Tuesday, 1 April 2008

saying hello to Lyon.

So I'm in Lyon for two weeks now! I thought it would be a good idea to take the opportunity to see another city before I hit Paris, so I'm here taking more langauge classes.

Unfortunately, my current opinion is that Lyon is a bit of a hole. Well, as far as they exist in France anyway. To me it feels commercial, impersonal, big, cold and grey but then perhaps I just haven't found the cool areas yet, or I was spoiled by Bordeaux. Yesterday at least 5 people asked me for money, and a dodgy guy snuck in behind me to the metro, and then gave me the sarkiest thankyou I've ever heard. The metro itself makes the New York subway look welcoming. However; I'm willing to revise my opinion if further information comes to light. On the upside, the footpaths are wider here and people are in a hurry, so I don't feel the urge to headbutt the person in front of me every time I'm running late for class. There also seem to be less crottes on the street, but that could be a function of the fact that there don't seem to be many people out and about enjoying life (and thus, less dog-walking).

Yesterday was my first full day and I got up and went to the school to enrol. It was a bit of a palaver because they made me sit a placement test, even though I just finished one level in Bordeaux at the same organisation. Surprise, surprise, after all that they put me in the next level from the one I just finished. The school here is much bigger, and walking in for the first time I felt like I was back at the first day of high school, and all the cool kids had already set the friendship groups. That's probably not the case, but it wasn't a fun feeling to revisit. I'm taking the afternoon course, because apparently there's less people in the class, but since I ended up having to go to the last class of the session because they run on the calendar month rather than in 4 week blocks, it could be different today anyway.

I guess now would be a good time to give an update on my language level. It's funny because day by day I feel like I'm getting nowhere, but when I look back at where I was two months ago, I've really come a long way I think. I can pretty much have conversations with people now, providing it relates to something reasonably concrete or straightforward (like their day, the immediate surroundings, etc). I'm starting to be able to understand people when they say something unexpectedly (before I used to need to know that they were going to speak in advance), and I'm starting to be able to eavesdrop on public transport. I still feel like I'm talking like an idiot, but I can get my point across one way or another, most of the time. But that being said, I can get thrown for 6 very easily. Like yesterday when a waiter asked 'what can I get you' instead of 'what would you like' and I had no idea what he was talking about. But I think that was a result of actually trying to understand his words rather than just go by body language, so i guess even that's a step forward.

After enrolling and being told to come back for the afternoon session I went to the main city square to buy a weekly bus ticket. The main square really summed up the city for me, because it's a huge space with a gorgeous big statue of a man on a horse in the centre and the rest of it is filled with... red dirt. There's a lot of beautiful old spaces and buildings here, but they don't seem to be valued much.

Thank God for my Lonely Planet, becuase I had some hours to kill and wandering aimlessly didn't seem like a good plan. Lyon sits over two rivers, and I went for a promenade in the old part of the city. Apparently it's heritage listed, but in the end just didn't feel as cool as St Emilion, and the vibe was very dead like the rest of the city. I did stop for a take away crepe at a street stall though, and I think my Mum's crepes have finally been topped. This guy knew what he was doing and was churning out perfectly round, cottony-thin crepes by the pile. Don't feel too bad though mum, because this guy does it all day every day, and it was only a little better than yours. I chose a 'filling' of sweetened chestnut cream which was very nice, but I can't quite decide whether the French approach of just putting a little swipe of filling in rather than a big pile is a good thing or not. It's subtler and I guess it has the advantage of not running down your arm as you walk. But it's not as sweet, obviously.

I had lunch at a trendy modern soup place, which was nice but not spectacular, and with my soup I also tried quenelles (quinoa flavour) which are like French steamed dumplings I suppose, and a speciality of Lyon. Nice, but subtle. I guess this is a theme - the French don't blow your head off with flavour. Apparently Lyon is famed for it's food, so hopefully I'll come across some other tasty treats.

After lunch I went to my class and then home for dinner. Today I've been spending the morning catching up on internet-y things that I haven't had a chance to do easily for months, and hopefully I'm nearly there. HurrAY for wifi.

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