Thursday, March 25, 2010

RIP Sister

I’ve never been a good liar. I don’t have the boobs for it. In fact, I’m the perfect subject for a “how-to” article: “How To Detect If Someone Is Lying.” I’m really terrible at it; honestly, I am. Unless it’s a little white lie, I become afflicted, immediately infested with guilt, and fall victim to the classic signs: avoiding eye contact, over-detailing the story, over compensating, over-talking, and divert from the topic: “So how about those (insert name of sports team of the sport in season here)!?”

I even battle internal conflict about not divulging complete truths. This was witnessed firsthand by “T” in Corisca, when the landlord of our vacation rental came to do the final inspection and take us to the train station. “So yeah, everything was tres bien, tres super, magnifique… J’adore cet apartement! The heater absolutely didn’t stop working at all (it did), and we definitely didn’t have any problems with the fuse for the electricity constantly blowing out (we did, multiple times. Correction: I did.). And uhhh… oh, all you asked was if you could help me with my backpack? Oh, Oui. Merci.” Meanwhile, being shot looks from “T,” Stop talking, Lauren! At least I didn’t tell him we broke the toilet paper holder on the wall, even though I think it was already broken.

I attribute the truthfulness gene to my mom, who ingrained in my head at a young age, that lying is the most heinous act a person can commit, that is of course, second to addressing groups of people as “You guys.” Ya’ll agree? I’ve accepted that with this trait, I’ve disabled my options of certain professions: Used-car salesman, politician, a priest. I also suck at infidelity… very un-French of me[1].

So, when it came time to call the airlines to barter a credit for the second half of my roundtrip ticket that I failed to postpone (You would, too if it said 1MAR10. I mistook it for March 10th) I assumed honesty and the classic "helpless-girl" voice would be the best route. I was wrong. “Oh, so there’s really nothing that you can do? And, why? All because I didn’t reschedule it before the departure date? Ugh. Okay, thanks anyway.”

I may proscribe to an honest philosophy, but I’m not one to walk away when there’s something of value at stake and nothing to lose. Plus, when my good moral-bound friend Kim instructed, “Lie, baby, Lie, and make mama proud!” I realized what had to be done.

“Hello, Aer Lingus? Customer Relations, please. Sure, I’ll hold.” Start to cue tears.

“Top a’the mornin’ to ya.” (No, they probably said something along the lines of ‘How can I help you,’ but with the Irish accent, that’s all I heard.)

“Hi. I’m hoping you can help me. I had a flight from Ireland to LAX, that I missed. There was a … family emergency; my sister, (cue tears), well, my sister passed away (Always use a relative that doesn’t actually exist). I realize that the ticket was non-refundable but would it be possible to attain a credit? I have to get f light home… please don’t leave me stranded here with (here’s the kicker) the French. (cue sobbing).”


“We’re not supposed to credit non-refundable flights (yeah, whatever), but hold on…”
5 minutes later.

“Okay, I just spoke with a supervisor who agreed to credit you for the flight and you just need to pay the flight-change fee and whatever difference there is to reschedule you’re flight. Oh, and I spent some time in France; I know how you feel.”

I did it. I lied and it worked. The tears came easier than I expected and it was even, dare I say, gratifying? But more so because I got what I wanted. In the end, it wasn’t a complete lie; I may not have a deceased sister, but I was in mourning: of my patience with this job, patience with the "kid," patience with the family, dinners that don’t involve crème, ham, and pasta, the loss of personal space, tasteful home décor, dance classes, turning right on red lights, and well, you get the idea. But, when life gives you lemons, take them and turn them into a $300 airline credit.

I knew I always liked the Irish.

[1] Adultery is quite the institution in France and looked upon as innocently as their Chocolate Nutella spread; They know it’s not healthy but they have it, anyway.

  • My friend Rachel is coming to visit in June!!! We're not sure where all we'll go but backpacking will be involved :)
  • The weather has been warranting sandals and shorts. There may be a purchase of some, this weekend.
  • I went to a weekly quiz night at an English Pub in Vieux Lyon... I had fun.
  • I'm watching French television and I understand what they're saying.
  • Play-dates with the kids of the American family. I adore them :)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Dilemma, Part 2: When It's Actually Quite a Blessing Without Disguise

I’ve taken up reading the French newspaper; mostly because I can finally make out some comprehension of what I’m reading… Well, part of it, at least. Other times, it stands in as a prop to disguise me as a local (that is, until I have to speak and the American accent is revealed). Anyway, in the French paper, there’s a small column on the back page with horoscopes, which are divided into three sections: Health, love, and work.

The Health portion read, “La Forme!”
With the reminiscent symptoms of being sick, I thought, That’s a stretch; maybe it’s more of a suggestion than a reading, to be in “top form?” Or maybe it was the writer’s last horoscope of the day to finish. It’s a toss-up.

Love: Something along the lines of show yourself if your heart is already taken, and beware of losing… something?
Yes, problem with commitment and opening up to people: check! Let’s brush right past that section.

Work: “Non! Tout le monde n’est pas toujours honnete avec vous. Il faut vous le rentrer dans la tete une fois pour toute!”
How introspective of you, Universe, because you’re right; “Everyone” regarding my work is not being honest with me and like you instructed, I need to get it in my head once and for all.

I’m not aloof to the situation at hand, but I do, however, hold a soft spot for optimism, leading me to hope that this is just a phase; There’s such a thing as a 3 ½ month phase, right?! But in reality, to say that this isn’t working, would be an understatement. However, I was a bit staggered to discover that my “Everyone” at my work had found a replacement for me.  Not just has a replacement been found, but contracts have been signed and dates have been set. I wonder when they’ll say something.

And so it seems, the French avoid confrontation.  Add it to the list. While a replacement is entirely crucial for both parties, it seems all so deceitful the way they went about it. Being the clearer of all airs, the conflict manager type, the opener of communication lines, and the do-er of good jobs that I try to be, I approached them back in February-ish, for an evaluation and to say in my broken French, “I want this to work for all of us. If there’s a problem, please talk to me about it, as I will try to do the same.” To which they replied, “Non, non, c’est bien.” It’s not so bien, obviously.

With the sincerest of truths, perhaps this whole experience has been a blessing, no disguise even necessary. Maybe a job lost (my first ever), but my freedom gained; the return of my sanity and a lesson learned; many lessons learned. It just wasn’t good chemistry. I’ve assessed the situation and I feel okay about it. I do.

  • Girls night out yesterday in Vieux Lyon
  • The weather here has been in-cred-ible. I even left my jacket at home!
  • The little boy here, just interrupted my post to ask if he could do my makeup and hair. Who wants to forecast his future to his conservative parents? Not me!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Dilemma, Part 1: When There's An Elephant In The Room

Let’s 'idiom-ize' here and cut to the chase; lay the cards out on the table; get to the point; make no bones about it; call a spade a spade; get down to brass tacks, and not beat around the bush: It ain’t getting any better here. Please excuse my French but, Mon boulot me faisait chier[1] (See footnote)

Here’s the thing: I’m used to doing a good job. I’m used to people recognizing that I do a good job. I was that kid in elementary school that rarely ever had to change their behavior card from green to a yellow warning. Likewise, I’m also a good Au Pair; I know that, but something isn’t working. I’ve never met kids like this before (correction: A kid—I only have problems with one of the two). A kid whose whining would make you jealous of the hearing impaired, whose demeanor beckons for a beating, and who talks to me the way the 16 year-olds on MTV talk to their parents when they don't get a BMW for their Sweet 16. Then again, I’ve never met French children before so perhaps, therein lies my explanation.

If this was my first time working with kids, I would wonder, Maybe it’s me? But I’m no newbie; I know for sure, It’s definitely me. I go out of my way with them; I try to make them like me, but in a culture that is content on consistently being discontent, it's a no-win situation. You may get more bees with honey, but if they’re French bees, they're still going to sting you. I continuously go out of my way, to the point of making Ms. Poppins appear apathetic. Some mornings, I’ll get up early to make them French Toast ; they don’t want it, they want regular toast. An hour later, they want the French Toast. I offer to butter their bread and Nutella their toast; they don’t want it… That is, until their mom enters, to which of course, they conveniently change their mind. “Lauren, why didn’t you do this for them?” uhhhh really?!? No, but seriously, really?!

Games, puzzles, toys; you name it, I’ve tried it. I offer up ideas of things to do that a “normal” kid would happily agree to: “Want to go play outside?” No. “Want to go jump on the trampoline?” No. “Want to go to the Zoo?" No. “Want to make a fort? Make cookies? Make me a drink, then?” No. No. No. But wait, here’s the kicker: “Want to go get ice cream cones at McDonalds and play in their 3-story play-thingy?” uhh… wait for it….. No. So you just want to sit here and continue to be miserable? How very French of you.

And that’s just the kid(s). With home life, I don't want to be difficult, because well, I like to please.  I buy my own food because I know that I eat more plants than animals, and I don’t want to hold them back on their quotidian ham consumption. Some nights, I’ll make my own dinner, but it feels awkward being the outcast. Other nights, I’ll try to “take part in their culture/family” and cross my fingers that it isn’t going to be their infamous Pasta Surprise (surprise being that it’s the same ham and crème-fraiche sauce as last night). Pocket-size Kleenex: check!

But like I sid, my job is making me shit. Figuratively, my job is crap. I'm not sure if this is going to work.

  • The weather reached, wait for it... 60 degrees. In-cred-ible. The little boy and I had races outside: Scooter vs. Foot.
  • I bought the "Lonely Planet's Guide to Europe." I was sold on their books when I read one in Corsica and it read, "Don't waste your time with City X because it's actually quite ugly." Thank you, Lonely Planet, for being honest!
  • Babysitting this weekend for kids that aren't mine!
  • A clean room.
  • Some exciting plans in the works.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Le Beau-père

You know the occasional universe-telepathy-type experiences where the thought of someone pops into your head and then a few days later, you hear from them, or about them? That happened to me again, yesterday.

In exploring Lyon, I came across a great souvenir shop in one of the alleys of “Old” Lyon. You know, the kind with gifts that you might actually not be ashamed to send people?! I should buy that Lion t-shirt for Greg. He would probably love it. He always did appreciate a good novelty t-shirt. Greg was my step-dad. Did I mention that I had a step-dad for ten years? I did.

When my mom remarried, I hated it; No, but like, I really hated it. I was miserable and being adept at what’s best for everyone, I declared the marriage the most impulsive and horrible decision. He was loud, boastful, and garrulous about all subjects involving Vietnam, history, computers, or well, any subject for that matter; the exact opposite of my dad. He did prove useful for school history reports, though, and looking back, I appreciate the stability and support he brought during my parents’ divorce; someone to assuage the chaos. Now, I can understand the impulsivity in my mom's decision, and because in the end, don’t we all just want someone to love and support us?

He worked in the wrong profession (computers); he should’ve been a professor. Nonetheless, his life and history lessons didn’t go unlearned. I attribute a bulk of my strength and assertiveness to him. He’s the one that would make me practice saying “No,” out-loud, in hopes that I would feel secure using it towards boys in high school with “one-track-minds.” “Lauren,” he’d say, “All guys use lines, mostly to try and score. Don’t fall for them.” I experienced this firsthand during a high school makeout session, when a boy tried to get my shirt off in an effort to relieve me from the Sacramento summer heat (What a nice guy?). My shirt stayed on (I think?).

Greg made sure I knew not to dumb myself down for anyone, to exude confidence, and embrace that goofy-make-a-fool-of-yourself-and-laugh-it-off sense of self that most of us are afraid to show; maybe that’s why I want to try Karaoke? He supported my passion for dance and sat there patiently while I made him watch horrendous routines that I choreographed to Aquaman or Spice Girls. At least I didn’t Karaoke to them.

My mom and him divorced some 4+ years ago and contact with him became few and far between. I did see him before I left for France though, when he came to watch my dance performance in November (No, not to Spice Girls). Yesterday, I read an email from my mom that he passed away from heart failure. I had said my peace to him a few months back, when he had had another health scare, and I'm thankful for that. I do wonder how his family is doing, and I wonder how my mom is doing. Though stubborn, moved on, and possibly unsure how to appropriately react to an ex-husband's death, she holds a soft-spot for the good in people, and I wonder how or if she's grieving. My condolences to his family.

I presume that being and Au Pair parallels the characteristics of being a step-parent: You have to find a medium between being responsible and stern with the kids, but not overstepping your boundaries. You want them to like you, but just when you think you’re getting on their good side, they hate you again. You find yourself checking your morning tea for laxatives that they may have deviously slipped in there, because let’s be honest, there’s been more times than one, when you’ve wanted to do it to them. And really, you try to make it into an amicable experience for all because it’s true, you’re there for ulterior motives. It’s not easy and for that, I have a newfound respect for step-parents and for the person that was mine.


  • The sun came out yesterday and the snow that was forecasted for today, kept it's distance.
  • I found a new running trail. The only thing it's missing is Kiki.
  • Speaking of which, she is currently being spoiled at the moment, by my old roommate, Stephanie. Once again, this proves I have great friends.
  • Baking with measuring cups: Thank you Rachel!
  • My best friend in Sacramento received acceptance to 2 graduate schools, and waiting to hear from the rest! Congratulations!!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Spoiler Alert: Flu Shots Don't Work If Your Job Makes You Sick

They say your body is smart enough to send you warning signs; you just have to pay attention to the signals; listen to the cues; practice Mindfulness.

Well, try this one on for size: The last time I had the flu, and I mean the whole achy-everything hurts-sore throat-fever-can’t get out of bed-no appetite- so mentally out of it that you start to think Megan Fox is a good actress-flu, was two years ago. Then I became so healthy (taken to the extreme, at one point), that infections would see my white blood cells and submit their white surrender flag. I never missed my daily serving of fruits and vegetables (I really like them), and I took vitamins (I really only like them if they’re chewable, please, or gummi-bears ); not just one vitamin but multiple vitamins: Daily-multi, B-Complex, Vitamin C, Omega-3, the 3-a-day MSM; Flax-seeds and Chia seeds; shall I proceed? I was a walking poster-child for any health food store, which could be attributed to shopping at them. Knowing I was moving to France and being the coverer-of-all-bases that I am, I got a flu shot.

Last Sunday marked the end of a three week (minus some) vacation; back to Au Pair life. I was “home” by 6, pajamas by 7, in bed by 8, and then, boom, it hit me. I can say, without hyperbole, that my eyes were on fire, my throat had been attacked by sandpaper, my lungs collectively decided they wanted to break free, and amongst the 3 down-comforters, heater, and Snuggie covering me, I still couldn’t stop shivering. I was ill.

Then, the virus, somehow, spread to the frontal cortex of my brain, infecting my common sense, and in my hypochondriatic state, I diagnosed myself: Really?! How am I sick? No, but really?! It can’t be the flu; I got a flu shot; unless it’s Swine Flu (by proxy, through all the ham this family eats. Maybe it’s strep-throat? Nope, no white dots on my throat. Fever? Yep. Dizzy? Very. What if it’s pneumonia? You’ve already had pneumonia before; it’s just the flu. Nope, it’s definitely pneumonia. I bet they don’t even have real doctors in France. How could they when they don’t even sell peanut butter?! Yep, I’m going to die, from pneumonia.

It wasn’t pneumonia. Oh, and I found peanut butter (at a health food store today).

Let’s be honest: Since January, it’s been an unremitting pattern of 2 steps forward, 3 steps back, putting me further behind than I was when I arrived. There are, of course, aspects that have significantly improved (like the 2 degree weather increase, or the people I’ve met), but it coincides with the parts that have worsened. And now my job was making me physically sick? The lyrics from the Talking Heads band are playing in my head: “How did I get here?”

Or, in a less melodramatic state, it could all just be from the overly handled fruit that I bought at the Farmers’ Market that morning. Who knows?!

Daily Gratitude:

  • The American mom and Costo vitamins. Terra: Thank you!
  • The sun came out today
  • My friends continue to make me laugh on a daily basis
  • I just finished the book I was reading and now, get to start the much anticipated book, authored by my good friend.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Travel Partners

If you want to test the alchemy and strength of a relationship, friendship, or even just get to know the real version of someone (and yourself, for that matter), put down the Cosmo quiz and pick up a travel brochure. Then, take a vacation...anywhere. Explore the unknown, test the waters without the conventional routine of home and its safety, or running to your respective bases when things don't pan out perfectly; get away from the allotted time that being on a date permits… But do so with caution. When traveling with a partner, obstacles surface, assertiveness is tested, communication skills are tried, and personal space is invaded even more so than the French beaches of Normandy in WW2. The rawness of your character becomes evident. Whether you’ve been dating for two solid years, or two passionate months, makes no difference; in my case, it was a vague nine months.

Back in May, I met someone very unexpectedly (to put that into perspective, I met him while at the store buying Greek yogurt with my two cousins), and it blossomed into the parallels of a relationship. “They” say that that’s how it happens: when you’re not looking. We played the dating game and had a lot of fun doing so. He was different: he was the guy that brought me flowers on every single date (all fifty-something of them), that adored me, that all of my family said “Don’t let this one go.” But knowing that living abroad was on my immediate To-do list, and long-term relationships are not my hobby, I kept my guard up and commitment off the table; I was even told that I took on the "guy thinking role." I became even more obstinate in keeping my distance after identifying with the movie, 500 Days of Summer, where she quotes: "I like being on my own. I think relationships are messy and people’s feelings get hurt. Who needs it? We’re young, we live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world; might as well have fun while we can, and save the serious stuff for later.”

Fast-forward to present day and it’s evident that his persistence paid off (although he may debate this), despite my still unwillingness to commit, he is still very much in the picture. It’s a feat when I don’t completely write something (or someone) off. He was the first of my circle back home, to jump on a plane when he found out I had two weeks of winter vacation. The first week, we explored Lyon; the second week, we threw our plans to the wind to explore Corsica; the third week, we explored the benefits of some time a part.

There was a guidebook and map for all the places we went but I’ve yet to find a guidebook that teaches how to remain on the pedestal to someone whose image of you matters, while becoming bereft of all patience, and secretly hoping they’ll step in dog merde (abundantly spread throughout the sidewalks of France). As much difficulty as I had adjusting to living here, I don’t think I was properly prepared for living here with someone, and even more, traveling with them. I had learned to adapt to the solitary life style here, but when Trevor came to visit, he brought reminiscents of home with him. Strangely enough, I felt homesick all over again.

I know for a fact that I’m no piece of cake, myself; far from it at times! I’m stubborn. I like things my way, all while trying to appease the other person. I am an extrovert who needs alone time. I'm not one for PDA. I want the other person to be honest and open even though I sometimes refuse. I expect them to read my mind so I don’t have to admit that I have needs. I take some time to bounce back from an argument, time to process. I can be moody even when I’m not hungry, tired, or sick. I seem like my own hypocrisy, but aside from that, I’m practically perfect.

As T put it, the past three weeks were a series of highs and lows: When things were good, they were this-feels-like-how-it's-supposed-to-be-and-so-much-fun-type of good; but when they weren't so good, well, let's just say we both thought about throwing in the towel. I would love to say that I figured out an organized set of rules of how to make it work when traveling with someone and bypass the previous mistakes, but I didn’t. Like everything though, there were some key points that I took:
  • Deep breaths.
  • Timeouts. Then, coming back later when things aren't so heated.
  • Trying to win an argument will result in the loss of respect.
  • Chameleons should be left in the jungle and outside of relationships. When they're in a bad mood, it doesn't have to affect yours. Recognize it and release it … eventually they will, too... hopefully
  • Ipods. To be specific, separate Ipods.
  • I-statements. Take the blame out of communication. It sounds so cliché-therapy-like but it’s true.
  • Listen. Truly listen. It's easy to become so defensive and concerned with what you'll counter with next, that everything they've said has gone completely unheard.

…And really, all it boils down to is communication skills. I’m pretty sure Oprah or Psychology Today magazine have some sort of guide to this on their website, making the self-help shelf of any bookstore, avoidable.

I am now under the firm belief that honeymoons should come before the wedding, because frankly, if you can successfully and happily make it through that trip together, the marriage will be a breeze. In any event, traveling with someone can be tough and that pedestal will come crashing out from underneath you (as Trevor even told me), but it’s a chance to see the real versions of each other, then hope that you’ll swim instead of sink.

C’est la vie.

Daily Gratitude:

  • The 3 weeks ended on a good note
  • With recent travel, replying to friends' emails and updates, hasn't been constant. They're still there, despite this. I'm lucky and I have great friends.
  • McDonalds kids ice cream cone: cheap, perfect size, and a good Sunday afternoon treat.
  • The hot shower that awaits me.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Winter Holiday, Week 2: Corsica

Whoever said that “getting there is half the fun,” obviously never took a flight to Corsica onboard Easy Jet airlines.

In my New Year’s resolution, I mentioned that there were a few specific places that I wanted to add pins to, on my “been there” world map (Portugal, Prague, Barcelona, Southern Italy, Greece, you get the point), but the rest of my travels, I would leave up to impulsivity. And thanks to that impulsivity (along with other plans that fell through), Trevor and I landed ourselves on the beautiful island of Corsica.

The original plan for the second week of my winter holiday was Venice, Italy. Then, when airline prices seemed to supersede the worth, we agreed on a train to Cinque Terre, Italy, with a pit-stop in Nice, France. (Are you starting to see the general theme? Preferred destination=South of Lyon=warmer temperatures=no snow!) When the woman at the train station regretfully told us that there was only one seat left on the train (which I highly doubt), we decided to brainstorm where we could vacation.

I only had two key standards for picking a destination:
1. It would allow me to leave my gloves behind.
2. Price of travel had to be modest.

We spent the better part of the evening on, looked at where they fly to from Lyon, and tried to take both of our preferences into consideration, which cancelled out a few places. Thank goodness the small island in the Mediterranean wasn’t one of them. So, we booked our tickets, found a great deal on an apartment for the week, researched the sites and culture, then packed our bags.

Saturday morning, we set off to the airport and boarded our flight. With the heavy winds on the island, it turned into one of those experiences where you start making negotiations that if you just make it safely, you’ll promise to start going to Sunday mass (though, I’ve yet to follow through). An hour and an anxiety attack later, we bounced (yes, that’s right) onto the runway. Fortunately, the scenery replaced the EasyJet PTSD; the place was beautiful. I think it was warm, too, but I was so clammy from the flight that I couldn't distinguish which was which.

A 5 mile taxi ride that ended up being twenty-five minutes because of Sheep Gridlock in the road, dropped us near the local train station. From there, a 4 hour train ride to Adjaccaio, a city in the south east.

It was well worth it because we woke up in an apartment with this view:

After being up and out early to check out the town, we realized that it was too warm for jackets:
As we walked along this:

And walked by lots of little side streets that looked like secret passageways into the past:

Eventually coming to the Sunday Farmers' Market with more fresh produce than one could imagine; cases of cheese, dried out sausages (I think that's what they were) cut up to sample (Ask Trevor how they were, as I skipped them.), nuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit, raw lapin, but cooked chicken; pastries, pizza, and pretzels; jelly, spices, and tapenades; Wines and liqueurs to inebriate you, and handmade soaps to wash those sins away. You name it, and it was there, but if you still weren't satisfied, there was a huge self-serve candy vendor that also sold hula hoops. In one place, you could satiate your appetite, sample Corsican products, get tipsy, and test our your moves, all while on a sugar high.

We admired sites during the day...

Then sampled the nightlife and tested our luck at the casino (one time only).

And who could forget Napoleon?! It was, after all, his birthplace!

There were old libraries, the kind that you only see in movies...
And the cemeteries that surrounded our apartment that you wish were just in movies...
My favorite, by far, was finding an old church that had been converted into a ballet school (Does this count as going to church?)
Even the pets are more laidback in this place.

Then, at the tail end of our trip when it started to look like we were on the advent of a downpour, we took a vacation from our vacation...
A 3 hour busride South, to the cliffs of Bonifacio.

Which was even more breathtaking than Adjaccio. I would definitely love to revisit these beaches in the summer.

The week sped by and before we knew it, we were on a plane back to Lyon

After exploring all around Corsica and appreciating all it offered, I realized that it's a bit like Lyon, in no way at all. Even their French has an Italian spin on it. Ciao.


  • The flight back was far less eventful
  • I got back to Lyon and the sun was out.
  • My brother got a new job.. I'm really happy for him!
  • I finally got to connect back with the real world, after a week without communication. I spent the better part of an hour on the phone with my parents, hearing about all the new renovations my dad is doing to his house and then laughing at how my mom ended up in the hospital, once again.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Au Pair Winter Holiday, Week 1

In France, the middle of February is well known. An abundance of roses start to surface in florist shops, carefully crafted chocolate assortments are sold, suddenly you’ll see posters with red hearts and the word “love” plastered everywhere, restaurants in town formulate price-fixed couple’s menus, and the French being known for their amour, well, they leave town. While the French may be serious about being lovers, they are more serious about skiing during their winter holiday; and during the two weeks they have off beginning the same time as lent, skiing is exactly what they do.

There are two types of French people: Ones who take their vacation to the French Alps during the first week of vacation, and ones who take their vacation during the second week. My host-family went first. I decided to go the second week, except not to the mountains. With the fresh snow brought on by the storm before they left, I figured that our neighborhood would suffice as a perfectly adequate bunny-hill, if my desire for skiing suddenly emerged (It didn’t). So, I politely declined their invitation to join them in the Alps, and instead, agreed to watch over the house while trying to appear regretful about missing them, especially Cecile.

When the children are away, the au pair will play (And as I write this from my Corsican apartment, overlooking the Mediterranean in Adjaccio, I‘d say that I did it pretty well). However, the week they were gone, I took advantage of the calm atmosphere without kids or routine and set out to explore Lyon. That same week, my ____(insert definition for someone you’ve been dating for the last nine months but haven’t committed to the proverbial relationship title)___, Trevor arrived in Lyon. The plan was to relax a few days and discover the city’s charm before departing for vacation the second week, to somewhere that involved above-zero-temperatures… And that is exactly what we did.

Being that Lyon is the second largest metropolitan area in France (after Paris, of course), we were expecting a required week to see all of the sights. A good 3 days later, we had conquered the highlights of the city, and even some that weren’t mentioned in guidebooks.

The week that included:

Seeing all of the major sites, from Place de Bellecour, to Notre Dame de Fourviere...

There were date nights in the city that included seeing the new Valentine's Day movie in Voice Original...

And admiring the city's lights...
There was walking... lots and lots of walking...

And climbing up the hill to Fourviere, because the tram wasn't in service and well, what else did we have to do?!

Sneaking into museums... and then sneaking pictures inside of the museums

People watching and culture comparing...
And of course, snow... which actually formed some beautiful backdrops for photos.
There were good times, good laughs, and good company, that were followed by far-from-perfect situations and arguments as pungent as French cheese. But we conquered and by the end of the week, boarded a plane to Corsica (more on that trip, later). Trevor was able to see for himself, the setting of my new life and I was able to see that Lyon is actually, well, somewhat pleasant. It’s a far stretch from Parisian life and definitely not what I expected of a “metropolitan” city, but in respect, it has its ostentatious charm.
  • I'm sitting on an island that overlooks the Mediterranean
  • The sun is out
  • Everything ran smoothly the week that the host-family was away
  • Traveling during the off-season
  • My family... I miss them a lot.