Week 6 of Lyon: Au revoir mon amour!
I can't believe it. My six weeks in Lyon have officially come to a close and in a few days, I'll board a train bound for Spain.
With good reason, I have mixed emotions about this last phase of my journey. After a month and a half living and traveling within France, I finally have the opportunity to get my passport stamped a couple more times and venture to new countries. On the other hand, a part of me feels like I'm leaving home. I've grown to love my little room in Sylviane's little apartment, I look like a fool everyday because I sit on the bus, headphones in and grinning as I commute to school. I have never been so happy. I have also grown so close to the girls I've befriended and the city I've inhabited. The reality of leaving Lyon is starting to set in and the prospect saying goodbye to everyone makes me melancholic.
Classes at Lyon II wrapped up today with a teacher-student celebration of games, and picnic. I can happily declare that
the intense classes and lack of english being spoken at home have vastly improved my abilities and comfort level with the French language. Looking back, I wish my friends and I had made more of an effort to speak French when hanging out amongst ourselves, but english conversation and a bottle of rosé became a regular luxury after an exhaustive day of classes.
There were points in the summer when tensions flared (six weeks is a long time to be surrounded by the sam people all day everyday), I can say honestly that I will miss both the melange of new people in our language intensive classes, as well as the intimacy of our small culture classes with Professor Khelouz.
Along with the end of my study abroad experience came the end of the 2016 Euros. After ephemerally becoming interested and invested in sports for the summer, I suppose it's time to hang my figurative jersey. I cheered "Allez les Blues" all the way through the finals, where France and Portugal grappled for the big victory. The game was intense and the fans were WILD. Unfortunately, France lost to Portugal in an extremely narrow 1-0 victory. Dreams were dashed and French tears were shed. I can't say that I was devastated to that extent, but I am lucky enough to have experienced such a monolithic aspect of European culture. So I don't really feel like I can be all that upset about the results. Euro 2016, you were good to me.
To celebrate completing our classes, my French-cuisine loving friends and I decided to treat ourselves to a triumphant end-of-the-summer dinner. In Lyonnais spirit, we decided to dine at one of hometown culinary hero Paul Bocuse's brasseries, Le Nord.
Le Nord is comfortably situated between the Rhône and the Saône, near the Hotel de Ville area and is the first brasserie that Paul Bocuse opened in Lyon. Its an authentic turn-of-20th-the-century brasserie with dark tiled floors, warm red walls, brass globe lamps and crisp white table cloths. Le Nord felt warm and welcoming, the service was impeccable and the food was hearty and delicious.
I chose a prix fixe three-course meal. Though I wanted to order everything on the menu, I decided to keep my last big meal in Lyon traditional with regional specialities. My feast began with a duck liver "foie gras" terrine and warm toasted country bread, sea salt and cracked pepper and jam on the side.
For those who aren't familiar with it, foie gras is a French delicacy, its preparation aligns with its literal meaning "fatty liver." I can only say, don't dog it before you know it. Foie gras terrine is cooked in a small terrine mold. It's minimally seasoned and marinated in wine. I realize that it doesn't sound appealing to someone who's not the least bit adventurous, but foie gras tastes like meat butter. It's sinfully rich in texture and taste, and a great way to whet your appetite for more.
For the main dish, I went above and beyond the call of "traditional Lyonnais" duty by ordering Bocuse's Quenelle de Brochet Sauce Homardine, or Pike Quenelle with Lobster Sauce.
A quenelle is essentially an oval-shaped dumpling, made from minced meat, poultry, fish - in this case, pike - or vegetables and mixed with breadcrumbs, eggs, egg yolk, fat, flour and cream. Rich sounding, right? Oh it is, and made richer being with a decadently creamy lobster sauce (half of the reason I ordered it) dappled with plump button mushrooms. But it was served with a side of basmati rice and steamed spinach, so that balances it out, right?
Dessert was delicious, but I made the grave mistake of trying to "branch out" and all that nonsense, by asking the waitress what her favorite dessert was and going against my gut by NOT ordering something chocolate. Let me tell you, I am a chocolate fiend in the heart of gastronomic France, I should have gotten chocolate. How many more times can I say the word "chocolate" in one sentence?
Such is life. Upon recommendation I ordered the Vacherin Minute aux Fruits Rouges, in english its layer upon layer of spongy meringue topped with plumbs and and berries and drizzled with red fruit glaze. It was light, sweet and delicious - of course - but as I stated, my loyalty lies with chocolate and this was my lesson learned.
Thus after six weeks of classes and life, and a celebratory feast, I have a few days of Sylviane's apartment all to myself, to live Lyon a little longer, celebrate Bastille Day (France's national holiday) and pack my life from the last month and a half into a suitcase.