St. Étienne & Lyon

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Wonderful, fabulous, extravigant, awe-inspiring, relaxing, amazing. These are all of the adjectives that can describe my last few days in Lyon. I left on Wednesday morning and I arrived back Saturday night, and I can honestly say that I had an amazing time, after doubting things. I will start from the beginning ;).

Wednesday morning I woke up a little early, despite going to bed fairly late, and I was getting packed up because my train would leave at around noon. I figured it would take about a half-n-hour to get there, so I planned my day accordingly. I left my room to go get a baguette, and when I walked outside I just about had a heart attack. Suddenly over night the temperature must have dropped about 20°C because I was freezing, and I could see my breath. On top of this, it must have been a northerly wind because I caught a chill so quickly it wasn’t even funny. This was a Wednesday, and I realized that most students had gone home, so I figured that’s why the streets were empty and nothing was running. The only difference, was that I didn’t realize that it was a national holiday. I only found this out after walking by my baker’s and it being closed, so I hung down a little street in hopes that I would find another. To no avail; so I resigned myself to the fact that I wasn’t going to eat anything substantial in the next 10 hours, due to the lack of food and bread (since I didn’t want to keep too much in the fridge while I was gone). Instead I ate peach yoghurt, yummy!

I got all settled and everything packed, and started to walk over to the train station. I figured that I would make good time, so I didn’t bother to take the tram, but since it was a holiday they were on weird hours anyways. So I walked and it was a lovely day, cold, but lovely never-the-less. I got to the train station with like 10 minutes to spare and went to get my ticket checked, and find my track. I didn’t realize that I went to the wrong track until I go down the hallway, and then ran back to see that it had changed. So I ran to track 8, and made it just in time to get in. In all honesty I didn’t know how the seats were divided, since I didn’t know that there were numbered cars. So I tried to find my seat, and someone was sitting in it, so I just asked him to move so I could get into the window seat, no problem. I didn’t realize that I was in the wrong car until we got to Mulhouse and some little kid was eyeing me, him and his mother found another seat but I felt guilty the whole time! But now I know how the train works; make a mistake once and never again (or so I shoud hope).

The train ride was pleasant and warm, despite the coldness of the outside, and within 5 hours I had arrived to Lyon – Part Dieu, which is the second largest train station in France, second to Paris (obviously). So. the whole reason that I was going to Lyon was because I was invited to spend some time with a friend of mine Cédric, and yes he’s French, which would make him my first French friend. haha. He’s a teacher and he has the same holidays as me, so he invited me to come stay with him and to see the south of France, which is a lot different than the north! He lives in Saint-Étienne which is about 45 minutes, and his boyfriend lives in Lyon, so apparently I would be going to both and being showed around and such.

Upon arriving at the station, I took my bags and went into the waiting area as instructed looking for Cédric, but in all honesty I saw someone who looked like him but I wasn’t sure that it was him. So I walked around for awhile and then he called me asking me where I was and I was like right behind him so it was kind of awkward. He was a bit shorter than I expected, but it’s all good, and apparently he saw me, thought it was me, but then thought to himself ‘no he’s far too young looking.’ Funny that, eh? Anyways, he was super polite and even offered to take my bags, but since I’m already feeling useless I figured I could carry my own. We went down to the parking area, and he told me we would go back to his boyfriend Chris’ house to get his stuff since he didn’t have time to pack. This would be the first time in a car while in France, and boy was it scary. He drives like a maniac, but so does everyone else! The cities are created in such a way that it’s impossible to not drive like a maniac, so it’s normal. So we talked and arrived to Chris’, which is a gorgeous apartment in downtown Lyon. They had a friend over from their university years, Natalie, so I met her and we chit chatted for awhile while Cédric packed his things. Natalie and Chris were not sure if I spoke French so they were sort of awkward for awhile, but then I had the guts enough to tell them that I understand and they were releived since they hardly spoke any English, apparently.

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So we departed after talking a little bit for St. Étienne, a city 45 minutes west of Lyon, where Cédric lives and works. It was a lovely drive, and it didn’t take nearly as long as I thought it would but that’s mostly because French people drive quickly and crazy! We arrived and got settled, and I helped make a quiche, something I never had done before. It turns out they are very simple to make, and now that I have the recepie I know how to make it and I’m going to try to make it myself one day soon! Cédric informed me that we were going out for dinner to a collegue of his, and on the way we basically got lost and needed to call for directions. It’s quite funny, since French people swear a lot, and the city is all up and down hills so it’s difficult to slow down or move around without going crazy. So we got to the apartment and I met Hélène and her boyfriend Sébastien who are both school teachers and very pleasant. They are a little bit older and more experienced, and unfortunately she had a sore ankle from running so Cédric and Sébastien helped her move some furnature while she is repainting her flat.

We chatted a bunch, had some wine, and then ate the quiche and some pasta which was wonderful. During all this we are chit chatting away about some philisophical things, and the amount of sunlight different places on earth have. It was a pleasant evening until Cédric and Sébastian left me while she explains laws or something, which I barely understood, but smiling and nodding usually helps. 🙂

We departed and returned home and I looked at all his books since he has about a million. More specifically his method books for French class as a maternal language student which was really cool and it turns out that they are much less expensive, so I’m thinking of either stalking up while I’m there, or returning to France some point to get of the work. Anyways, we went to bed after Cédric struggled with his computer for awhile, and all was pleasant.

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Waking up at 10.00 usually means as it says, but according to Cédric time, it means waking up at about 11.30 and struggling around. It’s funny, but true. So after this we set out to see St. Étienne with him, and he showed me all the monuments and such, which is all a pleasant little city with nice churches and even has nice markets. Everything is cheaper than Strasbourg too, and the markets are nicer. I wish we had them like they have there!

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We went back to the apartment to make some soup and ate it, and then progressed to lounge around and talk about stuff for the afternoon until we left to go for an excursion in the late afternoon. He decided to take me an old medevial town called Chambles and La Roche which are both medevial remote towns along the Loire River. They were breathtaking and the view was extravigant with the abandoned castles which were super-cool. I took some pictures and since it was so bitterly cold, and Cédric is from Mersailles where it’s always warm, he couldn’t bear it anymore so we headed back to St. Étienne and chilled there for awhile. We gossiped and chatted from about 18.00 until about 01.30 or so about just about everything, until we realized the time and then ate dinner (finally). It was really nice, and I learned a lot about things, and since it was so intellectual I felt slightly stupid since I haven’t been exposed to intelligent conversation in a long time. What does this tell me about the people I’m around? haha

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After some more chatting and such, we went to bed and I woke up early since we had to head to Lyon. Chris works during the evening so we decided to explore Lyon while he slept, so for the whole day we were downtown. We went for lunch at a friend of Cédric’s bar/resteraunt, and I had some amazing food after running into one of his friends, Lionel. Quite frankly this guy was weird and creepy, but he was nice. He seemed to think that Sweden is next to Italy, so at least he had some sense of humour, or something. After chatting there for awhile we went on exploring the city. Churches, old caverns, monuments in the downtown core were the schedule and they were all beautiful. We even got to go through some of the old secret pathways that were made during the German occupation, which hid people and was part of the resistances. I learned a lot about the city and history since Cédric was a historian. He’s really intelligent and I was so happy to have a tour guide. After climbing this huge hill we got to a cathedral and explored it and I saw the Eiffel Tower, Lyon style. That’s to say it looks like it, but it’s in Lyon; it’s a good joke!

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After this we went to the old Roman part of the city which is basically ruins. We had to pass the most expensive resteraunt / bed-and-breakfast on the way and were shocked to find out that the lowest cost for room per night was 189€ and the least expensive meal was 170€ without wine. Let’s go next year, ok? 😉 The ruins were amazing and were used for dramas and town meetings during the times of about the first century. Amazing isn’t it? We went to the bottom and after Chris called to see what we wanted for dinner, we read some tombstones which were in Latin, and since he’s a Latin teacher he could read them. It was amazing!

We searched around the city for some stuff and then went back to the flat, and relaxed for awhile chit-chatting and such as I edited a letter Cédric was sending to his thesis supervisor. Chris is hillarious and awesomely nice, and just in general they are both great. They are also a really cute couple, and really it’s the littelest things that an observant person like me notices, that make the difference in the relationship. We had some salad and some pasta which was amazing (chez Chris) quite frankly and then I was informed of what we had to do that night. Friday night, meant we had to go to 2 parties that Chris was expected to be at. He’s a nurse at the hospital and his old work and his new one were both celebrating some people moving or something, so we prepared and went out. Cédric and I felt akward since none of us knew anyone at all, but all was well.

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As the French do, la bise (kiss), when I was introduced to about 50 people I had to kiss them of course. How irritating, but it was all okay. I got to meet Cathérine, Chris’ best friend, as well as a crazy funny girl named Caroline who loves IKEA and didn’t hide it at all. Also we met a friend of his who is married to a professional ski racer who won the Olympic Gold medal in Turin. His name was Antoine Dénériaz, and his wife was a good friend of Chris, so basically I got to sit next to and talk to a celebrity for like 20 minutes. He was really nice and cool about the whole French language thing for me, but he has a huge ego. What does one expect though, oh well! I will e-mail his fan site I think and say hi and such, we shall see if I remember or not!

After everyone was leaving and I had to kiss all 50 people again, we headed off to the other party where I had to do the same thing to about the same amount of people. I don’t remember any of them in all honesty, so it was a blur and everyone was akward. Then we were invited out to go to disco that evening. I was surprised but we walked over Chris got all defensive and said that we were going to a gay disco. I shit you not, and I was getting all uncomfortable and the two of them told me that if anything made me uncomfortable, just to say so and they were help or stop or something, and I said okay don’t worry! So we got there, and I met all the younger collegues that were there, I don’t remember any of them, and barely their names, but again I had to kiss about 10 people. So we got there, and it was a door that was bolted shut with barbed wire and looked like a prison, I was sort of creeped out and wondered what was happening. They knocked and a young kid opened the door for us after looking through the peep-hole, and then we put our coats in the bar area. Apparenty the disco was downstairs, so I realized I had to (stupidly) go to the bathroom.

What a horrible idea this was, after I found it I opened the door and found out that the bathroom consisted of a hole in the ground, and a bucket of water. I had never seen anything like it before, and it took me like 5 minutes to figure out how to do it all, and then left, and was scarred for life. So as we were going down the stairs to the ‘cave’ Cédric asked me if this was my first time to a gay disco, I said yeah and he gave me a crazy look and then warned me about some stuff. After that I was very scared!! Everyone there was old and creepy and just I don’t know how to describe it, but it was awkward for the first hour or so. Anyways, after I was nearly attacked a million times, I hid in the corner and Chris and Cédric protected me. Catherine finally arrived and then this other girl wanted to dance but didn’t dare going alone, so we all joined her. The music was weird French stuff from the 60s set to disco beats, so everyone knew it except me. There was this creepy guy dancing weirdly that was clearly high, but it was entertaining to see him make a fool of himself!

So we were dancing away, rather I was, because the French just sway back and forth. Basically I looked like a freak but nobody said anything, since I didn’t know any of them. Anyways after a few hours, and the circle rotating since a creepy guy was trying to feel me up, and frankly I didn’t want that, I found mysef in the middle of the circle somehow. I don’t know how, and I don’t know why, but I remained there since there wasn’t any other room anywhere else, and I was just dancing and having fun. At about 04.30 we ended up leaving since they were tired, but I could have gone forever, so we had to kiss everyone there and depart and such, so then it was freezing and we couldn’t find a parking spot. Finally we got somewhere then we went to sleep, it was a wonderful night and I had tons of fun!

The next day we woke up and struggled to the train station after showering and such. Cédric told me that the friends told him that I was awesome fun and that they thought I was fun to have around, since I was so different. I was worried since I didn’t talk to them, and they probaby thought that I was weird since the way I danced. I saved Catherine at one point though cause a guy was trying to like hump her, so I went and danced with her, she was very happy and releived after giving the guy the evil eye though. Anyways, they didn’t know I was foreign, but I figure that they guessed it, but as far as I know I was well liked though which was good. So Cédric and I talked a bunch going to the train station, and he dropped me off when the train arrived and my journey home commenced.

I was pooped, and I was releived and sad to be going home. The train station was closed so we were dumped in some random train station 10 mins from Strasbourg. I didn’t want to wait for the connecting train so I saw a tram stop and took the tram home, so much easier than the millions of people in the station! I got home, and it was freezing and then I got something to eat and just relaxed. I got a phone call from Cédric asking me to come back another time, which would be awesome I told him, and he’s glad I made it home in one peice!

What a wonderful week, and I had a blast. I didn’t want to come home since I was enjoying their company so much, but alas here I am and now I have to go to class in the next few days. Booo on that!

So, Netherlands next weekend now? Any objections? Not from me!

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