La Vie à Lyon

Living, learning and loving in Lyon !

Archive for the category “France”

What to write ?

Life in Lyon has been pretty, well, life-y ! We’ve just been cruising along –métro, boulot, dodo, as they say here – meaning commute, work, sleep ! For me, school’s cool (I’m already on autumn holidays…) and Sim’s been working like a crazy man in his new-ish job at Intersport. There hasn’t really been that much to write about – things aren’t so new anymore and the adventures are less frequent.

We’ve had a couple of misadventures, however – let me tell you about those !

It’s préfecture time again. Until 2016, I have to renew my titre de séjour anually. That means getting the birth certificate translated, getting some new mugshots, photocopying any letters even slightly official-looking (especially if they’re addressed to both of us) and hoping that the list of required documents hasn’t changed since last year. Once that’s done, it’s time to gear up for an early start and a few hours of waiting in the queue.

We usually arrive around 7 for an 8:30 opening time. We shuffle through the queue, get our ticket, take our seat, wait a few hours for a 10 minute meeting, get our receipt and go, grateful that we only have to do this once a year.

Turns out, 7 is no longer early enough. Nowhere near early enough. At 8:40, sill far from the door, we were greeted by a booming police officer with :

“Good morning ladies and gentlemen ! There are no more tickets for today ! There are no more tickets ! You’ll all have to come back another day ! Thank you !”


So we did – what else can we do ? Only we went a bit earlier, arrived at 6:30 – and gained about 2 metres in the queue ! We were greeted by the same police officer a few hours later, her speech word for word.


We're at the traffic light section of the queue. No chance !

We’re at the traffic light section of the queue. No chance !

We’re trying for the third time tomorrow. Aiming for an hour earlier; lining up at 5:30.

Third time lucky, right ?

Bisous !


Update: Turned out it was fourth time lucky. We arrived at 3:30. Yes, you read that right…


Biking in Besançon

Don’t let the title of this post lead you astray. I’m not particularly sporty and I think it was the first time I’ve even been on a bike in France. When Sim and I house-sat for Pierrick and Nelly, we spent an afternoon in Besançon with cousine Laura and her family. After a picnic lunch by the Doubs River, we headed to a little bike rental shop on the Nantes – Budapest Véloroute (bike track). We were fitted out with bikes, Sim and I opting for good old pushies while the others went with the tandems.

We took off in the direction of Nantes, rolling along au bord the Doubs, passing through small villages and stickybeaking in the backyards. We had a few drink stops, a couple of tandem readjustment stops and an escargot farm stop.

PicMonkey Collage Véloroute 2

At the 11 km mark, we came to a river tunnel with a ‘waterfall’ and a couple of Mary shrines. We decided that this would be our halfway point – it was hot and we wanted to get back, have a few rosés and watch the swimming championships. We rested, entertained by watching a boat waiting for the ‘waterfall’ to be turned off so that it could pass through the tunnel.

PicMonkey Collage Véloroute 3

If you’re ever in Besançon, or indeed cycling from Nantes to Budapest (as you do !), stop in at Le Relais Vélo along the way.

Bisous !

There’s a camp ?

One of the downfalls with my replacing someone halfway through the school year was that things that had been organised with them were suddenly my responsibility. Which was fine – when people remembered to tell me on time !

So when it was casually mentioned a week beforehand that I would be heading off on the CE1/CE2 overnight camp during the last week of school, I frowned and asked if the kids knew about it – because I sure didn’t.

Turns out yes, yes they did. Since December. Alrighty then !

So we left Lyon bright and early on the Monday morning and headed south for our séjour in Provence. The kids were great on the bus, loaded up with their gadgets, and we rolled on down to Mornas in the Vaucluse region of France. Mornas is a small medieval town next to the autoroute and it has an excellent clifftop fortress. We visited the fortress with a ‘knight’ and learnt about defence, food, punishment and fighting in medieval times.

After a picnic lunch, we headed into town to do a medieval treasure hunt. The kids had a ball finding different bits and pieces around Mornas (me too !), and a sneaky history lesson was thrown in at the same time.

Next stop was the park for afternoon tea, then back on the bus to our home for the night – a holiday village in Vaison la Romaine. It was fabulous. I shared a 6 bedroom house with 12 giggling girls. The grounds were huge – these city-slicker kids went wild ! Even I did some handstands and cartwheels on the grass ! We had a great dinner, and made the most of the grounds and the long summer day – we packed the kids off to bed around 10 when it got dark.

Tuesday was spent at a circus training park, Parc Alexis Gruss. Alexis Gruss is an equestrian and circus director from way back; he (and his family) put on a very impressive day –  horse training, an educational show (in that they explained the training required between each act – no photos allowed, unfortunately), a picnic, a clown/magic show, a dog show, a horse show and, finally, the elephant’s shower.

Then it was home time. The trip back to Lyon was uneventful: the kids slept, scrounged the last of their lollies from the bottoms of their backpacks and enjoyed the novelty of the toilet on the bus. We got back safe and sound, albeit 90 minutes late (hey, it’s France, that’s how they roll) !

I originally thought, ‘Wow, isn’t there enough to do during that last week?’  but in hindsight, camp was a really nice way to finish off the school year.

And no, not just because the teachers can drink wine !

Bisous !

We love Rioz !

Sim and I (and Knacki !) spent last week in Rioz, in the Franche-Comté region of France. Rioz has a population of around 2000, and is one of our favourite places to go to escape the city, look at the stars and just breathe. It’s situated between two of the larger cities of Franche-Comté, Vesoul and Besançon. People who live there are called Riolais/e.

Sim’s brother lives there, with his wife and their two little boys, and we try to get up there regularly. This time, we house-sat for them while they went on holidays.

We arrived on a 36° Friday afternoon. So much for escaping the heat, but it’s that bit more bearable when you have a shady terrace, a big grassy yard and fresh country air. We had a ball playing with our nephews, bare-foot on the grass.  A simple foam water frisbee and Knacki’s misbehaviour squirt bottle kept us entertained for ages ! After beers and kebabs on the terrace, we had an early night. Les Riolais wanted to get going at 4am the next day, to avoid the amazing traffic that builds up on holiday weekends.

We went out and about most days, visiting and sight-seeing (more detail in later posts !), but also made the most of having a terrace, a yard and a barbeque. We slept with the window open every night and stargazed before sleeping. No traffic passing by, no people mucking around on the street. Bats, yes, but noise, no !


It was a relaxing  week, well spent, and the couple of cool, showery days we had were very refreshing !

We’re back in Francheville now, and the city has that calmness that only August brings. It’s a far cry from the calmness of Rioz, but gives us a chance to slowly get back in to city life !

Bisous !

Summer days, drifting away…

Summer holidays are here, Northern Hemisphere style. No Christmas or New Year celebrations to busy things up, just two long, hot months off.

July cruised along nice and quietly. This is what I got up to:

  • a few afternoons spent in at school to prepare things for la rentrée,
  • a bit of tutoring now and then,
  • watching Le Tour,
  • watching the FINA World Championships (hello Camille Lacourt !),
  • reading Stephen King for hours every day,
  • sleep-ins,
  • playing with the cat,
  • ‘swims’ in the bathtub because it’s bloody hot and the nearest pool is expensive, indoor and full of families and people that don’t have bathtubs,
  • spending time (mostly apéros !) with family and friends, and
  • having that third (fourth ?!) beer on a ‘school’ night !

August is here now, and looks to be a little busier. Oh, perhaps not. Perhaps it will be just doing the same things in different places. Sim has holidays, so we’ll spend some time in St Sym with his parents, as well as a week in Rioz (near Besançon), house-sitting his brother’s house while he’s on holidays with his family. There’s a trip to Paris with a life-long friend, and the possibility of a hot trip out west to Hossegor.

Vive les vacances !

Bisous !

Le Tour comes to town

France is gripped by Tour fever, as is normal for July. Even we have been gripped, as Le Tour came through Lyon last weekend. The riders arrived on Saturday afternoon at Gerland, then departed on Sunday morning from Givors. We headed a little further south to get a good look on Sunday morning.PicMonkey Collage Le Tour 1

We went to Beaurepaire, a town in the Isère department of the Rhône-Alpes. The riders were scheduled to head through around 11:30 but we arrived super early, at 9:15. Why ? To see La Caravane ! La Caravane is the vehicular procession of sponsors that proceeds the riders by nearly two hours. It’s very animated, with all sponsers vocally publicising their products and throwing all sorts of samples out the windows. You have to be careful not to lose an eye from a packet of washing detergent though, or to be knocked over by a grandpa trying to catch a cordial sample !

PicMonkey Collage Le Tour 2

We had a good spot on the side of the road, and there weren’t too many people (except for the crazy grandpa !) around us. After the caravan passed, we were kept entertained by people watching, team and media cars driving through, trying to catch the attention of the Orica GreenEDGE cars (1 out of 3 noticed us and our little flags !) and eating our Haribo lollies. Then the riders arrived. The first few zipped through, then came Thomas Voeckler who nearly fell off because he was too busy looking behind him, then the rest. We spotted Froome and the chou-chou Rolland thanks to their jerseys, had time for a quick ‘Allez Cadel !’ and they were gone, a fast moving snake of lean, lithe, stupidly fit lycra-clad men. Not even time for a photo – maybe next year.

Vive le Tour !

Bisous !

The lolly museum

I like lollies. The only thing I like better than lollies are potato chips, and I don’t know of a museum dedicated to those, so lollies it was when we visited the Haribo Museum in Uzés. Now Haribo lollies are by no means French, they’re German and date back to the early 1920s. The name Haribo comes from their founder, Hans Riegel, who was from Bonn (see what he did there ?). At the Haribo site at Uzés, you can find the museum, a boutique and a factory, where they make the delicious-smelling mint alcohol, Ricqlès.

It's strange to not see a 'u' after the 'q' ! Or maybe that's just me...

It’s strange to not see a ‘u’ after the ‘q’ ! Or maybe that’s just me…

The museum houses all sorts of bits and pieces, including machines, examples of advertising through the ages, interactive touch screen games, vintage packaging and even clothing made out of lollies and lolly bags. In the machine room at the end of the tour, we inserted tokens that we’d received upon entry into the lolly bagging machines and watched as they bagged four mini bags of lollies for us. The boutique sells a wide range of souvenirs (postcards, magnets, books, tins, t-shirts and towels), mint alcohol, and LOLLIES ! Sim stocked up on Schtroumpfs (Smurfs !) and I on sour crocodiles. Miam !

PicMonkey Collage Haribo1

PicMonkey Collage Haribo2

Click here for more information about the Haribo Museum.

Bisous !

May I have a day off ? Or four ?

Yes, yes I can. This year, May has four public holidays.

  • May 1 – Fête du Travaille
  • May 8 – Victoire 1945
  • May 9 – Ascension
  • May 20 – Lundi de Pentecôte

I especially like how Ascension has fallen on the 9th this year. Not only do we have two holidays in a row, the 10th is a Friday and, as is common practice in France when there’s a holiday on a Thursday, most businesses are closed (including my school) to make an extra-long weekend. This year, it’s a 5-day one. The same can be said for when a public holiday falls on a Tuesday – most businesses are closed on the Monday. The French call this faire le pont, or make the bridge and I think it’s one of their better ideas.

As for this week, just to top it all off, it’s the first week back after the school holidays. A 2-day working week – good timing !

Bisous !

Southern sunshine ?

Sim and I headed down south for the weekend, a weekend away that was a Christmas present from my parents.

We left mid-afternoon and jumped on the autoroute just out of Lyon – along with all the northeners heading south for their holidays ! 100km and two hours later, things sped up a bit, and we reached out first destination, the Pont du Gard at around 7 pm. The Pont du Gard, a three-level bridge crossing the Gardon river valley, was built by the Romans in the first century AD, and is today UNESCO World Heritage listed. It’s amazing, and at 48 metres, is apparently the highest bridge in the Roman world.

PicMonkey Collage PontduGard

We took the backroads to Nîmes, found and checked in to our hotel and headed out for a bite to eat. It was cool, and it had been wet, but we mananged to avoid any more showers in a cosy booth in a Café Leffe. Two meaty meals and buckets of beer later, we left to wander Nîmes at nighttime. The rain held off, and we visited the arena, the new Esplanade Charles De Gaulle and the Irish pub.

PicMonkey Collage night

The next day dawned bright and sunny grey and drizzly, and after free coffees and general chit-chat at the hotel, we ventured out with our umbrella. First stop was Sim’s old apartment, from his student days in Nîmes. Next, the Jardins de la Fontaine. The gardens were built in the 18th century, on the site of a shrine dating back to the first century. The shrine was laid out around a spring, where the first Nîmois (well, a Celtic tribe called the Volcae !) settled two and a half thousand years ago, and the gardens are planned around it. On top of the hill overlooking the gardens is a tower, the Tour Magne. We climbed the hill, climbed the tower and then rested whilst feasting our eyes on the fantastic view !

PicMonkey Collage JardindelaFontaine

The rain just kept on coming down, so we found a brasserie, ordered some lunch and holed up for a few hours – Sim watching a soccer match, me writing post cards. It’s a shame that we didn’t get to explore more of this wide, sand-coloured southern city, with palm trees and images of crocodiles everywhere, but to me that only means one thing – we’ll just have to go back another time !

PicMonkey Collage

Bisous !

Oh la la in Oullins

Sim’s having a course of injections for his knee, administered by Lionel, the same nurse who came to change his dressings after the op. Lionel was late tonight. He’s French, he usually is, but tonight he was late even by French standards! When he arrived, puffing and panting, he declared:

Oullins est un bordel ce soir, or, Oullins is a total mess tonight !

France is in election mode. Politicians everywhere, posters everywhere and yes – protests everywhere. Even in little ol’ Oullins ! So after his injection, Sim and I went out to have a look.

Turns out, Jean-Marie Le Pen came for dinner at the Oullins mairie. Now, he’s no longer in politics but his daughter, Marine, has taken up right where he left off. That’s the Front National – extreme right. So the Front de Gauche – left, but not extreme – came along to say hello ! And a lot of other things, but they were in French so I didn’t really understand them all !

The Fascists.

The Communists.

And of course, there were the teenage hooligans in their blue or red tracksuit pants and black puffy jackets, trying to cause trouble by provoking the police. Police in full riot gear, mind you. Sim was a bit worried but I pointed out that we’re in France – the police can just shoot them. Now what regime does that come under ?!

Bisous !

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