LYON & GENEVA w/ DAD

Last week marked the visit of my first guest here in Lyon, my dad. My mum will be the second, a week today and Roz, my third on 18th May! Although I love the idea of exploring new places and even old ones by myself, a lot of the time I do wish I had somebody with me. I think that you see places completely differently depending on your company. For example, my dad is a walker. So, although I have now been in Lyon for 2 whole months, by walking different routes last week I gained a totally new perspective and mental mapping out of the city. We also took one of those sight-seeing city buses on the rainiest day of his visit which again allowed me to see Lyon much differently than before. You miss so much by being lazy and taking the metro everywhere. I’ve been trying harder recently to look up and around rather than down at the ground or my Apple Maps – though it can prove a little tricky when you know how much dog poo is around. For me, having somebody visiting also forces me out of my room in which I feel so comfortable. That’s a good thing too because I always have a good day once I’m out and about.

17 / 3 / 2018 GENEVA

 

 

On Saturday, we visited Geneva. We took the Flixbus from Lyon Perrache station, it only took a couple of hours. The weather wasn’t great and unfortunately visibility was low . It was bitterly cold but we had come wrapped up and prepared. We took a little walk along the lake to see the famous Jet d’Eau and then headed to the town centre, past the windows of very expensive shops and through some of the old streets. We tried out some Swiss Easter chocolate and took a ride on the little solar-powered electric train along some of the lake, before heading lakeside in the other direction towards a very photogenic lighthouse and another great view of the Jet d’Eau before dinner.

 

18 / 3 / 2018 VIEUX LYON & BASILICA OF NOTRE-DAME DE FOURVIÈRE

 

 

Sunday was my dad’s last day in Lyon and we had already planned to visit Vieux Lyon and climb up to the Notre-Dame de Fourvière. Again, the weather didn’t treat us too well but it didn’t rain so that’s a plus and the views were vast and pretty spectacular regardless (I look forward to another hike up there with you Mum, we all know how much you love a church on holiday). The old town of Lyon is really beautiful, with all of its wonky buildings and ochre palette. It’s so typically a European old town and almost feels like a movie set. A living, breathing (if kinda tourist-y) step back in time which is always one of my favourite parts of cities and holidays. We grabbed lunch from a beautiful little bakery right in the heart of Vieux Lyon, in the form of two sandwiches and a HUGE pastry. I had no idea what the pastry was when I added it to the order but it was bloody delicious. I’ve since researched and it was an allumette (a lyonnais speciality apparently, as seen below) made from pink pralines – how exotic! We finished the day with an episode of the Crown and an Indian takeaway (#BritsAbroad).

 

28944073_10211579775911701_85765535_o

 

P.S. To my dad, thank you so much (again, again!) for visiting me, for the day trip to Geneva and for all of the (mainly edible) treats.

Advertisements

IN PARIS WITH YOU

Last weekend I visited one of my best friends in Paris, where she is now living and working for the second half of her year abroad. I think it’s pretty self-evident that my experience in Paris would have been far different and let’s face it, so much better had our terms in Paris coincided. One of the main problems that I faced in Paris was loneliness, making friends and even having enough confidence to leave my room some days. I can say without a doubt that having the bubbly, sociable butterfly that is Roz Farr there with me would have fixed all of these troubles and Paris would have been much more successful for me in different ways than it perhaps was. Anyway, enough of that and let’s get onto my little weekend break and how Paris compares as a tourist to as a demi-resident / billy-no-mates who can’t afford anything after a weekly shop and a takeout coffee nor can they really communicate very well with anybody, not that there’s anybody to communicate with etc, etc.

10 / 3 / 2018

So here’s a little about my cheeky weekend away in the city of lurrve with my best mate. I arrived at 15.30 on Saturday 10th March after a 6 hour Flixbus from Lyon. After a little miscommunication, we were finally reunited (hurrah!) and headed straight to take some cute pics on the most instagrammable street I’ve ever seen in my life, Rue Crémieux.

IMG_8503
Roz @ Rue Crémieux
IMG_8519
Dream Home

This was swiftly followed by a quick stop at the Bastille en route to a pre-dinner freshen up. We had already chosen our supper destination based on Trip Advisor reviews and mouth-watering instragrams under #eastmamma and #bigmammagroup. Nothing was exaggerated, the truffle pasta was indeed to die for and we shared a lovely bottle of wine. Get there early, especially if you’re headed there on a Saturday like us because you will have to queue to be seated or even to be put on the bookings for later that evening.

3
Roz w/ food & wine @ East Mamma

 

4
Me w/ wine @ East Mamma
Screen Shot 2018-03-13 at 21.56.47
LA PÂTE À LA TRUFFE  @ EAST MAMMA

11 / 3 / 2018

We used Sunday as our main tourist-y day and set out to see the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, perfect photo opportunities on a sunny day (it’s got to be done) and the Parc du Champ-de-Mars being an ideal lunch spot for a little Sunday picnic.

IMG_8548
Roz & Tour Eiffel
IMG_8549
The 80s called and they’d like my denim suit back. Tant pis!
IMG_8560
Very happy Roz w/ picnic
IMG_8580
Me w/ picnic

Our picnic spot was also the sight of my first ever real-life encounter with the well known, French cliché “c’est la vie”, though it was under slightly different circumstances than one might expect. The gentleman’s dog had decided that our picnic spot was better suited as his toilet.

IMG_8584
Roz w/ Arc de Triomphe
IMG_8619
Me @ Arc de Triomphe
IMG_8595
And again.
IMG_8611
Roz @ Arc de Triomphe 2.0
28945819_1805968022780806_1582462604_o
Looking like a Cool Coffee Mom

We spent the early evening at a café listening to some very cool jazz and got Chinese food a little later on (an experience in itself), before heading back to bed and booking a holiday to Palermo with our dear friend Emma! Although I’m  feeling that holiday hangover / weekend blues on this Tuesday evening before an early start tomorrow, I had an absolute blast this weekend AND my dad is visiting me this week! We’re even off to Geneva on Saturday, so deffo stay tuned for that – I hear it’s great.

LIVING SOLO

Screen Shot 2018-02-04 at 13.50.17

It’s not mine, but it’s a taste of what could be. A trial run of adulthood, maybe. Sans bills or the majority of my rent (thanks mum & dad). But it’s still a taste nonetheless. Although I’ve lived away from home during term time since the end of 2015, and even before then had stints at boarding school from the age of 8, moving to France alone is a different experience altogether. Moving to Paris back in September was terrifying and it was almost just as scary moving to Lyon a couple of weekends back. However, things have started differently here, and indeed for the better. I jumped straight into university on day 3, rather than having a fortnight of not knowing what to do with myself in Paris. University takes up 10 and a half hours a week, spread across 4 weekdays, as opposed to just 5 or 6 hours in Paris divided between a Tuesday and a Saturday. Yes, uni on a Saturday. I’m also going to be taking up a job offer rather soon that will keep me occupied for a further 8 hours per week and in some form of grown-up routine (vs. little bits of studying here and there and taking full advantage of that free month of Netflix).

IMG_8250
Top tip : Flowers brighten the room and in turn, lift your mood – especially super pretty ones from a lovely little French florist.

Another thing though, something that I think is helping exponentially with my Year Abroad experience this time around (which admittedly, seems to be a little less wild than some), is that I am living alone in a studio. Granted, it’s not for every 21 year old wanting to explore a new city and culture whilst learning more of a language and perhaps in that sense it’s an error of judgement or the easy way out, but I love it here in this room that I can call my own for the next 3 or 4 months. It’s also a little further out than what would have been ideal, an almost 40 minute walk to university. However, that’s actually resulted in me hitting that 10,000 step target on most days, which can only be a good thing. The studio means that I have my own space entirely. A bathroom and kitchen of my own, rather than just the bed and desk going unshared. But it’s not just the room. I have my own mailbox with my name on a sticker and a name tag on the front door to buzz guests into the building (which is also beautiful by the way). Mum & Dad are visiting in March so they can test it out for me. Needless to say, it’s remained out of use thus far. . .

IMG_8293

img_8266.jpg

IMG_8277
Questionable lighting choices.

IMG_8290

IMG_8287

IMG_8294
Food is only ever a few steps from bed.
IMG_8265
Takeaways for one aren’t so terrible after all.

IMG_8298

Living alone might sound like it’s going to be lonely maybe even creepy, and I must admit I did have my doubts, especially after some super lonely times in my room in Paris. But as with most things and as cliché as it may be, life it is what you make of it. Of course, there are lots of solutions to combat loneliness but sometimes you do just want to be by yourself and living alone makes it beyond easy to do so. It also comes with lots of other benefits. Meals for one mean choosing the accompanying TV show and takeaways without the ordeal of choosing where to order from, the entire place is kept exactly how you want it to be kept – at whatever level of tidiness you so desire, and there are no queues to anything – that’s no knocking / knocks on the bathroom door, and no lining up for the hob, because it’s all your’s.

 

 

 

4 / 2 / 2018

UPDATE: ANOTHER HIATUS OVER & I’M IN LYON

After a flu-riddled Christmas at home, yet another blogging hiatus is over. I’m back, and I’m back in France. Only this time, further south and a little bit to right. I’m in the birthplace of cinema and food capital of France (some actually say the world) where the locals are called Lyonnais. That’s right, you guessed it. I’m in Lyon and have been for a week and one day. Having been here for just over a week, it would be impossible to have grasped what Lyon is all about or seen much of the city at all really. But what I can say already is that living here feels so much different to living where I did last semester, just outside of Paris. What helps tremendously is that my room here feels a little more like a home from home. I am really enjoying that I have my own front door, my own mailbox and the ability to “buzz people” into the building, not that anybody is likely to be calling by. It feels like a completely different experience already. One of semi adult-ing maybe, rather that floundering in Parisian suburbs. I’ll try to keep you posted, literally.

screen-shot-2018-02-04-at-21-34-29.png

Instagram over Lyon @ sunrise on my walk to uni.(https://www.instagram.com/p/BeVG8M6F90R/?taken-by=holmestash)

WHEN MUM CAME TO VISIT

I’m a little behind on blog post plans due to my 21st birthday (belated, celebratory post coming soon), attempts at studying and working towards my TEFL (also to be discussed soon), and general laziness in all honesty. So let’s throw it back to the beginning of the month . . .

After a lovely and much needed break at home, mum flew back with me to Paris. I had been desperate to visit Versailles, so used this as the perfect opportunity to drag somebody along with me (she was more than compliant really). However, Versailles is more of a full-day / Saturday outing so on the afternoon and evening of our arrival we had a wander, and some food and wine . . . naturally. When in Rome and whatnot.

3/11/2017: MONTMARTRE WANDER & DINNER @ AMÉLIE CAFÉ

Montmartre has now twice been my go-to tourist spot to take my visitors here in Paris. We got off the métro at Pigalle, had a quick look at the Moulin Rouge and headed up to the Sacré-Cœur (mum loves a church / cathedral on holiday, it’s a well known family fact). After looking around for somewhere to eat, I suggested we check out the Amélie café as another hint that mum should watch one of my favourite films / at least one of my many viewing suggestions. We headed there and had a cheese board, chips and wine along to some lovely unexpected live music.

IMG_6642

Moulin Rouge

IMG_6641

Mumma @ Café de 2 Moulins

4/11/2017: CHÂTEAU DE VERSAILLES

IMG_7798

IMG_7833

Versailles was incredible. To the extent in some rooms that I really was speechless. No photo will do justice to just how absolutely huge and totally grand the Château de Versailles truly is. It’s bloody massive. Having recently rewatched the first series of the BBC’s “Versailles” and binge-watched the second, I was pining to see where all that drama, those sordid tales and the infamous wild soirées of Louis XIV went down, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Let’s allow the snaps to do the talking.

Screen Shot 2017-11-20 at 19.52.22

La chapelle royale / The absolutely magnificent Royal Chapel

IMG_7858

IMG_7861

IMG_6777

La Galerie des Glaces / The Hall of Mirrors

IMG_6694

Le Grand Appartement du roi / The King’s Appartments

IMG_7892

IMG_7897

The Gardens

IMG_7867

Getting those IGs ft. new The Great Frog rings, Vans from my besties and nails a lot fresher than they are now.

IMG_7992

Mum looking all windswept and interesting (hope you had a great time visiting me!!)

 

BOIS de BOULOGNE: Ladies of the Day

Call me naïve, a country bumpkin. Call me what you will. But until today, prostitution was an almost abstract idea. A practice confined to BBC Three documentaries, the windows of Amsterdam and 19th century French literature. One is never really exposed to much of the sex industry in the sleepy border villages of home. When I say “never really” I mean not, and when I say “not much of” I mean none at all.

I like to think I’m fairly street smart even savvy (notwithstanding innate irrational fears and barely leaving my room after dark) but I was shocked. Completely stunned in fact. In my defence, it was hardly a subtle realisation or first encounter. It was more of a bare arse cheeked, perspex pleaser heeled and suspendered kind of realisation or first encounter. You know the sort?Two of the first three Google reviews on the Bois de Boulogne mention what a great place it is for the whole family to hang out in so again, in all fairness, I feel like I was right to be a little taken aback by the roadside “butt naked” lady of the . . . absolute broad daylight. A couple of further sightings of scantily-clad ladies, multiple parked-up white vans and a quick Google search of “Bois de Boulogne prostitutes” later and I was ever so slightly less in the dark about what on earth was going on around me. Vice was quick to inform in the following article, boldly titled in true Vice style but insightful, “Paris’ Prostitutes and Their Fabulous Trucks” (https://www.vice.com/prostitutes-trucks-bois-de-boulogne) that the park, steeped rich in a history of sex work was well known to Parisians as a modern day, ongoing “red light district”, unlit. I guess I’m not quite there on the Parisienne front, nor will I probably ever be. Having read a Zola and being halfway through Bel-Ami, both of which are social criticisms aligning social downfall with sex and littered with references to the Bois de Boulogne, I feel rather silly and a little as though it was a glaringly obvious fact, in hindsight. It’s a wonderful thing.

It all seemed such a bizarre juxtaposition. Old couples on afternoon strolls, dog walkers, and young picnicking families against a background of not only beautiful, historic woodland but also sex workers, working out of parked vans in the early afternoon. Despite France having passed a law in April of last year in an attempt to push for an end to prostitution and fight against human trafficking, and public solicitation having been outlawed since 2003, the roadside business went somewhat unnoticed by the old couples, dog walkers and young families and only really seemed daunting and bizarre to me, the bumpkin Brit abroad. Perhaps this non-reaction completely vouches for the age-old concept that the French are the most sexually liberal Europeans and have vastly different social constructs entirely when it comes to sex. On the other hand, maybe it only goes as far as to prove that I am naïve and not even a tiny bit street smart nor savvy.

Of course, the entire social and ethical issue of prostitution and sex trafficking is absolutely infinite, often so gravely serious and dangerous, that I by no means think this post does any more than scratch at the surface. However, today’s outing and experience really did get me thinking and even interested in looking much further into the subject of the “world’s oldest profession”, its history and modern day manifestations. So much so in fact that it may become the subject of my first “Year Abroad Project” to send back to Cardiff. If my plan is deemed academic enough, I think I could make it work.

 

YEAR ABROAD : FIRST WEEKS IN PARIS / STRUGGLES & OBSERVATIONS

This one’s really for those of you who may be embarking on a year abroad in the near future. If you’re not, you’re all welcome too I guess.

Ok, so I’m not here to tell you it’s all going to be terrible but I am going to be brutally honest about a few of the struggles I had upon my arrival in Paris and during my first couple of weeks here. Before you get reading, start worrying and over thinking, it’s not all doom and gloom and of course, it does and will improve exponentially throughout the year and then no doubt, settling back in for fourth year at Cardiff will be the next challenge! The plan here is also to throw in a few little cultural observations I’ve made at the end, so don’t get too disheartened and do carry on reading!

TRANSPORT

As with moving to any new city, getting about the place is one of the first hurdles you will encounter. Therefore, public transport must be at the top of your to-do list upon arrival. Having lived fairly rurally back home, I have driven myself everywhere since the age of 17 and in Cardiff, as I’m sure you are all by now aware, everywhere is within walking distance. Of course, I have used the tube, and various other forms of public transport when travelling, but it has never been part of my everyday. If like me, you also have a dodgy sense of direction, Apple / Google Maps or Citymapper will become your new best pal. Once you have your daily commute down, the rest (including all of the getting lost) becomes exploring. The cost of public transportation is obviously city dependant but I would advise looking into some kind of travel pass (e.g. Navigo card in Paris) to make this aspect of your year abroad life as economic as possible.

HOUSING

Accommodation was my top pre-departure concern. I had somewhat underestimated how difficult it would be to find somewhere even remotely affordable in central Paris. This has resulted in me living in a semi-suburban Air B&B room in a shared flat, which is working out well for the most part but has left me a little further away from other students than I would have perhaps liked and will definitely look for in Lyon. Thus, be organised and start looking for somewhere to live ASAP. It can be a little scary when you’re on the verge of homelessness just days before your flight but if it comes to that, remember there are always temporary options and it could be easier to find somewhere once you’re actually in your new country.

EXPENSES

Moving from the Welsh capital to the French, there has certainly been a jump in expenses so your finances are another boring adult measure to bear in mind. I’ve been learning the hard way thus far.

LANGUAGE & CULTURE

Now for the language barrier. This one was of course to be expected. Your target language is going to sound a little different in context and when spoken by your native peers than it has ever done in the confines of a classroom spoken by your numerous teachers over the years. I’ve got all my hopes set on the idea that only time will improve this aspect, practice makes perfect etc. In all honesty, when moving to a major European city the “culture shock” that everybody speaks of isn’t going to be massive, you’ll probably only notice a few little quirks.

BEING LONELY

I read somewhere recently that Paris is known as a lonely city and this reinforcement of something that I had been feeling, in turn made me feel much better about it and changed my outlook on this experience completely. As cliché as it may sound, your year abroad really is a time you can utilise to “find yourself” (as much as I tend to despise the term). Being alone is sometimes something we all need to embrace and self-entertainment, whether it be exploring your new home, studying or reading, is most definitely a valuable skill.

BAGUETTES, BERETS AND BICYCLES

To put all rumours to bed, there aren’t men with handlebar moustaches walking around in striped t-shirts with strings of garlic or onions about their necks. There are however plenty of beret wearing ladies, lots of people on bicycles and people walk around with many a baguette (often nibbled at, as I think I have demonstrated rather well below) under one arm / in an artsy tote bag.

SMOKING

Everybody smokes. Ok, not everybody. But people of every age, on every street corner, are smoking. The smoking break at a nearby office looks to a passer-by somewhat like there has been a fire drill given the amount of people who have left said building.

MILITARY / POLICE PRESENCE

Perhaps it’s coming from a small town into a big city that has made me realise the heightened military and police presence, but armed police literally seem to be everywhere. Like ants on the ground.

NOBODY QUEUES

As much as I hate to make generalisations, nobody in Paris queues and you’ve got to be much more assertive en route to the till or whilst embarking the métro.

GREEN DOESN’T MEAN GO

A green man means proceed with caution not go. Vehicles can (and will) still come at you from the left. This one, fortunately, I haven’t learnt the hard way.

EXPRESSION & EMOTION

People get visibly angry and cry in public. It’s so very un-British.

IMG_7385