December kicked off, as every year, with the Fête des Lumières. I think I preferred it to last year. While it’s always the same kind of offering, there were a couple of installations that really stood out to me this year. My absolute favourite was Promenons-Nous at Place Bellecour. Instead of having the usual projection onto the ferris wheel the square was instead filled with giant flowers that gently changed colour and swayed in the breeze. So simple, but so effective. The effect was so magical and serene, despite the hordes of people there it really felt like a world apart. I returned every night and took photos from every possible angle, but this video gives a good overview:
Next up was Les Pikooks at Place de la République, which ended up winning one of the big prizes for sustainable design/development. Again, this was very calm, which I’m sure is a big part of why I liked it (a lot of the installations are all about bright flashing lights, loud music etc). But what really set this one apart was that it was ‘alive’ with two puppeteers manipulating the inflatable kites. These were supposed to be birds, but it seems everyone decided they were flying fish.
Lastly, Spider Circus at Place Sathonay. In contrast, this one was loud both visually and audibly. I particularly liked it because the way it had been done, and the light illusions were just totally different to all the others. Rather than playing with projections, which most of the animated ones do, here there was a framework (or dare I say, a web) of lights set up in the trees programmed to physically light up one after the other in order to portray a show. Not for the arachnophobic, but certainly mesmerising!
Christmas is always a marathon rather than a sprint but this year it was particularly drawn out as I essentially celebrated three times in a row.
First up was flatmas with les colocs on Friday 22nd. Like last year, we continued our tradition of ugly Christmas jumpers and an unorthodox Nativity scene under the tree. This year’s menu was arancini balls, magret de canard with salad and gratin dauphinois, followed by a black forest cake. By the time we digested all that, did presents and played a few obligatory board games (a must on the rare occasion the four of us are actually together), it was not an early night.
On the Saturday Mathilde’s mum and brother arrived, and on Sunday I celebrated Christmas Eve (à la française) with them. Mathilde had put together a delicious menu of a very light pumpkin soup, carpaccio of clam and tropical fruits, stuffed baked potatoes, turkey in a beer and cherry sauce, cheese, and vegan tiramisu (served in the ‘trick’ not-flat-bottomed glasses I had given her – success!).
That was an even later night, getting to bed around 3am, and having to be up and on the road at 9am for the main event: Christmas day with my flatmate Gus’ family, who live about an hour from Lyon towards the Alps. There were nine of us all up, with uncles and aunts form both sides of the family. I was the ~mystery guest~ as Gus had asked to bring a plus one but deliberately not said anything about who it was (because being a pain in the ass is his MO). They didn’t seem too disappointed! It was a wonderful day of talking over food, which is essentially was what Christmas is à la base, right?
Last year I hosted friends and cooked a turkey etc, which I enjoyed, but it was nonetheless nice to be ‘en famille’ this time and all taken care of. Merci les amis!
Having barely recovered from all of that, I found myself up at the crack of dawn and on a train to Paris on the 27th. Once again, my ‘I don’t want to twiddle my thumbs here for two weeks but I also don’t really want to go anywhere either’ led me to what is now the third annual end-of-Dec Paris pilgrimage. This time however, there was a twist – everyone I know in Paris was actually there to hang out with! It was fabulous to catch up with Charlène and Raf from summer camp who I hadn’t seen since October 2016; Sarah and Fred from NZ who I have managed to see on the same day of the year three years in a row, and Canadian Sarah. As usual, I had very loose plans when I got there but everything fell into place (despite the weather which was totally miserable).
Day one: I started off at the Centre Pompidou for an exhibition that I had seen advertised on my way from the train station. Luckily I went straight there having nothing else to do until it opened, as there was already a line forming at 10am, which was HUGE and snaking round the block by the time the museum opened at 10am! It was worth it though. The exhibition was André Derain 1904-1914: la décennie radicale (the radical decade), on until the end of January. Derain is one of my favourite painters and this exhibition focused on his role in the Fauvist movement (my fave) before branching into Cubism. Definitely worth visiting if this period is of interest. There was also an exhibition on César but I’d had enough by this point and couldn’t deal with how crowded it was, so I didn’t pay it as much in-depth attention.
From there I met up with Sarah and we took our ‘how much could you possibly pay for a hot chocolate in Paris’ exploits to new heights, before chilling for the rest of the day. I spent a good couple of hours catching up with Charlène and Raf (too short as always) before Sarah and I had dinner and ended up concluding our big day out with cocktails before the last metro home.
The following day, miraculously, it didn’t rain, and the one thing we had actually planned paid off. We went out to La Défense, which is the business district outside of Paris. It had always been on my list to go to, but I didn’t think there was actually anything to see or do there apart from La Grande Arche, a modern mirror to the Arc de Triomphe. Well, wrong I was, as my tripadvisor trawling paid off as I discovered there is in fact a whole open-aire museum of modern art along with the architecture. We spent a couple of hours meandering round this, although we couldn’t see everything as a fair bit was undergoing refurbishment or covered by the Christmas market. However, the flipside of this was…Christmas market! Dreams we didn’t know we had came true as there was a huge Québécois stall on its last day. The Real Life Québécois who were manning it were very friendly, and closing down that day, so we ended up having quite the degustation of various maple syrup based whiskeys and sauces before getting around to the main event of poutine. That evening, I went to (NZ) Sarah and Fred’s place near St Michel. It was so lovely to catch up and have a delicious home cooked meal at their apartment. Good to do the annual ‘bilan’ of how the previous year had been for all of us. This year they promise me that they really are going to make it to Lyon so watch this space…
On my last day, Sarah was working in the morning so I took myself off to the Musée des Arts et Métiers which is another one on my list to get to while it’s free for under 26s. Unfortunately I wasn’t really in the mood to enjoy it as I was v tired and also had to lug my bag around with me. It also wasn’t really my cup of tea to begin with. BUT, I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in science/innovation/machines and their development!
From there I met Sarah at her place for lunch and more chilling before we finally motivated ourselves to hit up the Musée d’Orsay…along with the rest of Paris. I now officially have a New Year’s tradition of waiting in line in the freezing cold and pouring rain there. This time, I’m not sure it was worth it. We were only going to see the temporary exhibition Degas, Danse, Dessin, which was interesting, but I’m pretty sure we spent less time there than in line. As it was getting near the end of the day, we didn’t hang round. We bought a well-earned treat from Angelina and chilled until it was time for my train (which was late, but otherwise uneventful).
All in all it was a successful visit and just what I needed. It was great to have a low-key change of scene. What was perhaps the most satisfying part of the whole trip was that my calculated ‘splurge’ on a three day, three zone metro pass totally paid off. Normally I go to Paris with a carefully considered itinerary in mind, and walk all over the place once I’ve got to my starting point by metro. Given that I didn’t really have a plan this time aside from wanting to go to La Défense (zone 3), and knew the weather wasn’t going to be good, I looked into the various options and decided the Paris Visite pass was the best one for this trip. SUCH a good decision and so worth it; I can’t remember the number of times I crossed town but it was such a luxury not even having to think twice about it. It really was reasonably priced too. Like any kind of pass deal though always important to think about how you will use it to decide if it’s worthwhile or not – full info here for future reference. The youth weekend pass is also a steal at €4.10 per day which is normally a no-brainer but my last couple of trips have all been during the week so not so easy.
No sooner was I back in Lyon, with one day to recover, and it was New Year’s Eve. It was a quiet one this year as five of us headed to Gus’ parents’ place to make the most of the house while they weren’t there. Quality over quantity though – good friends, good food, good times, what better way to see in the new year?
I am traditionally ‘not a NY resolution’ person, however, have now found myself inadvertently making and pursuing resolutions two years in a row. I still maintain though that any day of the year is just as good for deciding to do or change something (my mid-October meat eating decision case in point). Nonetheless, the change of year DOES provide a good opportunity to take stock of things, so without further ado:
Meat eating: going well. I only eat red meat if someone cooks it for me or it’s a special occasion. Such as when my flatmate says ‘I’m cooking a leg of lamb tonight if anyone wants some’ (no but really…such occasions are few and far between). I normally eat fish once a week for lunch at work, maybe more depending on the vegetarian options. This year to level up I have decided to only cook vegetarian at home. Now this isn’t really going to change a lot as I was only having chicken once a week, maybe tuna if the cupboards were bare. But the fact of deciding it has meant I need to put more thought into what I want to cook and what ingredients to have on standby so hopefully I eat better overall.
Reading: last year my goal was to read more, and eventually to read 12 books during the year (aka one per month). And I did it! 7 were in French, 5 in English, 3 non-fiction, 9 fiction, and apart from the three I borrowed from the uni library over the summer they were all books I had previously acquired from various avenues. So it was really a range of all sorts, from short stories to dystopian fiction to linguistic studies. There were three or four that I didn’t enjoy, but persevered with anyway, and some that pleasantly surprised me. Levelling up for this year again, the plan is to actually read one each month (not just on average). January is done and dusted with The Handmaid’s Tale, delivered for Christmas courtesy of the reading fairy. Not my cup of tea, but I finished it. I already have four or five waiting for me already so much like last year I’m going to meander my way through them.
Sleeping: the big new resolution this year is get more sleep, and specifically go to bed earlier (and actually go to sleep when I go to bed). I was very well disciplined and steadfastly stuck to an 11pm lights out screens off curfew for the first week or so. However, this just resulted in me lying there for even longer being unable to sleep, then getting more stressed about not sleeping (Chandler, Joey, Friends ep anyone?). Tried all the apps, no dice. So I soon returned to bad habits. This is not defeat though, it is merely a work in progress….I think the next step is screens off an hour before bed. Obviously this can go hand in hand with the reading project, but still, not an easy habit to break. Watch this space…
January was a pretty quiet month really – having a decent break over the holidays, back to work for one week of class before three weeks of a very light workload while the students have exams. I didn’t do much except rinse and repeat the usual activities of choir, gym, dance, sleep, traipse around the sales and find nothing I like, same old same old. The most exciting thing by far was the ski weekend a couple of weeks ago.
After three winters next to the alps, at long last the stars aligned and after 25 years it was finally time for me to give skiing a go. Now, I had very realistic expectations about how much I would a) struggle and b) [not] enjoy it. The main motivation was being sick of people being scandalised when they find out I’ve never been. However it turned out, at least I would be able to say I’d tried it. And this is exactly how it turned out. It couldn’t have been a better experience, I am very lucky to have a very generous colleague who invited four of us to stay with her and her husband at their family chalet. They also had the patience of saints to take on four adult beginners of varying capabilities. I was by far the worst, and although I understood the theory of what I was supposed to be doing, just couldn’t put it into practise. But I gave it a go, which was the whole point. It was a fabulous weekend with all the après-ski more than making up for the frustration on the piste. We made it to the mountains and back in one piece, which was in itself no mean feat.
Other miscellaneous activities from the past couple of months:
- Finished the Biennale d’art contemporain which had been going across various venues for a couple of months
- Visited Lyon sur le Divan – small temporary expo about Lyon’s past, present and future urban development – loved
- Went to Los Modernos Mexican-French expo – didn’t love – only went because it was free with my museum card
- Went to a performance of Verdi’s Requiem performed by two choirs and the Orchestra Symphonique INSA-Universités, which I had two friends in. Ines and I ended up volunteering so got to see it for free. While we were hoping to go to the crypt in Fourvière on the Saturday, we were assigned to the cathedral at Vaise on the Sunday. Although a less magnificent venue, the acoustics were fantastic and it was an incredible concert. There were also four soloists, one of whom I had met on my previous opera outing who I again had a chat to and remembered me…small world huh.
Et voilà. Back to ‘real’ work with the second semester starting on Monday. And I now actually have class on Mondays too which is a bit of a shock to the system. Of course, I failed to make any inroads in semester planning while I had all this free time over the past couple of weeks so will be keeping myself nice and busy. Not much on the agenda for Feb or even March so as usual, will see what eventuates…