous sommes réveillés ce matin, nous avons décidés d’aller au marche des producteurs près de notre appartement. Nous ne savions pas à quoi nous attendre. Imaginez notre surprise lorsque nous avons vu des dizaines de stands avec des fruits, des légumes, de la viande, du poisson, et du fromage. C’était difficile de choisir.

L’une des meilleurs parties du marché est qu’il est ouvert du mardi au dimanche de 6h à 13h, et que nous devons absolument parler français pour communiquer. L’une des principales raisons que nous avons choisi la France est de travailler sur nos compétence linguistiques. A Paris, la plupart de gens entendaient notre accent et commençaient parler en anglais. Pas ici. Jusqu’à présent, tout le monde nous a parlé en français! Nous trébuchons, mais nous apprendrons!

 

 

 

Paris

Saturday was a long, but exciting day.

Waking up for what will be the last time in 51 nights (!) in our own bed, we spent the first half of the day closing, locking, cleaning, mowing, wiping, storing, baiting, vacuuming, and packing. When you are leaving for an extended period, there are a surprisingly large number of small things to do. We tried to leave the house in good shape. Besides cleaning the inside, this meant giving all of the plants in our yard a good haircut, since Florida summer is essentially a greenhouse, with surpluses of water and heat. Left unchecked, it would not take too long for the swamp in which we live to reclaim our house to the earth.

By early-afternoon, we were packed and ready to go, with the two cars tucked away in the garage, the AC set to 82 (to help keep the house dry and prevent mold, since it is so humid), doors locked, neighbors alerted, and Wolfgang, our beloved grandfather clock stilled. Off to Orlando International!

Our flight from Orlando to Paris was quiet and uneventful. We were fortunate to sit in an exit row with plenty of leg room. Because we were on Norwegian Airlines, we brought our own food and water. Everything on Norwegian is a la carte, so passengers do not receive even a cup of water unless you are willing to pay extra for it. Poor Ali was so cold during the flight that she went to the back of the plane to ask for a blanket. She was blankly informed that they are available for purchase on her touch screen. It is an unsympathetic sky over Norway apparently.

Customs in Paris was a breeze. I don’t think the customs agent even looked at us before stamping our passports and moving us along. A 45-minute train ride from Charles de Gaulle to Gare de Lyon and we were at our hotel. We had a great view of the Seine and the Eifel Tower from our room (I’m not too embarrassed to say that I really enjoyed watching the Tower sparkle at night on the hour, so much so that I stayed up till midnight to see it happen again, yes).

Our first meal in the city was perfectly French. We had crèpes in a small restaurant close to our hotel. It was especially fun to see the owner and his 12-year-old son interact. The son was the waiter for our table, and I was caught off guard when he came up to us and asked us what we wanted in real French, not the baby French that will make the tourist feel très française. I blabbered something about, “I would like the la provençal crèpe merci, s’il vous plait, a bientôt, au revoir.” Ali, on the other hand, responded in nice, crisp French that she would like the Mediterranean and a carafe d’eau sur la table. Boom. Our friend, le garçon, shuttled off with our order. Perhaps, the French do not seem to have the same concern with child labor as we have back home. Or, perhaps, it was just Sunday afternoon at the family business. Whatever the case, the food was outstanding!

Ali will post soon with some more details from Paris. In the meantime, I’m going to start studying some French so I don’t get left too far behind! Here are some pictures.

Below: The bags (we tried to pack reasonably light, not too bad for seven weeks), Wolfgang stilled, cars away, two views of Gare de Lyon, Ali at dinner at Les Temps des Cerises, obligatory Louvre selfie. 

img_1030img_1028img_1025

img_1036

img_1033

img_1042img_1055