Tuesday, Apr 14 2009
View LYNNABEL's food & exercise for this day
My sister is in Haiti, and my brother is in Lyon, France, for his Georgetown junior year study abroad. This is his most recent communication. I live vicariously through my siblings. I swear I will go abroad again soon – its been WAY too long.
“Mes amis et mes amies,
From simple to multiple courses, yummy to what did I just put in my tummy, and aromatic to odorous... that is French cuisine. I would have to say that since I last wrote, I have tried some very interesting, mostly edible food. A decent sized-group of Georgetown students here got together for another dinner with Valerie, the lady who is in charge of coordinating our family-stays and encounters with French and Lyonnais culture. This time the plates were all typical Lyonnais food, such as boudin noir, or as others call it, blood sausage. Served with boiled apple slices, this mushy, interesting textured intestine tasted a bit like turkey stuffing, but not nearly as good. It was a good thing we had ordered a couple bottles of wine to dampen the "interesting-ness" of the boudin noir. After putting down the plate of blood sausage and making sure that everyone around me had tried a bit, too, my friend handed me the rest of her plate to finish, and then we moved on to dessert. I had ordered a 'creme caramel' which was sumptuous to say the least, but my friend across the table had ordered Baba rum and did not care for it, so we switched. I had no idea what I was getting into. This dessert consisted of a little bit of cake type bread in the shape of a pear doused in rum, saturated in rum, and topped off with some more rum. It was as if the chef, no doubt a very well respected chef, had taken sponge bread and dunked it in a pot of rum. Needless to say, it was quite a feat finishing that dessert. The cognac that we ordered after that probably was not necessary, but again, it helped to cleanse and relieve the palate from the intensity it had just experienced, and it tasted mighty fine.
Not too long after that dinner-to-remember, a friend of mine, John, came through Lyon on his way to a cheese internship, or as I like to call it, a “stage de fromage”. The second night that he was here, a couple of the Georgetown students, myself, and John ventured out into Lyon to another very typical Lyonnais restaurant situated on a small side street full of bouchons (Lyonnais restaurants). If we had thought that the blood sausage restaurant was typical and limited in selection, this was even more so. Grabbing the bull by the horns, I decided to order tripes, or more simply known as pig intestines, etc. Surprisingly though, these innards were not nearly as difficult to finish off as the blood sausage. They tasted a bit like ravioli, probably thanks to the sauce in which they were swimming. I believe the other choices on the menu had been fish and some other type of sausage with mustard. Mustard, by the way, should not even be thought of in the same category as ketchup here in France. A quarter of a spoon of French mustard is enough to make your eyes water.
The next amazing meal took place on the side of a ski slope in the “Vieux Chalet” (Old Chalet/Cabin). Valerie, the Georgetown coordinator here in Lyon, had organized a ski trip for the Georgetown students for a Sunday. The way these all-day ski trips work is that you have to wake up at dark-thirty in the morning, hop on a charter-bus with all the other zombie-like people and drive about 2.5 hours away to the Alps, where the view and scenery is magnificent no matter what. It just so happened that that Saturday night, I did not go to bed until about 4 a.m. and my alarm was set for 4:30 a.m.. To top off the fact that it was already late or early depending on which way you look at it, France jumped one hour ahead. Quite confused and not sure at all what time it was, I turned on my computer and Googled “What time is it in France?”, which pulled up a nice big clock and timer. So, with the help of Google and my friend who called me just to make sure I was awake, I was the second person to get to the bus which left promptly at 6:30 a.m.. The morning skiing was amazing, I felt great, and the clouds we skied through were pretty sweet, too. We had split up into two groups and met up for lunch with Valerie and her family at the Vieux Chalet. Imagine a table full of Georgetown kids (or at least 6 of us) on the side of the Alps seated right next to a wall on which was engraved the date 1789, the founding year of Georgetown University! (And the French Revolution.) Coincidence? Or the Hoya Spirit! Steak, fries, vegetables, a glass of wine, and apple tarte for dessert, and 30 minutes of sleep the night before, made for a very tired and relaxed Joel. Despite the tiredness, my two ski partners and myself decked out in the big red ski jumpsuit headed out again for one or two more runs to finish off the day. Needless to say, I fell asleep on my friend’s lap on the bus-ride back and went to bed at 7:30 p.m., apparently still confused about what time it was because I woke up at 9 a.m. thinking it was 8 a.m. and ended up an hour late to class. Oh, one other neat thing about the skiing was that we ended up on a lift that took us all the way to the top of the peak, or at least 200 yards away from the peak, and found ourselves with only two ways to get down and a ton of clouds and fog. After convincing the girls not to go back down the lift to the bottom, we moseyed on over to the run and had a great time getting down the slope!
The month of March was filled with friends who visited Lyon and one trip of my own to Paris…again! In Paris, which was a spur-of-the-moment trip, I met up with a friend who was in town for a couple days on business. He was generous enough to make use of his company’s tab and put us up in a hotel on Rue George Cinq, right in the 8ème arrondissement, one of the nicest, if not the nicest parts of Paris, right off of the Champs Elysées. We met up at the hotel at around 11 pm on Tuesday night, put our stuff in probably the biggest hotel room (suite) that I have ever seen, and then went out searching for food. After a great steak and mashed potatoes filled with cheese, we returned to the hotel and crashed. The next day I ate one of the most elaborate breakfasts ever. I was entitled to a continental breakfast which I thought included all the buffet items that were still out, about to be taken back to the kitchen, though. I think, though, that the we found Wi-Fi internet in a high-class hair salon for my friend to send off an email for work and then headed out to Versailles, one of the sites I had never visited in Paris. The most interesting and neat part of the palace actually had nothing to do with the palace itself. Surrounding the palace are beautiful gardens, fields, and forests. These beautiful grounds were just beginning to come out of their winter hibernation. We were fortunate enough to be visiting the grounds and the palace while it was not raining, but we could still see the storm clouds approaching from all directions which made for a magnificent view! That night, we dined at a great pizza restaurant which is a chain, called Pizza Pino, and was in fact the first restaurant that I ate at in Lyon with my friend Ryan. The dinner in Paris was a thousand times better than the one in Lyon, though. After dinner and a rather in depth conversation about world politics and how to solve the world’s problems, we walked around a bit in search of something to do, but ended up back at the hotel bar for the most expensive 2 beers I have ever bought. I left the next morning to return to Lyon, all rested up and quite relaxed.
My friend John from Texas, with whom I ate pig innards, a couple friends, and I walked up to an ancient roman amphitheater about 15 minutes from my apartment where we had a great time shooting the breeze and looking out onto the most beautiful panoramic view of Lyon. We also picked up a map of Vieux Lyon that marked all of the tunnels in that part of the city originally created for the safe passage of silk (Lyon used to be a silk capital) during inclement weather, and later served the Resistance movement during another period of inclement atmosphere, WWII. The previous day, my friend Tay-Tay, Theresa and I had gone up to the roman ruins, too, and over to the most beautiful cathedral/church I have ever seen, which rests on top of a hill overlooking Lyon. The following week, Christine, a friend from Georgetown who is studying abroad in Madrid (whom Theresa and I went to see in Madrid for a week) came through Lyon for a day and night to visit Theresa and me. We hiked up to the roman ruins with some wine, a baguette from the best boulangerie in Lyon (and the closest to my apartment), and two cheeses. There, again, we looked out onto the city, and after the ruins, we went over to the cathedral and then took the scenic route down the side of the huge hill through the forest blazing our own trail, which included having to jump down a wall and over some fences. After a generous dinner offered by my host-mom to Christine and I, we went over to my French friend’s, Alix, apartment with my host brother, Maxence, and met up with Clement and other French friends. Theresa met us over there and we all had a blast with the French!
John from Texas passed back through Lyon on his way back from the internship and brought his wife, Kendall, with him this time around. We headed over to another French friend’s apartment, and again, had an absolute blast. This apartment was a bit like the Louvre. The paintings were all of old family members, no doubt a family deeply rooted in French history, if not nobility. Among the paintings was a portrait of a man to which had been added a black band around his neck signifying that he had been executed by the guillotine. There were also letters from Napoleon III that were sealed with red wax stamps. The next day we had a lunch completely consisting of cheese, and very, very good cheese at that. The cheese came from a market in Lyon that has many little stands and stores selling their home-made specialty cuisine, and we went to the one that sold the cheese made by the man for whom John from Texas did his internship. Kendall and John left the next day for the U.S. after what had been, I imagine, a lovely trip for them through France and Italy!
I have spent the last two weekends at my friend, Clement’s house outside of Lyon. Last weekend we sat out by the pool all day Saturday and Sunday at another friend’s house. Clement’s family is absolutely wonderful. It is probably one of the happiest families I have met. He has a brother who is 24 and a sister who is 28. Clement, I would venture to say, has become one of my best friends in Lyon. He and his family are very generous and kind and have really turned my experience in France into a great one! I am here again at his house this Easter weekend. Yesterday, his parents decided to drive me out to two towns, Perrouges and Annecy, to show me a bit of the region. The four of us, Clement, myself, and his parents went to Perrouges first. It is a medieval town from the XVth century, kept exactly as it was back then. Then we went on to Annecy, an absolutely beautiful city right at the base of the Alps near Geneva with a huge, clear lake. It is supposed to be one of the cleanest lakes in the world thanks to their perfecting a cleaning system for the water which they now sell to other regions around the world. For dinner, we had traditional fondue, a specialty from that region, at a very nice restaurant in the old part of Annecy. Today we had a big lunch with the brother and sister and her husband to celebrate Easter. To top off all of that, Clement’s dad loves country music! And did I mention that every meal here is perfect?!
One more interesting thing. On the way to the friend’s house to sit by the pool, we passed a man walking his ELEPHANT! Clement said there was a circus type thing somewhere near here, but it was quite bizarre to see an ELEPHANT walking along side a country road, just like a dog…except an ELEPHANT!
Vacation is over after this week with classes starting back up a week from today, on Monday. It will be nice to get back into a routine, but will be too bad to end the break and the great time, probably the best time so far, I have been having here at Clement’s house with him and his family. But, as hinted at in the title of the subject line of the email, I have only to think of Clement's family to erase any negative stereotypes of the French.
And, as the French say, “C’est la vie!”. “