Week 5 in Lyon: Allez les Bleus!
Summer is racing by, and too quickly at that.
School is superb. Every class last for three hours, which is only slightly excruciating. It's also a little long to sit in poorly ventilated, un-airconditioned classrooms. Assignments can be little tedious and it's often hard to focus when it feels like my time this city is slipping through my fingers. Sorry Professor Khelouz, your redactions are taking a back seat this summer!
Though I haven't mentioned it in awhile, the Euros are still a focal point of life in France right. As the teams have advanced, less games are taking place in Lyon, but the dedication to the tournament only intensifies. The semi-final games took place last night and resulted in Portugal beating Wales 2-0 and France beating Germany 2-0.
In short, France is advancing to the finals! I have an almost nonexistent background in sports and am guilty of being a fair-weather fan, but going through France's Euros success while living in the country is a unique and invaluable experience. I've reached the level of fandom where I'm
chanting "Allez les Bleus" and singing the lyrics to "Les Marseillaise" just as loud as my fellow French fans.
The Fan Zone is set up in the heart of the city and serves as a gathering point for all Euro Cup fans. There are mobile bars for game-time beers, food stalls and souvenir shops. Over 25,000 can fit in to the Fan Zone at once. It's dusty, dirty and crowded, but a pivotal part of the culture.
Wallace is nestled in a small plaza among other pubs and bars, a screen is put up in the middle of the plaza for every match and everyone watches the game from their respective pub By the the time the clock runs out, the crowds have mixed and meshed so much that there is little to no walking room among the sea of inebriated football fans.
In addition to my newfound football fervor, I am spending as much time as possible absorbing the city and culture. Culture-wise, something pretty exciting happened to me for the first time last night. Snails. Snails are what happened. Slowly but surely, Sylviane has been doing her best this summer to expose me to traditional French foods. Most have been resoundingly delicious. Quiche Lorraine? Boudin Blanc and Boudin Noire? Quenelles? Ratatouille? Others, not so much. Salade de museau de porc (pig snout salad) served with pickles and chives? Yeah, I love exotic foods and will try just about anything, but I couldn't get in to that.
Snails on the other hand were tasty. According to Sylviane, escargot (among most other heavy Lyonnais classics) are traditionally served in the wintertime and especially around the holidays. However since my time here is fleeting, we ate snails on a sweltering summer evening. We started dinner with our usual salad of mixed greens, chopped onion and bouncy champignons (button mushrooms), tossed in a spicy salad dressing made from mixed Dijon and Balsamic Vinegar.
On a side note, Dijon mustard that actually comes form France is infinitely more delicious and potent than any that I've had at home. On my first encounter with it, I doused my chunk of boudin blanc in a dollop of Dijon and had tears running down my face before I could swallow my bite.
Sylviane prepared escargot classically, in the shell, sautéed with parsley, garlic, shallot and butter. She served them on a special tray where each small snail had its own compartment, there were hunks of crusty baguette on the side. Another fun fact about French dining culture is that baguette is always placed directly on the table or tablecloth while being consumed. Never on dishes or back in the basket. Expect accusatory looks if you don't abide by this unspoken rule. The snails were buttery and delicious. They are so small that it's difficult to discern what their actual flavor is, but they emanate and amplify the flavors of fresh herbs and French butter. I enjoyed every morsel that I pried out of the shell with my tiny snail fork, and sopping up the creamy leftover sauce.
Just in case I didn't like the snails, Sylviane had dessert waiting. She was either going to use it as an apology for subjecting me to eating bugs, or as a sweet last course if I enjoyed the meal. I'm officially a fan of snails, and loved every scrumptious morsel of the tarte aux pralines I had for dessert, Sylviane's favorite pastry.
Nightlife is a staple in any study abroad student's experience, and Lyon is chock-full of wine bars, pubs and discos. I've spent the summer dabbling in different Lyonnais nighttime venues; I sipped overpriced champagne at Sol Café as the sun set over Vieux Lyon; treasured nights spent drinking beers on the patios of Irish pubs; accepted free shots and Corona's at a Russian bar in Hotel de Ville called Le Bar les Poupées Russes; and ironically enough drank rosé and listened to jazz al fresco in the veranda of the Opéra de Lyon, at a jazz club called Jazz au Peristyle.
It's important to note that while nightlife is not the focal point of a study abroad experience or traveling in general, it is a fun way to meet new people and gain a different perspective of the culture. European cities are amazing in how lively they get after the sun goes down. Again, let's not forget that I live in a suburb of Kansas City, so most establishments are long since closed by 11 p.m. The fact that I can find food, drink, dancing and friendly people at any given point of the night and catch the morning train home, is an unfamiliar exhiliration.
Of course I'm still a grandma stuck in a 24-year-old body, so staying out all night is rarely in the cards for me. But my evening soirées in Lyon have brought me new friends and left me with enduring memories.