Picking up right where the last post left off, as we were coming back from Annecy I got a message from a friend asking if I was still in Lyon, as he ‘might’ be passing through ‘very soon’ on his solo bike trip. You can guess where this is headed…I had me a guest the next day! Mickaël is French, but we met at summer camp in Switzerland last year and haven’t seen each other since. He’d had this bike trip on the cards since camp, and it was finally the moment – spending a month or so meandering from Montpellier on the Mediterranean back to Leysin in the Alps for another round of camp. It was wonderful to catch up on life and felt like no time had passed. Reviens bientôt Mickaël!
Mickaël left Wednesday, and on Friday it was time for my next set of guests: Michelle and Jessie from NZ. Michelle and I did barbershop together at school (regular readers of the blog will have noticed that these connections pay off!) and Jessie is a friend of hers from uni. They are a few years younger than me, and Michelle had been on exchange in Hong Kong and Jessie in the UK. They were spending a week in France after Michelle found a good flight deal to Paris. Hong Kong’s not exactly next door, but it’s still twice as close as NZ! They were here for four days, and both had other friends here it was nice to meet. They also went on a day trip to Annecy though unfortunately didn’t have the same luck with the weather as I had the week before!
The next week was relatively quiet, but still managed to fill itself up with work stuff and general catching up I had to do. The breather was short lived as the following week was again full steam ahead, with the main event on everyone’s calendar being…my choir concert! This was a rip roaring success if I may say so myself. The audience was really receptive, resulting in impromptu audience participation as our director Tanguy taught them the actions to Singin’ in the Rain, and later the melody to Ahuna, a South African traditional (always a crowd pleaser). We were followed by the student choir who also got everyone up and dancing. It was really such a great vibe all round, and so nice to have our year of lunchtime rehearsals pay off like that. I also had a great crowd of friends, colleagues and flatties there – merci les amis!
As if that wasn’t enough excitement for one evening, I had to nip away from the post-concert nibbles to meet my next VIP guest (who also happens to be called Michelle). Only, Michelle got to experience the true joys of SNCF with endless unexplained stops and delays and instead of getting in at 11pm it was nearly 2am by the time she made it to my house. Despite the unfortunate start though I don’t think I could have planned for her visit to go any better! On Friday we explored Lyon 101 in Vieux Lyon and the Presqu’île, with dinner at a bouchon. Saturday was a big day, as we were off at 8am on an outing organised by the social club at my work – a wine tasting, lunch and scenic train ride in the gorges of the Ardèche, about an hour south of Lyon. We were a little disappointed at first, as the industrial-scale winery was not exactly what we had envisaged. Nonetheless, the tour was very informative, and the guide explained things in a very accessible way (even if we wouldn’t have understood half the terms in English, let alone in French). We bought a couple of bottles to take to upcoming social events and it turns out that what we picked was apparently quite an impressive and well-renowned choice. Who knew! The winery was Cave de Tain l’Hermitage/AOC Crozes-Hermitage.
We then had lunch which was again, a little disappointing, but we were at least sitting at a table full of friendly people who were quite interested in us two young New Zealanders and actually made an effort to make conversation (not always a given). From there we headed to the train de l’Ardèche for a 1.5 hour trip through the Gorges du Doux. At the half way point the locomotive had to be turned (by hand) on a swing bridge before it could head back in the opposite direction. No sooner had we set off though than we ground to a halt due to some kind of ‘technical issue’, which resulted in us sitting idle next to a sheer drop of several hundred metres for over half an hour. Fun times. Several of my choir buddies were in the group and were beside themselves that we were, alas, three altos and one bass, and therefore couldn’t quite put on a show to entertain the troops. Dommage. We were eventually freed and made it back to Lyon around 8pm as expected.
As if Saturday day wasn’t enough, Saturday night took on a life of its own. The ‘petite soirée’ we had been invited to turned into ‘clubbing till 6am’. I think we did remarkably well given we made it to 24 hours sans sleep! Needless to say, Sunday was a recovery day with afternoon moseying around Tête d’Or and the Croix Rousse, before raclette dinner with the flatties at Michelle’s request. On Monday we popped into work for a bit before taking up the very welcome offer from a colleague that we make use of her pool. If you insist! Now would be the time to mention that since the end of May we’ve had temperatures consistently in the thirties (save one week where it absolutely poured with rain – a welcome relief). It made such a difference just getting out of the city, let alone having a pool at our disposal! It was a perfect afternoon chilling with the work gang PLUS a golden retriever, swimming, eating, drinking, doing pottery, you know, the usual.
Michelle left and it was back to the real world with back to back, mostly unproductive English team meetings. The summer solstice on the 21st of June brought with it the fête de la musique; the 22nd we celebrated Susann’s birthday, the 23rd was ‘les invités du Villeurbanne’ a music festival in my neighbourhood, the 24th Lucy and I hit the town for her penultimate weekend in Lyon, and the 25th my dance school had its end of year concert. The following week: Operation Feng Shui to clear out the language centre of ancient books, VHS and cassettes began; the director threw a huge summer bash catering lunch/afternoon tea/dinner for all staff featuring freebies and a photobooth for the occasion; David at last had his new studio ready to receive guests, and we had a party for Noémie’s birthday.
Saturday began with an escape game with Mathilde, Charlie and Harmonie, which we smashed in 45 minutes (out of a possible 60). I say ‘we’; I was hardly the most helpful member of the team due to a slight linguistic disadvantage. I then helped Lucy move out of her flat and set up camp in mine for the next couple of days. I do not know how it is possible for one person to accumulate so much stuff in twelve months…mon dieu. Half of it is currently living under my bed. That evening it was time for the true last hurrah and boy did it exceed all possible expectations for a proper sendoff. To keep it relatively short and mysterious: went to watch a friend’s gig. Befriended a buck’s party, bonding over the fact that one of them had lived in NZ. Danced rock n roll style till the end of the gig. Sadly had to leave around 1:30 cos we had unfinished business with another club Lucy had been meaning to take me to all year. Who turned up at that club a few hours later but THE BUCKS PARTY, 100% by coincidence. Danced with them until the lights came up at 5am. Went out for a post-soirée feed at a ‘members only’ restaurant nearby. Took photos, exchanged contact details (none of them live in Lyon). Got home at 6:30am, had to be up again at 8:30 to spend the day à la campagne with the work gang again. Stoically soldiered on until I was peer pressured into having a nap at the same time as the toddlers…though the others seemed quite happy to sleep for several hours. The weather was dismal again; the boys braved the river for a swim but that just felt like far too much effort for me by that stage. Back to Lyon and had a big night in while Lucy repacked. Monday was her last night so, with no tapas bars open, we found the next best thing to usher her into her next chapter in Spain. She has left the aforementioned 348756387 bags chez moi so I will be seeing her again in October before she heads back to NZ, but quand même my little Kiwi buddy has flown the coop!
The week continued at a rate of knots, as I tried out several dance classes at my dance school, and attended the inaugural ‘Kiwis in Lyon’ drinks organised via the New Zealanders in France facebook group. There’s a group in Paris that has a monthly pub night, and having realised there are now quite a few of us in Lyon we thought we’d try the same thing. It was a great success! There were six Kiwis there, plus a few others who sent their apologies, and about the same number of Frenchies/Brits who had spent time in NZ. After feeling a little under the weather for a couple of days though it really hit me hard that evening, which I put down to exhaustion from everything detailed in this blog post (and more) finally catching up with me, being stuck with chainsmokers all evening and the heatwave not helping my asthma. After three days in bed with no change though I finally went to the doctor and it turns out on top of all that I had also probably caught a cocktail of summer viruses doing the rounds. Fun times! The doctor gave me some meds and some backup meds to take after a few days if there’d been no change. I almost cried when the steroids kicked in and I realised I was no longer coughing.
Meanwhile, life continued, and I braved it out of the house for two trips to the Jazz à Vienne festival. The first was with Ines and Alberto on the Saturday, where we listened to free concerts all day. The second was on Tuesday night with Mealiny, in the 6,000 seater Roman amphitheatre to see Postmodern Jukebox and Deluxe. I was there to see PMJ, who I’ve followed on youtube for several years. They do jazz/blues/generally vintage covers of current songs. Mealiny was there for Deluxe, who I didn’t know, but who put on an incredible show with lights, glitter cannons, giant balls, a trapeze, the works. They have definitely found their schtick and embraced it, that’s for sure.
Later that week I headed to Paris on a last minute trip, largely due to the fact that it was the first time after all these years that I’d actually been in France on Bastille Day, so I thought I’d go all out with the parade and fireworks. Both involved endless security checks, with various ‘projectables’ being confiscated, and endless waiting round, but were worth it.
Apart from that I did my usual wandering round museums and parks. Unfortunately, the Picasso Primitif exhibition at the Musée du Quai Branly was a little disappointing, but the Pierre Sacrée des Maori greenstone exhibition from Te Papa is definitely worth a visit for any Kiwis in Paris before October. Likewise, the Dior exhibition at the Musée des arts décoratifs till January is a must-see, even if like me you’re not particularly into fashion. I couldn’t believe the sheer scale of it, for a temporary exhibition.
Back in Lyon after that trip and I was at last officially on holiday, having survived my first year as a lecteur. I don’t have anything too profound to say about it other than it went by in a blur, and was mostly good times. David and I will be back in September, but with new Colombian and German lecteurs, and our boss is away on professional development leave, so it will be interesting to see how everything changes. It will be good going into things actually having an idea of how everything works this time, and we already know what some of our classes are going to be so can get prepared for them (in theory…). However, the things that have been frustrating will most likely keep being frustrating. So we’ll see how things pan out. One of the great things about where we work is the number of extracurricular activities and events that both staff and students are involved in. During the period of this blog post we had my choir concert, Gonzalo was in a Colombian play, our boss’ students made a documentary about their trip to Cyprus (very eye opening), I went to see one of my students in a dance show, along with a fantastic 60 minute retelling of Hamlet…and those are just the ones that I was able to make it to around my other activities!
So, since the Paris trip I have been ~in holiday mode~ and taking things easy. There has been a lot of sleeping, eating, writing, seeing friends, chilling Lac Miribel and the like. We had a fabulous barbecue with the Irish dance group, and then a fantastic night at out the last show of the Nuits de Fourvière festival, featuring Irish greats Sean Keane, Paddy Keenan, David Munnelly and Altan. There were at least 20 of us there together, and though we didn’t bust out any ‘real’ moves Anne-Sophie and Anne-Solène launched an Irish style conga line throughout the moshpit that then took off on its own any time there was an upbeat tune. Honestly, I was impressed by just how much the French punters embraced the craic. The only downside were the two ‘Irish dancers’ on stage who, in my professional opinion, were not Irish dancers.
Completely unrelated but very important detail I forgot to mention in the last post: I rode a segway. That is all.
Et voilà! I’m up to date, just in time because…I’m going home tomorrow! I think most people who actually read this blog will already know, but if you didn’t, surprise! I leave Lyon Monday 31st and fly to Melbourne where I’m spending a couple of days, then back to Wellington on the 5th. There till the 30th, so hit me up please peeps!
See you all sooooon,