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Voici Le Soleil


Ania is bringing a year of American sunshine & sass to Lyon, France

First week at Lycée de Saint-Just: CHECK!

Tuesday was my first day of work and I was nervous as I probably will ever be for a first day. Monday night was a mess consisting of me calling my mom late at night to freak out about the lack of knowledge I had about teaching English to a classroom of French high school students, not studying for my midterm that was on Tuesday and laying in bed, being petrified of what was to come the next day. Sleep? No. Prayers? MANY. After having such an official introduction to the job but accompanied by very little information, I just didn’t know what to expect and that feeling is fine when I’m trying a new food or venturing into a new street for the first time, but when it comes to a government contracted job, THAT FEELING IS LITERALLY PARALYZING. I’ve been challenging myself here in Lyon to do something everyday that scares me and I think this job gives me enough of those moments to last me for the rest of my life.

Tuesday afternoon I left the apartment with PLENTY of time to be able to get to my school, find the teacher’s lounge (which I had completely forgotten how to get to), and try to figure out which teacher was the one I had class with that day. Mind you, I had never met him. Let the games begin.

As I walked up to the gates, I encountered my first dilemma: the big gate that had been open the last time was closed. I watched, as I walked up to the school, a boy do something to a smaller gate on the side, open it and walk into the high school. I walked up the gate and just kind of stood there, pushing and pulling. Oh, right, sorry. I forgot to mention that there were about 50 TEENAGERS HANGING OUT ON THEIR BREAK, GAWKING AT ME. I was sweating and then all of a sudden, I calmed down, turned to two girls who were chatting nearby, asked them how to open the gate, got the lowdown, and was on my way. First challenge: check!

After asking the secretary in the front office where the teacher’s lounge was and being directed there by a very kind mailman, I ventured up the stairs and walked up to the door of the teacher’s lounge. And stood there. And said a quick Hail Mary. And stood there some more. And then took a deep breath, opened the door, and went for it.

I walked in and kind of just awkwardly stood next to three teachers who were chatting until they noticed that no, I wasn’t leaving and yes, I was in need of assistance. I explained that I was a new language assistant and that I was looked for Monsieur Thevenet. They told me he’d be there at the top of the hour and then chatted with me a little before going back to what they were doing. I wondered around, looking like I had the most enormous desire in the world to know EVERY piece of paper on the bulletin board and EVERY name on the cubbies even though I honestly just didn’t know what else to do. Here are a couple of pictures of the salle des profs that I sneaked on Thursday as discretely as I could with my bright pink iPhone.

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The bell rang, signaling the end of class and the start of passing period and tons of teachers began to stream in. Did I know which one Monsieur Thevenet was yet? Nope. I stood there, smiling and trying to look professional, until Monsieur Picard came in, saw me standing there helpless, and hurried over to help me. About two minutes later, Monsieur Thevenet came up, introduced himself, and thanked me PROFUSELY for coming on Tuesdays just for his class. This school is way up in Vieux Lyon so it’s a little bit off the beaten path but for a metro/tram/funiculaire/bus extraordinaire like myself, it’s really no biggie. Also, maybe he doesn’t know I get paid…?

He led me down the hall to his class that was waiting outside in the hallway. The way it works in Saint-Just is that the teachers come to the lounge inbetween classes, leave when the ball rings, saunter over to their classrooms, and unlock the door for the students who then stand until being told to sit. Am I excited for the first time I get to tell the students to “sit, sit everyone”? UM YES, YES I AM.

We started off class by letting them ask me questions and they had tons. This is a class of tenth graders and their English is really quite great. I loved answering their questions which were everything from “what time do you get out of school in America in high school?” (when I said 3 pm, I thought this boy in the back was going to start a riot because most of the students in high school start around 8 and go until somewhere between 5 and 7 in the evening) to “what have you done so far in Lyon?”. They were all so smiley and kind that it was a great start to my year at the high school. I then sat in the back of the class while a couple students gave presentations. He kept having to call on students to go because they were all so shell-shocked that there was a real-life American girl in their class and were all nervous to give their presentation in front of me. It was endearing but also, they have no reason to be nervous, because their English was awesome. With this class, I will take half of them every week to my own classroom (I know, the fact that I have a key to the classrooms and have my own for every period still has not stopped shocking me either), prepare a lesson about a current event or something else that I find stimulating, and essentially just try to get them to participate and speak as much as possible.

On Wednesday I was back again for another class. I teach one hour (so one class) on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and four classes with a break on Thursdays. This class was with Madame Escassut and her students had a test for the second half of class so I just stopped by, said hi, and let them ask a few questions as well. This was a class of students in their last year and similarly, I will be taking a portion of them for a separate lesson each week as well. They were a little less inquisitive then the younger students but still seemed very sweet.

Thursday I was back, back again. The first class was again with Madame Escassut and they also had a test so I was instructed to come half an hour later and then we did a similar introduction with questions as well. They had a lot more questions and one of the sassier girls asked me if it was true that the boys are good looking in the states. I replied that I think the boys are well-dressed aka better looking here but then kind of awkwardly retracted and said there were good looking boys in the States as well, but they’re just a different kind of handsome. Helloooooo to Ania stumbling over her words as she tries to respond appropriately in front of the teacher but also win over the students.

My next teacher was kind enough to come grab me from the room for my next course. Her name is Madame Barny and her style of teaching rocks. Her class was super nice and all wanted me to sit by them. They are studying American government and felt very validated when I told them that yes, their teacher was right, the Gettysburg Address is VERY well-known in the United States. We watched a clip of the West Wing and it was absolutely fascinating to hear their perspectives. I was so intrigued that I truly didn’t want class to end. I’ll be taking half of them every other week to teach a lesson and I’m excited to work with them (but also nervous as all be as usual).

The next class is super intimidating and I was sincerely so nervous the whole time. They are really talkative and barely asked any questions and basically just acted like a bunch of typical high schools nearing the end of their school day. They are in their last year of high school so they will be coming to my classroom one-by-one to practice their 5-minute oral expression like they will have to do officially for their end-of-the-year exam. I will give them remarks about pronunciation and also if they need to work on expressing a main idea more clearly or if perhaps they need to focus more on their grammar. Madame Roger even told me that she is purposefully not giving me a portion of the class because they’re a little rowdy so YAY for that.

After three classes, I have a break for an hour. I can hang out in the teacher’s lounges and there’s one that’s more social and another that is for quiet work. I headed to the social one and plopped down as I chatted with Madame Barny and Madame Escassut. Madame Barny was kind enough to re-explain the attendance system which is super important because if I don’t have a student in my class, I’m not held legally liable for anything that happens to them outside of class. When she came back to the teacher’s lounge after telling me to wait there, she had with her a beautiful, spankin’ new attendance notebook. I don’t think I’ve ever nerded out so much about an object in my existence. Actually gazing at it right now as I write this as it lays on my desk….

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After my pause, I was back in the classroom with my last class of the week, a group of lively students that I will chat with every week (with about half of the class but basically everyone wants to come with me so…..?) about whatever I like. These subjects are more relaxed so she advised me to maybe start with a discussion about what to do in France, Lyon, Paris, etc.

Last week was really long. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I feel at ease now because I don’t. But I can confidently say that this will be one of the most fruitful experiences I will ever do. The amount of cultural differences I am learning about French bureaucracy and their education system is kind of mind-blowing. From the way the teachers act to the headmasters to the students to the school and the schedule and the classes and the interaction between teacher and students or students and students or students and teachers just like BAM RIGHT ALL IN ANIA’S FACE ALL THE TIME. This sounds so nerdy, but I am a nerd so whatevs, but it’s like a constant learning experience. I just feel like what I learned in the classroom in the States couldn’t compare to the amount of knowledge I gain in this school in 10 minutes.

Saint-Just has a two week fall break, so I am not working these next two weeks. I have my own fall break next week and then it’s back at it. I will have my first week of teaching the students and as usual, I’ll keep you posted! Here’s a few more pictures of the school so you can really visualize my new job set-up! (You’re welcome, mom.)

This is the funiculaire I take for the last stretch of my two-metro-one-funiculaire trek to the school:

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The front of the school from a little overview I sit at when I get to school too early (the older looking, taller building in the back):

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View from one of the classrooms:

Saint-Just in all its glory:

…and, to wrap it up, my walk home has some pretty nice views when I adventure off my normal path (which is close to a daily occurrence for me):

Lou Rugby = HAAUUUGEEE thighs

On Saturday I went to my first rugby match ever to cheer on my home team - Lou Rugby!

I was invited by my friend Emily, who goes to the University of Oregon and will be here for this first semester, Michelle, another Oregon student, and Emily’s host cousin and little host brother. I probably paid more attention to her adorable little host brother who got a crepe at half-time and was there for his first game as well.

Things I learned about rugby:

1. It’s actually not that hard to figure out! It’s a mix between football and soccer. They tackle each other a lot. There’s A LOT of time on the ground making dog piles. If someone is hurt, they just play around the physicians helping the guy on the ground. There’s field goals like in football. Not too hard honestly!

2. Rugby players have the biggest thighs you will ever see in your life.

3. This is the Lou’s biggest fan and I also think my biggest fan with the amount he looked back at me and waved:

4. ALWAYS accept free sporting event tickets. It’s a great way to get to know your host city on a more friendly level. It’s not the same as going to see a museum nor is it the same as going out on a Friday night. I love seeing people in this city in their this-is-what-I-do-in-my-free-time element.

ALSO WE BEAT THIS TEAM FOR THE FIRST TIME IN LIKE 80 YEARS SO AM I A GOOD LUCK CHARM FOR ALL LYON TEAMS OR WHAT?!?!

Just call me ‘Professeur Ania’

A couple of weeks ago, one of my program directors emailed us about a job opening: language assistant for English in a French high school. When I first read the job description, I missed the high school part and up until I visited the school, I had visions of me frolicking with little French students, teaching them how to say “Billiken” and “puppy” and “I like my new friend, Ania”. Okay, let me just start from the beginning - I just think that the stark contrast of what I am going to be thrown into later in this post is better with that intro. 

After I met with my director and signed a very official government contract to be a language assistant from October until the 1st of May, I was on cloud 9. At first when I sat down and Remedios (the director) was telling me that I would have to work during school days which happens to fall during some of my Christmas break, I was kind of like “ehhhh, maybe not”. So we started talking about babysitting options and I could tell that some of her pizazz had left the conversation. So I literally stopped mid-sentence and said (in command form, so I was not joking around, people), “tell me what to do”. She paused, set down her glasses, and then started to candidly speak to me about how amazing of an opportunity this would be, to use my yearlong student visa and obtain a job that has an official contract with the French government. It hadn’t really occurred to me how legit this would look on a resumé - here I am, an American 21-year-old, and I not only spent a year abroad speaking a foreign language and really delving into the culture of my host country but then I took it one step further and went from visitor to resident by obtaining a job. I mean, that sounds pretty legit to me. Beyond the sparkles on my resumé, she talked about how this is an opportunity to build professional relationships, make connections with adults who would provide a different lens for the way I view this year, Lyon, French culture and, not only all of that, but help me decide if coming back to France to teach English is something that really would bring me joy - it is something that I’ve been pondering these last few weeks as I’ve fallen head over heels for France.

OKAY SO I SIGNED THE CONTRACT. All I could think while she talked was that God had brought me to this opportunity for a very specific part of His plan for my year abroad. At the beginning of this adventure, I vowed to stop worrying and just go boldly on the path He lays out for me. This was definitely one of those moments where I let go of what was comfortable (babysitting cute little French kids - let’s be real, I’m still probably going to because I need my fix of little nuggets) and chose something bold. I told a friend the other day that if I was going to do this year, come here and be completely out of my comfort zone, I might as well just go all the way. And let me tell you, after day 1, this is DEFINITELY out of my comfort zone.

I met 1 of the 11 English professors at St. Just on Thursday afternoon at 3 pm. The high school is stunning - set on old Roman grounds and home to 1,500 high school students. I walked through the gates and into the lobby. First test of me and the French high schoolers: getting bombarded with questions from some student government boys about whether or not I had voted yet in the election. I was SO flustered, sputtered something about being a language assistant and basically ran into the office on my left. I told the lady who I was meeting and I already can tell we’re going to be friends. She was so cute and showed me where my mailbox would be if I got any letters or packages…and I was just kind of confused for a moment. Why would I be getting letters and packages? And then she asked where my luggage was…my luggage? Later during the tour, Pierre (the English teacher) explained to me that I am now part of a program of language assistants that apply to do this for 12 hours a week and take a gap year from school. Jeremy, another Oregon University System student, and I are splitting the 12 hours per week and doing 6 each since we are also enrolled in classes. After a lot of confusion and the whole lack of luggage thing, two teachers showed up to start me on my tour. We spoke English and it’s honestly mind-blowing how their accents are from where they studied English. For example, Pierre studied in Scotland for a year, and at one point in the tour, he showed me the teachers bathrooms (I know, how official am I?!?!?!?!) for the “ladies and the gents”. I was giggling in my head but of course on the outside I was all “oh yes, of course, the teacher’s bathrooms, of course”.

Pierre met up with us halfway up the stairs and they led me to the teacher’s lounge. I straight up GET TO HANG OUT IN THE TEACHER’S LOUNGE. In this moment, I think I felt the oldest I ever have in my life. It was me and a bunch of teachers - like this is their job and now I’m doing this whole shebang too. Holy smokes. We have coffee machines, cubbies that double as mailboxes (YES I GET MY OWN - I AM COMPLETELY NERDING OUT ABOUT THAT) and I walked around meeting other teachers. It was a lot of using “vous” and a lot of me switching between French/English. He then showed me around what they like to call “Hogwarts” and I was in complete agreement with that statement by about five steps up the first flight of twisty stairs. At one point, we were walking when the bell rang for passing period and as we came out of the classroom hallway and out into the stairways that twist down the front of the school, it honestly looked like something out of a movie. I was in awe. Also, high schoolers in France are well-dressed and bold. One girl was reprimanded for rolling a cigarette as she traipsed down the stairs - things I am not looking forward to reprimanding students for. To say I’m intimidated is the understatement of the century. How did I forget how sassy I was in high school? EEEK.

Pierre showed me two other teacher lounges, the copy machine which I even have my own code for, and the supply room - well, he tried to show me the supply room but the locked was jammed. He mentioned that we’ll come back another time and I thought to myself that he would have to show me where it was because at this point I was SO turned around. The school is huge - four stories and a LOT of doors. He randomly opened a door and all of a sudden we were in the library? I can’t explain it, but it was such a complex maze that just that thought alone puts knots in my stomach. Watch me be late for my first class and instead of me not letting a student in because they’re late (yes, I have to do that and YES I AM TERRIFIED TO DENY A STUDENT ENTRY INTO THE CLASSROOM), they don’t let me in. These are typical new teacher nightmares right?

So here’s the other thing that blindsided me after the whole “I’m-with-1,500-high-schoolers” thing: this job is kind of legit. Reasons why:

1: I got a login for the website that all the teachers use to put in grades, which I can always use. Pierre told me that he posts everyday what he did in class and said I can too - I was super on board and then he casually mentioned that the parents also have access to the website to see what’s going on class. CUE NERVES.

2: I got a key to every room in the whole school. Like it’s literally laying on my desk beside me right now as I type this. WHAT.

3: I can use the teacher lounges, teacher fridge, I have a cubby and I can use my key to unlock the teacher bathrooms.

4: I met the headmaster and the headmaster deputies. The headmaster told me we’d have lunch after fall break - I need to get that blazer that I’ve been searching for ASAP and look professional as all be at this lunch date. All of them were so kind though and the headmaster even walked by as we were in another part of the school talking to another English teacher and told me to speak French instead with a smile on her face.

5: I was told that I am supposed to not let students in if they arrive after the bell, not let them wear hats, and take their phones if they’re using it in class. I’m going to be nauseous just writing the word “reprimand” right now.

6: I’m filling out the French version of a W9 as we speak (well, actually as I type and you eventually read but you know what I mean).

7: I use classrooms to teach groups of up to 15 students in their last year of high school in order to help prepare them for their bac test which they have to pass. No pressure or anything though - actually tons of pressure, because Pierre was showing me materials in the library that I can use to make lesson plans. LESSON PLANS. Like he straight up showed me how to use the projector.

Honestly though, just call me Professeur Ania. I start shadowing this week so stay tuned for more adventures of me and the French education system. I am totally sure that this was meant for me but hey, that doesn’t mean the nerves are any less! But I heard somewhere that you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take so I’m hoping for at least some backboard.

When I run here, in this beautiful place, I feel closer to mama sullivan

When I run here, in this beautiful place, I feel closer to mama sullivan

Beyond the grape tossing pictures, there’s normal-ness

So last week after spending a weekend traveling while still feeling under the weather, the week days were long and I was just mentally drained. You know when you’re sick with a cold and you’re convinced to the core of your being that everyone around you can see that your head feels like a bowling ball? That was me. One day, I came home from school, dropped my backpack on my floor, threw on a pair of Nike shorts and crawled into bed. I was so mentally drained and all I wanted to do was sleep for a little. Did that happen? Of course not. So I just laid in my bed, happy as a clam to not have to communicate with anyone. (Speaking of clams, did I tell you I tried clams in Sanary with my host family? Well if not, THAT HAPPENED!)

After about an hour of this, I decided to do something with my life since a nap was obviously not happening. The following is the comical, very Ania, very typical part of my life here…

I got out of bed and turned on my light. Oh, that’s odd, why isn’t my light turning on?

Well, I thought to myself, maybe the light bulb isn’t working again (Jean Marc had to change my bulb the day before). Okay, that’s fine, I’ll just use natural light.

*Pushes button that lifts the room darkening shades from my door but nothing happens*

Ok…………….well, I’m hungry so I’ll just go eat.

*Goes to kitchen and nothing is working. The microwave, any of the lights in the house, the fridge, the hot water heater.*

My immediate reaction is that I broke something or blew a fuze in the house. I kid you not, I had a panic attack as I thought about everything I could have done wrong and in my head, the cost to fix all of my imaginary errors was thousands of euros (no, I had still not confirmed that I had broken anything). I thought about my straightener that I hadn’t even used that morning, my computer that was plugged in, and basically anything electronic I had done inbetween entering the apartment and that moment which was NOTHING because I had gone straight to “sleep”.

So I finally, after eating some cheese to call my nerves, text Fabienne and Jean Marc. This then results in multiple texts with vocabulary that I had never heard before because I have never been in a situation like this in a classroom setting (darn you, French teachers for not teaching me how to communicate about a lack of electricity) and couldn’t look up any of the words because the wifi wasn’t working as well.

And then the real test of my French comes: my phone rings. Jean Marc is calling to help. But if you’ve ever learned a foreign language you’ll know that the hardest thing you could ask someone to do is talk on the phone because it is entirely listening comprehension without watching the persons lips form the words. And French is not a whole lot of enunciating. So as I struggled through the conversation, doing better at some points then others, I had a moment of “wow I am actually living in France”. I know it may be hard to believe, but my life here is more than throwing grapes in vineyards and journal-ing along the Rhone (although those are definitely apart of it). I have moments such as this A LOT where there’s no one around to help, because I’m the only student living with my family and when I’m walking around, I don’t have wifi to look up how to say something. Things like having to ask the bus driver twice to open the door because I hadn’t figured out that I had to press the button on the poles in the bus, having all my classes in French, asking for directions in French, ordering food in French, getting my student ID card in French, going to the bank with a problem and having to explain it in French, being asked for directions on the street and having to answer in French, having random men make kissing/hissing/inappropriate comments in French at me, having my light bulb burn out in my room, figuring out in French how to tell an elderly person they can have my seat on the metro, keeping up with dinner conversations when I’m dead tired, etc etc. DON’T GET ME WRONG I love it here more than words can explain but it’s not all rainbows and baguettes. But I think these moments carry more meaning for me than when I’m eating yet another delicious pastry because this is when I feel French, European, a real citizen - like I am LIVING here not just studying abroad. This was one of those moments when I was just like “yes, THIS is why I came here, to be uncomfortable because I’m trying to figure out this whole ‘living in France’ thing, because I wanted to scare the daylights out of me while I am young and slightly reckless and ready to learn anything and everything”.

During my conversation with Jean Marc, the lights flickered back on and the fridge started humming and an enormous wave of relief washed over me. Jean Marc laughed, said it was probably something with the whole building and wished me a good rest of the afternoon. The next day in le journal it was noted that part of Villeurbanne lost electricity because of the roadwork being done. So no, Ania did not break the apartment. Although the family thought it was super funny that for those 10 minutes I honestly thought I was going to be kicked out on the streets and never be able to try the creamy pasta thingy Jean Marc said he was making for dinner this week.

Just a day in the life, beyond the Instagram pictures, of living in France.

Wine & Bread & More Wine & More Bread

Yesterday we had a day trip through our program to Marie and Ludovic Gros’s home which is also a beautiful vineyard. They live in Blaceret, a village in the Beaujoulais region, which is famous for the red wine it produces. They live on and operate a vineyard, Domaine des Terres Vivantes, and when we rolled up, I knew it was going to be a GOOD day.

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They graciously welcomed us and immediately told us to grab our wineglasses from the table (how beautiful is this)

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and we were led down into the cave below where they make their wine.

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And Ludovic spent the next hour or so explaining the qualities of wine, how to tip your glass sideways to tell different characteristics of the wine, and did it in the most endearing, gracious manner. Him and his wife were so attentive to our needs and so smiley - you could tell that they loved their life and their work. It’s admirable when you see people who do what they love because I don’t think that’s how many people feel about their jobs these days. They grow organic grapes and wheat, Ludovic makes wine from the grapes and Marie makes flour then bread from the wheat so they are truly working from their land. It was so cool to hear him talk about it and to be sipping on his wine at the same time. One of those “is this real life or what” moments that I have quite often here in France. I love this country more and more everyday.

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Then we headed upstairs for our late lunch which was probably one of the best/largest/longest meals I have ever had in my life.

First course: bread, our first bottle of their wine (there were multiple), a DELICIOUS salad with homemade dressing (I had four servings - when there is salad in front of me, I eat as much as I can because it’s not as common as it is at the Sullivan house here in France), and this cold meat dish that tasted like beef? I’m not sure but it was SO GOOD.

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Then Marie took us to the side of the house where she showed us how she kneaded the dough, gave us some insider tips, and masterfully whipped out perfectly round little loaves of bread. Her husband was joking that she makes it look easy but it was so true because they way her hands moved so fast and yet with such precision made us all realize how long she’s been doing it for. She reminded me of my mom in the way she smiled at us and was constantly hovering, wondering if we need more food/wine/bread/cheese. They were so humble and hard working. I really just loved their attitude - who doesn’t love people who love their life?

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After she made the loaves, they led us back to their brick oven where they showed us how they place the loaves in and worked seamlessly side-by-side to fill the oven with bread which would bake while we ate the rest of our lunch.

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Second course: beef bourguignon with seasoned potatoes and more bread.

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Third course: cheese and more bread. That cheese…oh my word, I was eating it without anything else. Literally just cutting off slices and putting it directly into my mouth. It was so soft and delicious. I am getting nostalgic just thinking about it.

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Fifth course: dessert. Was there one? NO OF COURSE NOT. There were four kinds. I think I had two of each but honestly it’s a blur because by this time, we were all in a weird place from the excessive amounts of happiness/wine/food.

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A dessert bread (which I naturally put cheese on - still not over how amazing that cheese was) with cinnamon sugar on top.

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It had raisins/nuts (not sure which one…) and tasted caramel-y. Best description I’ve got for ya.

And also these little cookies that were simple and delicious.

Then Marie came around with coffee and sugar for everyone before we went out and got our bread out of the oven. She asked for any volunteers, kind of jokingly, and naturally I shot over to her REALLY quickly for having just eaten as much as I had. She loved it and showed me how to put the paddle under one pallet of bread, bring it to the mouth of the oven, and then she took them off to put on the table beside her. The smell, warmth, and her smile had me honestly just giddy. With my mom’s birthday being today, it felt like God’s way of giving me a lovely woman who sent off those amazing vibes Ilona does to spend a little time cooking with. :)

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Also how cute is their backyard? And how soon can I move in?

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(And yes, I did chase around their dog for a majority of the afternoon - if you’re surprised, you probably don’t know me very well.)

Then Ludovic showed us the giant garage type room where they make they wine and it was like something out of a movie. There were these giant metal canister-looking containers with various things attached to them, included a spout that I contemplated turning out over my mouth but I didn’t want to get kicked off the property.

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Also the wine wasn’t ready soooo not worth it. He showed us the first stage of the process which is this 

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-  he loads of one of these wooden barrels with 65 pounds of grapes and uses this

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to squeeze the grapes. He then noted they used the grape remains in their compost (of course they do). He joked that this was the cake we were going to eat because it was seriously as solid as a cake. Unreal. SO MANY GRAPES. Then the juice is put in the containers and the real process begins. He went into great detail about the differences between the white, rose, and red wines and the differences between the three. It was fascinating.

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He was absolutely adorable and then set us free to roam the vineyard and the property.

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Then he met back up with us and led us to this little stone building farther away. And I ate some grapes on the way…and by some, I mean like probably the equivalent of 65 pounds…

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and told us this story:

His grandfather’s father told his grandfather one day to go out on his horse and put more stakes in the ground. All of a sudden, it started pouring rain and the first clap of thunder scared his horse who then broke free from his post and ran off. His grandfather, soaking wet, trudged through the field trying to find somewhere to stay dry. He poked his head into a cottage but it was full of people so he trudged over to another, getting absolutely drenched. He opened the door to this little cottage, sat down in exhaustion and looked up. There, across from him, was a beautiful young lady. Years later, that young lady became his wife and Ludovic’s grandmother.

It was him sharing a story like that, letting us not only into his home and workplace but also sharing something so special and personal, that sealed the deal for me. I hope when I have a home one day, I make people feel the way they made us feel yesterday: welcome and special.

After he finished, we all took our sweet time walking back to the house, eating more grapes, snapping some pictures, and just soaking in the last of the summer sun in our postcard-perfect surroundings.

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I threw up 8 grapes in an attempt to catch one and epically failed in catching any in my mouth. But that’s okay, because I just casually reached down and grabbed some more. ;)

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Then it was time to make some purchases. They had wine of all types but I decided to go with the jam. Fabienne’s favorite flavor is raspberry and when I asked Ludovic’s what his favorite is, he said raspberry too so it was a win-win! We also go to pick up a loaf of bread to take home with us so this girl had some jam and bread for breakfast this morning - THE JAM IS AMAZING. I could eat all of it in one sitting. But I won’t…or at least I’ll try not to.

It was a beautiful day. France is such an amazing country and I feel very fortunate to be able to do so much traveling within this country that I get to call my home for 7 and a half more months! This semester will be sprinkled with a few out-of-country visits, but I’ll be primarily seeing a lot of France as my schedule isn’t conducive to long weekend trips this semester - but I am NOT complaining and I love that when I leave in May/June/never, that I’ll have such a deep knowledge of my new home!

I wonder how many clever & punny titles I can make with Nice…

Above is what I was thinking before I wrote my title but that title fits quite NICEly with my sarcastic style. Sorry - I couldn’t resist!

My weekend of travel started with a little note and a sack lunch from Fabienne. I kept the note and texted her thank you. She always packs me a little something for the road when I go anywhere for the day which makes me feel like a part of the family instead of just some student that pays them to use a bedroom in their apartment. And just because lunch wouldn’t be enough, she also included in the bag a small pack of tissues, the really nice tissues that have lotion in them so your nose doesn’t feel like sandpaper.

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Since my train left right after class, I took my huge backpack for the weekend with me to school. At first I was super self-conscious but once on the metro I remembered that I was one of many people with luggage as usual. Phew.

All class long, I could not focus because I knew that I had exactly 64 minutes to get to the train station, figure out my ticket dilemma, find Lindsay, find our train and get on. Turns out that is WAY easier done than said (did you catch that play on words?!).

Getting to the train station quickly: instead of taking the tram, I hopped onto two different metro lines because the metro is WAY faster.

Ticket dilemma: I used the SNCF application on my iPhone (thank you Jean Marc for showing me the application and explaining it doesn’t need wifi to work - you rock) and had my ticket pulled up just in case they came by to check them. It’s fascinating to me that often times when you take a train they never come by to check for a ticket - welcome to the honor system on a whole different level. However, if you got caught, the fine would be HUGE so I figure most people don’t take that chance.

Find Lindsay: “finding” Lindsay is a million times easier when we both have French phones now. A quick text and we were connected in no time.

Find our train: For anyone with any level of anxiety, this is a little unnerving to do because sometimes the platform isn’t posted until 5 minutes before your train. Part Dieu train station is an ideal place to people watch because everyone is running all over the place trying to catch their trains. Lucky for us, our train was posted 10 minutes before, we found the platform easy peezy and were ready to rumble when it rolled up.

Get on: This is surprisingly MUCH easier than in Paris when we had three suitcases, three backpacks, and two duffels bags along with three purses. Or maybe that’s not surprising….

The train ride was pretty uneventful except for the fact that this lady stared at me nonstop like below for honestly like half the trip so I was having trouble not fidgeting. Also my legs are entirely too long for trains so I was almost glad we had to stop in Marseilles and walk to catch another train otherwise I would have asked her if I could put my feet on her lap which probably wouldn’t have gone very well.

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Once we got to Nice, we had a couple of hours to explore on our own before Lindsay’s friend picked us up on her way back from work. We wandered towards the sea, stopped at a cafe for a tea/smoothie, and explored the city. It’s a way bigger city than those I visited with my host family and felt more tourist-y, because there were loads of people everywhere. 

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After our quick route straight to the sea, we sat on the edge of the Promenade des Anglais. In Rick Steve’s book, he says to watch the sunset walking along the promenade and by accident, we did for two hours. It. Was. Magnificent.

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Then we did a quick run through of Vieux Nice…

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And found one of the two Fenocchio’s that were a must to visit the following day, complete with 59 flavors of gelato. I literally had to be dragged away by Lindsay…

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And then we seriously couldn’t stay away so we went BACK to the beach…

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and were picked up minutes after by Amandine and her boyfriend Bastian, who were SO nice! We treated them to a sushi dinner for letting us stay at their apartment in Antibes on their pull out bed which was actually huge and worked out perfectly. Then it was off to sleep for Lindsay and I after (of course) some light reading and highlighting and underlining in our travel Bible aka the Rick Steve’s France book.

Saturday was a full day which we started off by doing the walking tour from the RS book. First stop: market! The first third of the market is ENTIRELY FLOWERS so yes, I was in a sort of daze/heaven. I. Love. Flowers. There were even some with chili peppers in them so someone must’ve told them a girl from New Mexico was coming!

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And then there was the usual array of dried fruit (splurged and got some - I could probably eat dried fruit for the rest of my life with a side of bread, cheese, and avocados)…

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soap - EVEN IN THE SHAPE OF LES MACARONS…

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and of course FOOOOOOOD!

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I try to eat at least one food specialty of the places I go to or at least sample something so Lindsay and I got “tartes aux blettes” which is a specialty in Nice and can be sweet or savory. We got the savory kind and it was sooooo rich. It’s a Swiss chard tart, according to my pal Rick, and it was stuffed with pine nuts, raisins, and white beets. YUM IN MY TUM.

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Then we toured the artisan part of the market which had a little bit of everything from melding of metal, to the making of pottery, and of course, a couple of samples along the way!

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Then we officially started the walking of the walking tour and saw a little bit of everything - it’s a LOT to write about to enjoy some pictures and the story will tell itself!

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The following bakery has won numerous prizes and is one of the best in France - too bad we had already eaten!

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The most famous place to buy “socca”, another Nice specialty which is a chickpea crêpe!

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The following pictures are from Palais Lascaris, which houses the second largest collection of antique musical instruments in France. It was free to look around, so look around we did!

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And then some more meandering…

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We also visited the Cathedral of St. Réparate, which is the name of Nice’s patron saint - a teenage virgin whose martyred body floated to Nice in the fourth century accompanied by angels. It’s under a lot of construction but it was still beautiful.

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Then it was time to walk up the Colline du Chateau for the spectacular views that were promised. On our way up, we stopped at and walked around a breathtaking cemetery.

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After that little jaunt, it was time to hit the beach! We, being student travelers on a budget, refused to buy a spot on the beach and didn’t have towels so we made do by spreading what we had been wearing that day on the pebble-y beach and soaked in some rays, with occasional dips in the Sea.

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Beach always means ice cream after so we headed to the famous Fenoccio shop and picked out some flavors to enjoy on the side of the fountain and then searched for the best postcards.

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We did a quick tour of the tiny Molinard Perfume Museum. The Molinard family has been making perfume since 1849 in Grasse, a small city outside of Nice. It’s UBER expensive but the history was pretty fascinating! Did you know that petals used to be laid out in the sun on a bed of animal fat which would absorb the essence of the flowers as they baked? ME NEITHER! Also of the 150 “noses” in the world, which are basically professional perfume-sniffers, 100 are French. Go France, go.

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The rest of the evening was spent lounging in a park nearby, watching four different wedding parties traipse by, and stalking their pictures. Weddings in France are so casual - the brides literally just yelled over at their guests to join them for pictures like it was prom. It just seemed to be way more about the marriage then the show of a wedding, like it sometimes becomes.

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We then headed back to the apartment via the train (this is their view by the way - just a casual pad in Antibes, you know, the usual) and enjoyed a nice dinner with them and another couple!

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Sunday morning, we woke up and went on a cool hike around a part of Antibes that is super rich and has a cool rocky stairway that runs around the perimeter. Most people were in good shoes and shorts while Ania was in a sunflower sundress and sandals. But hey, I wasn’t going to miss out and that was what I had to work with!

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Straight from our morning hike, I was off to the train station. I successfully took a train, made it from that train to my main ride to Marseilles in the 3 minutes I had, and then figured out which train was taking me to Lyon. I snacked on some crackers, a Vitamin Water (the labels, being in French, are still funny - if you were wondering) and a yogurt that I hastily ate/spilled while getting on the train. I had the row to myself for a while until we picked up the girl sitting next to me a couple of stops later.

So you would think this is where the story would end. But that would be too simple, for me to just go home, be perfectly on time for dinner and get my homework done by a reasonable time. Oh no, instead, I was DETERMINED to get to mass so I literally sprinted from my train to the metro, ran from the B line to the A line inbetween my stops, and then ran to the church. I landed in Lyon at 6:57 and made it to mass by 7:15. Go me. It was completely worth it even as I just sat there, panting, with my huge backpack by me and completely sticking out in my spaghetti strap sundress. Spending time with the Big Guy to say thanks is the best way to end a trip. 

Last week in one word: SOS

(I kind of cheated with that title because technically that’s 3 words…)

Last week was full of challenges of all forms. I choose to say “challenges” instead of “problems” because it gives the sense that the challenge can be challenged and beaten. Which happened. Because when you’re living independently in France, that’s what you do: you deal with it.

First challenge: getting sick. Monday evening I was feeling a little tickle in the back of my throat but figured that was as bad as it was going to get. WRONG. I woke up in the middle of the night, sweating and barely able to swallow. My throat hurt SO bad and I think that was one of the few moments I was thankful for the time difference between Albuquerque and here because I was able to talk to my mom despite it being 2:30 am my time. I popped some Tylenol and laid there for two hours fighting back tears of frustration. I DON’T GET SICK PEOPLE. I think it’s my mom’s crazy mix of vitamins that she has me take everyday but I really just don’t get bad colds in the winter. After stopping by my director’s office the next day to pick up some paperwork I needed to get my student ID card, she noticed I was sick and revealed that most students who study abroad in Lyon tend to get sick at this point in the year. The exhaustion of constantly absorbing and speaking French, encountering new germs and the fact that most people leave France in July and the beginning of August to go on vacations all around the world, bringing back foreign germs as well, culminates and hits most students about a month into the year.

Well it hit me like a brick wall and with a week of bad weather, I spent a lot of my time Monday through Wednesday at my host family’s house. I was super tired so I mainly just laid around. There’s a point when you’re studying abroad when you have to not guilt trip yourself about not “seizing the day” and let yourself rest. So I’m trying, everyone.

However, in true Ania spirit, I vowed to beat this before my weekend in Nice. Fabienne was an angel and showed me (again) where the tea was, put out the honey, and ripped the labels off the medicine that she got Audrey who had been sick the week before so I could get the same for myself. I headed to the pharmacy in Lyon on Tuesday, waited in the wrong line, asked a nice looking lady (who ended up being as nice as she seemed!) if what I was buying was good for my symptoms, got put in the right line (which actually was a line of 1 person instead of like 15), and even though I legitimately thought at one point that I was going to pass out on the metro, made it back to cours de la République in one piece. Promptly sprayed my throat with my new meds, let one of the tablets dissolve on my tongue and drank about 11 combined glasses of tea and water. I started feeling better towards the end of the week (even though right now it’s starting to creep back but don’t worry I am currently surrounded by water glass and an empty mug that will soon be refilled with the tea Fabeinne bought for me this weekend) so thanks for the prayers and thanks to the best host parents around for asking me everyday, multiple times, how I was feeling and if I needed anything. Audrey’s sickness lasted about two weeks (she seems to be a lot better now) so I’m hoping after a chill week in Lyon and lots of sleep, I’ll be back and better than ever!

Second challenge: bank account(S) not cooperating. One of the joys of living abroad is dealing with bank accounts and all the lovely things they bring to your life (so much sarcasm). My French bank account wasn’t working because my cell phone number still hadn’t connected to it so I still couldn’t buy flights online which meant I spent about 2 hours on the phone with a lady who barely spoke English and asked me to spell my name about 17 times (A as in Apple and then she would, A as in Artichoke? YES MA’AM WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?!?!) while Jean Marc sat next to me and kept making me laugh by pulling up different tables of things you can say that start with every letter of the alphabet. Also, my American debit card wasn’t working because they were suspicious of the use of buying flights even though they have a note that I’m studying abroad so there was a LOT of me being super frustrated, not being able to talk to people because of the time difference and having flight promotions come and go. HOWEVER, I figured it all out (with the help of my dad who can honestly get people to bend over backwards - I don’t know how he does it) and now it’s a blip in the past.

Last week was a LOT of lessons about patience, humility, and recognizing my limits. I learned to rest when I needed to, be more flexible and trust that there was a reason everything was playing out the way it was. And guess what? THERE WAS! Multiple times I couldn’t book something and then something else happened where I was praising God it didn’t work. I used to be so type A and I definitely think SLU helped me be more go with the flow, but studying abroad takes that to an entirely new level. I like the new me. I have definitely not lost that perfectionist side (yes, I still make my bed neatly every morning) but I’ve really got the hang of knowing that if I just hand it over to the Big Guy, He makes sparkly things happen.

I’m glad that week is over (I’m not going to describe everyday because it’s basically: sleep, not want to get out of bed, sniffle through class, come home, eat, stare blankly into space, drink tea, blow my nose 6 thousand times, eat, go to sleep, repeat 4 times) and it was nice to have Nice to look forward to! ;)

Solo Sunday

On Sunday, I woke up and headed to mass by myself. I really do love St. Nizier because it feels more like a parish than just a church. I’m also beginning to pick up more and more of the mass in French which is VERY encouraging since going to mass without participating kind of feels like watching TV on mute. Also, I love the little French nuggets that run around.

After mass, I headed back home, ate some lunch and decided to explore on my own since most of my friends were busy planning trips or on a trip. I went to le musée gallo-romain and ended up seeing more than I bargained for because I was able to wander around on my own schedule. I popped into Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière and was able to also go into the crypt underneath the church that was also open. It was breathtaking and I wandered around, gazing at the beautiful images of Mary from all around the world and just being in the presence of such a beautiful church on the Lord’s day. There’s something to be said about going into a stunning place of worship for your own religion, seeing other people be in awe and being proud to be Catholic.

I didn’t take many pictures because I wanted to soak it in, but I’ll be back so you’ll get more as the year goes on.

Next stop: museum. It was full of artifacts, short descriptions and obviously very detailed descriptions in French. Even though I would say I’m fluent in French, reading about thousands of years ago in historical jargon is still a wee bit difficult for me. So I created my own tour and read what I could but also just appreciated the history I was surrounded by. I would provide a synopsis but I don’t entirely feel like writing a history report right now, so if you’re feeling ambitious, research the history of Lyon - it’s pretty amazing. The museum was way bigger than I anticipated and since I’m a slow museum wanderer, it took me a little bit. Afterwards, there was a play going on outside and even though I REALLY didn’t want to walk up the stairs to see what was going on, I did anyways. Turns out it was an interpretation of an ancient play and watching a lady do interpretive dance and scream in French isn’t what I would call relaxing so I watched about 5 minutes and then decided to walk down to Vieux Lyon.

Turns out there was a reason God inclined me to walk there. (Isn’t it awesome how much more you find when you go by foot?!) There were a couple of gardens open for the weekend too and one of them was on the road down. I walked by at first because there was a couple kissing in the gate but then I thought to myself, “I’m not going to let a little love session scare me off”, went back, excused myself, they graciously moved and continued their kissing to the side of the gate, and I got to witness a fabulous view.

Encouraged by this discovery, I pranced into Vieux Lyon, rejuvenated by my solo adventure. I went into shops I wouldn’t normally entered, looked at old records, and found some funny little shops. There was even one that had different kinds of Nutella/peanut butter type spreads. I sampled all of them (naturally) and might have to head back one day because those spreads on a croissant would be DI-VINE.

(a little bit of kerke in Lyon)

I (of course) bought myself a bag of candy to nibble on as I walked. Congratulations to all of you who thought I, Ania Sullivan, only “nibbled” on the candy. I didn’t realize how much I put in my bag (I was curious about all of them OKAY) and ended up eating most of it. Whoops?

There was a street show going on in one of the plazas and as I tried the gummy alligator I bought, I watched a goofy guy instruct a volunteer of the crowd on various tasks, including using one of the flaming torches he had been juggling to hit up a pan, cook an egg, and then the entertainer put it in a tortilla. He was for sure a crowd pleaser - I mean, how could you not like a guy who sends the volunteer on his merry way with a breakfast burrito?

Lessons of the day: walk more, don’t be afraid of solo adventures, and don’t trust yourself with a bag of candy before dinner.

Yes, I did have my camera slung around my neck. #touristSaturday

First off, in an earlier and very sassy post, I mentioned something about a fiance. I am in no way engaged. However, big shout out to everyone who thought I had already had a relationship and gotten engaged…in a month’s time…

This weekend was my I’m-going-to-be-a-tourist-in-Lyon weekend. There is a weekend every year that’s called “Journees Europeennes Du Patrimoine” in which museums, government buildings, and other spots around the city are either free of their normal charge or they are opened to the public for only that weekend. So I purposefully did not travel this weekend in order to take full advantage of this priceless weekend (pardon my pun).

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Gabby, Megan and I met at the metro stop by their host family’s apartments at 9:45 am on Saturday morning, equipped with layers, cameras, and a highlighted list of all the best events, courtesy of my host mom Fabienne. She literally printed out the schedule of the weekend at work, put it in a clear sleeve, and highlighted the best ones to go to including religious places that she thought I’d like. PERFECT!

We first headed to Brasserie des Brotteaux because it was 10 minutes by foot from our meeting place. It was constructed in 1913 and is known for its interior which is decorated by ceramic tiles. It’s still a restaurant/bar but was open just to view it as well for the weekend. It was a good, quick start to our tour.

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Our next stop was the Musee des Tissus et des Arts Decoratifs, which possesses one of the most rich collections of textiles in the world, with a large part of that being silk. There was an exposition on the legendary costumes of the last 20 years of shows at the opera house here that we were also able to tour, complete with rooms full of mannequins wearing the exact costumes that the opera singers wore in their productions, imitations of their dressing rooms, and little video snippets of some of the performances. The actual museum with the ancient pieces of silk and other textiles doesn’t allow phones or cameras so the following are mainly of the first exhibit of costumes!

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It was absolutely incredible and we worked up an appetite doing ALL that walking (naturally) so we headed to the cutest little hipster cafe that had AMAZING sandwiches and salads. I never spend money on food because I always come home to eat so with all the free museums, it was time to do as Aziz says and “treat yo self.”

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With full tummies, we headed to the Opera house. THIS WAS AMAZING! We got to tour the opera house (except for the grand room because they were getting ready for a show that night) and they let us go to the very top of the dome, where the ballerinas practice and perform, and THE VIEW WAS UNREAL! This is only open on this weekend otherwise I would probably live up there (obviously joking, I couldn’t stay away from Jean Marc’s cooking for that long).

Next stop: Hotel de Ville, the administrative center of Lyon. It was built in 1646-1672 and it hosts the city council ten times a year. It’s open for this weekend and through private tours. BUT WOW WAS IT BEAUTIFUL! Sign me up to date the mayor’s son, if he has one.

The tiniest of French ladies orchestrating a small troupe of recorder players.

We were at the top of this (the Opera House) earlier!!!

After that magnificent place, the three of us decided to go to Fabienne’s favorite patisserie because…well, I don’t feel like it’s necessary to have a reason when you go to a patisserie in France. I got this

which was filled with vanilla cream which had apple slices inside it almost like a chunky applesauce on top of a little tart that was coated on top with this caramel sauce with the consistency of peanut butter. We all bought pastries with the intent of only eating half, a third, a fourth, a bite but all ate the entirety of each ours. Do I have any regrets? Nope, ZERO. Honestly, I’ll probably do the same thing soon. I asked the lady what I should get and when she explained what this was, I go THATS PERFECT FOR ME! and she grinned and laughed. I love French bakers.

After that, we were all in a really weird place. I had had a light lunch so after that much sugar, I felt like I was half floating, half about to fall asleep on the steps of the government building we were sitting in front of. So we all headed to our host homes, I motivated myself for an hour to go on a run, came home to find out we were having my friend and her host family over for dinner (great more food, as if I needed that), took the fastest shower of my life and then had an awesome dinner with Megan and her host parents and the Forests’ family friend Elizabeth who is a hoot! And for dinnner…..

Three hours later, Megan and I headed out to go out with some new friends. Lula and Becca are from a town outside of England and I am SO happy we met them! They are so fun and remind me of my friends back home. We completely hit it off and Lula is already set on me staying with her family and showing me around London - and obviously shopping at Topshop. Can’t say no to that!

More to come on Sunday and the beginning of this week, but now I must run off to a dinner through our family with another family that lives nearby! Hopefully they don’t notice that I sound like I’m talking underwater. Anywhozzle, here’s a post for you mom - sorry that was a long break for you! ;)